Monday, November 21, 2011

Quick Notes Before Turkey Day

I wasn't planning on putting a blog out this week, so naturally I've been flooded by news that really can't wait.  So I'm giving it to you short and sweet.

The King Street Brewery in Anchorage will be opening their new Tap Room at 1 PM on Wednesday. They'll be open 1 to 8 pm on Wednesday, Friday, & Saturday.  They're hoping to have seven beers on tap: an Amber, a Blonde, an IPA, a Stout, a Wit, a Czech Pilsner, and a Bavarian Hefeweizen.  If you're in Anchorage, you should certainly check them out.

St. Elias has a new beer on tap: Mistletoe Porter.  It's lightly spiced with cinnamon, ginger, curacao orange peels, & nutmeg.  Also new at St. Elias is a  lovely beer engine mounted on the bar.  On December 2, for First Firkin Friday, they will be putting it to use.  Cask ale on handpump in Soldotna, Alaska: What a wonderful world we live in! 

Kassik's Brewery is giving away three snowboards.  The boards are on display at Kassik's Brewery, the Brown Jug on Old Seward just north of Tudor Road in Anchorage, and The Sitzmark in Girdwood.  You can enter to win at the brewery, The Sitzmark or any Brown Jug location between 1 December and 28 February.  Based on the picture, they are pretty cool looking.

By the way, I thought I was doing my friends at Kassik's a favor by asking you not to bug them on their day off, but apparently I was wrong.  For those of you who might have missed the comment on last week's post, here's what Debbie Kassik had to say on the subject:

"Kassik's is always willing to serve any day of the week as long as we're here and it's between legal serving hours." 

So belay my last and feel free to take your chances on getting your growlers filled on Mondays at Kassik's Brewery

Finally, for those of you in the greater Kenai-Soldotna area, keep your eyes peeled for a tall, handsome gent.  I have it on good authority that the esteemed James "Dr. Fermento" Roberts, dean of Alaskan beer writers, is gracing our area with his distinguished presence for the next couple of days...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Good Thing You Don't Need Electricity to Drink Beer...

As the above title indicates, electrical power's been a bit sketchy in these parts for the last couple of days.  High winds dropping trees on power lines has kept most of the Kenai Peninsula guessing as to whether the lights will be on from one minute to the next.  The good news is that though you need power to brew beer, it drinks just fine in the dark...

The Beer Tasting at Mykel's Restaurant on Saturday evening was a great success.  The food was outstanding as always and Joe Gilman from Kenai River did a fine job of walking us through several of their brews, culminating in a glass of Chocolate Pecan Crunch that had been cellared for almost a year.  I've had it fresh and I think the aging process has done a nice job in toning down the sweetness and giving in a much more mellow and rounded flavor.  My only complaint (and I heard this from many other folks) was that the musician was just too darn loud.  He was pretty good, but no matter how good you are, I hate having to shout to be heard when I'm trying to talk to my dinner companions.  Music at a beer tasting should be strictly background; we were there for the beer, the food, and the company, not to hear someone belt out lyrics...
To the victor go the spoils...

Speaking of Kenai River, based on his Facebook posts, Doug Hogue is having a great time Outside, both at CANFEST in Reno, NV and at the various breweries he's hit before and since.  Things started off with a bang: Skilak Scottish took the silver in the Scottish/Red/Brown Ales category, right behind Oskar Blue's G'Knight Imperial Red Ale.  Good job, Doug!  However, I'm still trying to figure out how Coors Light won gold in the Lagers Category, beating out Oskar Blue's Mama's Little Yellow Pils. Coors Light?  Really?

In spite of being located in  part of the Peninsula which seems to always lose power whenever the wind blows stronger than a stiff breeze, Kassik's Brewery continues to soldier on.  Indeed, even when they had no power, they were still filling growlers; that's dedication.  By the way, folks, they're closed on Mondays in the winter.  That means it's really bad form to show up on Mondays and expect them to sell you beer.  They're open six days a weeks as it is, so show a little respect, OK?

