Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Faithful Friend Falters...

I experienced a tragic loss on Wednesday morning; a faithful friend of eight years standing suddenly died.  I walked into the kitchen in the morning to feed the cats and there it was: the digital thermometer on my beer cooler was reading a stark 70F. At the time of this writing, it still remains to be seen if my old friend can be resuscitated, or if he will have to be buried with honors and replaced with a new model.  It's a real shock when something you've come to rely on suddenly stops working...

On to happier news: Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts, beer writer extraordinaire, made one of his flying visits to Kenai this week, under the auspices of his day job as head of Human Resources for Peak Oilfield Services.  We were able to meet up for lunch at St. Elias Brewing and enjoyed a pint each of their excellent Sunfire Saison while we ate.  As luck would have it, while we were sitting at the bar, Matt Pyhala, the driving force behind the 2nd Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival,  walked in with posters and a block of tickets to drop off.  If you haven't seen this year's poster yet, here it is:

Tickets are $20, which gets you admission, a commemorative tasting glass, a six coupons, each good for a 4 oz. pour.  More tickets are available at 2 for $3 or 12 for $15.  Last year's event sold out, so buy your tickets in advance to ensure you'll be able to attend.  Locally, they are on sale at St. Elias Brewing, Kassik's Brewery, and Kenai River Brewing Company.  In Anchorage, you can find them at La Bodega. Like last year, there will be plenty of food vendors and live music at the new, bigger venue, the Soldotna Sports Center off Kalifornsky Beach Road.  The breweries listed at the bottom of the poster are confirmed, but it's possible that even more be there, so stay tuned for updates.

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I haven't recommended any reading material lately, but I recently finished an excellent book that I want to pass on to all of you:  The Longest Crawl, by Ian Marchant. Published in 2007, this is the author's account of a pub crawl he undertook with a friend from the extreme southwest of Britain to its most extreme northwest outpost.  During the course of the journey, there are many quaint and quirky characters and drinking customs encountered, and the author spends much time commenting on the current state of British drinking culture.  You may find the dialogue a bit tricky to follow, depending how up you are on current British idiom, and the author's politics are somewhere to the left of Fidel Castro's, but it's still a fascinating read, and you can find a used copy on Amazon for a very few dollars.

Not quite so recently, I finished another very interesting book, America Walks Into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops by Christine Sismondo. Published last year, I got my copy via the History Book Club, but it is also available on Amazon.  It's a rollicking history of the pivotal role drinking establishments have played in the course of American history, and a wonderful antidote to the neo-prohibitionist sentiments you so often here expressed today.  It clearly shows that America would not be the country it is today without the presence (or occasional painful absence) of alcohol. It has plenty of excellent period photos and illustrations and is written in a light, east-to-read style.  I highly recommend it if you are at all interested in the history of beer and/or alcohol in the US.

OK, so let's push on to beer reviews.  Only two this week, I'm afraid.

I don't usually review beers that aren't commercially available, at least somewhere in the world.  It hardly seems fair for me to wax eloquent about some homebrew I've had, only to finish up with, "of course, none of you readers will be able to get any."  That being said, I did get a chance to taste a beer that has not been commercially released yet, but I'm sure it will be some day: Kassik's Brewery's bottled version of their Buffalo Head Barley Wine.  I stopped by on Saturday, June 16, to drop off some Yukon Brewing beers I'd picked up for them to try, and to grab a growler for a friend's birthday party that I'd be attending the next day.  Frank was manning the taps but business was slow enough that we had time for a pint and some talk.  As I was leaving, he handed me a bottle of their barley wine to take with me.  I'd had various versions of this beer on draft over the years, but this was the first time in bottle-conditioned form.  It poured a lovely dark honey color in the glass, with a nice, dense cream-colored head.  The aroma was rich with malty notes and a touch of alcohol.  Very good mouthfeel, with plenty of complex, malty flavors from the deep malt backbone.  With just enough hop bitterness for balance, this is definitely in the English rather than the American style.  A long, slow finish with a little more alcohol heat completes the package.  It's no wonder that Kassik's took a barley wine Gold Medal in the 2011 Tasting Institutes World Beer Championships; I thought this beer was truly exceptional, and I enjoyed the bottle immensely over the course of the evening.  It's my hope that we'll soon see these bottles in commercial release, so the rest of you can get the chance to enjoy this amazing beer.

