Sunday, December 23, 2012

Northwest Brewing News Correction

I'm sure some of you read my column in the Northwest Brewing News about the happening on the Alaska brewing scene.  An attentive reader just pointed out to me that in the last sentence in my most recent column in the December/January issue, I incorrectly stated that Jeremiah Boone took over as head brewer at Midnight Sun Brewing Company following Gabe Fletcher.  This was an error.  Ben Johnson served as head brewer between Fletcher and Boone.  I'd like to apologize to him and to all my readers for this mistake.

I have asked my editor to run a correction in the Feb/Mar issue, but in the meantime I wanted to make this post to acknowledge my error.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Holidays!

This will be a short post, as I am really looking forward to taking a break until the new year.  However, I've got a few pieces of news to pass along and a some reviews to post before we say so long to 2012.

My good friend Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts reports that 22 oz. bombers of several of Baranof Island Brewing Company's beers will be making the long trek from Sitka to Anchorage, thanks to the efforts of Specialty Imports.  You can be on the look out for their Halibut Point Hefeweisen, Peril Strait Pale Ale, Medvejie Stout, Silver Bay IPA, Redoubt Red Ale, and Baranof Brown Ale.  I've tasted their beers at the last Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival, and they were excellent, so I'm really looking forward to being able to taste them more than once a year.

Ben Millstein out at Kodiak Island Brewing reports that he has taken delivery of two 300-gallon square tanks that were formerly used at a winery.  These will be his dedicated brettanomyces tanks, allowing him to conduct long, slow secondary fermentations using that yeast without risking cross-contamination of his primary brewing equipment.  No word yet on when the first new brett-laced brew might be ready...

I was up in Anchorage for a few hours on Monday and stopped by The Loft at Midnight Sun.  Since we were still counting down to the Winter Solstice at that point, they still had their "all dark beers" tap line-up on; as of today, they should be pouring all light-colored beers.  Anyway, while there I had a small glass of their Oaked Even Dahker; it was outstanding!  I was lucky enough to get the first bottle off the line of Obliteration IX DIPA; I'm looking forward to trying it.  Plus I got my brauler filled with their Full Curl Scotch Ale, which will go nicely with the turkey we're smoking for Christmas dinner.

For those of you who care, sales of Elaine's and my book Beer on the Last Frontier: The Craft Breweries of Alaska have been pretty brisk.  The signing we did last weekend at Kenai River Brewing Company was a lot of fun.  If you are local, copies are available at Kenai River, St. Elias, and the KPC Bookstore.  Further afield, you can find them at Homer Brewing and Kodiak Island Brewing.  In Anchorage, they have them at MSBC's The Loft and La Bodega.  Otherwise, look for it on

OK, let's move into reviews; I've got four new ones for this week.

First, Kenai River Brewing's Kenai Classic Pale Ale.  I was drinking this at our book signing and took some home as well.  It poured a lovely honey color with a good-looking off-white head.  There was a nice hop nose and plenty of good carbonation.  The beer was lighter on the palate than a full-on IPA, as you expect from a pale ale, but still had plenty of good, clean bitterness with zero off-flavors.  Extremely drinkable and an excellent accompaniment to food.  A top-notch pale ale.

The next three beers were all supplied by an acquaintance on the East Coast, who shipped them to me.  To my knowledge, they are not available in Alaska.  The first one was an anniversary beer from Weyebacher Brewing, their Fifteen Smoked Imperial Stout, released in 2010.  I had a couple of Weyerbacher brews back in 2010 during my last visit to the East Coast, so I already knew that they brewed good stuff.  Fifteen poured opaque with a small tan head.  The aroma was of chocolate, roasted coffee, and a touch of smoke.  On the palate there was lots of good mouthfeel, more malt and roast flavors, as well as more smoke.  I thought it was quite well-balanced, with no single component running away with things. 10.8% ABV.  All-in-all, an absolutely excellent smoked imperial stout.

The second beer was Belle Saison from a brewery I'd never heard of, À l’abri de la Tempête. Since the entire label was in French, I surmised (correctly) that this beer was from a brewery in Quebec.  It poured a light, clear gold, with a small white head.  There were spicy notes in the nose, ginger and cinnamon, I believe.  The beer was very light on the palate, with good carbonation and more spicy flavors. 5.8% ABV.  Personally, I prefer my saisons dry and without spices.  In this one, the spices seemed to be to the forefront.  Well-made, but not my personal cup of tea.

The last beer was Troegenator Double Bock from the award-winning Troegs Brewing in Hershey, PA. I'd heard of this beer before, most notably when it took a Gold Medal at last year's GABF, so I was eager to give it a try.  It poured a deep, translucent bronze color, with a very nice cream-colored head.  The aroma was primarily of bready malt, as befits a style of beer nicknamed "liquid bread".  On the palate there was great mouthfeel.  This is certainly a malt-forward beer, with the 25 IBUs there purely for balance.  Very clean tasting, as you'd expect from a lager.  An excellent example of the style; easy to see why it has won so many awards.  8.2% ABV.

Well, that about wraps it up for this week and for this year.  I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and drink plenty of excellent beer with your friends and family.  I'll see you all in 2013, where will will continue our explorations of craft beer in Alaska and beyond.

Until Next Time, Cheers and Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Change in the Weather

Well, we've all been wondering when the snow would show up, and it looks like it's here now, with some freezing rain thrown in for variety.  On the plus side, temperatures are now well above zero. (On the plus side, get it?  That's a pun that wouldn't work in Celsius...).

I just took delivery of a brauler from HooDoo Brewing and it is impressive.  If you haven't heard of it, the brauler is a stainless steel growler produced by The Zythos Project, a bunch of craft-beer-crazy engineers.  These growlers have amazing caps, very big with lots of threads, much superior to the ones on standard growlers or even those on Hydroflasks, which I've never been able to get to seat properly.  Plus, they have an even more high-tech cap that has a small port in it to allow you to pressurize the brauler with carbon dioxide after you have re-closed it.  So you could drink half a growler, recap it, then pressurize it, so that the remaining beer will not go flat.  Amazing!

