Friday, January 13, 2012

It's Alaska Beer Week! Hurray!

Friday, January 13th marks the start of this year's Alaska Beer Week.  I don't know about you, but I'm damned excited!  Breweries all over the state are getting into the act, including those right here on the Peninsula.  Next week will be packed with events to make any lover of craft beer happy.

If you're wondering what events are scheduled, there are plenty of ways to find out.  You can go to their brand-new website,  You can go to the Brewers Guild of Alaska's events page at   You can also sign up for their Twitter feed, if you like to Tweet (I don't so don't ask me how).  If Facebook is your thing, be sure to "like" AK Beer Week at  However you do it, figure out which events you want to attend and then celebrate craft beer in The Great Land.

One of the events coming up is Alaskan Brewing's Dark Beer Dinner at Simon & Seafort's Restaurant in Anchorage on Wednesday, 1/18, at 6:30 pm.  How's this for a menu:

“Alaskan Winter Ale Duck Confit & Quesadilla

Fontina, chevre, tomato, onion, spring greens, tomato-cilantro relish

Mojo Rojo & Alaskan Oatmeal Stout Buffalo Prawns

Avocado cream, buffalo sauce, ancho mojo rojo

Fried Chicken & Alaskan Black IPA “Waffles

Buttermilk marinated, golden waffles, hot sauce, syrup, butter, powder sugar,

Alaskan Smoked Porter  “Braised Beef Short Ribs

Harissa glaze, creamy polenta, oven roasted vegetables.

Oven baked Pear in Puff Pastry

Bartlett pear, cinnamon, sugar, vanilla ice cream Alaskan Barley Wine Ale syrup

All this for only $45!  It should be a fantastic time, so call 907-274-3502 for reservations.

This is just one of the many beer dinners and other events taking place during AK Beer Week.

Our local breweries will all be big players during AK Beer Week.  First out of the gate, St. Elias Brewing will be kicking things off on Friday by offering all their specialty beers at $5 per goblet, instead of the usual $7.  Plus they'll be releasing a brand new beer, Bumper Crop.  It's described as a "double Farmer's Friend, aged in white wine barrels."  Stop by and check it out, along with their new Grasshopper Pale Ale.

Over at Kenai River Brewing, they're gearing up for their Beer Dinner at Spenard's Roadhouse in Anchorage on Tuesday, Jan 17th from 5 PM to Closing.  I haven't seen a menu yet, but I've eaten at the Roadhouse and the food is excellent.  

Doug and the boys also want to make sure everyone remembers to celebrate the 1st Annual Canned Craft Beer Day on Tuesday, 24 January.  Be sure you have some good canned craft beer on hand (Skiliak Scottish Ale or Sunken Isle IPA would be a good choice) and pop one open on the 24th to celebrate.  Cans have come a long way and I strongly suspect they're only getting started as far as being the packaging of choice for craft beer.

Now let's get to some beer reviews:

First up, the long-awaited The Tide and Its Takers Tripel from Gabe Fletcher at the Anchorage Brewing Company.  Let's face it, after the first three marvelous beers Gabe's released, we all know that his next offering was likely to be pretty special, and the tripel does not disappoint. As you can see from the picture (courtesy of my lovely wife Elaine), it poured a lovely gold color with a nice white head.  The aroma was interesting, with some spicy Belgian yeast notes intermingling with some bright, crisp citrus elements (likely from the Sorachi Ace hops) and just a touch of brett funk.  Most of the same flavors were there on the palate, plus a touch of woodiness from the aging in Chardonnay barrels.  Mouthfeel was good, and the brett funkiness reappeared on the finish.  Given my experience with Gabe's previous beers, I expect that cellaring will greatly increase the brett character, so if you don't like your tripels funky, drink this one fresh.  It's 9.0% ABV and 30 IBUs, and one of the best tripels I've ever had.  Another masterpiece from Gabe Fletcher's brewhouse.  Locally, you can find it at Country Liquors in Kenai for $11.69 a bottle.