My other beer review for this week is another beer from Green Flash Brewing in San Diego: Rayon Vert Belgian-style Pale Ale.   for those of you who aren't up on your French, "Rayon Vert" translates to "Green Flash".  It poured a clear, light copper with a huge off-white head.  So huge, in fact that it was difficult to pour the 12 oz bottle into a 20 oz snifter! The nose was chock full of bright hop aromas and the earthy/spicy note that I always associate with Belgian yeasts.  According to the bottle, brettanomyces is also in the mix, but I really didn't get any of the characteristics barnyard funk from that.  Likely my bottle was too fresh, so perhaps I'll pick up some to cellar for a few months to give the notoriously slow-working brett a chance to do its thing.  On the palate there was great carbonation, plus plenty of hop flavor with restrained bitterness.  At 7% ABV, Rayon Vert is stronger than your typical Belgian Pale, which are the session beers of Belgium, after all.  Still, it's extremely drinkable and would pair well with many different foods.  This is the kind of beer I could see always keeping on hand, ready to offer to guests.  Very nice.

Well, that's it for this week.  Be sure to buy your tickets for the Kenai Beer Fest and cross your fingers that my faithful old beer cooler can be saved.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Breaking News: Kassik's Needs Growlers

This was posted earlier today on Kassik's Brewery's Facebook page:

"Looking to buy back 20 -30 Kassik's growlers, our shipment missed last week's boat and will not arrive until Next Monday."

If you've got more Kassik's growlers than you need, here's your chance to help them out.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer's Here at Last!

Well, it was a pretty cold May, but summer has come to the Kenai at last.  Any doubts about that were dispelled by the recent afternoon/early evening thunderstorms.  It's a rare day when we get enough atmospheric heating to make that happen.  The warmer temperatures, sunshine, and occasional rain showers have also been wonderful for the garden; I'm looking forward to a bumper crop of potatoes, onions, and garlic this year.

One the beer front, you can also tell that summer is upon us, as Zach Henry at St. Elias Brewing is being diligent in keeping a fruit beer on tap.  First was the ever-popular Island Girl Ale (reviewed back on 6/15/2010); now that that has run out, there's Fair Lady, brewed with strawberries from Oregon.  Also back on tap is one of my favorite beers, Sunfire Saison (reviewed on 6/22/2010). Add these to their Hefeweizen and Monkey's Dunkel and you've got quite a summer line-up.

Also on tap is Big Timber, a Double IPA, which I recently sampled.  It was a cloudy gold in the glass, with a small but persistent white head.  There was outstanding hop aroma; lots of citrusy American hops for sure. Good carbonation, nice mouthfeel, and plenty of hop flavor to go along with the bitterness.  Not sure I'd have more than one in a sitting, but if you're in the mood for a serious hop bomb, Double Timber will answer the call.

Kassik's Brewery celebrated Father's Day with Kassik's Day at the Oiler's Park, with Jason Kassik singing the national anthem before the game.  Speaking of Jason, check out the cover of the 2012 Alaska Business Resource Guide and you'll find him there.

Kenai River Brewing has brewed another batch of their Hoppin' Salmon Wheat beer, and it should be on tap soon.  Better stop by and get some; the way the kings have been running this year, it's the only salmon we're likely to get!  You can take it home in one of the new growlers Kenai River just took delivery of.

