It's a phrase I've heard a million times and said myself more than once while standing at the bar in a pub. So here's a short blog before I depart and go home for my Christmas stand-down.
There's not a tremendous amount going on at the local breweries this week. Like most of us, they are trying to enjoy the Holidays. However, here's a photo I lifted off Facebook, showing a new 15 barrel tank arriving at Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop two weeks ago. If you're delinquent like me and haven't been out there to see the expansion, the next week or two might be a good time to check things out.
On the new beer front, I have tried a couple since my last blog. The first was from AleSmith Brewing Company in San Diego. This is a well-regarded and award-winning brewery that unfortunately does not distribute their beers in Alaska. I managed to obtain a bottle of their Wee Heavy Scotch Ale through trading. I sent some bombers of Midnight Sun and Alaskan to the East Coast and this was one of the beers I received in return. Being a fool for Scotch Ales, I was delighted.
Checking out the label, I read that AleSmith recommends cellaring the beer for anywhere between six months and two years, to allow the flavors to continue to develop and mellow. I'm not sure how old my particular bottle was, since it made its way from San Diego to Rhode Island to Alaska, but I cellared it for about two months before opening. At 10% ABV, it's certainly strong enough to keep for two years or even more.
It poured a very dark mahogany with a slight cream-colored head. The aroma was of sweet malt and caramel, with some touches of dark fruit and a hint of smoke. The mouthfeel was medium, with decent carbonation and a slight alcohol heat. No bitterness to speak of, just enough hops to provide balance to the massive malt assault. Good finish, with another hint of peat smoke. One of the best bottled Scotch Ales I've ever had. I liked it so much that I went on-line to see how much another bottle of it would cost me. Answer: $10.99 plus $32 shipping. Oh well...
The second new brew I tried was the Urthel Saisonniere Blond Special Ale, from De Leyerth Brouwerijen, the Belgian brewery better know in the US as Urthel. This beer was first brewed in November of 2009 and last summer it received the prestigious World Beer Award 2010 as Europe's Best Seasonal Pale Ale. It is brewed to 6% ABV using 20% wheat in the mash. The brewery recommends pouring half the beer into the glass, then giving the bottle a swirl to rouse the yeast into suspension before pouring the remaining beer into the glass, similar to the technique used for a German hefeweizen.
Following these instructions and pouring into a large snifter, I was rewarded with a lovely golden ale, slightly clouded by the yeast, and a beautiful white head, thick and rocky. To my nose there was an enticingly clean and crisp hop aroma, with some spicy/earthy/phenolic notes, which I assume came from the yeast used. It was light on the palate with excellent carbonation, leading to a nice, dry almost pilsner-like finish. While it's currently winter here in Alaska, I can see how this beer would make an amazing summer quencher, holding its own against other summer seasonals. Very, very nice and exactly what you'd expect from a fine brewery like Urthel.
Alaskan Brewing Company's Pilot Series. The newest addition to this line of limited edition specialty beers in 22 oz bottles will be their Imperial India Pale Ale. In its earlier incarnation as part of their Rough Draft Series, this beer was known as Xxtra Tuf Imperial IPA, after the ubiquitous Alaskan footwear. I reviewed it back on 11/24/2009. I look forward to sampling the new "final" version. I assume the name change was in deference to the folks Outside who have no idea what an Xtratuff is...
That's about it for this week's blog. I'm planning to take next week off to relax and celebrate, so my next one will not be published until 2011.
Don't forget that the next meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Brewing & Tasting Society will take place at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, January 5, at Kenai River Brewing. I'm dipping into my cellar for a vertical tasting of Alaskan Smoked Porters, from 2004 to 2010, so you won't want to miss that. Dues paying members only, so if you haven't turned in your membership form yet, be sure to bring a check or some cash to the meeting, so you can pay up.
Until Next Time (and Next Year), Cheers and Happy Holidays to you all!