Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer Time, and the Livin' Is Easy...

 It's been a busy couple of weeks since I last sat down to write something for this blog, both for me personally and for the Alaska beer scene.  As I mentioned in my last blog, my daughter Liana and her fiance Jim came up for a visit, plus Independence Day and other events, so all that has kept me hopping.  So let's see if I can get caught up here.

Since Jim & Liana were due in to Anchorage at 5 AM on Thursday, Elaine and I drove up there Wednesday afternoon and spent the night.  I realize it's a bit of a departure from my usual subject matter, but it's my darn blog so I'm going to take the liberty to talk about where we went for dinner that night: Jimmy's New York-Style Sushi Restaurant at 301 E. Dimond Blvd.  I had seen the sign on previous Anchorage trips and --like just about everyone else-- wondered what "New York-style" sushi could be.  Then I read a very positive review of the place in The Anchorage Press, one which mentioned that they actually had an "all-you-can-eat" sushi deal for $35.  Given how much I love sushi and how expensive it is, I had to give that a try.

When Elaine and I walked in, the place was empty, and it stayed that way the entire time we were there.  On the plus side, this meant we got exquisite service, both from our waiter and from the owner, Jimmy Zhou, behind the sushi bar.  I negelected to snap pictures of most of the beautiful and delcious platters we enjoyed, until a couple at the very end.
Lightly grilled white tuna with sauce

A pickled seafood salad

Everything, including Elaine's chicken teriyaki, was outstanding.  It's amazing to me that this place isn't absolutely packed with folks.  If you're in Anchorage and you like sushi, head to Jimmy's, give them your 35 bones, and prepare to be stuffed with amazing dishes.

After dinner we headed over to Cafe Amsterdam.  It was also almost empty (due to good weather and the parking lot repaving going on right outside their door, I guess), so we settled on a couple of stools.  Looking over the chalkboard, I noticed they had a beer listed called Green Devil, from Midnight Sun.  Not having heard of it before, I asked the bartender about it.  He told me that it was a collaboration between Green Flash Brewing Company of San Diego, CA and our own Midnight Sun.  It's Midnight Sun's Arctic Devil Barleywine that's been hopped using the hop schedule for Green Flash's Barleywine.  Intrigued, I had a glass.  It's Arctic Devil heritage is immediately apparent, with the big maltiness, strong alcohol, and plentiful wood-aged notes that I associate with that superb barleywine.  However, it had a much more assertive hop character, with the citrus and piney notes that I've picked up in other Green Flash beers.  It was a very interesting hybrid, though personally I think I prefer the original Arctic Devil.  I don't know how long it will last, so swing by Cafe A and form your own opinion.

Gabe's new space
The next day my future son-in-law Jim and I dropped in on Gabe Fletcher at the Anchorage Brewing Company.  Things were in a bit of disarray, as Gabe was getting ready to expand into a newly completed space.  I forgot to ask the square footage, but it looked to me like it will be about the same size as Gabe's current work area, i.e. the area not filled with barrels.  He said he plans to use it to bottle condition his brews and for storage.  We also got to look at his amazing $150k Italian bottling machine; it does just about everything except drink the beer for you.

German Vat
While he's got the rest of the year already planned out pretty well, Gabe's also thinking about the future.  He plans to start experimenting with sour beers and has purchased a huge German wood vat to use in the effort.  However, the most important ingredient in making sour beer is the bacterial cultures used, and Gabe has imported the finest "critters" available.  He's obtained a sample from Vinnie Cilurzo at Russian River Brewing Company, the undisputed "King of Critters".  I snapped photos of both the vat and the keg full of Vinnie's pets that will soon be making their home there.  Besides sour beers, Gabe is also thinking about releasing some "draft-only" brews next years as well.

On the way out of town, we stopped by Midnight Sun to pick up a couple of growlers.  The place was busy as always, this time with Marines in dress blues loading up on cases of Sockeye Red IPA in cans. That was June 30th and they had just finished their first canning run.  As of today, it's made its way down to various stores here on the Kenai (Country Liquors, Three Bears, maybe more). So now we all have another choice for beer in cans.

Speaking of IPAs in cans, Kenai River continues their slow and steady march toward canning their Sunken Isle IPA.  On Tuesday, July 5th, their new 20 barrel fermenter arrived at the brewery.  They're still waiting on the cans to arrive, but in another few weeks we should have one more canned IPA to choose from.  They also have their Breakfast Beer and Naptown Brown back on tap, and this week's special is Hoppin' Salmon Wheat, with $8 growlers and $2.50 pints.