Across the state breweries are expanding.  Midnight Sun Brewing Company just took delivery on a new 100-barrel tank to help boost production.  Denali Brewing Company plans to add a canning line at the end of next month and two more 600-barrel fermenters to support it, so we should soon be seeing Single Engine Red and Twister Creek IPA in cans.  Kodiak Island Brewing is in the midst of a move to a new location, more than three times the size of their old one.  The new place will be right in the center of town and will allow them to increase production capacity by 30% right off the bat.  Things are looking good for craft beer in Alaska!

I came across some interesting graphics in an NPR article, comparing Americans' drinking habits from 30 years ago to today.  Here they are:

 The increase in spending at bars & restaurants is easy to understand when you look at how their prices have jumped, while the prices for alcohol in stores has actually declined.  I couldn't determine if these were inflation adjusted figures or not, but I assume they must be.  The last graph makes clear the growth of wine and the decline of hard spirits over the last thirty years.  Interesting stuff.

Okay, let's do some beer reviews.

Last week I mentioned drinking Russell Brewing's A Wee Angry Scotch Ale while in Dawson City. While in that town I also picked up three more of their brews to bring home, and here's what I thought of them.

Main St. Pilsner: Poured a clear gold with a small white head that dissipated quickly.  Not much aroma at all, a faint trace of hops.  Clean tasting, but definitely more in the German than the Czech style, with more malt than hops in the flavor profile.  5% ABV. Strictly run-of-the-mill.

Blood Alley ESB:  Poured a lovely deep copper color with a nice, persistent, off-white head.  The nose had plenty of Pacific Northwest hops in it, very nice.  Good bitterness and hop flavor, clean tasting.  Mouthfeel a bit on the thin side and could have used a longer finish.  5.5% ABV. Enjoyable.

Black Death Porter:  Poured a dark, barely translucent ruby with a small tan head that dissipated quickly.  Aroma was of malt & caramel, no roasty or smoky notes.  Mouthfeel was on the low end of the spectrum, and there was zero roasty flavor; mostly malt and caramel.  Little finish.  I was very surprised to taste a porter with no discernible roasted malt in it.  Almost reminded me of a Scotch ale, rather than a porter.  Not a bad beer, but not much of a porter. 6.5% ABV.

Finally, West Coast IPA from Green Flash Brewing in San Diego.  I picked up this bottle at La Bodega in Anchorage. I've had some of their brews before on trips to California and I know they know how to hop.  The beer poured  a nice, clear copper color with a big cream-colored head.  The aroma left no doubt what you were into: tons of bright, citrus hop flavors.  The varieties used were Simcoe, Centennial, and Columbus, and they worked well together.  On the palate it was bitter but not shatteringly so.  Nice and drinkable, with plenty of hop flavor to go with the hop bitterness, falling away to a nice finish.  An excellent IPA, very drinkable, even at its 7.3% ABV.  I'll have another, please!

Well, that's about it for this week.  Let's get out and enjoy that summer solstice sunshine, because, as Ned Stark says, "Winter is coming."

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ho, For the Klondike (Part II)

OK, let's have some reviews!

First, a couple of beers I had before we left on vacation.

I mentioned back in February (2/23/2012 to be exact) that I had scored a bottle of Acer Quericus from The BrueryAcer Quercus is a collaboration brew with Lawson's Finest Liquids, a nanobrewery in Vermont.  The beer has been "oaked, smoked, and mapled", not necessarily in that order.  With my good friends Tom & Curt coming over to enjoy some rib-eyes off the grill, I decided that it was time to break open this 9.5% ABV bad boy and see what it had to offer.

It poured completely opaque with a small, fast-dissipating tan head.  The aroma was what you would expect: a malty sweetness, some oak-wood notes, and smoke.  The beer was very heavy on the palate, very thick.  The flavor profile was rich and complex, with the various elements stepping to the fore then swirling into the background, round and round, until my tongue was dizzy, if such a thing is possible, before falling away to a long, pleasant finish.  An exceptional beer, and a fantastic accompaniment to the steaks.  I wish I could have gotten home with a case, rather than a single bottle.

