Monday, February 9, 2009

Can You Say Wee Heavy?

As any of you who are regular readers of the drivel I spew regularly in this blog know, my favorite style of beer is a Strong Scotch Ale, known in its homeland as a Wee Heavy. Not to be confused with its weaker cousin, the Scottish Ale, a Strong Scotch weighs in somewhere to the north of 6.5% ABV and is definitely a sipping beer rather than a session one.

So imagine my excitement when I stopped by Kenai River Brewing last Thursday to have a word with Brewer Doug and saw that he had a brand new Wee Heavy on tap! Talk about serendipity! Of course I had to grab a liter of it to take home with me and drink over the weekend. I didn't get any of the specifics from Doug about the beer (ABV, IBUs, etc), but I found it to be perfectly in keeping with the style, having a strong malt backbone matched with very restrained levels of bitterness. Given my predeliction for the style, I found it dangerously drinkable!

So now we here on the Kenai are blessed with not one but two excellent Wee Heavies, as Frank Kassik continues to brew his award-winning Carribou Kilt Strong Scotch. Not to mention my own homebrew take on the style, which isn't half bad, if I do say so myself.

Besides their Wee Heavy, Kenai River is also pouring the next beer in their Single Hop IPA series, which uses Galcier hops. I haven't had a chance to try this one yet, but I plan to this week. I also got to meet Joe, Kenai River's new Assistant Brewer. Welcome, Joe!

Finally, a note about future postings. My lovely wife Elaine and I will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary next week by travelling to Hawaii, so I will not be blogging for a couple of weeks. Expect a new post in the first week of March.

Until then, Cheers!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Those Who Can't, Teach...

Well, I kicked off my Art & History of Brewing class last week; the second session is tonight. In the end, I had 16 folks sign up, which makes for a pretty good class. Small enough to keep things pretty intimate, yet big enough to support having the class. While teaching it can be a bit stressful, it's always great to be able to stand up in front of interested people and get paid to talk to them about beer.

Tonight we'll be covering the history of brewing in the US, from the mid-1800s until about 1970. To support that, I'll be showing about the first 45 minutes of The American Brew DVD. If you haven't seen it, it's definitely worth a look if you can find a copy. But as I was prepping for my class, it made me think about what are some of the best "beer documentaries" out there?

For my money, the first and best was the late great Michael Jackson's The Beer Hunter series on the Discovery Channel. Twenty years old, but still interesting, the series consists of six half hour shows, each focusing on a different brewing nation. As he did in so many other areas, Mr. Jackson blazed the trail in doing a serious television show on beer. Unfortunately, the series has never been transferred to DVD and even the VHS tapes can only be bought second-hand these days. (If you're listening Discovery, get on the stick!!!).

Just as an aside (and so I can name drop), I had the great pleasure and honor to meet Michael Jackson on two occasions. Both times we were actually at whiskey events (London in 2001 & Islay in 2003), but he will always be first and foremost The Beer Hunter to me. The world of beer has seemed a bit smaller and drabber since Mr. Jackson passed in August of 2007.

More recently, I caught an episode of How Stuff Works on The Discovery Channel entitled "Beer 101". I found it very interesting and pretty well done. I'm on the look out for a copy of it to use in my class. I've also seen episodes on Modern Marvels and even Dirty Jobs, dealing with brewing and hop picking. Seems like brewing and beer are all over the place, these days.

The one place I haven't seen that much beer talk is on the Food Network, which is a bit sad when you think about it. They did have beer as the secret ingredient on Iron Chef recently (with Garrett Oliver as one of the judges), but you'd think they would talk a lot more about beer on a channel dedicated to good food. Oh well...

On the beer front, I'm still working on recovering from killing a growler of Midnight Sun's Zeus single-handed on Super Bowl Sunday. See my earlier post for details on what a fantastic beer this is. I'll likely have something new next week to talk about.

Until then, Cheers!