Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Winter...

Well, the snow took its own sweet time getting here, but when it arrived, it came with a vengeance. With my lovely wife Elaine's help, I put the plow on my truck Sunday morning, which makes it officially winter. Sunday was none too soon, as there was already about six inches of snow on the ground, and we got another four later that day and into Monday. So now we're moving through the obligatory few days of people sliding into ditches and rear-ending each other as Alaskans learn how to drive on snow again.

While the weather is turning colder, the local beer scene is heating up. The first meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Brewing & Tasting Society last Wednesday was a big success, with about 20 people making it to the event at Kenai River Brewing Company. The weather was pretty poor, so that may have kept some folks away, and several have contacted me to express interest, even though they missed the first meeting. The next meeting will be on Wednesday, 1 December, again at Kenai River Brewing at 6:30 pm. At that meeting we'll be collecting membership forms, dues, and adopting some by-laws and electing officers. If you're interested, please try to attend. If you absolutely can't make it, please let me know and we'll work something out.

Frank and Jason Kassik of Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop were at the meeting and report that the completion of their expansion goes on apace. Their long-awaited Cherry Chocolate Stout is coming along and should be ready to bottle in a few weeks. The next batch of their award-winning Caribou Kilt Strong Scotch Ale should be released just before Thanksgiving, and they will be releasing another batch of their Spiced Cream Ale on 11/20/2010. Finally, this Saturday (November 13th) at 6:30 pm Kassik's will be having a beer tasting at Mykel's in Soldotna. I've written about these tastings before, most recently on 9/28/2009, and they are always a great time. $35 gets you plenty of great tasting food and lots of excellent beer to try alongside it. Call Mykel's at 262-4305 for more information and reservations, as these events have a habit of selling out.

This Friday (12 November) is another Firkin Friday at St. Elias Brewing Company. They just released a new beer, Jaberwocky ESB. Its tag line is "ESB meets IPA", so it's probably got a few hops in it. This Friday at 6 pm they will be tapping a cask of Jaberwocky that's been hopped with Simcoe and Crystal hops, so that should be some pretty good stuff.

Looking a bit further ahead, there's an event scheduled for Friday, November 19th, at the Challenger Center in Kenai. Taste of the Kenai is a fundraiser gala to benefit the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council. Food and drink will be provided by restaurants and breweries and wineries "from across the Kenai". I don't have any more specifics than that, though I believe that both Kenai River and St. Elias Brewing will be there. There will also be a silent auction, door prizes, and raffles. The event runs from 6:30 to 10 pm and tickets cost $50 per person. For more information, call 262-5229.

The very next evening, Saturday 20 November, the Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance will be holding their annual fundraiser at the Sea-Life Center in Seward from 7-10 pm. I attended last year's event (see my blog of 11/24/2009) and had a fine time, though I won't make the mistake of showing up hungry this year. The food was excellent, but the amount available left a lot to be desired for someone who hadn't eaten supper. There's entertainment and a silent auction as well. All three of out local breweries will be there again this year, along with Moose's Tooth Brewpub, Midnight Sun, Alaskan, & Denali Brewing. It's $35 per person, and should be a great time. Click on the poster at right for more details.

On the new beer front, I've tried a trio of interesting ones.

First, I had a bottle of Great Divide's Old Ruffian Barleywine that I picked up in Anchorage at La Bodega a few weeks ago. I have written about several of Great Divide's fine brews over the last few weeks, since I toured their brewery in Denver. Old Ruffian continues the roll call of excellent beers. It poured the color of very dark honey, with an outstanding cream-colored head and good lacing on the glass. On the nose there were plenty of hops, and a bit of alcohol heat from the 10.2% ABV. On the palate there was ample hop bitterness (90 IBUs), some malt sweetness, then a long, lingering, warming, finish. It reminded me of a Sierra Nevada Bigfoot that has been cellared long enough for the in-your-face hops to mellow a bit and let the malt shine through more. A great take on the American-style barleywine. It's no wonder that this beer has taken three medals at the Great American Beer Festival, including a gold in 2006.

Next, thanks to the generosity of Zach Henry, I got to try a bottle of Bell's Brewery's Hell Hath No Fury Ale. Bell's Brewery is located in Michigan and does not distribute to Alaska, but Zach was kind enough to bring some back from a visit Outside. I had read a great deal about their beers, both on-line and in my beer magazines, so I was anxious to give one of them a try. Looking at the label, I had no idea what style of beer it was, simply that it had 7.5% ABV. It poured dark, with some ruby highlights and a fast-dissipating light tan head. The aroma was of roasted malt, with some sweetness, then a touch of alcohol heat. By this point I was guessing that the beer was a robust porter in style. On the tongue the beer had a medium mouthfeel, plenty of roasted, coffee-like flavors but a good balance from the hops, gradually moving to a long, fairly dry finish. Looking on their website, I see that the beer was initially conceived as a Belgian dubbel, but then morphed into something more like a roasty stout. While they may have used a Belgian yeast, I'll stick by my initial call: it tasted like a pretty good robust porter to me. Looks like Bell's lived up to its hype; I'm eager to try more, if I ever get the chance.

Finally, with all that snow outside, it was time to go viking again, with an Andhrimnir Barleywine from Nogne O Brewery in Norway. Nogne O is one of those new European breweries who are taking their inspiration from the American Craft Brewing scene, producing outstanding and challenging beers. I've had Nogne O beers before, so when I saw this one at La Bodega, I didn't hesitate.

It poured a dark ruby/red-gold into the snifter, with a nice cream-colored head. The aroma had some roasted notes, along with plenty of malt sweetness and a hint of the 10% ABV. Tasting it, the beer presented a decent mouthfeel, with the malt sweetness of an English-style barleywine, but with extra hop bitterness. There weren't enough hops to push it all the way to being an American style barleywine, but there were more than is usual in an English-style. Overall, I thought it seemed very well balanced between the styles. There was some alcohol heat on the finish. Definitely a sipper, like all barleywines, this is another excellent beer from Nogne O.

That's about it for this week. Let's all be careful on those snowy roads and enjoy plenty of good craft beer. Hope to see you at some of the beer events around the Peninsula and at the next KPB&TS meeting on 1 December.

Until Next Time, Cheers.

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