Friday, August 17, 2012

The 2nd Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival

 Well, if you weren't in Soldotna last Saturday (yeah, I'm looking at you, Fermento), you missed one heck of a good time.  The 2nd Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival took place from 4 to 10 PM, under bright sunny skies.  The beer was cold and tasty, the food was hot and delicious, and the live music was loud and good.  Just like last year's fest, Matt Pyhalla and his crew from the Soldotna Rotary put on one excellent event.

There were eleven breweries in attendance ( Alaskan Brewing, Broken Tooth Brewing, Denali Brewing, Glacier Brewhouse, Kassik's Brewery, Kenai River Brewing, King Street Brewing, Midnight Sun Brewing, Silver Gulch Brewing, Sleeping Lady Brewing, and St. Elias Brewing), plus Odom and Specialty Imports pouring many of the out-of-state and imported beers and ciders that they distribute.  Last but not least, the Kenai Peninsula Brewing and Tasting Society (including yours truly) was pouring samples of nine different homebrews.  There were over 1350 folks in attendance, but thanks to the new, bigger venue at the Soldotna Sports Center, things did not feel at all crowded.  There were vendors offering great food (my wife and I had pulled pork sandwiches from Davis Pit BBQ, washed down with King Street Stout -- delicious) and continuous great live music.  Bands that performed were Bull Don and the Moose Nuggets, Sean and friend, Yellow Cabin, Troubadour North, Sarah Jane Superman, and headliner Big Fat Buddha.  The only significant break in the music was to allow Matt Pyhala to announce the winner of the People's Choice Award: Kenai River Brewing's Chocolate Coconut Almond Porter.  Here are some photos of the Festival:

The KPB&TS Booth

All-in-all, this was a great event.  Last year's fest raised over $14,000 for charity, so I'm sure this year's will raise even more.  Thanks to Matt, the Soldotna Rotary, the breweries and distributors, and everyone else whose generosity and hard work made such a great event possible.

By the way, one of the attendees at the festival was John McDonald, owner of the Boulevard Brewing Company of Kansas City, Missouri.  If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you have probably heard me wax lyrical about certain of their brews, such as The Sixth Glass or Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, so it was a real pleasure for me to meet and talk to John.  He just happened to be vacationing in Cooper Landing on his first ever trip to Alaska, so his distributor, Odom, arranged for him to attend the festival.  During our chat, he made it clear that he was quite impressed with the festival's organization and attendance, as well as the quality of the beers on offer from our craft breweries.  I made it clear to him how much we Alaskans appreciated getting his excellent craft beers sent up here for us to drink.  Hopefully his first visit to Alaska will not be his last.  See you next summer, John!

In the lead up to the Festival, Alaskan Brewing Company and The Pour House Sports Bar combined in an event Friday evening, that culminated in one lucky person winning a sweet Alaskan Brewing bike.

I'm told that the Augtoberfest at 49th State Brewing Company in Healy (held the same Saturday as the KP Beer Fest) was also a big success.  James "Dr. Fermento" Roberts attended and the word he used to describe the fest was, and I quote: "LEGENDARY". I understand he will be writing it up extensively in his next blog, so you can check out the details there.

 As I reported in previous blogs, there are more brewfests in the offing.  First, on Saturday, September 15th, will be the Capital Brewfest in Juneau, the very first one in that city.  The following Saturday, 22 September, is another double-dip: Bodega-Fest in Anchorage (its second year) and the Talkeetna Beer Festival (brand new) in, oddly enough, Talkeetna.  Then on October 19 and 20th, it will be the return of the Mighty Matanuska Brew Fest, at the Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer.  It's not too soon to start thinking about which of these you'll be able to attend.

As a fan and promoter of good craft beer, I'm very happy to see these festivals springing up around the state.  To me, it's a sign that the craft beer scene in Alaska is continuing to grow and mature, and is beginning to permeate the the entire local culture.  It all bodes well for the future of beer in The Great Land.