My other review this week is Sierra Nevada Brewing's Ovila Quad.  The last beer in their Ovila trilogy, this one is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, weighing in at 10.4% ABV.  It poured a barely translucent dark ruby, with a large light tan head that dissipated fairly quickly.  The nose was of caramel and dark fruit, plums and raisins.  On the palate there was good mouthfeel, with plenty more dark fruit notes, perhaps with the addition of sour cherries to the mix.  The finish was long, with a slight amount of alcohol heat making its presence felt.  Overall, it was a perfectly respectable Belgian  Strong Dark Ale.  I would say that the Ovila Saison was the best of the bunch, but the Quad is a close second.

Well, that's about it for this week.  I hope you all enjoy Alaska Beer Week; I know I plan to.  If you see me at any of the events, please come up and say hello.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Breaking News: First Firkin Friday at St. Elias Brewing

As I was finishing up my blog yesterday, I was wondering if St. Elias Brewing Company might be putting a new cask ale on their hand pump for this Friday, January 6th.  I caught up to Zach Henry last night and he confirmed that they would be doing so.  Grasshopper Pale Ale is a new beer that he's calling --true to his style-bending ways--an American Bitter.  It's hopped with Galaxy hops from Australia and Zythos, a new proprietary hp blend from HopUnion.  I had a small, non-cask conditioned sample, and it was very nice.  So I think I stop by on my way home from work tomorrow to have a proper pint, pulled from the cask.  Maybe I'll see you there.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ring Out the Old, Ring in the New

Ready or not, 2012 here we come!  Hope you all had a nice Christmas and New Years celebration.  Elaine and I kept things pretty low key here in Sterling; dodging amateur drunks on icy roads fits neither her nor my idea of a "fun" New Years Eve.

The start of a new year is traditionally a time to look back.  This graphic from the Brewers Association pretty much sums up 2011 from a craft beer perspective. While the U.S. beer industry as a whole was losing volume and barely holding its own on revenue (thanks to raising their prices), craft beer was growing at double digits in both volume sold and revenue earned.  Craft beer is the future and you can bet the big boys see it too.  Watch for more buyouts in 2012, plus more efforts by them to cash in by marketing beers that "look" like craft beers,  despite being made by A-B InBev or Miller-Coors.

In the personal betterment department, I promised myself I would finally get going on earning my Cicerone Certification, from  For those of you not familiar with the Cicerone Certification Program, it is similar to the programs that exist for wine sommeliers, but focuses on beer rather than wine.  There are three levels: Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone, and Master Cicerone.  I have been meaning to get started for quite some time, but I finally took the plunge and signed up for the exam to earn the Certified Beer Server designation.  You will be happy to hear that I am now Certified Beer Server # 8845.  Stay tuned for updates as I work my way through the higher level certifications.  They will take longer, as they involve face-to-face examinations, none of which are currently scheduled in Alaska...

Looking ahead to Alaska Beer Week, the list of events is now posted on the Brewers Guild of Alaska webpage.  The dedicated AK Beer Week webpage is still under construction, but may be working by the time you read this.  So far I count about SIXTEEN different beer events, not counting the Great Alaskan Beer & Barley Wine Festival itself!  I am already making my reservations to ensure I don't miss out on events such as the Alaskan Brewing's Dark Beer Dinner at Simon & Seafort's, Kenai River Brewing's Dinner at Spenard Roadhouse, or Anchorage Brewing's Belgian Beer Dinner at SubZero.  These are some of the top beer events in Alaska every year, so decide which ones you'll attend and make your reservations now!

In the two weeks since I last took my keyboard in hand to blog, there have been several new beer releases that I need to tell you about.

First up, North Coast Brewing Company has released their Barrel-aged Old Rasputin XIV, to celebrate the 14th anniversary of their founding. Their standard Old Rasputin Imperial Stout is one of the best examples of this style currently available, and best of all, thanks to the folks at Specialty Imports, it's available here on the Kenai, both at the Save-U-More in Soldotna and Country Liquors in Kenai.  The barrel-aged version just takes things up several notches, thanks to the bourbon barrels used.  The previous release was Old Rasputin XII, two years ago.  It has gotten rave reviews from beers geeks, with an A rating on Beer and people tossing around terms like "one of the finest bourbon-barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stouts on the planet."  Old Rasputin XIV promises to be just as good.  It's available at Country Liquors in Kenai right now.  It isn't cheap, at just under $20 a bottle, but if you enjoy bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stouts (and who doesn't), you should grab yourself one before they are gone.

