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!

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