There's been plenty of other beer news since my last blog.  Midnight Sun has released their long-awaited and much anticipated latest batch of Berserker Imperial Stout.  It's got a fancy new label and everything.  Folks around the country have been clamoring for this one, so expect it to sell out fact.  I haven't gotten any to taste yet, but I reviewed a prior version on 9/9/2009.  As soon as I can get my hands on some of the 2012, I'll let you know what I think of it.

Midnight Sun has another new beer coming out in September, though only on draft.  Brandie's Panties is a batch of their Panty Peeler Tripel that's been aged in brandy casks; sounds pretty special.

The Seward Brewing Company appears to be getting closer and closer to opening.  The prior report was that they would open on 8/8/12, but that obviously did not happen.  The latest word is "prior to the end of August", so a Labor Day Weekend excursion to Seward may be in order.  Here are some interior shots that I lifted from their Facebook page.  Looks pretty nice:

The Bar

Seating in the bar area

Dining area looking toward the front door.
King Street Brewing Company in Anchorage will be having their first beer pairing dinner at Sullivan's Steakhouse on Wednesday, August 29, at 6 PM.  $59 gets you a five course meal with six King Street brews.  Should be a fabulous time; just take a gander at the menu:
Click to enlarge
Down here on the Peninsula, Kenai River has released their new Chocolate Coconut Almond Porter, which took the People's Choice Award at the Festival. Stop by their tap room to try it and see their trophy.  They tapped a keg of their Gummi Bear Tripel at the Festival.  Finally, they put a keg of Monks in the Hood Dubbel on two days ago, but I'm not sure if it's still around.

Kassik's Brewery is celebrating the distribution of the bottled versions of their beers to select shops in Seattle.  To the best of my knowledge, this make them the first brewery on the Peninsula to send their beers out of state, so congratulations to the Kassiks!

I still have made it into St. Elias Brewing Company to taste their new Pixie Dust Wit, but I have every intention of doing so before my next blog.

Let's have some beer reviews:

I opened a bottle that I've had in my beer cellar since May of last year: a Batch #1 of Anchorage Brewing Company's Whiteout Wit. I was curious to see what the brettanomyces inside it had been up to in the last 15 months.  I reviewed the fresh version on 6/22/2011.  At that time, I noted that the brett notes were "extremely well-balanced and totally integrated into the overall flavor profile, really becoming apparent only on the long finish".  After over a year in the cellar, the brett has become much more apparent; in fact it is really the dominant element in the flavor and aroma profiles.  The nose is much more brett funk and much less spice, while the beer itself has become quite dry and full of the tart funkiness that this yeast produces.  Very different from its younger self, but just as tasty and enjoyable.

While at the Beer Festival, I was fortunate enough to score a six-pack each of Broken Tooth Brewing's Fairweather IPA and Chugach Session Cream Ale.  These are not that easy to obtain, since they are only on sale at the Moose's Tooth and the Bear's Tooth in Anchorage, thanks to the silliness of Alaska's Liquor Licensing laws.

The Chugach Session Cream Ale, 4.8% ABV, poured a clear gold with a nice, white head.  The aroma was slightly nondescript, with malt notes mingling with a bit of hops.  On the palate there were good, clean malt flavors that you typically get from this style of beer, nice carbonation, and just enough hop bitterness for balance.  It was light, refreshing, and had good flavors, which is what you want in a good session beer.

The Fairweather IPA was a considerably more substantial beer at 6.2% and 64 IBUs. It poured a light copper color with a nice off-white head.  The nose was loaded with hop aroma, distinctly Pacific Northwest in its piney, resiny character.  In the mouth the bitterness was good, flavors were clean, and the beer was tasty.  My only criticism is that the finish was a bit abrupt, but otherwise an excellent IPA.  I wish we could get these canned beers here on the Peninsula!

Well, that's about if for this week.  Let's all get out and enjoy what remains of our Alaskan summer with some good craft beer.  The fireweed is blooming, so fall is just around the corner...

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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