These puppies aren't cheap, running you about $50 retail, but I think they're worth it.  You can't buy them direct; you have to get them from a participating brewery.  As of now, the only breweries in Alaska selling them are HooDoo in Fairbanks and Kodiak Island Brewing Company, but I know some others are considering it.  They've been so popular that HooDoo is currently out, but they are selling gift certificates that entitles the bearer to one from their next shipment when ti arrives in January.  Makes a great Christmas gift to the beer geek in your life, or just for yourself...

Speaking of gifts for Christmas, my new book, Beer on the Last Frontier, is now available in paperback on, as well as at Kenai River Brewing Company, St. Elias Brewing Company, and the Kenai Peninsula College Bookstore in Soldotna.  It will be on sale in Anchorage at La Bodega and Midnight Sun's Loft Bar starting next Tuesday (12/18).  If you're looking for an autographed copy, Elaine and I will be doing some signings, starting with one at the Kenai River Tap Room this Saturday from 5 to 7 PM.  Stop by and get your copy signed or just tell us what you think of our little book.

Continuing to speak of Christmas gifts, Midnight Sun Brewing Company has kicked off a special for the holidays: their 12 Beers in a Box, a special combo case of brews for $69.  It has the following:

CoHoHo Imperial IPA
Kodiak Brown Ale
Operation Hay
Monk’s Mistress Special Dark Ale
Mammoth Extra Stout
Arctic Rhino Coffee Porter
Snowshoe White Wit Beer
Trickster Pumpkin Ale
Sockeye Red IPA
Panty Peeler Tripel
Brewtality Belgian Black Beer with Espresso
XXX Double Black IPA

plus a can koozie and a bag of Doug's Nuts.  Sounds like a great gift, especially for someone Outside, who can't get access to the great MSBC brews on a regular basis.

Gabe Fletcher at Anchorage Brewing Company filled his new 12 barrel coolship today.  What spontaneously fermented wonders will emerge from it? Only time will tell...

Kassiks' Brewery now has their Caribou Kilt Scotch back on tap, along with the Big Nutz Imperial Brown and the Chocolate Cherry Stout.  Look for the Smoked Russian Imperial Stout on tap from 21-24 December, and say hi to their new brewer Luke.

Seward Brewing Company is shutting down for the winter after this week.  On Friday night, they will be having Ugly Sweater Discount.  The uglier the sweater you wear, the bigger the discount (15 to 50%).  Then on Saturday they will filling growlers for only $7.  Get your SBC fix now or you'll have to wait until spring.

For those of you ambitious beer geeks out there, it's time again to submit your resumes for Wynkoop Brewing Company's Beerdrinker of the Year Contest!  You can find all the details on their website, here. If you are selected as one of the three finalists, they will fly you to Denver in February to compete in person.  If you win, you'll get a $250 bar tab at your local drinking establishment plus free beer for life at the Wynkoop.  As the 2010 Beerdrinker of the Year, I speak from experience when I say it's a great time.  If you don't apply, you can't win, so get those resumes in before the end of the year.

Let's go to beer reviews.  I have five new brews to write about this time.

First, there's the new Imperial Red Ale from Alaskan Brewing.  This is the latest beer in their Pilot Series and it's on sale locally at Fred Meyer and other locations.  It poured a deep, clear red with a nice dense cream-colored head.  The aroma had plenty of citrusy hop notes from the blend of Centennial, Citra, Meridian, and Summit hops used, with perhaps a touch of caramel behind it.  On the palate there was plenty of good bitterness up front (70 IBUs) and a very clean flavor profile, falling away to a nice finish.  Between the IBUs and the 8.5% ABV, this beer is no session ale, but it's quite drinkable for such a burly brew.  Another very fine entrant into the Pilot Series.

Next, I had a liter growler of King Street Brewing's Black IPA that I picked up at the La Bodega growler bar.  When I try a black IPA, I always have to wonder if what I'm about to taste is really a hoppy porter, i.e. is it going to have a ton of roasted flavors to go along with the hops.  Not this time around.  This is a dark brew with ruby highlights and a nice light tan head. Nose is hops alone, no roasty notes, and it's the same on the palate: excellent hop bitterness but not even the slightest hint of roasted malt.  This is a true black IPA; close your eyes and you'd have no idea that you're not drinking a good copper-colored American IPA.  Very nice job from the guys at King Street.

The third beer is a weird one: Neapolitan Milk Stout from Saugatuck Brewing in Michigan. This isn't a beer you can find up here in Alaska, but a colleague brought me back a bottle from the Lower 48.  As the name implies, it's a milk stout made with cocoa, vanilla, and strawberry flavors, just like the ice cream.  It poured opaque with a huge, dense head.  Sure enough, I could pick up all three flavor elements in the nose and on the palate.  If you can imagine Neapolitan ice cream, but not that sweet, plus some roasty flavors, you know what it tasted like.  An amazing tour de force, but I can't help wondering: why bother?  Is there really a big market for ice cream flavored beers out there? Oh well, if it floats you boat, who am I to criticize? 6.3% ABV.

Next, there's Kenai River Brewing Company's Pilgrim Single Hop IPA.  The latest in this on-going series, this beer poured a clear gold with a nice off-white head.  The aroma was of hops, but with some interesting citrus notes: lemon & grapefruit.  There was good carbonation and lots of up front bitterness, plus some more of the citrus notes.  A very unusual hop and another excellent addition to the Single Hop IPA family.  Also, when I was picking up my growler of this beer, I had a sampler of their new Kenai Classic Pale Ale.  I haven't done a formal review yet, but I can tell you that I really enjoyed that sampler.

Finally, I picked up a few bottles of Sierra Nevada's Narwhal Imperial Stout.  Given the quality of beers Sierra Nevada routinely produces, I was expecting a lot from this beer, and it did not disappoint.  It poured completely opaque with a small tan head.  The aroma was all roasted malt, with elements of coffee and cocoa.  There was excellent mouthfeel and the flavor profile was extremely rich and complex, with various elements making themselves known -- coffee, figs, cocoa -- plus a touch of alcohol heat on the back end.  This is definitely one to sip and savor at 10.2% ABV.

