Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Change in the Weather

Well, we've all been wondering when the snow would show up, and it looks like it's here now, with some freezing rain thrown in for variety.  On the plus side, temperatures are now well above zero. (On the plus side, get it?  That's a pun that wouldn't work in Celsius...).

I just took delivery of a brauler from HooDoo Brewing and it is impressive.  If you haven't heard of it, the brauler is a stainless steel growler produced by The Zythos Project, a bunch of craft-beer-crazy engineers.  These growlers have amazing caps, very big with lots of threads, much superior to the ones on standard growlers or even those on Hydroflasks, which I've never been able to get to seat properly.  Plus, they have an even more high-tech cap that has a small port in it to allow you to pressurize the brauler with carbon dioxide after you have re-closed it.  So you could drink half a growler, recap it, then pressurize it, so that the remaining beer will not go flat.  Amazing!

These puppies aren't cheap, running you about $50 retail, but I think they're worth it.  You can't buy them direct; you have to get them from a participating brewery.  As of now, the only breweries in Alaska selling them are HooDoo in Fairbanks and Kodiak Island Brewing Company, but I know some others are considering it.  They've been so popular that HooDoo is currently out, but they are selling gift certificates that entitles the bearer to one from their next shipment when ti arrives in January.  Makes a great Christmas gift to the beer geek in your life, or just for yourself...

Speaking of gifts for Christmas, my new book, Beer on the Last Frontier, is now available in paperback on, as well as at Kenai River Brewing Company, St. Elias Brewing Company, and the Kenai Peninsula College Bookstore in Soldotna.  It will be on sale in Anchorage at La Bodega and Midnight Sun's Loft Bar starting next Tuesday (12/18).  If you're looking for an autographed copy, Elaine and I will be doing some signings, starting with one at the Kenai River Tap Room this Saturday from 5 to 7 PM.  Stop by and get your copy signed or just tell us what you think of our little book.

Continuing to speak of Christmas gifts, Midnight Sun Brewing Company has kicked off a special for the holidays: their 12 Beers in a Box, a special combo case of brews for $69.  It has the following:

CoHoHo Imperial IPA
Kodiak Brown Ale
Operation Hay
Monk’s Mistress Special Dark Ale
Mammoth Extra Stout
Arctic Rhino Coffee Porter
Snowshoe White Wit Beer
Trickster Pumpkin Ale
Sockeye Red IPA
Panty Peeler Tripel
Brewtality Belgian Black Beer with Espresso
XXX Double Black IPA

plus a can koozie and a bag of Doug's Nuts.  Sounds like a great gift, especially for someone Outside, who can't get access to the great MSBC brews on a regular basis.

Gabe Fletcher at Anchorage Brewing Company filled his new 12 barrel coolship today.  What spontaneously fermented wonders will emerge from it? Only time will tell...

Kassiks' Brewery now has their Caribou Kilt Scotch back on tap, along with the Big Nutz Imperial Brown and the Chocolate Cherry Stout.  Look for the Smoked Russian Imperial Stout on tap from 21-24 December, and say hi to their new brewer Luke.

Seward Brewing Company is shutting down for the winter after this week.  On Friday night, they will be having Ugly Sweater Discount.  The uglier the sweater you wear, the bigger the discount (15 to 50%).  Then on Saturday they will filling growlers for only $7.  Get your SBC fix now or you'll have to wait until spring.

For those of you ambitious beer geeks out there, it's time again to submit your resumes for Wynkoop Brewing Company's Beerdrinker of the Year Contest!  You can find all the details on their website, here. If you are selected as one of the three finalists, they will fly you to Denver in February to compete in person.  If you win, you'll get a $250 bar tab at your local drinking establishment plus free beer for life at the Wynkoop.  As the 2010 Beerdrinker of the Year, I speak from experience when I say it's a great time.  If you don't apply, you can't win, so get those resumes in before the end of the year.

Let's go to beer reviews.  I have five new brews to write about this time.

First, there's the new Imperial Red Ale from Alaskan Brewing.  This is the latest beer in their Pilot Series and it's on sale locally at Fred Meyer and other locations.  It poured a deep, clear red with a nice dense cream-colored head.  The aroma had plenty of citrusy hop notes from the blend of Centennial, Citra, Meridian, and Summit hops used, with perhaps a touch of caramel behind it.  On the palate there was plenty of good bitterness up front (70 IBUs) and a very clean flavor profile, falling away to a nice finish.  Between the IBUs and the 8.5% ABV, this beer is no session ale, but it's quite drinkable for such a burly brew.  Another very fine entrant into the Pilot Series.

Next, I had a liter growler of King Street Brewing's Black IPA that I picked up at the La Bodega growler bar.  When I try a black IPA, I always have to wonder if what I'm about to taste is really a hoppy porter, i.e. is it going to have a ton of roasted flavors to go along with the hops.  Not this time around.  This is a dark brew with ruby highlights and a nice light tan head. Nose is hops alone, no roasty notes, and it's the same on the palate: excellent hop bitterness but not even the slightest hint of roasted malt.  This is a true black IPA; close your eyes and you'd have no idea that you're not drinking a good copper-colored American IPA.  Very nice job from the guys at King Street.

The third beer is a weird one: Neapolitan Milk Stout from Saugatuck Brewing in Michigan. This isn't a beer you can find up here in Alaska, but a colleague brought me back a bottle from the Lower 48.  As the name implies, it's a milk stout made with cocoa, vanilla, and strawberry flavors, just like the ice cream.  It poured opaque with a huge, dense head.  Sure enough, I could pick up all three flavor elements in the nose and on the palate.  If you can imagine Neapolitan ice cream, but not that sweet, plus some roasty flavors, you know what it tasted like.  An amazing tour de force, but I can't help wondering: why bother?  Is there really a big market for ice cream flavored beers out there? Oh well, if it floats you boat, who am I to criticize? 6.3% ABV.

Next, there's Kenai River Brewing Company's Pilgrim Single Hop IPA.  The latest in this on-going series, this beer poured a clear gold with a nice off-white head.  The aroma was of hops, but with some interesting citrus notes: lemon & grapefruit.  There was good carbonation and lots of up front bitterness, plus some more of the citrus notes.  A very unusual hop and another excellent addition to the Single Hop IPA family.  Also, when I was picking up my growler of this beer, I had a sampler of their new Kenai Classic Pale Ale.  I haven't done a formal review yet, but I can tell you that I really enjoyed that sampler.

Finally, I picked up a few bottles of Sierra Nevada's Narwhal Imperial Stout.  Given the quality of beers Sierra Nevada routinely produces, I was expecting a lot from this beer, and it did not disappoint.  It poured completely opaque with a small tan head.  The aroma was all roasted malt, with elements of coffee and cocoa.  There was excellent mouthfeel and the flavor profile was extremely rich and complex, with various elements making themselves known -- coffee, figs, cocoa -- plus a touch of alcohol heat on the back end.  This is definitely one to sip and savor at 10.2% ABV.

Well, that's about it for this week.  Next week's blog will be the last one for this year, as I'm taking the holidays off to enjoy them with my lovely wife, Elaine.  Good luck with your Xmas shopping. Remember: Craft beer is always a great gift...

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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