Sticking with the "black is beautiful" trope, on the winter solstice Alaskan Brewing released their new Black IPA in Juneau.  As you can see from the photo, this beer will be in 12 oz six packs.  It hasn't made its way to the Kenai  yet, so I haven't had a chance to sample it, but based on the information I received, it sounds like a lower alcohol version of their excellent Double Black IPA (reviewed on 8/26/2010).  Look for Cascade and Centennials, along with other PNW hops, plus plenty of roasty flavors.  Given how good the DIPA version was, I will definitely be grabbing some of this beer as soon as it's on the shelves locally.

Another beer that's been released but hasn't made it down here yet is Anchorage Brewing Company's The Tide and Its Takers Tripel.  This is the latest beer from Gabe Fletcher and I am very anxious to try it.  Once again, likely the only local place to find it is Country Liquors in Kenai, though if you find yourself in Anchorage, I know La Bodega at the University Center Mall has it as well.

Let's move on to some beer reviews.

Earlier, I mentioned North Coast Brewing, the makers of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.  For New Years Day, I decided to share one of their other beers with my friend Curt, their Old Stock Ale 2009 Cellar Reserve.  This was another bourbon barrel aged beer, though in this case the base brew was their Old Stock Ale, rather than their Old Rasputin.  This was bottle had rested in my cellar for quite some time, waiting for a special occasion.  It poured a lovely red-copper collar, with a small cream-colored head that rapidly dissipated to a color.  The bourbon made itself immediately apparent on the nose, followed by vanilla and dark fruit notes.  The taste was a continuation of the aroma, with spicy, buttery bourbon flavors intertwined with raisins, molasses, vanilla, and caramel notes. A potent brew at 13.2% ABV, this complex beer is one to sip by the fire, mulling over the year that's been or the one about to start.  An expensive brew, but well worth the price.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that Alaskan Brewing Company was releasing their 2011 Barley Wine on 1 December this year, earlier than in the past.  When I visited out local Fred Meyer shortly after Christmas, I was pleased to see that it had arrived, and I grabbed two bottles, one to cellar and one to drink.  Earlier incarnations of this beer have won several awards, including first place at the Toronado Barley Wine Festival in 2007  and a bronze at the 2008 World Beer Cup.  I had tasted and enjoyed those previous examples, so I was looking forward to this year's effort.  It did not disappoint.  It poured a very pretty dark ruby with a decent cream-colored head.  The aroma was primarily of caramel and sweet malt, with some alcohol heat.  This is an English-style barley wine, so the emphasis is primarily on the malt, not the hops, but there was still enough bitterness for good balance.  It had a long, smooth finish, which left me wanting another sip.  As 10.7% ABV, this is not overly strong for a barley wine; you can't call it sessionable, but I had no problem finishing a 22 oz bottle by myself over the course of a couple of hours.  This is an excellent beer and I'm planning to pick up a couple more bottles, to both drink and cellar, the next time I'm at the store.

Finally, I want to mention another beer that I drank over the holidays and greatly enjoyed.  On New Years Eve, I drank a bottle of Orval, the Trappist Ale from Brasserie d'Orval in Belgium. This would not normally be big news, as Orval is readily available, as are several other Trappists, such as Chimay and Rochfort.  In this case what made the beer so special was that I had been able to cellar it for a couple of years. Unlike the other Trappists, Orval is dosed with brettanomyces, the slow-working yeast that produces some amazing sour or funky flavors.  I love Orval fresh, but with a couple of years aging to bring out its brett character, it is truly sublime.  If you are a fan of brettanomyces in beer, I'd urge you to pick up a couple of bottles of Orval (it's on sale at Country Liquors in Kenai or many place in Anchorage), then stick them someplace dark, with a constant cool temperature, and forget about them for a couple of years.  I promise you won't be unhappy with the results.

Well, that's it for this week.  Hope you all have a wonderful 2012, and get to enjoy many excellent beers in the coming year.  I know I plan to.

Until Next Time, Cheers!