Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Drinking with the Fishes

Every fan of The Godfather knows what it means to "sleep with the fishes". Most folks are also familiar with the expression "drink like a fish" (which always seemed silly to me, given that fish don't actually drink). However, now there's a new saying on the Kenai: Drink with the fishes.

Last Friday at the Sea-Life Center in Seward, a large group of folks got together to taste food and drink from some of the best local (and a couple of not so local) establishments, all to raise money for the Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance. Surrounded by tanks holding residents of the Center, we enjoyed samples from seven different breweries, meadery, a winery and a homebrew club, along with food from eleven different chefs.

Present were Alaskan Brewing Company, Denali Brewing Company, Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop, Kenai River Brewing Company, Midnight Sun Brewing Company, Moose's Tooth Brewing Company, and St. Elias Brewing Company. Add in the Bear Creek Winery and Ring of Fire Meadery from Homer and the local Malt Marathon Home Brew Club, and you can see there was no shortage of alcoholic beverages to sample.

Some of the beer highlights:

Alaskan was pouring their Xxtra Tuf Imperial IPA, the latest brew in their Rough Draft series. We don't get to taste Rough Drafts on the Peninsula very often, so I was happy to dive into this one. Made with fresh or "wet" hops, this beer was redolent of the citrus character that screams Pacific Northwest. At 9.3% ABV and 63 IBUs, it's definitely a beer to be enjoyed in smaller glasses! Very nice.

Denali Brewing wins the award for farthest distance traveled, having come all the way from Talkeetna. I believe this is the first time they've been down to the Peninsula, and given the quality of their beers, I hope they will return frequently. They were pouring their Chuli Stout, but I had already tasted that beer, so I sampled both of the others available. The Twisted Creek IPA was excellent, mixing British and American hops to produce an very pleasing bitterness (71 IBUs). The brew also had a nice malt backbone to hang all that hoppiness on, coming in at 6.7% ABV. Also on tap was their Single Engine Red Ale. Tasting this, I was transported back to my salad days, when my buddies and I used to drink George Killian's Irish Red Ale by the pitcher. Except that Single Engine Red is a much better beer. The emphasis is on the malt, rather than the hops, though it still achieves a quite respectable 46 IBUs. At 5.9% ABV, it's a little strong for a session beer, but still remarkably drinkable for its strength.

One beer I really wanted to try but missed was Moose's Tooth Brewing Company's Williwaw Winter Warmer. I'll have to swing by on my next Anchorage run. And I have to mention the outstanding sausages that they were grilling up at the Midnight Sun booth. For my money, they were some of the best food I had all night!

All of our local breweries did a great job of putting their best foot forward, and I tip my hat to each of them for being willing to contribute to such a worthy local cause. I look forward to doing it again next year.

On the new beer front, I opened a bottle of Midnight Sun's Specialty Import's 30th Anniversary OAK-AGED Black Double IPA. I tasted the earlier, non-oak-aged version of this beer back on 26 January. This time around, the hops seemed a bit more muted, as would be expected from an aged beer, and the wood notes blend well with the hop bitterness. At 8.5% ABV and 87 IBUs, this is definitely not your run of the mill brew.

Well, that's it for now. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, and plenty of good craft beer to go with your turkey.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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