Monday, March 9, 2009

The Church of Beer

If you asked my lovely wife Elaine what religious denomination I belonged to, I suspect her response would be "None, unless you count beer". Like Rick Blaine, Humphrey Bogart's immortal character in Casablanca -- who, when a Nazi asks him his nationality, replies with "I'm a drunkard."-- this makes me a citizen of the world.

This also means that I, like the devout follower of any faith, have a duty to proselytize and evangelize. I must work hard to spread the "good news" about Beer, even if I must do missionary work amongst the heathen. This blog is part of that, as is the class I teach at my local community college, but a true preacher never ceases to look for new opportunities to spread the gospel. Recently, I had another opportunity to do so come up.

We held a gala event at the college where I work last Friday night. Since I was on the planning committee and we had decided to serve beer and wine, I made the suggestion that we get our beer from local breweries. The committee concurred and assigned me the task of making it happen. When I approached the three local breweries, they each generously agreed to donate beer for the event. Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop provided their Spiced Cream Ale, Kenai River Brewing sent their Skilak Scottish Ale, and St. Elias Brewing supplied their Flower Child XPA. Recognizing that the attendees at this event would be a cross-section of the local community, the brewers deliberately selected beer which would make a good first impression on someone who was not already an established craft beer drinker.

The event was a rousing success. I tended the beer bar for about three hours and almost every drop of the donated beer was consumed, meaning many individuals from the local community were given an exposure to some of what their local craft breweries had to offer. If not everyone was instantly converted, well, that's OK, too. At least we were able to give folks a chance to taste what they are missing. And that's all we Beer Evangelists can do, right?

What about the beers themselves? I've written about Kenai River's flagship Skilak Scottish Ale before, so I won't cover it again. (Though if you haven't yet tried their amped up Wee Heavy version, you'd better hurry up, before I drink it all...) Kassik's Spiced Cream Ale was very subtly dosed with nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. I have to take Frank and Debara's word for the last spice, as my palate isn't good enough to pick it out. Smooth and delicious, it's also drinkable in quantity, which sometimes isn't the case for spiced ales. Zach Henry at St. Elias calls his Flower Child XPA a "mock pilsner". By that he means it's brewed using an ale yeast, but at much lower than normal fermentation temperature; this gives it a very clean taste, closer to a lager than to the typical fruity ale flavors. He also hopped it with noble Saaz hops, giving it that typical pilsner aroma. The result is indeed damned close to a Czech pilsner, light & refreshing on the palate, and with a lovely golden color.

Finally, while I'm on the subject of spreading the gospel of beer, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that we here on the Kenai were visited last week by the Archbishop for the Alaskan Beer Diocese, Jim Roberts AKA Dr. Fermento. Jim braved some truly atrocious weather to come down here last Wednesday to give a guest lecture to my beer class and lead them (and me!) through a tasting of the first beer in Midnight Sun's new Crew Brew series, Brewtality. Jim is truly a gentleman and a scholar, always willing to go the extra mile in the name of advancing the cause of better beer for us all. Thanks, Jim!

Well, that wraps up today's sermon. Now I charge each and every one of you: Go forth and spread the good news amongst the heathen! And don't forget to partake of the sacrament as often as you can.

Until next time, Cheers!

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