Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Alaska, Hawaii, & Points Beyond

Alaska and Hawaii have always had a strangely close relationship, given how far apart they are physically. They were both latecomers to the union, both have large military presences, and they both think of themselves as being very different from the rest of the US (aka "Outside" here in Alaska and the "Mainland" in Hawaii). These ties are only strengthened by the fact that any sourdough will tell you that the best remedy for the cabin fever brought on by the long Alaskan winter is a couple of weeks in Hawaii...

Well, now there's something else linking Alaska & Hawaii: Humpy's.

Yes, now besides the long-standing and well-loved Humpy's Alaskan Alehouse in Anchorage, there is now Humpy's Big Island Alehouse in Kona on the island of Hawaii. My lovely daughter Liana, who lives in Honolulu and visits Kona frequently for her job snapped the picture above for me last weekend. Note the whale that has replaced the salmon on the logo...

The new Humpy's took over a building left vacant when the local Hard Rock Cafe went bust. I find it somehow fitting that a mammoth, world-wide chain would be replaced by a funky alehouse with 36 craft brews on tap. So if you're visiting the Big Island (or Anchorage), be sure to stop in.

More interesting news: I just received a press release from Alaskan Brewing announcing the latest beer in their Pilot Series: Alaskan Double Black IPA, to be released on 1 September. Those of you who made it to the Great Alaskan Beer and Barleywine Festival in 2009 might have tasted the beer as part of Alaskan's Rough Draft series. Now the finished product is being released in 22 oz. bottles, and is the second beer in this series, following the Alaskan Raspberry Wheat released earlier this year (reviewed on 6/22/2010). Also in the series will be Alaskan's award-winning Barleywine and their excellent Baltic Porter (reviewed on 11/17/2008).The new brew is described by Dave Wilson, Alaskan's Production Manager, as looking like a porter, drinking like an IPA and having a kick like an imperial stout. The last is obvious from the 8.5% ABV The hoppiness comes from adding plenty of Centennial and Cascade hops during the boil; the same varieties are also used to dry hop the beer. It sounds like a delicious brew; can't wait to snag one to try.

Black IPAs (or Cascadian Dark Ales or India Black Ales or whatever we all eventually decide to call them) are all the rage these days. Amongst the local brewers, Zach Henry at St. Elias has one in the works. Last Friday he reported that it was in the fermenter "taking a nap on a pillow of hops" and should be ready in a couple of weeks. They've also got another fruit beer in the wings, an Irish Red Ale made with cherries.

Speaking of local brewers, next week is Local Beer Week. I'm told that Kenai River Brewing will be offering half-price pints from 21 to 28 August to celebrate. Not sure what if anything the others will be doing, but finding out will give you a good excuse to stop by and have a beer, if you need an excuse. Kenai River also has their next Single Hop IPA in the fermenter; this one uses the Liberty variety of hops. It should be on tap in a couple of weeks.

There's big news from up north: Gabe Fletcher is leaving Midnight Sun to start his own brewery, Anchorage Brewing Company. The new company will reportedly produce only 100 percent barrel-aged, all brettanomyces-influenced beers that will be finished strictly in 750 ml wine-style bottles with cork and bail finish. Fletcher has already signed on with the Shelton Brothers Importers to distribute his brews nationally. He has worked out a deal with the Snow Goose Restaurant and Sleeping Lady Brewing Company to use their brewing system and some extra space in the area under the brewery where his oak barrels, conditioning tanks and bottling line will be set up. Production will be limited to about 360 barrels annually, but the good news is that at least some of it will be distributed locally, with the first bottles being available in February, 2011. It's an ambitious plan, but if anyone can pull it off, Gabe can.

Finally, here are a couple of interesting graphics:I don't find the size of the big blue dots (total beer consumption) nearly as interesting as the numbers in parentheses (liters consumed per capita). I can accept that the US (79) is beaten by the Brits (86), the Germans (109), and absolutely blown away by the Czechs (161!); after all, these are traditional brewing giants. But we're also getting whipped by Venezuela, Poland, Russia, and even Romania. Come on, people! What would Stephen Colbert say? Let's get with it and drink some more beer.

On a more serious note, here's another graph:
There are now more breweries in the United States than there were before Prohibition. That's pretty amazing, especially when you consider that 30 years ago there were only about 50. So let's keep drinking that good craft beer and supporting our local breweries.

Well, that's it for now. Enjoy Local Craft Beer week, and the sunshine while it lasts!

Until Next Time, Cheers!


Cody Christman said...

Yeah, but are the Venezuelans, Poles, Russians, and Romanians drinking Black IPAs? :) By the way, the last I checked Bavaria would be #1 in the world per capita if they were considered alone. (Freistaat Bayern, right?) When I say this, people often imply that I am just being hypothetical. But that is basically what happened to the Czechs. Before Czechoslovakia split up in the velvet revolution, the Czechs were held down by their wine drinking neighbors.

Bill Howell said...

Let's hope they aren't. It would really be bad if they were drinking BETTER beer, in addition to more beer than the average American. :)

As for Bavaria, point taken, Cody. Indeed, I'm pretty sure if we could spin Alaska off as a separate country, our per capita consumption of beer might put even the Czechs to shame!