Anyway, there's a new brew on tap as of today, Penny Porter.  I believe I had last year's version of this maple porter and really liked it, so I hope to get out there soon to pick some up.  It's for a great cause, so if you like porter or dog mushing, be sure to pick some up. Their excellent Double Wood Imperial IPA is also on tap, along with several other choices.

If you're interested in possibly winning a free trip for two to Seattle, Henry Weinhard's is running a contest.  Ten finalists will be selected in March to fly to Seattle in May (along with a companion) to catch fish at the famous Pike's Place Market.  If you can catch all six fish tossed you, you will win a year's supply of their beer.  The contest opened on 1 November and you can enter once a day through February 29th, either by texting "CATCH" to 90464 or entering through Henry Weinhard's Facebook page.  I'm not much of a fish tosser, but I wouldn't mind a free trip for two to Seattle...

Over at St. Elias Brewing Company, Zach Henry has another new beer on, Birdseed Blonde Ale.  I stopped in last Friday and had a glass.  It was a pretty gold in the glass with a fairly small head.  The aroma was crisp and clean, with some hop aroma from the Goldings and Sterling hops used.  Zach told me he used seven different grains in the malt bill, including two different types of wheat malt.  On the palate it was fairly light, with enough hop bitterness to balance the malt, but not so as to push the beer out of the mainstream.  To me, this beer is a nice, straight-ahead blonde ale.  It won't really challenge the experienced craft beer drinker, but it won't scare off the novice either.  I predict it will sell like hotcakes, as it will go great with pizza.

Finally, I managed to snag a bottle of Midnight Sun's Mammoth Extra Stout at Country Liquors in Kenai this weekend. Back on 4/14/2011, I mentioned that it was being released and that I was looking forward to getting some to review.  It's taken me seven months, but better late than never.  Here are its stats: 7.8% ABV, 50 IBUs.  Malts used: Pale Two-row, Special B, Biscuit, Black, & Roasted Barley.  It's hopped with Magnum and Fuggles.

The beer poured completely opaque with a nice tan head, just like a good extra stout should.  The aroma was primarily roasty malt, but with some slight sweet chocolate notes.  The head left nice lacing on the side of the glass.  On the palate the mouthfeel was medium, not as thick and chewy as some heavy stouts. Malt flavors forward, both roasty and some sweetness, balanced with some citrus notes from the hops.  Toward the end the hops get a bit more earthy (the Fuggles, I'd think) and the beer finishes nicely.  Quite drinkable for its strength and style, I could see myself enjoying several of these in a row.  I'm glad I finally got to give this one a try.

Well, that's about it for this week.  Not sure if I'll get a blog out next week, what with Thanksgiving and all.  Hope you get to spend Thanksgiving with family and drink plenty of good craft beer with your turkey feast.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day

Date: Fall, 1987 Location: Classified
 Well, it's Veterans Day.  As a veteran, it's always a little weird for me when people come up out of the blue and thank me for my service.  I try to just be gracious and accept it, but it still makes me feel funny.  After all, it's not like I ever went into combat.  I did some semi-risky things (submarines are not inherently safe), but the guys who fish the Bering Sea to put crab on your table are a lot closer to death than I ever was.  I'll add one thing: If you really want to thank our veterans, vote for politicians who will end these idiotic wars (and not start anymore) and bring them home safe and sound to their families.

Meantime, here's a toast to all the men and women I served with, both living and dead:

"He either fears his fate too much,
or his desserts are small,
Who dares not put it to the touch,
To win or lose it all."
Here's to us, shipmates.

Moving on to beer, Midnight Sun Brewing in Anchorage has brewed a beer in honor of Veterans Day. The Warrior is an Imperial Brown Ale, weighing in at 40 IBUs and 8% ABV.  The hops uses were the Warrior variety (what else) and were added throughout the kettle boil.  This one will only be available on draft, so when you head over to The Loft Bar (maybe to snag some Good Mojo Sour Brown today) be sure to give it a try. $1 from each growler sold goes to the annual Seward Combat Fishing Tournament.  Look for the next beer in their World Tour series, Moscow Rye Russian Imperial Stout, to be released on Black Friday, 11/25/11.

