Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hints of Summer At Last!

Well, it looks like we're finally starting to see some warmer weather up here; we're staying above freezing at night and all the snow is gone. We'll be seeing mosquitoes before too much longer...

Last week we had some very nice clear days, which was good, since the Soldotna Community Playground build was in progress. I've been part of the project since they held a beer tasting last January to raise money (1/11/2010). I didn't get to help out much during the build, since last week was very busy for me in my day job at the College: graduation, two days of Campus Emergency Response Team training (pictured), and then an end of the year staff meeting & BBQ. Still, they had 800+ volunteers help out with the construction and the new playground is beautiful.

Now all we need is a beer garden built right next to it and Soldotna will be the best place to play on the Peninsula!

Besides our better weather, the other harbinger of summer is change is opening hours for our local businesses. The "official" start of our tourist season is Memorial Day Weekend, and the local establishments which cater to them are opening for the season or expanding their business hours. Last year's summer was nothing to write home about, so we're all hoping to have something better this year.

St. Elias Brewing Company has increased their opening hours. As of May 1st, they are now open from noon to 10 PM, Sunday to Thursday, and from noon to 11 PM on Friday and Saturday. Given how busy they've been every time I've been in there in the last few weeks, I don't know how many tourists they're going to be able to accommodate, but I guess that's a good problem to have!

Also at St. Elias, the Snow Angel Imperial Pilsner and Moose Juice Barleywine are finished, and they've been replaced by Eclipse, a blend of vanilla porter & barleywine that's spent several months in a whiskey cask. This beer was served at the Great Alaska Beer & Barleywine Festival in January, and lots of folks have been waiting impatiently for it to be on tap again. It's 9.0% ABV, 65 IBUs, and loaded with bourbon and wood-flavors. For sale in 6 oz. goblets only, it a wonderful after dinner sipper. Zach Henry tells me that he'll be making another mild ale soon; this one will be darker than last summer's wonderful Marathon Mild, and I'm looking forward to trying it.

Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop has just re-released their Gold Nugget Hefeweizen and their Imperial Spiced Honey Wheat, so if you're hankerin' for a good wheat ale, grab your growlers and head out to Nikiski.

Over at Kenai River Brewing Company, the boys have been very busy. Their latest Single Hop IPA, made with Challenger hops, is almost gone. Their next one will be made with Saphir hops. As always, these beers serve as a great venue to showcase the qualities of specific hop varieties. Challengers are an English hop, a descendant of Goldings, first introduced in 1972. In the IPA I thought they were nice and subtle, strangely reminiscent of Chinooks. I think they only have about 5 gallons left, so be sure to grab some soon if you want any. Doug gave me a taste of the upcoming Saphir Single Hop IPA. Saphir hops are a new breed of European hop that is starting to replace the Hallertauer Mittlefrüh variety, which has become more and more susceptible to disease and pests. It shares many of the Hallertaur Mittlefrüh characteristics, which makes it very well suited as an aroma hop. In the IPA, I thought it was a little more aggressive than the Challenger, but that may be simply because the beer was younger. It's not a hop that I am very familiar with, but it seems very interesting. If you're a homebrewer or a serious hophead, you need to give this a try.

Another beer on at Kenai River is a reformulation of their Resurrection Summer Ale. Doug has added some rye malt to the wheat malt he's used in the past. The result is a little darker in color (I think) and an even better flavor, with the rye adding interesting flavor notes. At 4% ABV, this is definitely a wonderful session beer, great to have a summer party or picnic. If you've tried it in the past, be sure to taste the new version.

In other news, Oklahoma has finally legalized homebrewing, effective 1 November. Now the only states left in which brewing beer at home is still illegal are Mississippi and Alabama. Americans are still saddled with a ridiculous number of archaic and down right stupid restrictions on the purchase and consumption of alcohol, but at least we are making some progress, slow though it may be.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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