Monday, May 3, 2010

National Homebrew Day

Well, I hope you enjoyed National Homebrew Day on Saturday; I know I did. I had thirteen friends and former students from my beer appreciation class over and together we brewed a batch of my Pinnacle Ale, an American IPA. Besides the brewing fun, we drank a couple of growlers of beer from Midnight Sun (more on that below) and several of my homebrews, while nibbling on some very fine cheeses. It was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

I really enjoy events such as National Homebrew Day. I think it's incredibly important that all lovers of craft beer and homebrewing make every effort to reach out to those folks that they know and introduce them to these things we know and love. It's the only way to really grow the community of American Craft Beer.

Speaking of that, American Craft Beer Week is May 17 to 23rd. The mission of American Craft Beer Week is to encourage beer lovers everywhere to celebrate the accomplishments of America's small and independent craft brewers. So check out their website, sign the Declaration of Beer Independence, and look for an event near you, wherever you are.

I was up in Anchorage on Thursday, so on the way out of town I stopped at Midnight Sun and had those two growlers filled. For the first, I picked their CoHoHo Imperial IPA; this is a winter seasonal, so when it's gone, it's gone until next winter. It's one of my favorite brews; see my review on 10/20/2008 for details.

For the other growler, I went with the second beer in their 2010 Pop Ten Series, Gold Digger Double American Pilsner. The design thought behind this beer is very interesting; as near as I can tell, it's made exactly like an imperial pilsner, except that the classic European noble hops are replaced by American varieties. It pours a lovely clear, golden color, with a nice, white head, just like a standard Czech pilsner. It has the same clean, crisp taste on the palate, but with a much more pronounced and robust bitterness and hop aroma. A Pilsner Urquell drinker in Prague would probably say that it lacks the subtlety and delicacy of a "real" pilsner, but so what? We're brash Americans and this is one fine tasting beer. It's draft only, so look for it in Anchorage.

I also picked up a bottle of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Glissade Golden Bock. I have to admit, I haven't had the chance to drink many bocks in the last several years; it's not a very popular style with American Craft brewers. However, based on what I remember from my sojourns in Europe, Glissade seems spot-on for the style. It's a lager, of course, and brewed up from two-row European barley. German Magnum and Perle hops are used for bittering, while German Spalter and Slovenian Aurora & Styrian hops provide the finishing & aroma. Glissade pours a lovely deep gold color with a nice white head. The aroma is a nice balance of hops and malt, with neither dominating. On the palate, it has the crisp and clean taste you'd expect of a cold-fermented lager, with plenty of malt backbone to stand up to the 42 IBUs of bitterness. The beer is so well-balanced that the 6.2% ABV is not apparent; it's as easy-drinking as a beer with less than 5% ABV. This is a great beer to enjoy sitting out on the patio in the sunshine, as the last, lingering traces of winter are melting away. Another quality product from Sierra Nevada.

My final new beer of the weekend was one I had been looking forward to for a long time. Bridgeport Brewing Company's Highland Ambush Scotch Ale. I'm a sucker for a good Strong Scotch, and this one had the added feature that 33% of it had been aged in used bourbon whiskey casks and then blended with the un-aged two-thirds. First brewed in the 80's for Bridgeport's Brewpub, it was re-released in December and I've been looking to snag a bottle ever since, so I was happy to pick some up at La Bodega. (By the way, I saw on Saturday that it is now available at Fred Meyer in Soldotna, AFTER I had gone to the trouble to buy some in Anchorage. Typical.)

The beer itself poured with a slightly thin appearance, and very little head, which is not atypical for some Scotch ales. There was not a tremendous nose, but some malt was noticeable. On the palate, my first impression is that the beer was thin, almost over-attenuated. While I don't expect my Strong Scotch Ales to be as chewy as an Imperial Stout, I do look for a good backbone of unfermentables to build around. Not so with Highland Ambush. The wood aging did eventually make itself felt, though there was no discernible bourbon flavor. The finish was not bad, long and quite dry. All-in-all, not a bad beer, but not anywhere near the best Scotch ale I've ever had. I'm not sure how "wet" the whiskey barrels used were, but their impact was minimal, at least to my palate. Since they're available locally, you can try it for yourself, but I was sadly unimpressed...

Well, that's about it for now. I'll be pretty busy this week, trying to wrap up the end of the semester at my day job, but I hope to have more local beer news to report next blog.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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