Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Numbers Don't Lie

If you had any doubt that we are living in the Golden Age of American beer, the statistics for 2010 just released by the Brewers' Association should remove it.  Not only did craft beer sales increase by 11% by volume in 2010, but by the end of 2010 there were more breweries operating in the US (1759) than there were in 1900 (1751)!  Truly amazing.

US Craft Brewers produced 9,951,956 barrels in 2010, which translates to 4.9% by volume or 7.6% by retail dollars of all the beer brewed in this country.  The macro brewers still produce the vast majority of our beer, but their sales continue to slip, as overall beer sales were down by 1 %.  Imports were up by 5% in 2010, after dropping 9.8% in 2009.

Bottom Line: Craft brewers continue to do an amazing job and the American public continues to reward them by using their hard-earned dollars to buy their products.  Well done, fellows!

My lovely wife Elaine and I were in Anchorage for a couple of days last week as I had to attend a conference for my day job.  We did managed to break away Wednesday night long enough to attend the Cracking the Can event at the Spenard Roadhouse.  Darcy and her crew did a nice job pulling it together and Doug & Amy Hogue were there to represent Kenai River Brewing as the Roadhouse started selling their cans for the first time.  We had dinner but couldn't stay very long afterwards, as I had to get back to the conference, but both the food and beer were excellent as always.

Click to enlarge menu
Speaking of beer and food events, The Homestead Restaurant and Homer Brewing Company will be holding a beer dinner at 6:30 on Saturday, April 2.  Having eaten at The Homestead, I know they have good food, and after looking over the menu of the five-course dinner, each one paired with a different beer from Homer Brewing Company, my mouth is already watering.  It's $65 per person, tax & tip included; call  235-8723 for reservations.  This dinner sells out every year, so don't delay if you're interested.

After their big shindig on St. Patrick's Day, I hear that St. Elias has put a new beer on tap, though I haven't had a chance to try it myself yet: Nocturnal, an India Dark Ale brewed with rye in the mash, then oak-aged in several barrels.  Each barrel was dry-hopped with a different variety of hops, then they were all blended back together.  Sounds delicious.  As I said, I haven't been by to try it yet, but folks who have give it high marks.  Hopefully I get to stop by before the end of the week.

My Art & History of Brewing class will be touring Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop this Saturday; I'm looking forward to checking out how their expansion is coming.  I'd also like to get some of their Smoked Russian Imperial Stout, but it's not scheduled to be released until Tuesday, 29 March, so I'll just have to settle for grabbing a growler of something else.

While I was in Anchorage I didn't have much free time to sample beer, but I did at least have time to stop at La Bodega and pick up an assortment of bottled brews to try later.  Here are a couple that I've gotten around to sampling:

First, I finally found some of Alaskan Brewing's Imperial IPA, the latest in their Pilot Series.  I'd tasted this beer on draft in some of its earlier incarnations, as part of their Rough Draft series, but this was my first taste on the final design.  It poured a lovely copper color with a big off-white head.  When I nosed it, I picked up tons of piney, resiny Pacific Northwest hops.  It's hopped to 60 IBUs using Chinooks, Amarillo, and Centennial hops, and I seemed to pick up the Chinooks especially in the aroma.  On the palate their was good carbonation and medium mouthfeel, excellent bitterness up front, without being overwhelming, then more hop flavor, with some hints of citrus this time.  It finished nicely, with just a hint of heat from the 8.5% ABV.  An excellent beer and much more drinkable than many Imperial IPAs out there.  Alaskan was a little late to the IPA bandwagon, but between their flagship IPA, their Double Black IPA and now this beer, they've down a wonderful job of catching up.  I've seen this beer at our local Fred Meyer, so it shouldn't be hard to find.

I also picked up a bottle of Oak-aged Quadruple Ale from La Trappe.  This is the brand name of the Koningshoeven Tappist Brewery. They are one of the seven authentic Trappist breweries, six of whom are in Belgium, while Koningshoeven Abbey is located just over the border in the Netherlands. The beer is in the style of a strong, dark Belgian ale, comparable to Chimay Blue or Rochefort 10.  However, in this case the beer has also been aged in oak, giving it even more complexity.  Poured into a glass, the beer was a dark honey, or perhaps red-gold color, with a nice head, considering its 10% ABV.  The aroma was classic Trappist, with notes of figs, raisins, leather, and even tobacco bouncing off each other.  The taste is very complex, with the woody elements from the oak enhancing the typical dark sweetness from the base beer.  The finish is long and warming, with the alcohol finally making an appearance at the end.  An exceptional beer, significantly enhanced by the time it spent in the wood.

That's about it for this week.  Let's all keep buying and drinking good beer out there.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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