Thursday, December 1, 2011

Here Come the Holidays

Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  Not my favorite holiday, but still a nice excuse for a few days off and a big feast with friends.  I don't know about you, but I made it a point to have some really excellent beer along with my turkey.  I broke out one of my last bottles of St. Elias Brewing's  H&H Highland Ale (reviewed on 12/16/2010).  Six months of aging in the bottle has made this beer even more exceptional than when it was on draft.  Not sure when I'll be able to bring myself to drink my very last bottle...

For dessert, I cracked open a bottle of Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary Brewers Reserve Oak-Aged Ale (reviewed on 1/5/2011), which was also delicious after over a year of cellaring.  The perfect accompaniment to an after dinner sweet.

As we move into the holiday season, lots of folks have things to celebrate. Geoff & Marcy Larson, the founders of Alaskan Brewing Company, will be in Anchorage next week to celebrate the company's 25th anniversary.  They will be in town for two days and will be doing two events each day.

Wednesday, 12/7:

3:30 to 5:30 pm  Signing at Brown Jug Warehouse
7 to 9 pm   Perseverance Ale Gathering at Humpy's

Thursday, 12/8:

4 to 6 pm   Signing at Gold Rush Liquors
7 to 9 pm  Perseverance Ale Gathering at the Firetap at Tikahtnu Square

The events at Humpy's and Firetap will have giveaways of 25th Anniversary gear and anniversary glassware to take home, while the signings will be a chance to get your anniversary bottles signed and get your picture taken with Geoff and Marcy.

More good news from Alaskan:  They will be releasing their Barleywine a month earlier this year than in the past. Look for this award-winning brew in local stores in the next week or so.  Also, they are planning to expand into the Texas and New Mexico markets next year.

I finally got around to tasting this year's edition of Alaskan's justly famous Smoked Porter.  This beer has won more medals than any other at the Great American Beer Festival and was responsible for singlehandedly reviving smoked beers in the US.  As usual, the fresh bottle was quite smokey; as a dedicated Islay whisky lover, I enjoyed it, but most folks like to let the bottles age for awhile.  Time tames the smokiness a bit, so if you find it too smokey for your tastes, just stash a few bottles in your cellar.  At Alaskan they've got bottles that are over two decades old, and I hear that they are still excellent when sampled.

I had the chance to talk to Gabe Fletcher of Anchorage Brewing Company last week.  He reports that his next release, The Tide and Its Takers Tripel, is conditioning in the bottle.  Depending on how quickly those little microorganisms work, it should hopefully be released in the early part of December.

December also means it's time to start thinking about the Great Alaska Beer and Barleywine Festival in January.  This year the festival will take place on January 20 & 21st, with plenty of Alaska Beer Week events leading up to it.  Tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster and I've already got mine for the Saturday afternoon Connoisseurs' Session, so don't miss out.  This year's Guest of Honor will be John McDonald of Boulevard Brewing Company.

This time of year is also when the competition for the Wynkoop Brewing Company's 2012 Beerdrinker of the Year gets rolling.  You can find all the details you need to know right here. As a former winner, believe me when I say that until you throw your name in the hat, you have no idea whether you actually have a shot or not.  So get those resumes submitted prior to 31 December!

Not a lot to report from the local breweries, though Kassik's does have some new hats and beanies for sale for Christmas. St. Elias Brewing will be christening their new hand pump with a cask of Mistletoe Porter this Friday.  Everything is supposed to be a "go" by 5 PM, so stop by on your way home from work and have a pint that's been pulled by the very first hand pump on the Kenai Peninsula!

Another reason to stop by would be to try one of the two new beers on tap.  I'm afraid the Oktoberfest has gone the way of all flesh; I was sitting next to Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts at the bar when he got the very last pint last week.  Zach Henry has replaced it with his Matushka Imperial Stout and the latest incarnation of his award-winning Moose Juice Barleywine.

The Matushka Imperial Stout poured completely opaque with a small head that dissipated fairly quickly to a collar.  The aroma was initially of the roast malt, then hints of the bourbon barrel aging began creeping in, with some woody, vanilla notes.  On the palate there was good mouthfeel, very rich and complex, lots of the roasty flavors, hints of chocolate, vanilla notes from the wood, and just the slightest hint of bourbon.  This beer illustrates to me the optimum use of a bourbon barrel. The barrel elements compliment the beer without overwhelming it. Another very nice job, and one of the best Imperial Stouts I've had in quite some time.  It's 8.8% ABV, so treat it with respect.

I also tried a new beer from Outside, the Bavarian-style Doppel Weizen from Lagunitas Brewing in California.  It's a wheat beer, but a darn strong one, weighing in at 9.0% ABV and 34 IBUs.  It poured a cloudy, hazy gold with a big, persistent head.  The aroma was classic Bavarian Hefe, with lots of bananas and cloves. Carbonation was excellent, with lots of spiciness, decent hop bitterness, and a touch of alcohol heat on the finish.  All in all, it was a bit of a strange beast, with so much alcohol packed into a hefeweizen, but if they are your thing, you'll probably like this one.

Well, that's about it for this week.  Enjoy your Christmas shopping and be sure to take some time out for a good brew or two.

Until Next Time, Cheers.

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