Well, that's about it for this week.  Next week's blog will be the last one for this year, as I'm taking the holidays off to enjoy them with my lovely wife, Elaine.  Good luck with your Xmas shopping. Remember: Craft beer is always a great gift...

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My 200th Post

I'm not usually big on milestones, but a couple of weeks ago I happened to notice that this blog was coming up on a pretty big one: this is my 200th post.  I made Post #1 on July 10, 2008, so it's taken me just shy of four years and four months to get to this point.  Checking my stats, it seems this blog as has had 37,719 page views to date.  I honestly never thought it would last anything like this long. Besides sheer longevity, writing this blog has led to many other good things, like my Redoubt Reporter column, becoming Wynkoop's Beerdrinker of the Year, writing for the Northwest Brewing News, and now publishing a book.  I want to thank each and every one of you who read this blog; without your support, I certainly wouldn't still be doing this.

Today is also another important milestone.  On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution was officially ratified, ending the disastrous social experiment of Prohibition.  While the anti-alcohol forces are still with us, they are but a shadow of what they were a century ago, for which we can all be thankful.  So pour yourself a craft beer, fill your bathtub with gin, and let's celebrate the day that America came to her senses seventy-nine years ago! 

Now that it's December, it's time to really start thinking about Alaska Beer Week in January.  This year it will run from Friday the 11th thru Sunday the 20th.  Events are already beginning to be scheduled and tickets for some of them are already on sale.  Events happen all around the state, not just in Anchorage.  For example, our very own St. Elias Brewing Company will be offering $5 goblets of their beers all week.  Your best bet is to pay frequent visits to the Alaska Beer Week website at and check out the events listed there.  You wouldn't want to miss out on a great event simply by learning about it too late, would you?

In addition to AK Beer Week next month, there are lots of things happening this month.  I wrote in last week's blog about Glacier BrewHouse's Twelve Days of Barley Wine.  Well, on Saturday, December 15th, they will also be having a "Pint for a Pint" Event.  The Blood Bank of Alaska'a LIFEmobile will be parked out front and anyone who donates a pint of blood will get a pint of root beer and a complimentary pint glass from Glacier. You can call 222-5630 to make an appointment between 10 AM and 5 PM, or just stop by see if they have an opening.  There's no worthier cause than giving blood so others may live, and I think it's great that Glacier is supporting this.

Over at Midnight Sun Brewing, their new Brew Crew has released their first beer: Pleasure Town IPA is brewed with Cascade and Citra, then dry hopped with Chinook and Citra, a great refreshing touch of grapefruit at the end of this crisp treat.  6.13%ABV and 65 IBU's.  This Friday is First Firkin Friday, and they will be tapping a cask-conditioned Lust Belgian Dark Strong with Sour Cherries and Bret.  This marks the five year anniversary of the original release of Lust; I wrote a bit about it back on July 27, 2009, but it had been out for over a year and a half at that point.

This firkin is coming out of the original batch; it has been quietly waiting, un-carbonated, in a keg in MSBC's "cellar". Last month it was transferred to the firkin to begin it's natural carbonation process. If you want to actually get some of this, I recommend you are at The Loft well before the firkin's tapped at 5 PM; this one won't last long...

This just in: The Loft at MSBC was selected as the Best Brewpub in Alaska for 2012 by the readers of the Northwest Brewing News!  Also, MSBC's Arctic Devil Barley wine tied with Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot for Best Barley Wine in the Northwest!

I have also heard that La Bodega was voted the Best Beer Store in Alaska for 2012 by the readers of the Northwest Brewing NewsLa Bodega's Christmas Party at The Snow Goose is tonight; check last week's blog for details.  They will also have La Fin du Monde, Unibroue's Belgian-style tripel, on tap at their growler bar starting on December 19th; stop by and stock up for The End of the World...

Moving to local news, Kassik's Brewery has Big Nutz Imperial Brown Ale Christmas ornaments in and they look great. Kenai River Brewing put a new beer on tap last Friday: Kenai Classic Pale Ale.  It's described as "an American-style golden-straw colored ale assertively hopped with Pacific Northwest hops."  I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but I plan to stop by soon.  St. Elias Brewing Company now has the latest version of their award-winning Moose Juice Barley Wine on tap.  I stopped by last Friday after work and had a glass, so let's move into beer reviews.

The Moose Juice poured a murky brown with zero head.  The aroma was of malt, alcohol heat, plus some oaky, bourbon notes.This version was aged for over a year in bourbon, rye whiskey, and brandy barrels before being blended together, and the blending is top-notch.  The various flavor profiles come together in perfect harmony, making for a rich and warming whole.  Every aspect is properly integrated, making this an exceptional barley wine.  I would not be at all surprised to see this take another medal at the GABBF next month.

Thanks to La Bodega's growler bar, I also got to try To Ol's Snowball Saison, from De Proefbrouwerij in Belgium.  De Proef is an experimental/contract brewery; as such, they brew beers for many, many different people.  This particular beer is an 8% saison, heavier and hoppier for the cold winter months. It poured a slightly hazy gold with a dense, white head.  The aroma was of hops (Styrian Goldings?) plus the classic spicy, earthy notes of a Belgian yeast.  There was good mouthfeel and plenty of hop bitterness plus a good malt backbone.  it some ways it reminded me more of a Belgian pale ale than a saison, but there is a touch of funkiness.  The flavors fall away nicley to a good finish.  All-in-all, and excellent brew, though stronger and maltier than your typical saison (if there is such a thing).

Finally, I had a bottle of Jaipur IPA from Thornbridge Brewery in the UK, again thanks to La Bodega. I had read many good things about this beer, mostly in blogs written by beer lovers in the UK, so I was excited to give it a try, even if it was in a bottle rather than cask-conditioned.  It's 5.9% ABV and poured a lovely light, clear gold with a big white head.  There was a wonderful clean, floral hoppiness about the beer, with excellent carbonation.  This beer reminds me of everything I love about a great British Ale: spritely & refreshing carbonation, delicate but assertive hoppiness, and what I call "moreishness", i.e. when you finish one, you always want more.  As good as it was in the bottle, I shudder to think how outstanding a well-kept cask of this beer would be, served on hand pump in a fine British pub.  Truly an exceptional beer, and one I plan to do my best to drink more of.