Alaskan Brewing  has two new medals to celebrate. At the 2011 European Beer Star Awards, part of the Brau Beviale, Europe's larget beer festival, held in Nuremberg Germany.  According to the competition website, the European Beer Star's panel of tasters sampled 1,113 beers from 38  countries to award gold, silver, and bronze in 49 beer-style categories using purely sensory criteria to identify "authentic, distinctive beers of impressive taste and quality."  This was a record number of entries for the eighth year and a nearly 30% increase in entries from outside Germany.  Alaskan's flagship Amber took the gold medal in the Red and Amber Lager category, while their Stout took the silver medal in the Sweet Stout category.  Congratulations to everyone at Alaskan and keep up the good work!

Closer to home, Kassik's Brewery has their award-winning Caribou Kilt Scotch Ale back on tap, so go by and grab some.  I missed out on the cask of dry-hopped Puddle Jumper Pale that St. Elias Brewing tapped last Friday. I was competing in Triviapalooza in Kenai, and it ran so late that I couldn't make it to St. Elias before closing time.  On the bright side, Zach told me last week that he has ordered a no kidding handpump for the bar, so eventually we should be able to enjoy these cask beers all the time, or close to it, rather than just on special occasions. As a beer lover, that's pretty exciting news for me.  Finally, at Kenai River Brewing, Doug Hogue is Outside, attending the 3rd Annual Canfest in Reno, Nevada.  This means that the Beer Tasting taking place this Saturday evening at Mykel's Restaurant in Soldotna will be hosted by none other than Joe Gilman.  Mykel's Beer Tastings are always great, with plenty of delicious food (cooked in beer) and lots of brews to sample.  It starts at 6:30 pm and costs $38 (which includes food, beer, and tip).  It should be a lot of fun.

On the beer reviews front, I really haven't tried very many new brews in the last week.  I've mainly been drinking my own homebrew and some leftovers of other beers that I've already reviewed.  I did have one new beer: Broederlijke Liefde Saison, a Brewmaster's Collaboration beer between Sly Fox Brewing's Brian O'Reily and De Proef Brouwerij's Dirk Naudis.  Broederlijke Liefde (Brotherly Love) celebrates two great brewing cities, Philadelphia and Ghent.  It uses two yeasts, a classic saison strain and brettanomyces.  It poured a beautiful clear gold with a huge white head that displayed exceptional lacing.  The aroma was, spicy, spritzy and bright, full of excellent hop aroma from the Target and Styrian Golding hops used.  Excellent carbonation gave the beer an effervescent quality on the tongue. It was nice and dry, the way I prefer my saisons, with hints of brett funk, especially on the long, dry finish.  At 8% ABV and 37 IBUs, it's a little stronger that typical for a saison, but still extremely drinkable.  A wonderful brew and another exceptional collaboration.  If you see it, buy it, as it will not be brewed again.

Well, that's about it for this week.  Weather reports are for a storm blowing through tonight and tomorrow morning.  Sounds like it will be a good evening to sit by the fire and drink a barleywine, at least until it's time to go to the Beer Tasting at Mykel's tomorrow night. 

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

...Winter is Here!

If last week's flipped car was the harbinger of winter, we've got the real deal now.  There's an inch of snow on the ground at my house, I've got the snow plow on my faithful steed, and Tuesday's wind storm knocked out power all over the area (including Kassik's Brewery up in Nikiski).  Time to fort up with plenty of wood for the stove, a big glass of strong ale, and listen to the wind howl outside.

