Given all the time I've spent in Anchorage over the last few weeks, I have gotten to try several new brews, so let's go straight to the reviews.
In the lead up to the wedding, I met my good friend Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts, the Dean of Alaska Beer Writers, for lunch at Midnight Sun's Loft. Along side my delicious sandwich, I had a glass of the latest beer in their World Tour series, Kyoto. This beer is brewed in the pilsner-style, using rice and sake yeast. It was great on the palate, with plenty of carbonation and a nice, light body. Very clean tasting and an excellent accompaniment to food. In fact, I liked it so much a took a growler home with me and served it to the large group of friends and relatives staying at our home. It was the perfect craft beer to serve to folks who might not necessarily like craft beer.
On the same trip, I stopped by La Bodega to pick up several bottles that Pam Hatzis had been nice enough to put aside for me, with Bitter Monk DIPA and Love Buzz Saison from Anchorage Brewing Company being chief among them, I'd been looking forward to sampling Gabe Fletcher's Bitter Monk for several weeks and the fact that Love Buzz had also just come out was an added bonus.
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The Bitter Monk Double IPA poured a clear, bright gold, with a massive white head of pin-point carbonation; very beautiful in the glass. The aroma has lots of bright, Citra hop notes, likely from its dry-hopping, with the slightest whiff of brettanomyces funk. On the palate the beer certainly lives up to its name, with the 100 IBUs being immediately apparent. As the hop shock to my taste buds began to subside, I could pick up the brett, then a little woodiness from the oak aging, all falling away gradually to a nice, funky finish. This beer has a myriad of very strong flavors, all of which are dominated by its shattering bitterness. Another masterpiece from Gabe, though like all great art, it may not be to everyone's taste.
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Moving on to the Love Buzz Saison, this one poured a deep, slightly cloudy gold, with a big, rocky white head. Citra hop aroma was again present in the nose, which is not surprising since this beer was also dry-hopped with that variety. There were also the earthy, spicy notes that are typical of Belgian yeasts, especially saison yeasts. The carbonation was excellent, and the flavor profile was complex, with citrus-like hops, rose hips, orange peels, and peppercorns all making their presence felt, as well as the ubiquitous oak and brett barnyard elements. At 8% ABV and 40 IBUs, Love Buzz scores a bit higher on drinkability than the 9%, 100 IBUs Bitter Monk. Very nice and I've already squirreled a couple of bottles away in the cellar to see what some time will allow the brett to do to the overall flavor profile. I love saisons and this is a wonderful example of the style.
Our local brewers have also been busy over the last few weeks. First off, as they do every year, Kenai River Brewing Company released this year's Winter Warlock Old Ale on 1 October, and I made sure to grab some as soon as I got back in town. For those of you who don't remember, this beer is conditioned for an entire year before being put on tap. The 2011 Warlock poured a dark honey-gold with a decent cream-colored head. The aroma is of malt, with a touch of alcohol. The taste is spot on for an English-style Old Ale: deep, rich layers of malt flavor, with enough hop bitterness to balance, falling away slowly to a long, long finish. It's hard to know for sure, but looking at my notes, I'd have to say that the 2011 might be the best Warlock yet. Get some to try before it's all gone.
Hopefully we'll be seeing Sunken Isle IPA in cans soon as well. When last Doug Hogue and I spoke, he said they were just working to alleviate a back-log with some of their draft accounts, then they would be moving on to Sunken Isle. There's a picture on their Facebook page today of finished Sunken Isle cans, so I'm assuming all we're waiting for is for them to condition. That means we should see Sunken Isle in cans go on sale within the next three weeks or so.
Speaking of conditioning, Kassik's Brewery has bottled their Chocolate Cherry Stout and for this beer they will actually be conditioning it in the bottle. Since this was their first go at bottle-conditioning, they brought in a consultant: Gabe Fletcher, late of Midnight Sun and now the owner/brewer/one-man-band of Anchorage Brewing Company. I understand that things went well, so look for this beer to be released around Halloween, give or take.
Finally, over at St. Elias, Zach Henry is back from his two weeks of "research" (yeah, right!) in Belgium and Germany. Which is a good thing, as they were starting to run short on beer! Munich Red and Flower Child XPA are both gone, and when I was in there last Friday, Zach was in the process of putting a new beer, Corkscrew, on tap. This is a Baltic porter that has been aged in red wine barrels. I had a small, flat sample and the wine influence was very pronounced. I'm looking forward to trying it with some carbonation. Since Corkscrew wasn't ready, I had a pint of the Fair Trade Porter. This coffee-laced brew has really been growing on me. I usually find coffee-beers to be overly acidic and much too bitter on the palate, but Fair Trade seems to bring the coffee flavor without the tremendous bitterness, probably because the beans were cold-steeped, rather than brewed. For whatever reason, it's a great drink. Just don't plan on sleeping in the near-term after drinking it!
After visiting numerous Belgian and German breweries, Zach and his companions finished up at Oktoberfest. So it will be interesting to see if he brings anything new to St. Elias' celebration of Oktoberfest on Saturday, October 22. As always there will be great food and live traditional German music.I understand Zach bought an authentic Bavarian costume, which he will be showing off at the celebration. I only hope he'll be wearing the lederhosen and not the other one...
Well, that's about it for now. With the wedding hiatus over, I should be getting my blogs out on schedule again (more or less). More beer reviews next week.
Until Next Time, Cheers!