Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Winter Is Coming...

Well, I saw my first car flipped in the ditch today, so that must mean that winter's almost here.  I've never understood why Alaskans (who presumably should know a thing or two about winter driving) celebrate the end of fall by sliding their cars off the road.  It rained hard yesterday and it was below freezing this morning.  You don't have to be Albert Einstein to know that adding those two things together you get icy roads.  Yet people insist on trying to drive like it's summer with dry pavement.  Oh well, the stupid shall be punished...

Doug and his latest creation.

Today's a big day in the Kenai beer scene.  Kenai River Brewing Company has released their second canned beer, their Sunken Isle IPA, in 4-packs.  I stopped by the brewery at lunch time to enjoy a bowl of the free chili they were giving away to celebrate and grab some to take home.  Chatting with Doug Hogue, he reports that they hope to have their new tasting room next door open sometime in December.  With additional space and actual tables, it should be a great place to enjoy a brew. They still have their Magnum Single Hop IPA on tap (see review below), along with a "Mystery" Pale Ale.

Out at Kassik's Brewery, lots of brews are fermenting away: besides the Chocolate Cherry Stout, they're cooking up another batch of their Maple Porter, their Spiced Cream Ale, Caribou Kilt Scotch, and their Double Wood Imperial IPA. Rumor has it that more Smoke Imperial Russian Stout isn't too far behind.

Over at St. Elias Brewing Company, they held their big Oktoberfest party on Saturday night.  I wasn't able to make it there, but I did stop by on Friday, heading home from work.  I managed to get Zach to give me a taste of the special Oktoberfest-style beer he was going to release at the party.  I thought it had a great taste, plenty of good, clean maltiness and a lovely color.  I'm sure it was a fine time, and I'll be there next year for sure.

Click to enlarge
Speaking of up-coming events, on Saturday, November 5th, there will be a Beer & Wine tasting in Seward at the Sea Life Center.  This is the fifth year that the Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance has held this event.  I made it to the one in 2009 (see my blog dated 11/24/2009) and had a wonderful time.  This year, the event starts at 7 PM, $38  gets you in the door, a dozen drink tickets, and plenty of great food.  Lots of breweries, wineries, and meaderies will be there.  If you're interested go to for more details.

Moving out into the beer world beyond the Peninsula, two new breweries have opened in Alaska. First, the Arkose Brewery in Palmer started pouring beer on October 11th.  Stephen and June Gertiesen have been working since January to open for business and they've finally made it.  Currently they are making only one beer, Blue Skies Golden Ale, and it's only available at the brewery.  In the future, look for an expanded selection and for them to start supplying beer to local establishments.  If you're passing through Palmer, look them up at 650 E. Steel Loop Road, off of East Inner Springer Loop Road, behind the Alaska State Fairgrounds.

Even more recently, King Street Brewery in Anchorage celebrated their opening for business with an event at Humpy's Alaskan Alehouse on Tuesday, October 25th, at 5:30 p.m.  Dana Walukiewicz and Shane Kingry, the owners of King Street, had two ales on tap there, a blonde and a stout.  As for the brewery itself, currently their hours are a bit "flexible", but the word is "if there's a truck outside and we're here, people can stop in."  Eventually there will be a tasting room on site, but since they're just getting started, things aren't completely up and running yet.  Their address is 7924 King Street, a few blocks north of Dimond Ave.  I stopped by on 9/27/11, but no one was there.  Hopefully, I'll have better luck on my next visit.

At last!
Pam Hatzis at La Bodega has some great new beers in.  I am especially happy that Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale from Boulevard Brewing has finally made it to Alaska.  See my review 9/27/2010 for why this is fantastic news.  Boulevard's The Dark Truth Imperial Stout (reviewed 3/9/2011) is here at last as well.  My advice is to grad these fantastic beers while you can, because I intend to do my bets to drink them all.  Deschutes' The Stoic Belgian-style Quadruple Ale has also arrived.  I haven't tried it yet, but given their reputation, I expect it to be excellent also.

Now for some reviews.

Last week, I tried Kenai River's Magnum Single Hop IPA. This hop was developed in Germany and has alpha acids typically in the 10 to 12.5% range, with some spicy notes in it's flavor profile.  The IPA poured a cloudy honey color with a nice off-white head.  The aroma was what you'd expect from a good IPA, lots of hop notes, some spiciness, with an undertone of malt.  On the palate the mouthfeel was good, plenty of hop bitterness, but not shattering, then some spiciness, falling away to a decent finish, with plenty of lingering hop flavor.  A nice drinking IPA and an interesting hop; I think I may give it a try in one of my home-brewed IPAs.

In my last blog, I mentioned St. Elias Brewing's latest beer, Corkscrew, a Baltic porter aged in red wine barrels. I finally got a glass of this last Friday.  It's served in goblets, since it's 8% ABV.  It poured opaque with a nice tan head head.  To my nose, it smelled very strongly of red wine.  In fact, the last time I nosed a beer with this much wine aroma, I was smelling Midnight Sun's Because, another big beer aged in red wine barrels.  On the palate, the wine was much less pronounced; in fact, there was excellent balance between the wine and porter elements, especially on the finish.  It's definitely a slow-drinking beer, due to its strength and complexity, but I found myself wanting another when I had finished my first one.  Corkscrew will not be to everyone's taste, but it certainly was to mine.

Finally, I tried a bottle of Signature Ale, made in collaboration between Tomme Arthur of Port Brewing in San Diego and Dirk Naudts of  De Proef Brouwerij in Belgium.  Both of these brewmasters have great reputations and I have had outstanding beers from each of them in the past, so I was really expecting something special here.  I was not disappointed.

This beer is a Belgian strong pale ale in style, and it pretty much nails that style.  The hop choice is slightly eclectic, with Amarillos, UK Phoenix, and German Brewers Gold all being used.  It poured a bright copper with a massive white head.  The aroma is of Belgian yeast notes and Amarillos.  The carbonation was excellent, seeming to lift the beer and make it dance along the surface of my tongue.  The hop bitterness was wonderfully bright and fresh, leading me on to the touch of brett funkiness on the finish.  An absolutely outstanding beer, which begs the annoying question: Will it be better now or in the future with some cellaring?  Hard to see how it could get better, but maybe some aging would enhance the brett.  but maybe that would reduce the wonderful hop flavors?  Decisions, decisions.  Guess I'd better buy several more, some to cellar, some to drink right now.

Well, that's about it for this week.  Lots of new beers for us Alaska folks to get out there and try.  Just remember: Winter's right around the corner, so SLOW DOWN and get there a little later but in one piece.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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