Next up, a beer I picked up at La Bodega in Anchorage, mainly because owner Pamela Hatzis suggested it but also because I love smoked beers,  Beeriment #44 Smoked Stout, 7.7% ABV, from Amager Bryghus in Denmark. This was another opaque brew, though this time one with a large tan head.  The nose had some maltiness, plus roasted coffee notes, as well as the smoke, and perhaps a touch of hops.  On the palate there was plenty of bitterness, some from the hops and some from the roasted grains, giving it an astringency, almost like a cup of black coffee.  The taste of the smoke was subtle, but the finish was pretty abrupt.  All-in-all a pretty good beer, but not spectacular.  These Danish brewers could learn a few tricks from Alaskan's Smoked Porter.

Now we'll move on to the vacation.  First, you're probably expecting me to wow you with reviews of the beers I had in Haines brewed by Paul Wheeler of the Haines Brewing Company.  Well, there's a bit of a problem with that.  I was having such a darn good time that I didn't actually take the time to write any reviews.  Plus, it's kinda hard to write notes when you're drinking beer in the rain.  At various times over my three days in Haines, I drank their Black Fang Imperial Stout, their Lookout American Stout, their Eldred Rock Red, and the scary beer Paul Wheeler called Sixteen Pounder.  Every one of them was excellent, but I never took any formal notes.  Sorry about that, but then again, I was on vacation...

One beer I had which certainly deserves a special mention was Denali Brewing's Tinderfoot von Scotch Ale.  I'm a sucker for a good Scotch ale, and this one was excellent.  I'm not sure when during the year or for how long this brew is on tap, but snap it up if you can.  Made with Golden Promise and some peated malt, it was truly exceptional.  I'd love to lay down a few bottles.

Realizing how derelict I'd been in Haines, when I hit Skagway Brewing Company I made sure to write up all four of their brews, which is a lot easier to do in a brewpub rather than in the rain, let me tell you! So here they are:

Prospector Pale Ale: I got a bit of a bad pour on this one, as it was served filled to the brim with no room for any head.  This lack of head seriously compromised my ability to judge its aroma.  It was a cloudy gold in the glass.  On the palate there was pretty good bitterness and clean flavors.

Boom Town Brown Ale: This beer was a semi-translucent brown with a small tan head.  The aroma was malt forward but you could still pick up some hops.  It tasted more malt sweet that roasty, closer in style to a Southern English Brown than a Northern one.  Very drinkable and a nice pairing with lots of their menu items.

Chilkoot Trail IPA: Honey colored in the glass with a nice white head.  Nice bright hop aroma.  Excellent balance between the hop bitterness and the malt backbone, unlike some IPAs which are just a face-slap of  IBUs. In fact, this beer was so well-balanced it reminded me of some of the excellent British ales I have had.  A really exceptional IPA, one I could drink all day long.

Blue Top Porter: Poured opaque with a small tan head.  The aroma was of roast malt, almost like a good cup of coffee.  Nice mouthfeel, with more roastiness up front and a touch of malt sweetness in the back for balance.  Stylistically, I guess you'd call this a robust porter, but it's closer to a brown porter than many examples of the style.  This was probably my favorite on the four brews (though the Chilkoot IPA was a darn close second) and it paired superbly with the gourmet burger that I drank it with.

A quick word about the Skagway Brewing Company's bar:  It's a real pleasure for me to walk into what I consider to be a proper bar, i.e. one with a brass foot rail, a nice looking mirrored back bar, and -- most important of all -- NO TV.  If I want to watch sports, I'll got to a sports bar.  When I want to enjoy beer and conversation, I like it to be distraction free.  Oh, and my wife really appreciated the purse hooks.  So well done, Skagway.

After Skagway, our next stop was Whitehorse and Yukon Brewing Company.  While I tasted thriteen of their beers at the brewery, I did not get to do formal write-ups (and I never do those off of small samples anyway).  I have managed to review some of their line-up.

