Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Where in the World is Bill Howell?

So there hasn't been a blog posted for three weeks and you're probably wondering what the heck happened to me. Or maybe you've been enjoying the silence...

If it's the former, the picture at the right should give you a bit of a clue. Of course that just begs the next question: What the heck is Bill doing at the USNA in Annapolis, Maryland? I'm not a Boat School grad, after all. In fact, as I never tire of reminding my old ring-knocker friends, I went to college (Tulane University) not the "trade school". Oh, and the drinking age in Louisiana then was 18, so I'm pretty sure I had a lot more fun than the "inmates" at Canoe U did from '80 to '84...

But if I wasn't back at the Academy for old time's sake (actually, this was my first visit ever), what was I doing there?

Well, I could say that I had been called there by my old friend, Captain Bob Clark, 84th Commandant of Midshipmen, to put together a formal beer appreciation program for the Brigade of Midshipmen, in recognition of the inherent futility of trying to separate college students, even if they are midshipmen, from beer.

I could say that, but it would be a complete and utter fabrication, not to mention it could potentially get the 'Dant into deep do-do...

So let's just stick with the prosaic truth: I was at the Academy to get some training as a Blue & Gold Officer, a kind of auxiliary recruiter for the USNA. As part of the same trip, Elaine and I got to visit our old stomping ground in Cool Springs, south of Nashville, TN. Then we spent a couple of days with my Dad in the beer wasteland known as Corinth, Mississippi. We finished up in Atlanta, where I attended a conference on Enrollment Management for my day job. Along the way I did my best to try whatever local brews came to hand. Looking at my notebook, I had at least 17 new beers, and I will spread my reviews of the best of them over the next several blogs. Here's one to start with: Geary's Wee Heavy Scottish Ale from D. L. Geary's Brewing Company in Portland, Maine.

Geary's and I are old friends. When we lived outside of Boston from 1994 to 1996, my wife, our daughter and I used to drive to Maine regularly to visit my in-laws. Part of the ritual was always to stop somewhere in Portland to pick up a six-pack of Geary's Pale Ale for me to drink during the visit, as my father-in-law was a dedicated Bud drinker. Even then, Geary's was almost a decade old, as they had been brewing craft beers since 1986. Unfortunately, their beers aren't distributed in Alaska, and I hadn't had one in years, until this trip.

This Wee Heavy poured absolutely opaque, with a nice tan head that dissipated fairly quickly, leaving good lacing on the glass. The aroma is of malt, laced with some roasted notes and even hints of dark fruit; very inviting. Tasting it, the malt is in the forefront, with just enough hop bitterness for balance. I did not pick up any smoke, though this is optional for the style. The 8% ABV is well-hidden, making this Scotch Ale much more drinkable than some of the hotter versions out there. Good carbonation and a nice finish. I'm a sucker for Scotch Ales, but this was truly a fine one. It's a shame we can't get it (or anything else from Geary's) here in Alaska.

Speaking of Alaska, let's put out some news about what's been going on while I've been away.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company
has a new brew out: Hop Dog, a Double Wheat IPA, the latest in their run of Double IPA seasonals. At 8% ABV and 100 IBUs, this beer packs quite a punch, both in terms of alcohol and hoppiness.It pours a nice amber-gold, with a nice white head. The aroma is full of citrus notes, either from the hops, the wheat, or both. On the palate there is a bit of tartness from the wheat, along with a ton of bitterness from the massive amount of hops used. It finishes nice and dry, very refreshing. This is a nice summer quencher for folks who are crazy about hops.

Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop's Cream Ale has been chosen as the very first Official Beer of the Alaska State Fair. Looks like it will be called Cream of the Coop, and you can go here to vote on the label design.This is a great honor and a real tribute to the great things that the Kassiks have been doing up in Nikiski. Can't wait until they start bottling!

At Kenai River Brewing in Soldotna, their runaway hit Breakfast Beer (an oatmeal & milk stout; see my review on 12/2/2009) is finally going to get a label design of its own. Amy Hogue asked me to spread the word about their call for artwork, so here's their official announcement:

Call for artwork - Kenai River Brewing Company is holding an artwork design contest for our Breakfast Beer. The winning design will receive $200, be credited for the design, which may be reproduced on T-shirts, hats, bottle labels, pins, coasters and/or posters. The winning entrant will work with Kenai River Brewing Company to develop a finished design, which will be professionally printed for our Breakfast Beer line. The winning design will be seen on promotional items around the world.

The design should fit on an 8-by-11 sheet of paper, designs may be full-color, but should be easily modifiable to work in situations with limited color options, design and text requirements: Breakfast Beer.

The deadline is September 15, 20010. Drop designs off at Kenai River Brewing Company, 241 N. Aspen Drive. Submissions become property of Kenai River Brewing Company, with credit given to the artist. For more information, call Amy at 398-4744 or e-mail amy@kenairiverbrewing.com

So if you're aspiring artist, here's a great chance to make some money and get your work very widely distributed.

Finally, I hear that St. Elias Brewing Company has two new brews on tap: Nimbus Tripel, a Belgian tripel brewed using Belgian candi sugar and malts, coming in at a head-knocking 10.75 ABV, and Pandora's Passion, a blackberry kolsch. I haven't had a chance to stop by since my trip, but it's definitely on my to-do list!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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