Well, that wraps things up for this week, more or less.  It appears that the printed version of Elaine's and my book, Beer on the Last Frontier, will be for sale on Amazon soon.  With any luck, you will be able to order it for $8.99 by the weekend.  Or you can wait about a week more and it will be on sale at several of the local breweries.  It makes a great stocking stuffer...

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Beer on the Last Frontier

Well, by now most of you should be aware of what I was talking about when I mentioned a "major announcement" back in my November 8th blog. Yes, I have written a book. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, I have written the first book that's exclusively about craft beer in Alaska.  What's more, it's only the first of three.

Beer on the Last Frontier: The Craft Breweries of Alaska will be released in three volumes (calling them volumes sounds a bit pretentious, but what the heck...).  The first volume, entitled Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island Breweries, is on sale now and covers the following breweries and brewpubs:

Click to enlarge
Kenai River Brewing Company
Kassik's Brewery Company
Kodiak Island Brewing
Homer Brewing Company
Seward Brewing Company
St. Elias Brewing Company

The book is profusely illustrated with color photographs and contains interviews with each of the brewers, as well as detailed information about the breweries and their beers.  Currently, it is only available via Amazon Kindle for $5.99, but it will hopefully be available in paperback from Amazon before Christmas for $8.99.  Note that the photos in the paperback version will be in glorious black & white; if you go with the electronic version, you'll get them in color.

My wife Elaine and I have been working on this project for the last eight months, and we're very excited to see it finally coming to fruition.  After the first of the year we will begin working on Volume II: The Breweries of Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Everywhere in Between. Once that book is done, we will move on to Volume III: Southeast Alaska Breweries.  Once we have covered the entire state, we will offer everything in a single volume.

If you're interested in picking up a copy, please click on the link to the left.  If you do read it, please give me some feedback, either here or on the book's Amazon page.

Click to enlarge
So long as I'm in the shameless self-promotion mode, I should mention that registration has opened for the college class that I teach each spring semester, CED A157 The Art & History of Brewing.  The class is held every Tuesday evening from 5:30 to 6:45 on the Kenai River Campus, starting on January 22, 2013 and running through April 30, 2013.  Besides my scintillating lectures, there will be brewery tours, guest lecturers, and -- best of all-- beer tasted in every class.  If you are interested, you can call 262-0330 for more details or for help registering for the class.  Tuition is $165 plus and $18 lab fee (to pay for the beer).  This will be my sixth time teaching the class and we always have a great time, so if you are at least twenty-one, live around Soldotna, and have Tuesday evenings free, it's a pretty good time.

Speaking of good times, it sounds like the beer tasting on November 17th at Mykel's Restaurant in Soldotna definitely qualified.  Gene Diamond of Specialty Imports walked everyone through a selection of their European imports.  The beers tasted were:

Bitburger Pils
Weihenstephan Hefe-Weissbier
Ayinger Brau-Weisse
Orval Trappist Ale
Chimay Grand Reserve
Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout
Lindeman's Faro Lambic

An outstanding list, and one that makes me sad I had to miss the event, though my agents gave me a full report afterwards.  Not to mention the outstanding appetizers the Mykel's served as accompaniment to these excellent beers.

While we're on the subject of beer dinners, Glacier BrewHouse in Anchorage has another great one on Wednesday, November 28th, at 6:30.  Head Brewer Kevin Burton selected five different brews to pair with each of the five course, including a limited release on the 2012 Salmonberry Wheat with the dessert course.  The cost is $75 (tip included) and I sure wish I could be in the big town to give it a try!

Also, mark you calendars: Glacier's Twelve Days of Barley Wine starts on Monday, December 10th, and runs through Friday, December 21st.  If you're going to be anywhere near Anchorage during that time, you really should stop by and stop by often.  Here's the list:


1. 2007 Big Woody Barleywine aged 1.5 years in American Oak wine barrels from the J. Lohr Winery (9.85% abv)
2. 2007 Big Woody Barleywine aged 1year in Jim Beam barrels (9.85% abv)
3. 2007 Russian Imperial Stout aged 2.67 years in Hungarian oak barrels. (9.20% abv)
4. Cask conditioned selection.


1. 2008 Big Woody Barleywine aged 2 years in American oak wine barrels from Honig Winery. (11.03% abv)
2. 2008 Big Woody Barleywine aged 10 months in American oak wine barrels from Honig Winery. (11.03% abv)
3. 2009 Big Woody Barleywine aged 1.75 years in Jim Barrels. (9.00% abv)
4. Cask conditioned selection.

1. 2009 Big Woody Barleywine aged 2.67 years in American oak wine barrels from Honig Winery. (9.00% abv)
2. 2009 Eisbock aged 9 months in American oak barrels from Silverado Winery. (9.60% abv)
3. 2011Raspberry XXX aged 1 years in Jim Beam barrels. (10.50% abv)
4. Cask conditioned selection.

1. 2010 Big Woody Barleywine aged 6 months in American oak wine barrels from Honig Winery. (9.76% abv)
2. 2009 Eisbock aged 9 months in Ukrainian Oak barrels. (9.60% abv)
3. 2012 Cherry XXX . (10.50% abv)
4. Cask conditioned selection.

1. 2010 Big Woody Barleywine aged 1.5 years in American oak wine barrels from Honig Winery. (9.76% abv)
2. 2010 Russian Imperial Stout aged 2 years in American oak wine barrels from Honig Winery. (9.44% abv)
3. 2012 Imperial Pumpkin (10.34% abv)
4. Cask conditioned selection.

1. 2010 Big Woody Barleywine aged 2.5 years in Jim Beam barrels. (9.76% abv)
2. 2010 Eisbock aged 1.67 years in Maker’s Mark barrels. (9.00% abv)
3. 2011 Big Woody steel aged. (9.00% abv)
4. Cask conditioned selection.

