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!

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