Friday, April 6, 2012

Big News

Those of you who actually bother to read this blog to the bitter end have probably been wondering about the cryptic reference to "an exciting piece of news" that I made two weeks ago.  It's taken longer than I thought to lock down the details but here it is at last:

Kevin R. Tubbs, the long-time Alaska Correspondent for the Northwest Brewing News and author of its "Ales on Top of the World" column, is stepping down, and I have been asked to take his place, starting with the June/July issue.  This is very exciting for me and more than a bit scary, as Kevin will be leaving me some very big shoes to fill.  Still, this will hopefully give me even more chances to do one of my favorite things, write about craft beer in Alaska.  By the way, if you aren't subscribed to the Brewing News, you really ought to give it some serious consideration...

On the national beer front, New Belgium Brewing has announced that its hew East Caost brewery will be in Asheville, NC. It will be a 200-bbl brewhouse, with an annual production of 400,00 barrels.  Construction will start next year, with the brewery slated to go on-line in 2015.  By choosing Asheville, they are following in the footsteps of Sierra Nevada Brewing, which announced earlier this year that they would be building their new brewery there.  Looks like Asheville may be finally earning its much-disputed title as the "Best Beer Town in the U.S."

La Bodega in Anchorage will be having a Moving Sale this Friday and Saturday.  It's 5% off everything in the store, buy 6 bottles of beer or wine and get 10% off, buy 12 22 oz or larger bottles of beer and get 15% off, buy 12 bottles of wine and get 15% off, and all sake/liquor is 20% off!  It's a great chance to stock up.  La Bodega will be closed for their big move to their new location starting on Easter Sunday.  They hope to be open for business again on Friday, April 20th.

Last Friday, Kenai River Brewing released their eagerly-awaited Gummi Bear Tripel.  I'm told Friday and Saturday were the two busiest days the brewery has seen, ever!  That's pretty impressive.  There is big demand for this unique brew.  For example, it will be on offer at the Taste of Alaska Beer Festival on Saturday, April 21st at The Pub on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.  It's 6 to 10 pm, $30 in advance or $35 at the door.

A week later, Kenai River and several other breweries will also be pouring at the 2nd Annual Beer & Mead Social, being held at the Tap Root in Anchorage on April 28th. There will be two session, noon to 3 PM and 4 to 7 PM. Participants will have the opportunity to sample beer, mead, and spirits from Alaska’s best breweries, meaderies, and distilleries, and to discuss the finer points of the libations. Participants will also receive a custom souvenir 6.5 oz glass that they can take home, and 15 tickets each good for a 3 oz pour at any of the participating vendor booths. There will also be food for all ticket holders. A portion of this event’s profits will be donated to Green Star Inc., a local non-profit organization that helps businesses develop green initiatives in the workplace.  You can purchase tickets by clicking here, and see the poster below for a complete list of breweries.

Click to enlarge

Oh, and the next Single Hop IPA that I forgot last week?  Well, no wonder I forgot, since it's not really a single hop!  It will be brewed with Falconer's Flight, the proprietary hop blend from Hop Union.  Should be very interesting.

Moving on to St. Elias Brewing Company, this Friday is First Firkin Friday.  Stop by and get some delicious Brass Monkey ESB on cask from their hand pump.  This style of beer was created to be served from the cask, so this is your chance to experience it as it was meant to be served.

I don't get over there often enough, but Hooligan's Lodge in Soldotna has some very interesting brews from Alaskan Brewing on tap.  I hear they've got both Ghost Town Brown and Fresh Hop ESB, from Alaskan's Rough Draft series, on tap.  You can only find these Rough Drafts at a couple of places outside Juneau, like Humpy's & Cafe Amsterdam in Anchorage, so we're lucky to have the chance to try them right here in Soldotna.

Let's move on to some reviews:

"Borrowed" from KRB's Facebook page
First up, Kenai River's Gummi Bear Tripel.  If you drink this beer expecting to taste gummi bears, I'm sorry to disappoint you.  The only gummi bear "flavor" you're likely to find is if you eat the candy that the folks at the Kenai River Taproom like to garnish glasses with.  It stands to reason I guess; the candies are pretty much pure sugar, so once they go into the boil...

Regardless, the beer poured a lovely orange-gold, with a small, fast-dissipating  white head.  The aroma is the classic earthy, spicy notes that I always associate with Belgian yeast, followed by a slight bit of alcohol (not surprising since it's 9+% ABV), and some hop.  On the palate it's not too heavy or boozy, but fairly dry, with some good bitterness and a long, nice finish.  It's a very well-executed tripel, right up there with Midnight Sun's Panty Peeler or any of the other American takes on this classic Belgian style.

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Speaking of Belgian beers, I tried a new one: Hop Ruiter Blonde Ale, from De Scheldebrouwerij, in the town of Turnhout,  NE of Antwerp, near the Dutch border. Stylistically, this is a Belgian Strong Golden Ale, like Duvel.  It poured the beautiful clear gold with the massive rocky white head that is typical of the style.  The aroma was bright with delicious hop aroma (Styrian Goldings?) and notes from the Belgian yeast.  On the palate, the beer was almost effervescent from the excellent carbonation, and had good bitterness backed with plenty of hop flavor.  A truly excellent beer, as good as (or dare I say better?) than the style-defining Duvel.  If you like the Strong Golden Ale style, this one is worth seeking out. I found my bottle at La Bodega in Anchorage.

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While at La Bodega, I also picked up a bottle of Ommegang Brewing's Witte.  This brewery always does a great job on their Belgian-style brews, though not always in expected ways.  Case it point, Witte poured a crystal clear gold with a nice white head, rather than the cloudy straw color of a traditional Belgian wit.  The aroma was of coriander and citrus, along with spicy Belgian yeast notes.  The body was light with good carbonation and a nice balance of the flavor elements.  It's not spectacular but it's very refreshing.  It would be just the thing after mowing the lawn on a hot summer day.

Finally, I dipped into some of the plunder from my SoCal trip in February and opened my bottle of The Bruery's Saison De Lente.  I've never been disappointed in a beer from this brewery, and Saison De Lente was no exception.  It poured a slightly cloudy orange-gold with a huge white head.  The aroma immediately confirmed the presence of brettanomyces, with the characteristic barnyard funk, mingling with some citrusy hop aromas.  Carbonation was fantastic, and the beer was nice and dry on the palate, which is how I like my saisons, backed up by a touch of funky tartness from the brett.  Overall, this beer reminded me of a Saison Dupont, with a touch of brett.  Since I consider Saison Dupont to be the benchmark for the style and one of the top ten beers in the world, this is high praise from me.  I just wish we could get these beers here in Alaska.  Hand-importing them from the Lower 48 is getting to be a drag...

Well, that's about it for this week.  Enjoy your spring if you live Outside and try not to get flooded by Break Up, if you're an Alaskan like me.

Until Nest Time, Cheers!

1 comment:

coldnorthgamer said...

Congrats on the new writing responsibility!