1. 2011b Big Woody Barleywine aged in Jim Beam barrels for 7 months. (9.13% abv)
2. 2011b Big Woody Barleywine aged in steel. (9.13% abv)
3. 2011b Big Woody Barleywine aged 7 months in Czech oak barrel. (9.13% abv)
4. Cask conditioned selection.

1. 2011 Big Woody Barleywine aged 10 months in Bulgarian oak barrels. (9.00% abv)
2. 2011 Big Woody Barleywine aged 3 years in virgin Hungarian oak barrels. (9.00% abv)
3. 2011 Big Woody Barleywine aged 10 months in Ukrainian oak barrel. (9.00% abv)
4. Cask conditioned selection.


1. 2011 Big Woody Barleywine aged in Maker’s Mark barrels for 10 months. (9.00% abv)
2. 2011 Big Woody Barleywine aged in American oak wine barrels from Honig Winery for 1.75 years. (9.00% abv)
3. 2011 Eisbock aged 6 months in Jim Beam barrels. (9.10% abv)
4. Cask conditioned selection.

THE 10th DAY OF BARLEYWINE – DEC. 19, 2012
1. 2012 Big Woody Barleywine aged 2 years in American oak wine barrels from Honig Winery. (9.80% abv)
2. 2011 Eisbock aged 1.5 years in virgin Ukrainian oak barrels. (9.10% abv)
3. 2012 Eisbock aged 1 year in Bulgarian oak barrels. (9.50% abv)
4. Cask conditioned selection.

THE 11th DAY OF BARLEYWINE – DEC. 20, 2012
1. 2013 Big Woody Barleywine aged in Czech barrels for 1 year. (11.18% abv)
2. 2012 Eisbock aged 1 year in Jim Beam barrels. (9.50% abv)
3. 2012 Eisbock aged in steel. (9.50% abv)
4. Cask conditioned selection.

THE 12th DAY OF BARLEYWINE – DEC. 21, 2012

1. 2013 Big Woody Barleywine aged in Jim Beam barrels for 1 year. (11.18% abv)
2. 2013 Big Woody Barleywine aged in steel. (11.18% abv
3. 2012 Eisbock aged 1 year in Ukrainian oak barrels. (9.50%abv)
4. Cask conditioned selection.

Cask conditioned selections will be poured each day.
We will rotate through the following casks.
1. 2010 Russian Imperial Stout aged 2 years in American oak wine barrels from Honig Winery. (9.44% abv)
2. 2011 Big Woody Barleywine aged 3 years in virgin Hungarian oak barrels. (9.00% abv)
3. 2011 Eisbock aged 1.5 years in virgin Ukrainian oak barrels. (9.10% abv)
4. 2013 Big Woody Barleywine aged in Czech barrels for 1 year. (11.18% abv)

Sticking with Anchorage breweries, King Street Brewing Company has released a new beer, their Winter Warmer, to celebrate the 1st Anniversay of their Tap Room.

Not to be out done, Gabe Fletcher at Anchorage Brewing Company has taken delivery of an honest-to-God coolship, the first of its kind in Alaska.  Here's a photo of it that I "borrowed" from Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts' Facebook page:

You'll notice it's on wheels, so Gabe can move it around his "Brett Cave" as required.

Also at the Snow Goose, Pamela Hatzis and the rest of her crew at La Bodega will be having a Christmas Party on Wednesday, December 5th, from 6 to 9 PM.  I'm told you should either wear holidays sweaters or Wild West attire...

I have also heard that The Last Frontier Brewing Company in Wasilla has a new brewer.  Peripatetic Alaska brewing pioneer Ray Hodge stepped down as brewer back on October 2nd and moved to Blowing Rock, North Carolina where he is involved in another brewery project.  His understudy at Last Frontier, Robert "Bobby" Martin has taken over the duties as Brewmaster.

Over at Midnight Sun Brewing Company, you can do your Christmas shopping for the beer geek on your list by getting him or her a stainless steel growler.  Based on the picture, I'd say they are black-finished Hydroflasks, with a silver MSBC logo.  A very useful gift.

Moving down on to the Peninsula, Seward Brewing Company now has a new version of their IPA on tap. Sierra Nevada's 2012 Celebration Ale is on sale at Fred Meyer.    Kassik's Brewery has released their Smoked Russian Imperial Stout and their Chocolate Cherry Stout in bottles.  Also, they are offering a 15% discount on all merchandise (excluding beer and beer containers) through Christmas Eve.

Well, now that we've plowed through all that news, let's do some beer reviews.

First up, Midnight Sun's Kodiak Brown Ale.  This is another beer that I've been drinking for quite some time, but never gotten around to reviewing, probably because I first tried it before I started blogging.  So let's correct that oversight.

Coming out of the can, it poured a a translucent ruby with a nice khaki-colored head.  The aroma was an appealing mix of roast malt, caramel, and Pacific Northwest hops.  Good mouthfeel, with the caramel malt leading the way, followed by a nice, balancing hop bitterness.  5% ABV, 24 IBUs.  The is a great, easy-drinking brown, perfect with a meal or as a relaxing choice after a hard day's work.

Now let's move on to two beers from the new Gigantic Brewery in Oregon, which I got to try thanks to the generosity of Rob Weller of Specialty Imports.  This brewery is getting as much buzz for its uniquely artistic labels as for their excellent beers.

First up, Beer #4, Black Friday Beer, an Imperial Cascadian Dark Ale.  It poured black (naturally), with a big, dense tan head.  The nose was packed with citrusy American hop aroma.  Carbonation was good, with excellent up-front bitterness.  Unlike some versions of this style, Black Friday has zero roasted malt flavors; it's all about the hops with this one.  Extremely clean flavors, letting the hops stand alone on center stage. 8.1% ABV.