Another reason to stop by our local Peninsula breweries is to pick up tickets for the First Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival, which are now on sale.  The Soldotna Rotary is organizing this event on Saturday, August 13th, from 4 to 10 PM, at 37661 Kenai Spur Hwy (the old Glacier Pontiac Dealership).  Tickets are $20 and get you in the door, plus a commemorative glass and three 8 oz. samples.  Additional sample tickets will be on sale for $3 each.  There will be two stages with live music for the entire time, plus food for sale.  Attendance is limited, so get your tickets before they sell out!  As I said, they're on sale at all our local breweries, and posters should be here soon.

St. Elias Brewing Company has a new beer on, Gunpowder Brown Ale. It's in the style of a Northern English Brown Ale, rather than the sweeter (and much rarer) Southern English Browns.  It pours  a semi-translucent brown with a nice cream-colored head. The aroma is primarily of malt and caramel, without any discernible hop aroma. Carbonation is good, with excellent mouthfeel.  The beer leads off with malt, then a slight amount of roastiness makes itself apparent.  Hops are just here for balance, so we're not looking at an overly hoppy brown.  Alcohol is about 5.6%ABV, so this beer is quite drinkable.  In fact, it reminds me of a stronger version of their much-loved (by me, at least) Marathon Mild from summer 2009.  Another delicious brew from Zach Henry & company at St. Elias.

Tapping the IPA
The usual suspects

St. Elias was also kind enough to host the July party for the Kenai Peninsula Brewing  & Tasting Society on Sunday, 10 July.  Since the weather gods cooperated for once, we were able to party on their outside patio.  Zach was generous enough to donate some pizza and a cask of his Williwaw IPA that had been dry hopped with Falconer's Flight, a proprietary blend of hops from HopUnion.  As usual, both the pizza and beer were excellent.  Several members also brought in excellent homebrews and ciders; at this rate, I am looking forward to seeing several of our members winning medals in upcoming homebrew competitions.  If you live around here and are interested in brewing or just drinking good beer, the Kenai Peninsula Brewing & Tasting Society is probably worth your looking into.  And I'm not just saying that because I'm the President of it.

Interspersed with all this, I did get the chance to try a couple of new beers.  I wrote in my last blog about Midnight Sun releasing their new Bangalore Double IPA, part of their 2011 World Tour series.  This beer is now out in 22 oz. bombers, as well as on draft, so I snagged some when I was in Anchorage.  As you can see in the accompanying picture, it poured a lovely clear copper, with a big off-white head and nice lacing.  The aroma was full of hops, as you'd expect from an 85 IBU DIPA, but there was also the notes of the Indian spices used.  On the palate, it initially presents as a classic Double IPA, with massive hop bitterness up front, but then the spice elements begin to creep in, especially toward the finish.  There's a touch of alcohol heat from the 9.5% ABV as well.  The spices are used with restraint and subtlety, but they are definitely there.  All-in-all, this beer really wasn't to my taste, but I once again applaud Midnight Sun for their willingness to push the envelope and try something new.  If you're a hophead who  really loves Indian food, this might be the perfect brew for you.

While in Anchorage I also picked up another beer from Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City.  I've been impressed with there other brews, so anytime we get a new one up here in Alaska, I'm eager to try it.  This time around the beer was their Two Jokers Double Wit.  Given that wit beers are traditionally fairly low strength beers, meant to be refreshing thirst quenchers, a double wit is almost an oxymoron, like an imperial mild.  Still, the guys at Boulevard generally know what they're about.  It poured a cloudy gold with an absolutely huge head that dissipated fairly quickly (a Duvel-style tulip is a good glass choice for this beer).  The aroma was of spices and citrus, with perhaps a touch of wild sourness?  On the palate, the beer was surprisingly light for its 8% ABV.  The spices and citrus were still there, along with the hint of wildness.  Very refreshing and a wonderful pairing for a salad or some halibut cooked simply with herbs and butter.  Very nice and a perfect summer beer.

Well, that's about it for now.  Look for a blog next week, as I'm back in the groove now.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

P.S.  I just realized that Sunday, 10 July marked the third anniversary of my starting this blog.  Sure doesn't seem like it's been three years.  Thanks again to everyone for your interest, and I hope we'll all be here next year.  

1 comment:

Rick Andrews said...

Hey Bill! Glad you're back to writing. Always enjoy to read what's brewing north of the lower 48. Keep it coming. Cheers!