Yukon Gold English Pale Ale:  An English Pale Ale would be a bottled version of an English Bitter, which style this beer most certainly is not.  However, it's not an American Pale Ale, as it's not hopped with American hops nor is it hoppy enough.  It most certainly is the #1 selling beer in the Yukon Territory and available everywhere.  It pours a clear gold with a small, persistent white head.  The aroma is of nice, floral English hops but not overpowering.  There's good mouthfeel and nice balance, making for a very refreshing and easy drinking ale.  As its sales show, it is designed to appeal to a wide variety of drinkers and pairs well with most dishes.

Ice Fog IPA: This is one of the beers that Yukon Brewing cans, and the beer I evaluated was from a can.  It poured a light copper color with a nice off-white head.  There was a nice hop aroma, English hops again, floral not the citrus or piney aromas I associate with Pacific Northwest varieties. Good balance between hop bitterness and hop flavor, falling away gradually to a nice finish.  By American craft beer standards, this beer might seem more like a hoppy pale ale, rather than an IPA, but who cares?  It superbly brewed and extremely drinkable, leaving you wanting another rather than a glass of water to scrub your wrecked palate. 6% ABV.

Lead Dog Olde English Ale:  In the style of a Strong or Old Ale, this 7% ABV beer is the strongest made by Yukon Brewing.  It poured a dark, barely translucent ruby with a small, fast-dissipating cream colored head.  The aroma was of caramel & sweet malt, with a touch of alcohol heat.  Definitely a malt forward brew, but with enough IBUs to balance things out.  It has good mouthfeel and drops away to a long, slow and warming finish.  A perfect sipper by the fire on a long winter's night in the Yukon.

Finally, a beer I had in the bottle in Dawson City, Yukon Territory: A Wee Angry Scotch Ale from Russell Brewing Company in Surrey, British Columbia.  Given how much I love this style, when I saw it, I had to try it.  I poured the color of a good scotch whisky, a dark caramel, with a dense white head.  The aroma was of malt and peat smoke.  On the palate, there was an excellent blend of the malt flavors and the smoke from the peat.  There was not quite as much mouthfeel as I would have liked, but that might have been due to this beer being of the small side for a Scotch Ale, at only 6.5% ABV & 30 IBUs.  A very nice brew and one that took the Bronze in the Scotch Ale category in the 2010 World Beer Cup.

Well, hopefully you enjoyed those reviews; I know I enjoyed drinking the beers!  Look for a new blog next week, with all the latest news from the local beer scene.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ho, For the Klondike! (Part I)

I bet you are thinking: "OK, time for Bill to start making excuses why he hasn't blogged for almost a month."  Ha, jokes on you!  No excuses needed; this time I was on VACATION!  Yes, an honest-to-goodness vacation, just Elaine and I on the road for two weeks!  So I couldn't have blogged if I'd wanted to.  But all good things must come to an end, and it's time to get back to work.  So let me tell you about my beery adventures.

Since neither Elaine nor I had been there, we decided we wanted to visit Skagway and Dawson City in the Yukon, to explore the region where the famous Klondike Gold Rush took place.  Plus we wanted to attend the 20th Annual Great Alaska Craft Beer & Home Brew Festival in Haines on May 25 & 26, the oldest beer fest in the state.  It's a two day drive from our home on the Kenai to Haines, so we spent a night in Tok, before rolling into Haines on Thursday afternoon, May 24.

Haines Brewing in Dalton City
Haines is a very beautiful and laid-back little town, and is blessed with an excellent local brewery, Haines Brewing Company.  Brewer Paul Wheeler produces some absolutely outstanding brews.  I had sampled some of them at past Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festivals in Anchorage, but I was looking forward to getting them from the source.

