Monday, June 7, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal

Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always To be Blest.
---Alexander Pope

On Saturday, my lovely wife Elaine and I decided to take a little drive and visit the community of Hope, Alaska. When I say little drive, I mean little by Alaskan standard; it was 85 miles one-way. For the past six years, on every drive to Anchorage and back, we have driven past the turn-off to Hope. On most trips one or the other of us has said, "We need to go up and check out Hope sometime." Last Saturday we finally did it.

Hope is a pretty amazing place. Founded in 1899 by miners pulling gold out of Resurrection Creek, the town got its name purely by chance. After discussing what their new town would be named, the miners agreed that they would name it after the very next newcomer to arrive by boat. When young Percy Hope stepped ashore, Hope got its name. Today it's a small, quiet place, with a population of about 150 folks.

From a beer prospective, the most interesting thing about Hope is the Seaview Bar. It's located in a historic building right downtown, next to the Seaview Cafe, with which it shares a patio. It's a fabulous location, with a terrific view out across Turnagain Arm towards Bird Point. The weather was a little wet while we were there, but on a nice sunny day the patio would have been a great spot to enjoy a beer.

When Elaine and I went inside, I actually did not hold out too much hope for the beer selection. Boy, was I wrong! As you can see from the photo, they had seven taps and every one was a local Alaskan beer. Huzzah! In bottles, they had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Alaskan Amber and Summer Ales, plus the usual suspects (Bud, Miller, Coors, etc). An amazingly good selection, considering how isolated they are.

As you can see from the interior photos, the decor is pretty much pure, rural Alaska. Chatting with the young fellow tending bar, Joshua, I learned that the bar is only open noon to 11 PM from mid-May to mid-September and that they have live music on Thursday and Saturday nights. I think you can get food from the cafe next door, though we didn't actually order any.

All things considered, I had only two complaints about the Seaview Bar. One, it had no foot rail. There's a reason bars need foot rails, which I might go into in a later blog. Whenever such a rail is absent, I really miss it. Two, they need better beer glasses. I noticed that wines was served in proper wine glasses, but beers were poured into mason jars, of all things. Maybe that's part of the "Alaskan ambiance" they're trying for, but if that's the case, why not put their wines in them too? Once again, we see folks disrespecting good beer. Sigh...

Regardless of those two complaints, the Seaview Bar is a wonderful place to have a beer or three. If you find yourself in Hope, you really need to stop by and check it out.

While we were at the Seaview, I had a "jar" of Denali Brewing Company's Mother Ale (it's was excellent, by the way) and I used a new style of notebook for my tasting notes. If you're the sort of beer geek who likes to take notes on beers that you drink, check out the pocket-sized beer journals at 33 Bottles of Beer. They are very handy and much more practical to stick in your pocket than a full-size notebook.

Speaking of tasting beers, I had a Samuel Adams Double Bock, one of their Imperial Series, over the weekend. It poured a dark amber with some ruby highlights. The head was a light tan and seemed to subside fairly quickly. On the palate, it was very malt forward, in keeping with the style, with some alcohol heat. The finish was nice and smooth; good balance. This is a worthy American version of the classic German doppelbock; if you like strong, dark lagers, this is a good beer for you!

On the local scene, Kenai River continues to release one-off kegs of some of their previous efforts. Most recently it was a keg of Conglomeration, the IPA the brewed using all the hop varieties from the first year of the Single Hop IPA series. These releases never last long, so you really need to sign up on Facebook if you're interested.

At St. Elias Brewing Company, they have just released their new summer seasonal, Island Girl, a raspberry ale. There will be live music on Thursday, June 10th with Mike Morgan, from 7-9 PM. St. Elias will also be having their 2nd Annual Summer Solstice Festival, next week on the 18th and 19th of June. Look for live music on the patio, starting at 6 PM, and apparel giveaways. Elaine and I will see you there.

Over at Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop, they've got several events coming up. They'll have a beer tent at the Kenai River Festival, held at Soldotna Creek Park this weekend. Look for
their Beaver Tail Blonde, Morning Wood IPA, Moose Point Porter, Gold Nugget Hefeweizen, and Dolly Varden Nut Brown Ales on tap. Their brews are also on tap at the Peninsula Oilers' ballpark; the Oilers kick off their home season this Friday. There's nothing better than taking in a good game with a hot dog and a brew, take it from me. I also hear they're down to their last keg of the Imperial Spiced Honey Wheat, so get it before it's gone.

Well, that's about it for the week. Next week I'm going to try to review the slew of summer beers that have been released locally. Hope y'all like raspberries...

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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