Beer #5 is The Royale. I'm a little unclear as to in what style category the brewer would place this beer, but I'd call it a Belgian Pale Ale.  It poured a pretty orange-gold color, with a dense white head.  The aroma is once again of citrusy hops.There's great carbonation and good mouthfeel, followed by lots of hop flavor and aroma, but not an excessive amount of hop bitterness, plus some Belgian yeast notes.  It does a nice job of showcasing the hops with also subjecting your palate to a ton of IBUs.    6.3% ABV and very nice.

Rob also gave me a couple of ciders to sample.  I would not claim to be a cider expert, though I did drink it fairly often when I lived in London.  I tried a bottle of Hogan's Dry Cider.  Cider is so different from beer that it always takes me a minute or two to recalibrate my palate from a carbonated, hopped beer to a flat, unhopped cider.  However, once I did so, I found I really like the Hogan's.  It was very dry, but unoaked, so the quality of the apples used really shown through.  It was 5.8%ABV.  If you enjoy ciders, I encourage you to give those made by Hogan's a try.

I also got to try Reunion Ale '12, a collaboration brew from Shmaltz Brewing Company and Terrapin Beer Company.  This beer has an absolute ton of stuff going on, as it's made with cocoa nibs, cinnamon, AND vanilla.  It poured dark with ruby highlights and a big but not dense khaki head.  All three of the special ingrediants were evident on the nose.  It was unexpectedly light on the palate, perhaps even a bit too thin.  The cocoa lead off the flavor profile, with the cinnamon making its presence felt via heat on the tongue.  Overall, I found it a very interesting combo, but not more-ish, as the intensity of the spices brought on rapid palate fatigue.  8% ABV.

Finally, I did a couple of "reach backs" into my beer cooler last week.  The first was on Tuesday, to celebrate my book being published.  I pulled out a bottle of Midnight Sun's Arctic Devil Barley Wine.  It had no label date, but I think it was from 2008.  Whenever it was from, the cellaring had made it magnificent.  The flavors had melded to perfection, the alcohol was deliciously warming, the mouthfeel was rich and complex... in a word, it was sublime.  As good as Arctic Devil is upon release, I'm firmly convinced that three or four years in the cellar makes it substantially better.

My second reach back was a Batch #1 bottle of Love Buzz Saison from Anchorage Brewing Company, released in August of last year.  since it was bottled with a dose of Gabe Fletcher's signature brett, I fully expected that 14 months in the bottle would resulted in a much drier and funkier brew.  I was not disappointed.  My tasting notes from 10/12/2011 don't even mention any brett notes, but they are certainly there now.  The beer was bone dry, with the spiciness I tasted a year ago still present, but now mixed with a significant amount of funkiness.  It's a totally different beer, but still delicious.  If you've got any Batch #1 Love Buzz squirreled away, I recommend pulling a bottle out and giving it a try.

Well, that's about it for this week.  I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving.  I should be back next week with more news and reviews.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beer Events Galore

I've got a ton of beer events to tell you about, so let's dive right in.

King Street Brewing Company has been on a real roll with their beer dinners lately.  They had one last week on Wednesday, November 7th, at Jack Sprat in Girdwood, consisting of four courses and five beers. Jack Sprat has also added King Street's Irish Stout to their line up.  Then on Wednesday night this week (11/14/12), they had a return engagement at Sullivan's Steakhouse in Anchorage; it was another four courses paired with six King Street brews by Chef Dennis.

King Street also reports that their Oktoberfest sold out much quicker than they expected (which is a testament to how good it was), and that they are working on a new winter seasonal that should be ready late this month.

Gene Diamond of Specialty Imports will be having a beer tasting this Saturday (11/17/12) at Mykel's Restaurant in Soldotna.  Admission is $38 and gets you the beer plus an extensive buffet of delicious appetizers from Mykel's.  There events typically sell out, so call 262-4305 for reservations.  The theme of this tasting will be European beers.  If you'd like to get a better idea of how these tasting events at Mykel's go, check out my blog from 9/28/2009.

Events for Alaska Beer Week are starting to be scheduled.  Tickets are now on sale for the Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival, via TicketmasterSpecialty Imports has scheduled an "old vs. new" throwdown at Kinley's Restaurant on Wednesday night, January 16th.  It's going to be our very own Kenai River Brewing going head-to-head with Samuel Smith's Brewery. This should be a great time, with plenty of great beer and exceptional food.

Arkose Brewing has announced a "Beerunch" of Sunday, January 20th, at Rusty's Restaurant in Palmer.  It will be five course with five different Arkose beers.  There will be two sessions, the first at 1 PM, the second at 3 PM.  Cost is $55 a person.

Way up north in Fairbanks, HooDoo Brewing is open and they just put a new brew on tap, a Belgian single. Here's how they describe it on their website:

"Slight spice, peppery, candied toffee.The table beer of Monks. Light in body but still has complexity and spice. Malty sweet with a delicious belgian candi sugar backbone and a yeast spice. Hints of toffee, light caramel with a quick hop bitterness to balance."

I haven't had a chance to try any of their stuff yet, but I'm very eager to do so.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company just released a new beer, Spenard Blonde, last night at the TapRoot Cafe in Anchorage.  It's described as a crisp, hoppy, Belgian Blonde IPA. On tap at MSBC's The Loft is Oak Aged Even Dahker - an Imperial Porter aged in Oak Whiskey Barrels. 8.3% ABV/28 IBUs.

At The Snow Goose Pub/Sleeping Lady Brewing in Anchorage, their 2012 Old Gander Barley Wine should be released sometime this month.  Meantime, this year's edition of their 12% ABV Spartan Imperial Stout is on tap. 

At Kenai River Brewing, their next Single Hop IPA will be released tomorrow, Friday, November 16th.  UK Pilgrim hops are the star of this version.  I'm not familiar at all with this hop variety, so I'm looking forward to getting acquainted.

At St. Elias Brewing Company, there are two new beers on offer: Great Scott Amber Ale (see review below) and their award-winning Moosejuice Barley wine.  This version of the barley wine was aged for a year in bourbon, rye whiskey, and brandy casks, before being blended back together.

OK, let's hit this week's beer reviews.

