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!

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