Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It Was Bound to Happen...

Certain things in this world are just inevitable. Given enough time, they will come to pass.

It's like snow in Alaska. This year, the snow has come pretty late, holding off until we're well into November, but as I look out the window right now, it's coming down like there's no tomorrow.

So given the subjective nature of beer appreciation and the large number of extreme and challenging brews that the folks at Midnight Sun Brewing Company make, it was inevitable that they would eventually come up with one that left me personally a bit cold.

It's taken quite a while, but I'm afraid that Cosmic, the latest of the Crew Brews, is that beer.

This isn't to say that this is a bad beer; far from it. It's a wonderfully crafted brew, very imaginative in its make-up. But that make-up just doesn't click with me, so take the review that follows with a grain of salt, as your mileage may vary.

Right off the bat, we know we're sailing into uncharted waters, since it's a "black witbier". Since witbier means "white beer", this is a bit of an oxymoron. The beer poured completely opaque, with ruby highlights and a good tan head that lasted quite a long time. The aroma was not strong, but I made out some hints of the spices used and some fruity esters from the yeast. Tasting it, there is no roastiness at all, which creates a little cognitive dissonance, as the brain is looking for it. The witbier notes are there, and the spices linger a bit on the palate, with a dry finish. 6.2% ABV and 17 IBUs are the stats for Cosmic.

As I said, not a badly made beer, just one that didn't agree with my palate.

Midnight Sun released another beer which very much does agree with my palate, Obliteration VI, another in their series of hop-centric, Double IPAs. This one comes in at 8.7% ABV and 95 IBUs and is hopped exclusively with Summit hops. I've used this variety of hops myself in some of my homebrews (when I can get them) and am very partial to them. Summit is a high alpha hop, which means they are good for use as a bittering hop, plus they have a good aroma, which means they can be used effectively in "single-hop" IPAs & DIPAs, like the Obliteration series. The also have strong citrus or tangerine notes in their flavor profile, making them ideal for American-style IPAs.

Obliteration VI pours a lovely copper color, with a nice cream-colored head that is very persistent with good lacing. The aroma is all Summit hop and more Summit hops, strong enough to clear your sinuses! On the palate, there is smashing hop bitterness, that gradually declines in a long finish. Drinkability is limited to by the over-the-top bitterness, but if you're a dyed-in-the-wool hophead like me, you'll love this beer.

Looking out into the near future, Doug Hogue at Kenai River tells me that when they run out of Winter Warmer Old Ale, he may be putting a small (5 gallon) keg of the Wee Heavy Strong Scotch he brewed last year on. Look for a breaking news blog if this happens, and stay out of my way, 'cause I'm going to be racing over there to grab a jug of that fantastic brew before it's gone. I'm also waiting with baited breath for Doug's upcoming dark mild and his "Breakfast in a Glass" oatmeal-milk stout.

At Kassik's Kenai Brewstop, they'll be releasing their new Double Wood DIPA next Tuesday at the brewery. If you're an Anchorage dweller, don't forget their Third Thursday event on the 19th at the Millenium Hotel on Spenard from 4:30 to 7 PM. On their drawing board is a Holiday Spiced Cream Ale, a smoked Russian Imperial Stout, and a Maple Porter.

Zach Henry of St Elias told me last Friday that he thought his bourbon-barrel-aged Baltic Porter would likely last another couple of weeks, and then he expects to replace it with a beer that I'd call a faux Imperial Pilsner. It's brewed pretty much exactly like an Imperial Pilsner, except with an ale yeast, like his Flower Child XPA. Should be interesting. And don't forget, there's live music at St Elias every Thursday night from 7 to 9 PM.

Finally, mark your calendars for the Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival, January 15th & 16th, at the Egan Center in Anchorage. If you're going to make it, the session to attend is the Connoisseurs Session, from 2-5 PM, Saturday. Guests of Honor will be Jason & Todd Alstrom, founders of The Beer Advocate website & magazine. Make your plans now, and hopefully I'll see you there!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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