Speaking of strong beer, Midnight Sun has released the next beer in their 2011 World Tour series, London Old Ale.  I haven't been able to get my hands on a bottle of it yet, but I hear it's made from the second runnings from brewing their justly-famous Arctic Devil Barley-wine.  Even using the second runnings, you get an 8.8% ABV beer!  It's aged in bourbon oak casks that have been dosed with brett.  I'm really looking forward to getting hold of some of this one.  The last two brews in the series, Moscow Rye Russian Imperial Stout and Anchorage Bock both sound pretty darn good, too.

If you're going to be in Anchorage on Veterans Day (11/11/11), be sure to swing by the Midnight Sun Loft Bar for the very last Good Mojo Day.  These are the days when their 13th Anniversary Good Mojo Sour Brown Ale is on tap. This beer is now over 10 years old, and this is the very last keg of it.  When it was first offered for sale in May, 2008, I was lucky enough to get a growler of it (this was before I started writing this blog) and it was phenomenal.  Everyone else who tasted it thought so too, so the good folks at Midnight Sun saved the last 45 gallons and they've been doling them out every so often over the last three years.  But they've just about hit the bottom of the barrel, so next Friday will be your absolute last chance.  If you happen to be in Anchorage on Veterans Day, don't miss out.

A couple of beloved winter seasonals are back on the local shelves.  Alaskan Brewing's 2011 Smoked Porter is out, as well as Midnight Sun's CoHoHo Imperial IPA.  I had a bottle of the latter Monday night, and it was as delicious as ever (see my review from 10/20/2008).

In other Anchorage brewery news, Bitter Monk Double IPA from Gabe Fletcher's Anchorage Brewing Company was picked as one of Draft Magazine's Top 25 Beers of 2011.  Read all about it here.  Next up from Gabe should be The Tide and Its Takers Tripel, made with Sorachi and Styrian Golding hops and aged in French oak Chardonnay barrels. 9% ABV & 30 IBUs.

In spite of the power troubles mentioned above, Kassik's Brewery now has their Chocolate Cherry Stout on tap at the brewery.  Look for 22 oz bottles soon.  They also have some very cute pewter Christmas ornaments, based on the label for their Morning Wood IPA.  You can get them at the brewery or through the online store on their website, for $20 plus shipping.

Over at St. Elias Brewing Company, the special Oktoberfest beer that they released on 10/22 for their Oktoberfest celebration is still on tap.  I stopped by last Friday and had a glass.  Visually, it's perfect for the style, being a reddish color with an off-white head and crystal clear.  The aroma was of nice, clean malt, which pretty much describes the taste as well.  Zach fermented this beer at such cold temperatures that it tastes more like a lager than an ale.  It's very refreshing and extremely drinkable; I found it hard to stop with only one glass.  Spot-on for the style, I suspect this one will sell out fast, so get by and try it while you can.

And good time to try it would be this Friday, which happens to be First Firkin Friday!  Zach will be tapping a cask of Puddle Jumper Pale Ale, dry-hopped with Amarillo hops.  There's nothing quite so special as a pint of cask-conditioned beer, just like you could get in an English pub.  So be sure not to miss it.  The tapping usually happens about 6 o'clock, but you can get there early and drink pints of the Oktoberfest beer until it's time.

Just one new beer from Outside this time around: Anchor Brewing Company's Brekle's Brown Ale.  The beer is named for the Gottlieb Brekle, who purchased a San Francisco saloon in 1871 and converted it into the brewery which would eventually become Anchor Brewing in 1896. I had some on draft a few weeks ago at Humpy's in Anchorage, but this review is based on a 22 oz. bottle I picked up at La Bodega last week.It poured a translucent ruby-brown, with a big khaki-colored head.  The aroma was mostly of bready malt, with hints of citrus, probably from the Citra hops.  On the palate there was medium body with good carbonation.  The flavor profile is fairly subtle, with some toastiness from the malt balancing the touch of grapefruit from the hops.  Very drinkable and a nice take on the fairly nebulous Brown Ale style. 

Well, that's about it for this week.  Stay safe on these winter roads and stay warm.  Remember: alcohol will keep you blood from freezing, so be careful not to run out!

Until Next Time, Cheers!