Monday, May 18, 2009

A New Sun Rises in the East...

Hello again from Alaska. First, let me apologize for not posting last week. I had to drive to Homer and back on Monday, then up to Anchorage on Monday evening. My lovely wife Elaine and I spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in the big town, returning Thursday evening. So with all that traveling, I didn't get a chance to post.

Now that that's taken care of, let's cut to the good news. Because I was in Anchorage on May 12th, I got to attend the open house at Midnight Sun's new brewery at 8111 Dimond Hook Drive (located on the east side of the Seward Highway, behind the Long Branch Saloon). It opened to the public on 5/15, but this was a sneak preview for the local Great Northern Homebrewers Club. It's an amazing new facility, one which will greatly improve their ability to brew and serve large amounts of their fantastic beer.

Their new digs will also contain a "To-Go Bar" on the ground floor, where folks will be able to roll in and have their growlers refilled and purchase bottle beer to take home with them. There will be nine different beers on tap down there, as well as direct access to the cooler. Up stairs, there is the "Loft Bar", where beer will be sold by the glass. See the picture above to view the eighteen (!) different taps up there! There will also be food served, but no music or bar games like darts, due to the weird licensing laws the brewery must operate under. You'll also be limited to 36 oz. per person per day served, though I'm not sure how they'll monitor that.

Down stairs there is massive room for expansion. The equipment which was so cramped in their old location looks almost lost in their cavernous new facility (see photo below). I believe they will have three times the square-footage as they did back on Arctic Blvd, so they will have all sorts of room to expand. Plus there will be a separate room for the bottling line, which will reduce the noise level for everyone else.

Besides getting the tour, I also got to taste the latest of their 2009 Brew Crew series, Fahrwasser, a Fairway Pilsner, which I will review in an upcoming blog. If you're going to pay them a visit, the Loft is open from 2 PM to 8 PM, Wednesday to Sunday, while the To-Go Bar is open from noon to 6 PM, seven days a week.

In addition to attending the open house, Elaine and I hit a couple of our usual watering holes in Anchorage, like Humpy's and Cafe Amsterdam. At Cafe A I sampled their special Anniversary Dark Strong Gruit, brewed by Midnight Sun to celebrate ten years of the cafe being under Ken Pajak's ownership; it's a strong (10% ABV), dark ale. Here I am using the word "ale" in its archaic meaning of a fermented barley beverage made without hops. Gruit was a mixture of spices used to flavor such ales before the use of hops became prevalent. The word "beer" originally referred to fermented barley drinks that had been hopped, while "ales" were those that hadn't. As hops became universal, the term ale fell out of use, until it was revived to identify warm-fermented beers, as opposed to cold-fermented beers, aka lagers.

None of that really matters when it comes to taste, so how was it? I was expecting it to be much too sweet, without the balance of hop bitterness, but I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, there's some sweet maltiness, but it's not overwhelming. Whatever spices that the folks at Midnight Sun picked to use, they chose wisely, as they produced an interesting and very drinkable beverage. It's only available on draft at Cafe Amsterdam, so stop in before it's gone.

Well, that's it for now. Next week I should have the reviews of some interesting British ales that I picked up at La Bodega.

Until Then, Cheers!

No comments: