Friday, July 27, 2012

New Bars, New Beers

Summer rolls on here on the Kenai, with no king fishing (so the river guides are going broke) and no set netting (so the set netters are going broke).  In a situation like this, the only booming businesses are the ones supplying the means for drowning your sorrows...

As mentioned here two weeks ago, the former BJ's Bar in Soldtona is now The Pour House.  It's the brainchild of owner Molly Poland and general Manager Dee Roddis.  They have transformed this old Soldotna landmark into a bright, new sports bar.  The interior of the bar has received a thorough makeover, with the old, dark, nicotine-stained interior giving way to a much more modern look, boasting bright colors, metal trim, and numerous flat-screens tuned to various sporting events, just in time for the Olympics.  There are a dozen beer taps, and besides the usual macro suspects, on draft you can find beers from Kenai River and Alaskan Brewing, plus the former brewery's Skilak Scottish and Sunken Isle in cans.  The food is good, if a bit eccentric; their burgers are served either on waffle buns or dipped in a light batter and deep fried.  Personally, sports bars are not my favorite type of watering hole -- I prefer to do my imbibing sans TV, given the choice -- but if you like your burger and beer with a side of ESPN, The Pour House looks to be a great choice.

Tap tables where you can pour your own beer.

Exterior of The Pour House

Click to enlarge

The 2nd Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival is only two weeks away.  I'm told that tickets are selling fast at the local breweries, so you'd better get yours now, before they sell out like they did last year.  $20 gets you admitted, a commemorative tasting glass, and six 4 oz beer samples.  If you'd like additional samples, you can buy more tasting tickets at the rate of 2 for $3 or 12 for $15.  Like last year, there will be nearly continuous live music and lots of food vendors, so it should make for a great evening.  4 to 10 PM, Saturday, August 21, at the Soldotna Sports Center on K-Beach.

Click to enlarge

It turns out that ours won't be the only beer fest on that date.  49th State Brewing in Healy is also hosting a festival that Saturday, their 1st Annual Augtoberfest.  It's also $20 admission, but there that gets you a 25-oz souvenir stein and one fill.  It's pay as you go after that.  Look for 49th State's First Tap Vienna Lager, along with all their other brews, plus a selection of local an international Oktoberfest beers.  Add in lots of traditional German fare, such as hot potato salad, brats, & sauerkraut, plus an oompah band, and you've got the makings of a great time.  So if you will be up Denali way instead of down here on the Peninsula, you've still got a good option.

Those are both happening in two weeks.  This Saturday, at Midnight Sun Brewing Company in Anchorage, they will be rolling out the 2011 Big Fish Barley Wine.  This is the commercial version of the best in show beer from last December's Big Fish Homebrew Competition. This beer was brewed at Midnight Sun by Don Lewellyn and and Tim Strayer of the Great Northern Brewers earlier this year and aged in oak barrels for about 90 days.  If you miss it this weekend, look for it on tap at Humpy's Alaskan Alehouse.

Alaskan Brewing Company is holding a raffle to win a three-day free trip for two to Juneau, including a VIP tour of the brewery.  Follow this link to sign up.  Entry deadline is 30 September.

The latest word from Seward Brewing Company is that they plan to open to the public on Wednesday, August 8th, so keep your fingers crossed. Hoo Doo Brewing in Fairbanks is also getting closer to brewing.  They are still navigating through the oceans of red tape involved in opening a brewery in Alaska, but they expect to be brewing by the end of August, and to open to the public in October.  If all goes according to plan, they may well be pouring their beer at the Talkeetna Beer Fest on 22 September.

A couple of canned beer reviews to finish things up this week.  First, Midnight Sun Brewing's  Snowshoe White Belgian-style Wit.  This beer was recently released in cans; along with Kodiak Brown Ale, it joined Sockeye Red IPA in their canned offerings.  Word is that this beer was only a so-so seller on draft, but in cans it's selling like hotcakes.  It poured an ever-so-slightly cloudy gold, with a decent white head that slowly dissipated to a collar.  The aroma was full of spicy notes, both from the Belgian yeast used and from the coriander, cumin, and citrus peels added to the brew.  The carbonation was nice, and the mouthfeel was light, making this an excellent summer refreshment beer.  A very nice wit, and packaged to make taking it along on a busy Alaska summer very easy.

The second canned brew I tried was Deviant Dale's India Pale Ale, from Oskar Blues Brewing in Colorado.  This brewery was one of the first to prove that craft beer in cans was a winning combination, and there beers are always excellent.Deviant Dale's poured a deep copper color with a big, cream-colored head from the 16 oz. tallboy can.  At 8% ABV & 85 IBUs, this is Dale's Pale Ale on steroids!  There's a ton of citrusy, resiny hop aroma from PNW hops.  On the palate there's plenty of bitterness but enough malt to balance, and a very clean taste.  Very drinkable for its strength, but we are definitely in Double IPA territory here.  It's a big can and a big beer, so don't plan on having more than one.  Another excellent beer from Oskar Blues.

Well that's about it for this week.  Looks like we might finally have some sun this weekend, so let's get out and enjoy it.  If you make it to Soldotna Progress Days, perhaps I'll see you there.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Breaking News - Mikkeller Invasion!

Right after posting my latest blog, I had an email from Gabe Fletcher at Anchorage Brewing Company, letting me know that his collaboration beer Mikkeller Invasion Farmhouse IPA has been released.  However, only 20 cases are being distributed in Alaska, with 600 cases going to Denmark and the rest to the Lower 48.  So you'd best not waste any time if you want some.  Batch #2 of his Bitter Monk DIPA has also been released.

According to Gabe, his next release will be Batch #2 of his Love Buzz Saison, followed by Batch #3 of his Galaxy White IPA, then an Imperial version of Galaxy.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

No Kings but Perhaps Some Reds?

Well, if you're looking to fish for king salmon on the Kenai, you're pretty much out of luck this year.  Lousy returns have led Fish & Game to close the Kenai, the Kasilof, and even most of Cook Inlet as far as fishing for Chinooks goes.  People are protesting in the streets, fishing guide businesses are going bust right and left, and there's talk of having the governor declare an economic disaster.

Meanwhile, good luck trying to find a parking spot at any of the retail businesses in town, as the dipnetting hordes from Anchorage, Fairbanks, and everywhere else in the state have descended on the Peninsula to take advantage of the "personal use" fishery for sockeyes.  As annoying as the traffic and crowding is, I'm sure this will be a great couple of weeks for our local breweries.

Over at St. Elias Brewing, you can try a pint of their Williwaw IPA on cask, if you can find a place to park.  I really think owner Zach Henry should tell people pulling boat trailers to park at Fred Meyer and walk over.  Come on people, how much parking lot space do you think there is?.  I stopped in last weekend and grabbed a growler of his re-release of Fair Trade Porter to take to a friend's house.  Drinking it over the course of the afternoon, I found it to be just as delicious as its last incarnation, with the cold-steeped coffee flavors blending perfectly with the porter roastiness. 

If you're one of the few folks living in Anchorage or the Valley who isn't down here on the Peninsula trying to dip reds, you might want to check out the Beer Meets Chocolate Tasting Event, hosted by Arkose Brewery & JB Chocolatier and taking place this Saturday, July 21, from 3 to 4 PM.  It costs $20 dollars and is limited to 12 people, so if you want to attend, call the brewery at 746-2337 for reservations.  Arkose also held a tasting last Monday at La Bodega in Anchorage.  I hope we'll be seeing some of their beers down here on the Peninsula soon, else I'll have to make a run to Palmer!

Kassik's Brewery should have their Double Wood Imperial IPA on tap now, to go along with their Imperial Spiced Honey Wheat.  To accommodate the hordes of dipnetters, Kenai River Brewing will be staying open and extra hour, from noon to 8 PM.

Out on Kodiak Island, Ben Millstein and the rest of the Kodiak Island Brewing Company crew are working to complete the move into their new location in beautiful, downtown Kodiak.  Here's a picture of their new sign that I liberated from their Facebook page:

It's my understanding that it will still be a few more weeks before their move can be considered complete, but they are obviously making progress.

Moving on to beer reviews, I opened another bottle of my Russian River Brewing plunder.  It was a corked 375ml bottle on Sanctification Sour Blonde Ale.  This beer is 100% fermented with brettanomyces,plus a couple of strains of souring bacteria, so I was expecting serious funky sourness.  It poured a clear gold with a large white head.  The aroma was a combination of citrus and brett funk, very enticing.  On the palate there was good carbonation, paired with a mildly tart funkiness and falling away to a very dry finish.  Highly enjoyable and an excellent thirst quencher on a hot summer day, even at 6.75% ABV.

As part of my effort to reduce the amount of beer in my new, slightly smaller beer cooler, I've been working my way through a few Midnight Sun bottles that I'd been saving.  I started off with a 2008 Arctic Devil Barley Wine, 13.4% ABV, 20 IBUs.  I reviewed the 2011 vintage of this beer on March 29 of this year, but this bottle was the same beer that took 2nd place at the 2010 Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival, and it was quite clear why when I sampled it.  It poured a caramel-brown color with very little head.  The aroma was a heady mix of malt sweetness, oak, and alcohol.  It was smooth and luscious, like honey on the tongue, certainly malt forward in the English style, rich and complex with a bit of heat on the long, slow finish.  Absolutely exceptional and certainly worth the wait.

Another classic from Midnight Sun is their Fallen Angel Belgian Strong Golden Ale.  Originally released on June 6, 2006 (6-6-6!), it is re-released in June each year.  I reviewed it back on 6/29/2009, but I just sampled a bottle of the 2012 release.  I just re-read my review and have nothing to add, except to say that this year's Fallen Angel continues to meet the super high standards of years past.  If you like Strong Golden Ales, you won't find a better one made in Alaska.

Speaking of Strong Golden Ales, Sierra Nevada Brewing has just released on themselves, their Ovila Belgian-style Golden Ale.  I've been less than impressed with some of their previous Ovila beers, but they truly nailed it with this brew.  It poured a brilliant clear gold with a huge, dense white head.  The aroma was of apples, pears, and spicy/peppery Belgian yeast notes.  There was excellent carbonation, good, clean hoppiness, and no hint of the 8.5% ABV.  An excellent example of the style, right up there with Fallen Angel or even the archetypical Duvel.  The best so far of the Ovila brews, in my opinion.

OK, enough with the golden ales, let's go darker.  The final beer I brought back from my visit to Yukon Brewing in Whitehorse was their Midnight Sun Espresso Stout.  It will never be imported into Alaska under that name, for obvious reasons, which is too bad, because it's quite a good beer.  It poured opaque, with a small tan head that dissipated quickly to a collar.  The nose was of coffee and sweet malt.  Black with two sugars?  The carbonation was decent, with bitterness from the coffee rather than from hops, falling away to a nice finish.  Another successful marriage of coffee and beer.

Finally, I had a bottle of Midnight Sun's XXX Black DIPA.  This beer was originally released for the 30th anniversary of Specialty Imports, and I reviewed that initial release on 1/26/2009, not too favorably.  Checking my notes, I thought the hops for that version "too grassy".  Well, either the recipe has changed or my palate has, since I did not think that about the current version.  It poured very dark with some ruby highlights and a small tan head.  The aroma was primarily hops, with no evidence of roast malt.  On the palate there was a nice, balanced hop flavor; it actually did not seem to taste bitter enough to be 87 IBUs.  Very nice and drinkable, even at 8.5% ABV.

Well, that's it for this week.  Good luck to all you salmon-slayers out there, and remember to be sure to buy some good, local beer to go along with those Kenai sockeyes you are carting back to Anchorage and points north.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Beer Editor? I Rather Like That...

I got a pleasant surprise the other day, when my old friend Karl Klicker sent me an email announcing that he had published a book via Amazon Kindle, and that he had credited me as its "Beer Editor".  Karl and I have been friends for over twenty years, ever since we served together at the Navy-Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center (NMITC) in Dam Neck, VA.  Karl is one of those Renaissance Men you hear about so often but so seldom meet.  He has a PhD in Sociology, is retired from the Marine Corps (twice - a long story), and has done leadership training for just about every major company and organization, from NASA on down.  Oh, and he was working at Enron when they imploded.  So he's uniquely qualified to write a book about leadership and management; he's lived the good, the bad, and the really, really ugly.

Tested by Fire: Recipes for Leaders with Metaphors on the Grill  applies the time-tested principles of leadership developed by the United States Marine Corps to common managerial challenges.  It illustrates the points being made through the rather unique metaphor of recipes for the grill.  My small contribution was to suggest some appropriate beer pairings, especially for the Beer Can Chicken recipe.  So if you're interested in honing your skills as a leader/manager, I heartily recommend you give this book a look.

On the beer news front, the relentless march of new canned craft beers continues.  Broken Tooth Brewing in Anchorage has released their Fairweather IPA in cans.  By my count, we now have four breweries in Alaska releasing beers in cans (Broken Tooth, Midnight Sun, Sleeping Lady, and Kenai River) and at least one more starting soon (Denali).  That's mighty cool.

Greg Koch, founder & CEO of Stone Brewing Company, held a tasting event at Humpy's Alehouse in Anchorage last Friday.  However, earlier in the week, he visited the true beer capital of Alaska, Soldotna.  Check this out:

Yes, that is indeed Greg behind that beard, come to consult with our very own Zach Henry for advice on how to run Stone Brewing.  Or maybe he just wanted to have a good beer and some pizza in Soldotna.  It's hard to say for sure...

Speaking of beer celebrities, Zane Lamprey and his film crew will be at Midnight Sun's Loft Bar on Saturday, July 14th, filming part of an Anchorage episode for his show, Drinking Made Easy.If you're going to be in Anchorage this weekend, why not drop by and say hi? It's your chance to be on TV.

At St. Elias, there currently a very interesting beer on cask.  It's their Sunfire Saison, but Zach has dosed it with some brettanomyces.  I made a special trip on Sunday to try some (and buy my tickets for the 2nd Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Fest on August 11) and it was excellent.  It's still the Sunfire, but the brett is beginning to dry it out and give it the characteristic barnyard funk.  Those of you out there who are brett fans (you know who you are) need to hotfoot it over to St. Elias and try a pint of this beauty before its gone.

Also back on tap at St. Elias is Fair Trade Porter.  I wrote about this Kahladi Brothers coffee-infused porter back on 10/21/2011.  It was an excellent beer and a big hit, so Zach has brought it back for a return engagement.

More beer news from Soldotna.  If you've been wondering, as I have been, what's going on at the former BJ's Bar on the corner of Kobuk and the Sterling Highway, wonder no more.  Words is, it will be a new sports bar, The Pour House, serving beer and wine, plus bar food like wings.  It's scheduled to open sometime next week.  Interestingly, they'll be putting in three self-serve table taps, which have just been approved by the state Alcohol Control Board.  Click here to read an article about this growing trend in the Lower 48. I'm still trying to contact the folks behind it to get more details, such as how many taps, what sort of beers, etc, etc.  As soon as I get any more details, I'll pass them along.

Kenai River Brewing just conducted a vote on Facebook to decide whether to put their Imperial Rye Pale Ale (IRPA), Gummi Bear Tripel, or Russian Imperial Stout on tap.  I voted for the stout, but the gummi lovers carried the day, so the tripel will be on tap until its gone.  Also, Doug Hogue tells me that his beers will be on offer at The Pour House.

Kassik's Brewery has their Imperial Spiced Honey Wheat on tap now, with their Double Wood Imperial IPA coming next week.

Homer Brewing is now selling fresh local eggs at the brewery store.

Moving on to beer reviews:

Collaboration beers all all the rage these days, and I picked up a brand new one from La Bodega: Collage, #1 in the Conflux series, produced by Deschutes Brewery and Hair of the Dog Brewery in Oregon. We get plenty of Deschutes brews up here in Alaska, but none of the highly-regarded Hair of the Dog beers, so I was quite excited to give it a try.  Reading the label, I first noted that I was perhaps drinking it a bit young, since it had a "Best After" date of 4/30/2013!  Still, I pressed on.  The label also stated that the beer was a blend of Deschutes' The Dissident (reviewed 9/28/2008),and The Stoic with Hair of the Dog's Fred and Adam beers.  This potent brew was then aged in a combination of used rye whiskey, cognac, pinot noir, bourbon, and sherry barrels, plus new American oak and new Oregon oak.  The end result of all this poured a deep chestnut color, with a small but persistent cream-colored head. The nose was rich in whiskey and wood, with a hints of dark fruit and a touch of sourness in the background.  On the tongue, there is so much going on between the four different beers and the numerous types of wood-aging that it takes quite a why to sort out.  The different flavor elements seem to take turns coming to the foreground, before drifting back into the background to make room for the others.  I can see why they recommend a year of bottle aging, to give the various flavor profiles time to marry properly and settle down together as one big happy family.  Young as this bottle was, it was still delicious, but it also gave hints that in another six months it might be extraordinary.

Moving from a beer that needs a year in the bottle to one meant to be drunk right away, my next review is of Russian River Brewing's Pliny the Elder Double IPA.  I reviewed its younger sibling back on 3/3/2011.  What can you say about a beer that has been voted the best beer in the US for the last four years by the members of the American Homebrewers Association?  It's made to be drunk fresh, and my bottle was barely a month old when I cracked it.  It poured a crystal-clear gold with a big white head.  The aroma was packed with lovely floral hops, which is just what the beer delivers on the palate as well, i.e. tons of hop flavor without excessive bitterness.  The beer is amazingly drinkable, even at 8% ABV, and it's little wonder why it continues to snag top honors.  This beer is truly the gold standard of Double IPAs.

You may be tired of me reviewing beers from Green Flash Brewing in San Diego, since I've done one for about the last four blogs.  If so, you'll be happy to hear that this is the last one, at least until I can get my hands on some more of their excellent brews.  Their Tripel weighs in on the hefty side, with 9.7% ABV.  It pours a honey-gold with a nice white head.  The aroma has the classic earthy, spicy notes of a Belgian yeast, plus some hop aroma from the Saaz hops used.  The carbonation is good, the mouthfeel is light, and the spicy, fruity notes work well with the hop bitterness and flavor.  Surprisingly, there's no alcohol heat at all, despite of the relatively high strength.  A nice, pleasant tripel.

Finally, there's Unibroue's Grand Reserve 17 Dark Ale.  This beer poured a translucent chestnut with a big, off-white head.  The nose was redolent of figs, plums, raisins, and other dark fruit, plus some spicy notes from the Belgian yeast.  There was a nice, chewy mouthfeel, with plenty of vinous, woody notes, with a touch of alcoholic heat on the finish.  At 10% ABV, this big Belgian is a definite after dinner sipper, and like everything else that Unibroue produces, it's of the highest quality.

Well, that's about it for this week.  Don't forget to visit one of the local breweries (or La Bodega for you Anchorage folks) and buy your tickets for the Kenai Beer Festival.  You don't want to have to wait in line to get in, or even worse, not be able to get in at all.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

A short blog this week, thanks to the 4th of July holidays.  First, I'm going to take the liberty of quoting myself, reprinting something I wrote previously about Independence Day.  I really don't think I could write it any better today:

 From July 1, 2009:

Most of all, Independence Day is a quintessentially American holiday. The other holidays celebrate things that people all over the world also celebrate, even if they do it on a different day. But only American celebrate the 4th of July (unless you count those snarky Brits who observe it as "British Thanksgiving Day").

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Even today, these words are revolutionary. Our country was born in a revolt against the way things were, by men who dreamed of the way they could be, rebels with a cause, willing to pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to it and to each other. As with many holidays, I think too often we are having so much fun with the celebration that we forget just what it is that we are supposed to be celebrating.

Lest we forget, we are celebrating the fact that our forefathers, traitors to the Crown all, had the balls to declare that whenever any form of government became destructive and hostile to the rights of its citizens, those citizens had the right to alter or abolish it, by any means necessary. Then they proceeded to act on what they had declared. They risked it all, and many of them paid the ultimate price. One of my own ancestors, Captain Benjamin Merrill, was hanged, drawn and quartered as a traitor by the royal governor of North Carolina, William Tryon. The freedoms we celebrate were bought and paid for in blood.

If we asked for a show of hands today, how many Americans would concur in this bedrock principle of our nation?

Far too few, I'm afraid...

End Quote.

I reported in my last blog that my home beer cooler has died after eight years of faithful service.  One rather expensive visit from a repairman later, and I knew that it was a failed compressor and would cost nearly $500 in parts and labor to repair.  Enter Scott Shelden from Dan's Appliance in Kenai, who was able to find me a nice, new Frigidaire that would fit in the same space under my bar for only $529. So it was farewell to the dead one and hello to my new best friend.  Here it is in place:

It's a little smaller than my old one, so I'm just going to have to drink a lot of beer over the next couple of days.  Oh, the humanity...

Speaking of drinking beer, St. Elias Brewing Company has another new beer on tap: Black Swan Cascadian Dark Ale. (Zach Henry refuses to accept the oxymoron that is Black India Pale Ale.)  I haven't had Black Swan yet, but I'm guessing it's similar to the Black Hole CDA he made in 2010.  See my review of that beer from 8/31/2010, and I'll try to get stop by to taste Black Swan soon.

