Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Forward

So here we are, trying to to put winter behind us and the week starts with a couple of days of snow. Springtime in Alaska, you've got to love it! Walmart has opened in the city of Kenai. Our local volcano has started rumbling again, so there's some more potential fun for all of us up here on the Kenai Peninsula. Not to mention the Alaska Legislature is still in session, so no Alaskan's life, liberty, or property is safe. At work, I'm busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.

Lord, I need another beer.

Speaking of beer, I was at St. Elias Brewing Company last Saturday, getting a tour along with some of the students from the class I am currently teaching, The Art and History of Brewing. We got a great tour from Zach Henry, then my wife Elaine and I sat down to have dinner with some of our friends.

As we were sitting there, enjoying great pizzas and wonderful ales, it occurred to me that it was less than two years since St. Elias opened for business and only about four years since our other two local breweries, Kenai River Brewing and Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop, opened there doors. Given the tremendous positive impact all three of these businesses have had on the local area, it's hard to remember what things were like before they came to town.

I for one am damn glad they did so and I hope that all three continue to be very prosperous and successful in the future. Together, they certainly make this a much better place in which to live.

While I was at St. Elias, I tasted their Brass Monkey ESB. This beer was released originally last year, but this time around Zach has added some Amarillo hops to the traditional British varieties used to dry hop it. These American hops give a bit more zip to the hop profile, making it a bit more suited to local tastes, I think.

Zach also mentioned that when his Snow Angel Imperial Pilsner is exhausted, he will be replacing it with his Eclipse, which is a Strong Ale consisting of Baltic porter blended with barleywine and aged in a used bourbon cask. I have tasted it and it's fantastic, so keep an eye out for it. St. Elias also now has 1 liter swing top bottles, to compliment the half gallon growlers it has always had.

Earlier this week. I stopped by SAV-U-MOR to pick up some Pepsi for my wife and some beers for me. I was chatting with Shelly, the manager of their liquor store, as I was making my selections. She told me that she'd been having some trouble getting enough of some beers (like Saison Dupont, for instance) and asked me to suggest some other stuff to bring in. Off the top of my head, I suggested she see about getting in some of Oskar Blues beers, specifically their Old Chub Scotch Ale, Mama's Little Yella Pils and Ten-Fidy, their Imperial Stout. I pointed out that there's a real market for good craft beer in cans here on the Kenai, with so many folks doing things in the outdoors or in boats. That was on Tuesday at noon. Thursday at 3 PM I stopped by to grab something I'd forgotten. The checkout line in the liquor store was shorter, so I ducked in there to check out. Low and behold, in the cooler were all three of the beers I'd suggested, less than 48 hours later! Good job, Shelly! I am not exaggerating when I say that SAV-U-MOR is becoming THE place to shop for good craft beer in the Soldotna-Kenai area.

I reviewed Old Chub on 3/31/2009 and Dale's Pale Ale on 9/1/2009; I'll try to have review of Ten-Fidy & Mama's Little Yella Pils for next time.

Speaking of Imperial Stouts, when I was in SAV-U-MOR, Shelly suggested I try Left Hand Brewing Company's Imperial Stout, as a lot of folks spoke highly of it. I bought a bottle and tried it that night. It poured very dark, almost opaque, but with some ruby highlights. The tan head was good, but not exceptional; typical for such a high alcohol beer. The aroma was all roasted malts, no hops; very appealing. Tons of mouthfeel, with flavors of coffee and molasses, finishing fairly dry. It weighs in at 10.4% ABV and 80 IBUs, this is a big, Americanized version of the classic Russian Imperial Stout. An excellent beer, I can see why folks are asking after it. The label says: "A black ale to brighten your day"; I can't say it any better!

More beer news from up in Anchorage: Midnight Sun has released the first two beers in their latest series, the Pop Ten. The first is Free Loader, a Double Red IPA, and the second is Gold Digger, a Double American Pilsner. Both are on draft only. As soon as I can get up to Anchorage I'll give them a try and let you know what I think of them. The bottled version of Mayhem (see my review on 2/17/2010) should be available within the next week or two as well.

Finally, looking ahead, the 18th Annual Great Alaskan Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival will be held in Haines on May 28th & 29th. I haven''t yet had the chance to attend (and unless I hit the lottery, I won't be going this year either), but I have heard it's a wonderful time. If you can make it to Haines at the end of May, you really should check it out.

Well, that's about it for this week. Sorry it's so late, but things have been pretty crazy around here...

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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