First, thanks to the generosity of a friend, i got to try a bottle of Bell's Special Double Cream Stout.  With a name like that, you'd assume that this would be a sweet or milk stout, but according to Bell's website, no lactose is used.It poured opaque with a small tan head and a nose of roasted malt with some sweet backing.  It had great mouthfeel and lots of unfermented sugars and roasted flavors.  Rich and delicious, it's another in the long list of beers that I wish were distributed in Alaska. 6.1% ABV.

Next, there's the new brew on tap at St. Elias Brewing Company: Great Scott Amber Ale.  Style-wise-- or at least as style-wise as Zach Henry gets-- this is a Scottish Export 80 ale.  It was served crystal clear with an nice reddish color and a small, cream-colored head.  The aroma was certainly malt forward, as per the style, but there was some balance from the East Kent Goldings hops used.  Nice and clean on the palate, it falls away to a fine finish.  Very drinkable and a good example of the Export 80 style. 

Finally, there's a new beer from Samuel Smith's Brewery that has just hit the area: Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout.  Thanks to Rob Weller of Specialty Imports for hooking me up with a bottle to sample.  I reviewed some of Sam Smith's organic line before; personally, I never thought the organic label was worth the extra price, as their non-organic beers taste just fine to me.  Still if it's important to you, this brewery is obviously making the effort.

The Organic Chocolate Stout poured very dark, but with ruby highlights, and a big khaki head.  The nose was like a hot fudge sundae, with big aromas of both vanilla and chocolate duking it out.  It smelled nothing at all like a beer to me.  On the palate, the beer felt a little thin, perhaps because the aroma leads you to expect something a bit more chewy.  There was a ton of chocolate flavor, sweet, but not so sweet as to be cloying.  The finish was long and rich.  I liked this beer, but I must admit that as I worked my way through the entire 500 ml bottle,  I started to have some palate fatigue.  Unless you are a total chocoholic, I recommend splitting a bottle with a couple of friends, perhaps with a dessert, or even as a dessert all by itself.  A real tour de force, but not something I would drink every night.

Well, that's about it for this week.  seeing as next week is the Thanksgiving holidays, don't expect too much in the way of blogging, unless I get some breaking news that just has to go out.  I hope you all eEnjoy your turkey day, eat lots of good food, and drink plenty of great beer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Getting Caught Up

Well, here I am again, trying to get caught up.  No blog last week, for various reasons, none of which you care about, except for one.  I've been working very hard to bring a writing project to fruition, and I'm very close to doing so.  I'll say no more about it now, but hopefully in another couple of weeks I'll be making a major (at least to me) announcement.

Meantime, let's move on to some blogging.

First off, I came across the fairly fun graphic, which I thought I would share:
Click to enlarge
I can't say as I agree with all the beer options, but it's still fun.

Next, some news from Alaskan Brewing Company.  First, they have released their 2012 Smoked Porter, so we should see it in our local stores anytime now.  This beer has won more medals than any other at the Great American Beer Festival; it's a real classic.  Personally, I always buy a 12-pack to put in my crawlspace, since it cellars so superbly.  That reminds me: I should probably go down there and get some 2006 & 2007...

Also from Alaskan: the latest "Rough Draft" is called Hopothermia Double IPA.  It's hopped to 70 IBUs using Nugget and Apollo hops in the kettle, then finished with late additions of Amarillo, Citra, and Centennials.  The only places on the Peninsula where I have ever seen Rough Drafts on offer are at Hooligans Saloon in Soldotna or the Seward Brewing Company in Seward, but if you're in Anchorage, you could try Humpy's or Cafe Amsterdam. If you manage to find Hopothermia, remember it's 8.5% ABV, so treat it with respect.

Finally, on December 1, Alaskan will be releasing the next beer in their Pilot Series of limited releases: Alaskan Imperial Red.

Up in Anchorage at Midnight Sun, there's a ton of stuff happening.  I got a big data dump from Darcy Kniefel, MSBC's Beer Ambassador.  Here's what she had to say about upcoming events and beer releases:


Wednesday, November 14th 6-9pm: "Spenard Blonde" premier at TapRoot. Meet the Brewer and grab a pint of this crisp, hoppy Belgian IPA.  Available only on draft at TapRoot and The Loft @ Midnight Sun Brewing Company.

Thursday, November 15th, 5-7pm: America Recycles Day: Midnight Sun will be pouring beer at a social sponsored by Green Star at Kendall Lexus of Alaska. Free beer and light snacks, check out the recycling barrel art created by local groups and artists (Midnight Sun will be designing 2 barrels).  Each Barrel will be for sale to be used at local areas for recycling.

Saturday- Friday, November 17 to the 23rd: Beer and Truffle Flight 4 Modern Dwellers Truffles paired with 4 MSBC beers.  We had to drink a lot of beer and taste a lot of chocolate to come up with these great pairings.  Flight available throughout the week at The Loft @ Midnight Sun Brewing Company

Friday, November 23rd, 5pm: Black Friday Firkin.  Midnight Sun pairs up with Modern Dwellers as we tap a firkin of our TREAT Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter, cask conditioned with cocoa nibs, cinnamon sticks and Modern Dwellers Mayan Spice.  Tapping by Zoe from Modern Dwellers.

Friday, December 7th, 5pm First Firkin Friday: Celebrate new art and the 5th Anniversary of LUST, Belgian Dark Strong Ale. This is the last Lust anywhere on MSBC property and we are cask conditioning it for this incredible night.  Tapped at 5pm, might want to be early for this one.

Sunday, January 13th, time tba: Sullivan's Beer Dinner. MSBC pairs up with Sullivan's Steak House to present an incredible beer dinner to kick off your AK Beer Week.  Details to come...

Upcoming Beers:

Darcy says: "Please note all dates are current as of this morning, but we reserve the right to bring a beer out earlier or later, depending on what the beer decides it would like to do..."