The brewery is located in Dalton City, which was originally a movie set built for the Disney movie White Fang before being moved to the SE Alaska Fairgrounds.  When we arrived in town on Thursday, it was our first stop.  As we walked up, we could see that there was a line of folks waiting to buy pints to drink out front and with growlers to be filled.  As an aside, every restaurant Elaine and I ate at in Haines that sold beer had Haines Brewing beers on their list.  It certainly speaks well of a brewery when it has such tremendous local support.  After a such a long drive, I felt the need of refreshment, so I had a glass of their Black Fang Imperial Stout, which was delicious.

The next morning, I helped judge the first round of the Home Brew Competition, which was a first for me.  I've written many reviews, but I'm not BJCP certified, so it was a new experience to evaluate brews for points against the style guidelines.  I tasted 8 different lagers, from several different styles.  A couple were quite good and one was outstanding, and they were all at least palatable.  I later learned that Ben Hastings, one of our homebrewers from here on the Kenai, took Best in Show, with an IPA, I believe.  Good job, Ben!

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The Brewer's Dinner on Friday evening was another great event.  250 folks attended the sold-out dinner, to enjoy a seven course meal, paired with 10 different beers!  Chef Adam Richard of the Fireweed Restaurant supplied the food, going with a Latin American Pig Roast as the theme.  Various courses where paired with beers from Baranof Island, Alaskan, Midnight Sun, Yukon, Denali, Haines, & Kenai River Breweries, plus a Faro Lambic from Lindemans, supplied by Specialty Imports.  Various brewers made short speeches between courses, and Geoff Larsen, one of the founders of Alaskan Brewing Company was the Guest Speaker.  His talk focused on how far brewing in Alaska has come in the last twenty-five years.  Paul Wheeler lead us all in a final toast, using a beer he called Sixteen Pounder, from the amount of hops it took to make it.  All-in-all, this was one of the best beer dinners I've ever attended; it was superb in every aspect, from the food, to the beer, to the service, to the company.  I'll certainly jump at any chance I ever get to attend again.

May in Alaska: Drinking beer in the rain!

The next day was Saturday, the day of the actual festival, and it dawned cold and rainy.  However, cold and rainy weather does not stop Alaskans (or Yukoners -- there were plenty of them there) from having a great time.  The Fest has sold out long before (1250 attendees) and the scalpers were busy outside the gate.  Inside, the breweries and Specialty Imports were set up under the tents and pouring some excellent beers.  The wet weather did not seem to have dampened anyone's spirits.  I had a wonderful time and I can understand why many folks say this is the best beer festival in Alaska.  I hope I can visit it many more times.

Best place to drink in Skagway
The next day, Elaine and I caught the ferry over to Skagway (or Alaska's Disneyland and the folks from Haines call it).  There was only one cruise ship in town that day and it departed that night, but two tied up for the day on Monday, and four were in port on Tuesday and Wednesday.  During the day, the streets of Skagway are busy with tourists, but by 6:30 in the evening they have all returned to their ships, the streets are empty, and the locals are drinking at the Skagway Brewing Company.

The Skagway Brewing Company has a full bar and and excellent menu of pub grub, with daily specials (Elaine and I had gourmet burgers there on Sunday night), not to mention a great atmosphere, but the real attraction is the beer.  Brewer Trevor Clifford is doing an excellent job, and he was nice enough to come out and chat with me for a bit (not to mention pulling off a taster for me from a not-quite-finished batch of his Spruce Tip Blonde Ale).  They had four brews actually on tap -- Prospector Pale Ale, Boom Town Brown, Chilkoot Trail IPA, and Blue Top Porter -- and over the course of the next couple of days, I tried them all.  This is a really nice brewpub, and Elaine and I enjoyed ourselves every time we stopped in while we were in Skagway.

Beer Worth Freezing For...
When we rolled out of Skagway, we headed north toward Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory.  During our time in the territory, I found I really liked folks from the Yukon.  They didn't seem particularly Canadian, anymore than Alaskans are particularly American.  We think of ourselves as Alaskans first and Americans second; residents of The Yukon seem to feel the same way about Ottawa that we feel about Washington.  Whatever the reason, we are very simpatico.

