Monday, January 11, 2010

Good Beers at Good Prices.

Well, if you didn't make it to the Beer Tasting Event last Friday, you missed a great time. The event sold out, with about 175 folks attending. Many great beers were poured, from Midnight Sun, Moose's Tooth, Kassik's, Kenai River, St. Elias, plus a bunch of great bottled beers donated by Specialty Imports. Charlotte's provided the food and it was exceptional. I received plenty of very nice compliments on my homebrew. I'm not sure how many thousands of dollars were raised for the playground, but I know it was a lot. All-in-all, it was a great evening.

We've got another great event coming up this weekend in Anchorage, and my lovely wife Elaine will be heading up to the big town on Thursday to take part in the festivities. I've seen a draft of the program for the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival, so you can believe me when I tell you that they will be pouring some absolutely fabulous beers. If you can possible make it to one of the sessions, you really need to.

As I was pouring my beers Friday night, I was able to snag a couple of samples from the booth next to mine, where they were pouring some bottled beers from Unibroue Brewery in Quebec. If you've spent any time in a big beer store, you've probably seen their beers, usually bottled in 750ml corked bottles, with lovely labels that typically depict scenes and events from Canadian history. They've been brewing traditional, bottle-conditioned, Belgian-style ales since 1992 and doing a wonderful job at it. They also seem to be very reasonably priced. Locally, I see them at Three Bears Warehouse in Kenai, for about $8 each (sometimes less!), which isn't a bad price. Picking up one or two of them when you're going over to some one's house makes a great alternative to the ubiquitous bottle of wine.

Anyway, during the fest I sampled a couple of old favorites, starting with Maudite. Its name means "The Damned", and refers to an old legend of some lumberjacks who sold their souls to the Devil in exchange for being home for Christmas. The Devil held up his end of the bargain by making their canoe fly across the night sky, hence the picture above. Stylistically, it's a strong ale (8% ABV), reddish in color, with a nice, rocky head and an aroma that suggests spices and floral hops. On the palate, there are spicy notes from the Belgian yeast used, along with wine-like notes and crisp hop bitterness; it's quite complex. It's a wonderful beer that I've enjoyed both in bottle and on draft for over a decade, and it remains a consistently excellent choice, either by itself or paired with food.

Next, I had some Trois Pistoles, which is much darker and, at 9% ABV, slightly stronger than Maudite. It's a dusky black color with a thick, tan head. Very rich, like a fine port, it has flavors of roasted malt, maybe some chocolate, and dark fruits, like figs and raisins. It's similar to a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, the style sometimes called a "quadruple". Typical examples would be Chimay Blue or Rochefort 10. Just like Maudite, it's a superb beer and a great value for the price.

I limited myself to those two samples (I had to drive myself home after the event), but there are many other great Unibroue beers out there for you to try.

Speaking of great Canadian beers, I opened another beer from my East Coast care package over the weekend. It was from Dieu Du Ceiel! Microbrewery & Brewpub; my French is more than a little rusty, but I think the brewery is near Quebec and the brewpub is in Montreal. The particular beer was named the Equinoxe du Printemps, or Spring Equinox, and is a Scotch Ale to which maple syrup has been added. As anyone who has read this blog for a while knows, I love a good Scotch Ale, and this one was as good as any I've ever had. The sweetness of the maple syrup blended well with the maltiness of this style, though the 9.5% alcohol means this is definitely a beer to sip. According to their website, it's brewed every January, then aged for two months, before being released on the spring equinox, March 21st. Hopefully I'll be able to snag some more this year, because it was really fantastic.

Well, that's it for this week. Assuming my liver survives the weekend in Anchorage, I should have some more great beers to right about next week.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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