Oaked Monk's Mistress on Nitro: Currently pouring at The Loft

Oaked Son of a Berserker on Nitro: within 2 weeks pouring on draft at the Loft, possibly another local location

Czech Yourself Pilsner - the crisp pilsner makes a return for football season, basketball season, beer drinking season.  Due on tap at The Loft in the next 2 weeks

Spenard Blonde: Belgian IPA premiering Wednesday, November 14th, on draft at The Loft and TapRoot only

IPA*, this beer is not yet named, but I will have details soon.  A single IPA (we have been calling it single IPA, which we know is redundant, but when you make IPAs like we do it's a rare occasion it isn't a double/Imperial/Belgian etc.)  this smooth drinker was originally loaded with Cascade and Chinook hops, then dry hopped with Cascade Citra.  It might be a single IPA, but our signature hop palette is right there.  Due on tap at The Loft late next week, I'll have a name for you soon.

Obliteration 9 - Based off of Rye Not, this Double Rye IPA will be stepping in to it's roll as our yearly hop Obliteration, Due in Mid December.

XXX - Double Black IPA, originally brewed for the fine folks at Specialty Imports, is back for its yearly appearance.  Due in Mid December.

Pride - The much anticipated release of Pride in the Alaska's Most Wanted Series has been delayed until February.  No beer before it's time....

Speaking of Alaska Beer Week in January, tickets have gone on sale for the Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival through Ticketmaster.  You can order yours here.  

Here on the Peninsula, Kassik's Brewery released three more of their beers in bottles on 1 November: Roughneck Stout, Spiced Cream Ale, and Buffalo Head Barley.  Here are their labels.

Looking ahead, in late January they will be releasing their excellent Smoked Russian Imperial Stout in bottles as well. Here's the label for that one:

Before we move on to beer reviews, I'd like to mention that I reached a milestone.  On June 5, 2010, I started using the 33 Bottles of Beer booklets to document my beer reviews.  Prior to that, I was incredibly haphazard in how I wrote things down.  Anyway, on the night of November 6, 2012, I finished my 12th booklet, meaning I've reviewed 396 beers in 30 months, which translates to one about every 2.27 days.  I've drunk more beer than that, of course, since I only write a review for any given beer once, and I don't review every single new brew I try.  Still, I think it's a pretty good achievement.  Now it's time to start booklet #13...

It's also time for me to mention that I'll be offering my beer appreciation class again this spring, CED A157 The Art & History of Brewing, at 5:30 to 6:45 on Tuesday nights from 1/22/13 to 4/30/13.  I you live in the Kenai/Soldotna area and are interested in a fun and interesting class about beer, you might consider it.  You can call the college at 262-0330 for more info.

Now, let's do some beer reviews:

Last blog I mentioned several new beers on tap locally, but I'd actually tasted none of them.  The has been rectified. Let's start with Kenai River Brewing's two new offerings.

Almost Imperial Red: This beer poured a deep copper color, with a nice cream-colored head.  The aroma was of caramel with a touch of hops.  Good up front bitterness from the 52 IBUs, with nice mouthfeel and good carbonation, falling away to a smooth finish.  7.5% ABV explains the "almost" status; I guess you need to make 8% to really be imperial.  An excellent beer, quite drinkable.

Citra Imperial Rye Pale Ale (CIRPA): Almost everyone loves Citra hops; there massive citrus aroma and flavors have made them extremely popular these days.  Take that hop and mix it with Kenai Brewing's excellent Imperial Rye Pale Ale (see my review on 5/18/2012), and this is what you get.  It poured a dark, clear copper with a big, off-white head and excellent lacing on the glass.  The aroma is a no-doubter: Citra hops and plenty of 'em!  Quite bitter, as you'd expect, but it doesn't really taste like 103 IBUs and there's plenty of hop flavor as well as bitterness.  It hides its 9% ABV all too well, putting this one firmly in the Dangerously Drinkable category.  This is a really exceptional beer, strangley balanced for such an over-the-top brew.  Get it while you can, as I predict it will sell fast.

Moving on to St. Elias Brewing Company, I haven't yet had any of their Oktoberfest, but I did get to try two of their other beers.  The rumor mill has it that they will also be putting a new Scottish style on soon.

Gold ESB:It poured a dark copper, crystal clear, with a big cream-colored head. The the nose was very clean, with lots of floral hops.  I'm going to guess East Kent Goldings.  On the palate there was good carbonation, and a nice, clean bitterness.  This beer is very British in its excellent balance, and I can't wait to try it on cask.  Another excellent brew from Zach Henry.

Cereal Killer Porter: This beer is another example of Zach's style-bending.  He calls it an oatmeal porter, which isn't something you're going to find in the BJCP style guidelines.  It's basically a robust porter with some oats added to the mash bill.  It poured opaque with a nice tan head and good lacing on the glass.  The aroma had plenty of roasty notes, very appealing.  On the tongue there was good mouthfeel, with some silkiness from the oats, but none of the roasted barley bite that you'd get from a stout.  some nice earthiness from the Fuggles used to hop it.  Unusual but delicious.

Finally, I had two beers from Outside.  The first was brought back from my hometown of New Orleans by a friend from work: Save Our Shores Weizen Pils from Abita Brewing Company of Abita Springs, LA.  We don't get their beers up here in Alaska, which is too bad, as they are uniformly excellent.  This particular brew was created after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and part of the proceeds goes for relief and recovery.

It poured a beautiful golden pils color with a huge white head and good lacing.  The nose was full of the aroma of German Perle hops; Sterling hops were also used.  Excellent clean pils flavors, full of good, clean bitterness.  This was an outstanding pilsner; I wish I could have gotten a dozen of them. 7% ABV.

My last beer is another good one from Deschutes Brewing in Oregon: Chasin' Freshies Fresh Hop IPA.  These fresh hop ales are all about the hop flavor and aroma.  It poured a crystal clear gold with a dense white head.  The aroma was what you want in this style, fresh bright hops.  I don't know the particular varieties used, but the weren't piney or resiny at all.  The mouthfeel was light, with plenty of bitterness and a clean, crisp taste.  Enjoyable at 7.4% ABV.

Well, that's about it for this time.  Get out and enjoy some good craft beer with your holiday meals.

Until Next Time, Cheers!