When we hit Whitehorse, we made it a point to get to Yukon Brewing Company by noon, so as to be able to take the tour.  As you might imagine, given my predilections, I've been on many a brewery tour, so please take me seriously when I say that this was certainly one of the top three or four tours I've ever taken!  It lasted over 90 minutes total (instead of the advertised 30 or 40), was very thorough and concluded with tasting over a dozen different beers!  Yes, that's right, a dozen.  We tasted every beer they bottle or can (eight) plus all five of the seasonals/specials they happened to have on tap at the brewery.  Here's the list:

Bottles/Cans: Chilkoot Lager, Deadman Creek Cranberry Wheat, Discovery Honey ESB, Ice Fog IPA, Lead Dog Old Ale, Yukon Gold English Pale Ale, Yukon Red Amber Ale, and Midnight Sun Espresso Stout.

Seasonals: The Noble Pilsener, Chocolate Brown Ale, Yukon Crude Stout, White Pass Porter, and Double Trouble IPA.

Had we been there on Friday, we could have added a beer on cask to the list.  All this for $5, which they donate to charity.  Absolutely amazing.  Miss Aubre, the young lady who gave the tour did an excellent job, especially trying to answer the overly technical questions of a certain beer blogger.

As we continued our travels through the Yukon, up to Dawson City and its Klondike goldfields, the goal of all the stampeders in '98, it became clear that Yukon Brewing has tremendous local support.  We were told at the brewery that their Yukon Gold was the #1 selling beer in the territory, and after being in Dawson, I believe it.  Every single restaurant and bar sold it, often the only beer they had on draft.  Just like Haines and Skagway, people in the Yukon are proud to support their local brewery.

So at this point, you're probably thinking: "How about some beer reviews, Bill?"  Patience grasshopper!  I have a ton of them, and I want to hit the highlights of the local happenings while I was gone.  Beer reviews will be in Part II of this post.

So turning to what's been happening around town in my absence:

The proud parents of Lemongrass Ale
Kassik's Brewery has their Vanilla Cream Ale back on tap. Kenai River Brewing has their new Lemongrass Ale (brewed by local homebrewers Seth & Tony) on tap.  St. Elias has added The Monkey's Dunkel and a double IPA to their tap line.  Homer Brewing has an excellent Spring Rye Lager making the rounds.  Not a bad bunch of choices, given that we are moving heavily into the tourist season and our local brewers will be pretty busy just keeping up with demand for their flagship brews for the thirsty folks from Outside.

Looking a little further afield, Alaskan Brewing has re-released their Pilot Series summer seasonal, Alaskan Raspberry Wheat, for a limited time.  They have also announced that the September release will be a return of their Baltic Porter.  This is wonderful news for me, as I think that is a fantastic beer, one of their very best.  In December, they will be releasing an new Imperial Red Ale, name unknown of of yet.

Midnight Sun Brewing in Anchorage just re-released their Fallen Angel Belgian Golden Strong Ale and installed an brand-new 80 barrel conical.  That's one big tank!  I predict lots of excellent beer will be coming our way.

If you will be in Fairbanks on July 21st, you should definitely head for the Golden Days Beer Festival, held at the Silver Gulch Brewing's beer garden in Fox, AK.  It's from 3 to 10 PM, costs $20, and there will be over 150 different beers on offer. For more info, click here.

Finally, the June/July issue of Northwest Brewing News has hit the streets (or the mails, or whatever).  The issue is focused on Alaska, with articles by yours truly and Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts among others.  Look for it at your local brewery, newsstand, or their website.

OK, that's it for the news portion.  Look for Part II in a couple of days, chock full of beer reviews.  Keep drinking those great local craft beers.

Until Next Time, Cheers!