Thursday, November 18, 2010
Cold Weather + Good Beers = Happy Holidays!
And who among us could disagree with what it says?
I've heard that last Saturday's beer tasting by Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop at Mykel's in Soldotna was a big success. Team Kassik's poured 6 different beers, including their 2008 Barleywine to a full house. In addition to the great beer, attendees got to enjoy great food and awesome music. In short, a good time was had by all.
In last week's blog I mentioned a couple of events coming up this weekend, The Taste of the Kenai on Friday and the Beer and Wine Tasting Event on Saturday evening in Seward at the Sea Life Center. Well, now we've got a Sunday event to round out your weekend. At 6:00 pm on Sunday, November 21st, Fire Tap Alehouse in Anchorage will be hosting another one of their beer dinners,this one featuring beers from Sleeping Lady, Silver Gulch, and Kassik's. See my good buddy Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts' column in this week's Anchorage Press for the complete menu. This is the second in their series of dinners; the first one got rave reviews, so if you're going to be in Anchorage on Sunday, this sounds like the place to be.
Speaking of beer events in Anchorage, on Saturday, 4 December at 4 pm, the Spenard Roadhouse will be holding their 12 Beers of Christmas event. This is a tasting featuring 12 different holiday beers from around the world; looking over the list, it's obvious that this should be a super time. The cost is $40, with tickets available at the Roadhouse. I'd strongly recommend taking a cab or having a designated driver, as all of these beers are above standard ABV.
Also in Anchorage, Ken Pajak at Cafe Amsterdam will be hosting his UBER (Ultra Beer Extravaganza Review) Fest on Sunday, 28 November, from 5 to 8 pm. Ken will be sharing bunch of his vintage collectible beers, along with plenty of great food. The tentative price is $60 and attendance is limited to 50 folks, so call Cafe A for reservations if you're interested. Looking a little further ahead, the Glacier Brewhouse will be kicking off this year's edition of their 12 Days of Barleywine Fest on Friday December 10. Each day they'll be pouring different barleywines, imperial stouts, and other "big" beers, most aged in wood. If you'll be in Anchorage anytime between December 10 and 21, you should make it a point to stop by.
As for beer reviews, I've got a couple. I missed out on Firkin Friday at St. Elias Brewing Company, but I did get to stop there early this week to try their new Jabberwocky ESB. A beautiful amber beer in the glass, with a nice cream head, it had a great hop aroma from Centennial, Simcoe, & Amarillo hops. It was lovely on the palate too, with plenty of hop bitterness but still a decent balance. It was such a nice beer that it reminded me of another of Zach Henry's better efforts, Henry's Best Bitter (see my review on 9/14/2009). When I asked Zach about it, he confirmed that Jabberwocky is indeed a reformulation of that beer. It weighs in at around 5% ABV but is an excellent session beer. I'm just sorry I missed it on cask, as I hear it was outstanding. I also got to sample the Strong Scotch that Zach and I brewed together back on Labor Day. Currently half of the batch is aging in whiskey barrels, while the other half waits patiently in stainless steel. Blended back together, they make a very special beer. It's not quite ready yet, but Zach and I agree it should be ready by Christmas. Watch this space for word on when it will be released.
After my glowing review of The Three Musketeers' Doppelbock Grande Cuvee Printemps from a couple of weeks ago, Doug Hogue of Kenai River Brewing was generous enough to snag a bottle of their Serie Signature Rauchbier for me up in Anchorage. I popped the cork on Saturday and shared it with my good friend Curt. Pouring it out into snifters, the beer was very dark, practically opaque, with a nice tan head. The aroma was super rich, full of elements of dark fruit, chocolate, coffee, and the slightest hint of smoke. On the tongue, the beer was a little thin, but the flavors were excellent. The smoke was restrained, rather than over the top, working with the other flavors rather than pushing them around. At only 5.9% ABV, it's not too strong to have a good-sized glass of, nor too smokey. Bottom line: I liked it a lot, though not quite as much as their doppelbock.
Next, Curt & I decided to try a new limited release from Ommegang, their Cup O' Kyndness Traditional Belgian-style Scotch Ale. I'm not exactly sure what a Belgian-style Scotch Ale is; Scotch Ales have been popular in Belgium since at least World War I, when so many Scots fought and died on Belgian soil, but most of them have been identical to British Scotch Ales. Indeed, some of the very best of them, like Gordon's Highland Ale, are brewed in Scotland exclusively for export to Belgium. Ommengang seem to have decided to use a Belgian yeast, hence the "traditional Belgian-style" part of the name, I guess. The beer poured a translucent ruby-brown, very pretty in the snifter, with a nice head. The aroma had some of the spicy, phenolic notes that I always seem to get from a Belgian yeast, plus a slight floral scent from the heather tips that are also added. I've had heather beers before, and it imparts a subtle note, almost lavender like, which is easy to overpower. On the palate, the mouthfeel is medium, with the spicy, peppery notes from the yeast, the sweetness of the malt, the floral heather, and a hint of smoke. The beer has a nice long finish, and at 6.6% ABV it's quite moreish. As a long-time aficionado of traditional Scotch Ales, I question the decision to use a Belgian yeast, but I guess that's what the brewers wanted. Another quality brew from Ommengang. FYI, I'm not sure if this beer is available at all locally; I got my bottle via a friend on the East Coast.
Finally, I picked up a bottle of an old friend, Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale. Headquartered at The Old Brewery at Tadcaster in North Yorkshire since 1758, Samuel Smith's is one of the great traditional breweries left in Britain. They are famous for still using stone Yorkshire squares - fermenting vessels made of solid slabs of slate - to produce their beers. This historic process, and the house yeast that has adapted to it, gives their beers a characteristic flavor and aroma, one which I have gotten to know quite well over many years. When I poured this year's version of Winter Welcome into a glass, my nose was immediately greeted by this characteristic aroma, a malt forward nutty scent. There's good mouthfeel on the palate, with enough hop bitterness from the traditional Fuggles and Goldings hops to balance the malt, but this is not a hoppy brew. At 6%, the alcohol is there but hardly overpowering, and this finish is long and rich. This beer is made to enjoy by the fire on a cold winter's evening, or at a holiday gathering with friends, along with a good cheese and some nice smoked meat. It's a classic British ale and it's available locally here on the Kenai, so pick up a bottle or six for the holidays and enjoy.
That about wraps things up for this week. Remember, the next meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Brewing & Tasting Society will be on Wednesday, 1 December, at 6:30 pm at the Kenai River Brewing Company in Soldotna. Stay stay, stay warm, and drink good beer.
Until Next Time, Cheers!