Monday, February 1, 2010

The March of Time

Time marches on, and the older we get, the louder we hear the clomp of its heavy boots coming up behind us.

This thought was a recurring theme during my recent visit to Anchorage for Alaska Beer Week, since several folks who knew me only through my blog commented that "you don't look much like your profile picture". Given that my old profile picture was taken almost seven years ago and shows me without a beard (or quite so much gray hair), I guess I have to concede the point.

So I have had my lovely wife Elaine take another photo of me, which should make it easier for you folks to recognize me if we happen to meet in a bar or alehouse.

In keeping with the theme of time marching on, I thought I would talk about an old, old favorite of mine, Traquair House Ale. This is an absolutely wonderful Scotch ale from the Traquair House Brewery, which is located in the oldest inhabited house in Scotland (it dates back to 1107). Until only a couple of centuries ago, every large castle or manor house would have had its own brewery on the premises. The one at Traquair House stood idle form sometime in the early 1800s until 1965, when it was discovered by the late Peter Maxwell Stuart, the 20th (!) Laird of Traquair. He restarted the brewery and managed it until his death in 1990. Now it is overseen by his daughter, Catherine Maxwell Stuart. Besides their namesake flagship brew, they also produce Jacobite Ale ( a winter warmer spiced with coriander) and Bear Ale ( Scottish ale at 5%ABV). Traquair House Ale is imported into the US by Merchant du Vin and distributed in Alaska by Specialty Imports. Locally, it's available at the Sav-U-Mor on K-Beach.

But what does it taste like? Well, it pours with moderate carbonation, producing a tan head that dissipates fairly quickly, but leaves a nice lacing on the glass. Its color is a very dark ruby or reddish-gold, and on the palate it is velvety smooth, very rich. You can taste a hint of the 7.2% ABV on the tongue, as well as the slightest suggestion of peat smoke. The finish is dry, enticing you to take another sip. Absolutely true to the style, one of the classic Strong Scotch ales in the world today.

Moving from a long-time favorite to something brand new, while I was in Anchorage I picked up a four-pack of Monk's Blood, a new beer from 21 Amendment Brewery, located in San Francisco. Previously, Alaska has seen their Brew Free or Die IPA and their Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Ale. This brewery has already made a big impression around these parts since they are producing good craft beer in cans. Given the number of folks in Alaska who love to spend time in the great outdoors, being able to enjoy good craft beer without the hassle of bottles is a big plus. Along with Oskar Blues Brewery and our own Sleeping Lady Brewery in Anchorage, 21st Amendment has been leading the can charge. I had the chance to visit their brewery/restaurant when I was in San Francisco last June; it's well worth a stop if you find yourself in the City by the Bay.

Monk's Blood is a Belgian-style dark ale, brewed with dark candi sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and dried dark figs; it's aged on oak chips to add in some woody flavors as well. I'd say it's roughly in the style of a dubbel, though its 8.3% ABV pushes it toward being a Belgian Dark Strong Ale, like the Chimay Grande Reserve or Rochefort 10. It pours a deep, rich brown, with a rocky tan head. The aroma speaks of the spices and the figs, perhaps with a touch of alcohol. On the tongue, it is gratifyingly complex, with the dark figs very evident. Perhaps a little too evident, as they make the beer seem a bit too sweet. The Amarillo hops give it a few citrusy notes, something you don't really expect for this style, but not unpleasant. It finishes slightly thin, but it is still delicious and very drinkable.

21 Amendment's website states that Monk's Blood is the first installment in their Insurrection Series, "a limited edition, once-in-a-while, four-pack release of a very special beer that rises up in revolt against common notions of what canned beer can be". I'll cry "Amen to that, brother", and I look forward to the next installment.

Some upcoming local beer events:

  • Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop will be having a beer tasting at the Embassy Suites in Anchorage next Thursday, 10 Feb, from 5-8 PM. Stop by and try their Maple Porter and Caribou Kilt Strong Scotch. They will also be giving away a Kassik's jacket.
  • Thirsty Thursday at St Elias Brewing Company, with live guitar and vocal folk music by Mike Morgan from 7 to 9 PM
  • Midnight Sun will be tapping the first keg of this year's Fur RondyBrew, an Irish Red Ale, at the Spenard Roadhouse on Wednesday, 3 Feb, at 5 PM. The Roadhouse is even offering a dinner special to pair with the new beer.
  • This Friday, Feb 5, is First Firkin Friday at Midnight Sun's Loft Bar. They'll be tapping a firkin of their Triple IPA Gluttony, dry hopped with Amarillos, at 5 PM. I made one of these events in December; they're a great time.
Finally, a couple of personal notes:

First, yours truly will be on KUDO 1080's Beer 101 Radio Program this Thursday, 4 February. The program runs from 2 to 3 PM, and I should be on for the last half hour. Tune it in or listen on-line at I'll be talking about the Peninsula beer scene and whatever else anyone who calls in wants to talk about.

Second, I just learned this week that I have been chosen as one of the three finalists for the Beerdrinker of the Year Competition, held by the Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver. I'll be flying down there at the end of the month for the final round of the competition, held on February 27th. The other two finalists (Phil Farrell & Logan Perkins) were both finalists in previous years and will certainly represent very stiff competition, but I'm going to go down there and do my best to represent Alaska and Alaskan beer drinkers with honor. If any of you might happen to be in Denver on the 27th, the competition is open to the public. I could use all the support I can get, as one of my competitors is a home-town boy who's bound to have lots of vocal supporters cheering him on.

Until Next Time, Cheers!


coldnorthgamer said...

Good luck in the Beerdrinker competition. This is a knowledge competition, right?

Bill Howell said...

Thanks. As for the competition, I'm hoping some of it at least is knowledge. Here's a link to some video of last year's final:

coldnorthgamer said...

That is hilarious! It looks like it will be a lot of fun.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the Beer Drinker of the Year nomination! Denali Brewing Company will be cheering you on from afar!