Kenai River Brewing has their Hoppin' Salmon Wheat back on tap, and they have a new shipment of hats and hoodies in.

Some beer news from up north.  King Street Brewing Company in Anchorage has expanded their tap room hours.  They are now open from 4 to 8 PM on Tuesdays through Fridays and from 1 to 8 PM on Saturdays.  Plus they will be open from 1 to 8 PM on the 4th of July.  If you're in Anchorage, stop by and load up!

Even further north, the 2012 Golden Days Beer Festival in Fox is fast approaching.  Taking place from 3 to 10 PM on Saturday, July 21st, this annual festival is held in the beer garden of the Silver gulch Brewing and Bottling Company.  Admission is $20, which gets you 10 samples and a tasting glass.  There will be over 150 different beers on offer. Tickets are on sale at the Silver Gulch retail store.  If you'll be in the Fairbanks area that weekend, don't miss it!

I wrote last week about the 2nd Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Fest on August 11 (Got your tickets yet?), but I've learned there will also be a festival in September in Talkeetna.  The brand-new Talkeetna Beer Festival will be held on Saturday, September 22nd, from 2 to 6 PM at the Sheldon Community Arts Hangar in beautiful downtown Talkeetna.  Tickets will be $30 and will entitle you to 15 pours of 3 oz each.  Only 350 tickets will be sold and all the proceeds will go to the Northern Susitna Institute.  Not sure exactly where the tickets are being old, but I'm guessing the Twister Creek Restaurant in Talkeetna. Sounds like another great time!

Now let's have a few of beer reviews:

I had another beer from Green Flash Brewing in San Diego: their Double Stout Black Ale. It poured opaque with a big, tan head. The aroma was full of roasted malt, but with a touch of sweetness, perhaps from the use of crystal malt.  Excellent mouthfeel, very silky from the use of oats in the mash, with lots of complex roast flavors and some extra roundness from the oats, plus a touch of hop bitterness, all wrapped up in an 8.8% ABV package.  An excellent American Stout.

A colleague from my work returned from visiting family in Michigan and brought back a couple of bottles of Golden Cap Saison Ale from New Holland Brewing Company in Holland, Michigan.  This 6.25% farmhouse ale is actually brewed using spelt, an ancestor of modern-day wheat.  It poured a slightly cloudy gold with a nice, white head. The nose had some earthy notes, plus plenty of fresh, floral ones from the hops.  There was good carbonation, and some of the spicy notes my palate always associates with Belgian yeasts.  It was quite refreshing, though not as dry as some saisons.  Very nice; too bad they don't distribute to Alaska.

Finally, my wife returned last week from visiting our daughter and son-in-law in the Bay Area of California.  She was nice enough to bring me back some beers from Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa.  If you know anything about American craft beer at all, odds are you have heard of Vinnie Cilurzo and his brewery. Often credited with brewing the first Double or Imperial IPA, he is famous for his hoppy beers and his sour, barrel-aged creations.  We don't get his beers in Alaska.  In fact, the last time I met Vinnie face-to-face, I asked him when we could expect to see his beers begin to be distributed up here.  His answer was short and to the point: "Never."  So we'll either have to head south to enjoy them or hand import them up here.

The label on the bottle of Blind Pig IPA that I drank made it clear why Vinnie is loathe to send his beers all the way to Alaska.  It said in about ten different ways "Drink this beer as fresh as possible!  Do not cellar."  The first thing lost as beer ages is hop aroma and flavor, and that's not something to risk with a beer such as this one.  My bottle was produced on 5/28/2012, so it was only five weeks old.  It poured a beautiful clear gold with a big white head, looking more like a pilsner than your typical copper-colored IPA.  The nose was full of big, citrusy American hops, extremely bright and fresh.  On the palate there was a burst of wonderful hop flavor, with plenty of bitterness, but not a painful amount.  The flavors were amazingly clean, with nothing to get in the way of appreciating the hop flavors.  This was a phenomenal experience, and highlighted to me how much more a truly great IPA is than just dumping a ton of hops into the boil for 100+ IBUs.  Blind Pig is all about the hops, but it's most definitely not just all about the IBUs.

There will be more Russian River reviews in the next few blogs.

Well, that wraps it up for this week.  Enjoy your 4th of July Holiday, and try to give a thought to what we're really celebrating here.

Until Next Time, Cheers!