Friday, March 22, 2013

Arkose Brewery At Last

As someone who loves beer and brewing, I naturally love visiting breweries.  Each one is as unique as the brews they produce.  Since starting our book project last year, such visits have taken on even greater importance for me and my wife Elaine, as we need to do interviews and take photos for inclusion in the various volumes.

I'd been trying to make it to the Arkose Brewery in Palmer for over a year, ever since they opened in October of 2011, but events always conspired to keep me from making it.  I passed through Palmer twice last spring, but both times were on days that the brewery was not open.  Still, persistence paid off in the end, and Elaine and I finally made it there last Friday, March 15.

Arkose Brewery is the brainchild of the husband and wife team of Stephen and June Gerteisen.  Stephen is the brewer, having trained at the U.C. Davis Master Brewers Program, while June puts her talents as an artist and graphic designer to work handling their marketing and website.  Their brewhouse is a 7-barrel direct-fired system from MetalCraft Fabrication in Portland, Oregon, that they purchased new in March of 2010.  They brew their ales in a single infusion mash and to-date have only used White Labs 0041 Pacific Ale Yeast as their house yeast, though Stephen is considering bringing in a Bavarian yeast in order to brew a  hefeweizen later this year.  They have about 28 barrels of fermentation tankage and five beer taps in the tap room, The Growler Cache.

They currently have four beers on offer: Spindrift IPA, Bitter Earth ESB, Maiden Mild, and Boxcar Porter.  I had sampled the first two beers at their booth at this year's Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival, so I opted to sample the mild and the porter during this visit.

With 4.3% ABV and an auburn color, Maiden Mild was lighter in color and stronger than most (but by no means all) British examples of this rare but delicious beer style.  With only 11 IBUs, the emphasis was clearly on the malt character and the drinkability was extremely high.  I have long championed this wonderful but sadly neglected style as the quintessential session beer; see my review on 6/5/2009 of St. Elias Brewing's Marathon MildHooDoo Brewing in Fairbanks also has one on tap.  Could this mean a Mild Ale revival?  I certainly hope so!

While milds are rare, porters are much more common.  Arkose's Boxcar Porter poured almost opaque, nut with some ruby highlights and a nice tan head.  The aroma was mostly roasted malt and caramel, though my wife thought she could detect some faint apple notes.  On the palate there was good mouthfeel and nice carbonation.  The profile was well-balanced, with the 25 IBUs of bitterness complimenting rather than clashing with the roasted coffee notes from the malt.  At 5.3% ABV, this is an excellent brown porter, very drinkable and moreish.

Finally, I'd be remiss not to mention the great support Arkose Brewery provides to and receives from their local community.  For the former, they have frequent events -- usually involving some combination of art, music, and/or food -- which they support and invite the community to participate in.  For the latter, in the few hours that we were there, it was obvious from the number of folks who came in to have a growler filled, yet chose to linger over a pint to talk, just what a community hub Arkose has become in a few short months.  This symbiosis between local brewery and community is one of the best aspects of craft brewing anywhere, but especially here in Alaska.

So to June and Stephen, I say thanks for the hospitality, keep up the good work, and we'll be sure to stop by the next time we are in Palmer.  And to you, dear reader, I say that if you like good craft beer, you should strongly consider doing the same.

I've written in the past about The Brauler from The Zythos Project. Drink Tanks is developing a similar stainless steel growler, only this one has thermos walls and the ability to attach a tap to its lid, so you can use it as a mini keg!  Sounds pretty skookum to me. You can sign up to receive one via a Kickstarter donation here.

Moving on to other news, Glacier BrewHouse reopened for dinner yesterday, and reopens for lunch tomorrow.  Based on the photos they've been posting, it looks like the refurbishment was a great success, so stop by and check it out.

Over at Midnight Sun, their Embrace the Funk event was delayed a day, but took place last night.  It was highlighted by the release of Sex Machine: James Brown Sour Ale. This beer was aged in oak barrels for over three years with pediococcus, lactobacillus and Wild Alaskan yeast.  The Wild Alaskan Yeast was originally introduced in Open Container, a Wild Alaskan Ale. Now out of the barrels, the beer has been blended in with a fresh batch of brown ale to balance its sourness.  Coming in at 5.1% ABV and a mere 17 IBU's, this beer will only be available by the glass at The Loft, with the exception of  one keg at La Bodega's growler bar at some point in the future.

Midnight Sun will also be having a Belgian Beer Dinner at Kinley's Restaurant on April 17th at 6 PM.  Considering how blown away I was by the beer dinner I attended at Kinley's during AK Beer Week, I'm convinced that this one will also be fabulous.  If you'll be in Anchorage on that date, you should certainly make a reservation.

Speaking of beer dinners, the 2013 Beer Trippin' Dinner will take place in Talkeetna one Friday, April 5th, at 6:30 PM at the Twister Creek Restaurant, the home of Denali Brewing Company.  Here's the menu of food and beer:

Click to enlarge

The events in Talkeetna will continue through Saturday and Sunday.  Here's the complete list:


Keg and Growler fill drop offs @ Denali Brewing Company Tasting Room
Starting at 9am and continuing throughout the day, drop off your kegs and growlers, let us know what you want in them and we’ll have them cleaned, filled and ready to take home on Sunday.

10am | Beer Bakin' @ Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe
Wake up and put beer in your muffins! Learn about baking with beer in the kitchen at Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe. Owner Anita Golton will teach a fun class including demonstration, participation, and of course, eating. We'll prepare bacon, beer and cheddar muffins as well as Chai Brown Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. The class is appropriate for all ages over 5 (children under 8 should be with a parent). Participants are asked to reserve a spot by calling 907-733-NUTS. $5 materials fee. If you don't want to cook and you just want to eat - come by the Squirrel around 11am to taste what your friends baked with beer!

11am | Deadline for entries in the Golden Carboy Homebrew Contest. 
Please turn in all entries at the Denali Brewing Company Tasting Room, 9am-11am.

1pm | Beer + Pizza @ Mountain High Pizza Pie
The brewers at DBC take over the taps at Mountain High with a lineup of homebrew inspired test and pilot batches, some never to be heard from again.

3-5pm | Homebrew Taste + Share @ Twister Creek
Bring your best, as Twister Creek will be devoted to homebrew, homebrewers and the magic that happens when the two collide.  This is a private event, so please bring your GNBC membership card.  

5:15pm | Cask Tapping @ Twister Creek
We'll be cask conditioning one of our favorite ales especially for this moment.

5:30pm | 2013 Golden Carboy winner announced @ Twister Creek
Your chance to see the trophy you want your name on. 

9pm | Ukulele Russ @ The Fairview
The Last Ukulele Frontier is invaded by the stringed testosterone of Alaska's Guitar Alternative, Ukulele Russ. 


Keg and growler fill pick ups @ Denali Brewing Company Tasting Room
Starting at 10am and continuing until 8pm, pick up growlers and filled kegs before heading home.

10am | Farewell Breakfast @ Talkeetna Roadhouse.
Soak up your hangover blues with the Roadhouse's world-famous breakfast and the beer brewed by the homebrew class of Northern Susitna Institute's Folk School. All proceeds of the sale of this beer go directly to NSI.

1pm | Brewery Tour @ DBC Spur Road Brewery, mile 2 Talkeetna Spur Road
 It's a whole weekend of beery fun, so if you can make it to Talkeetna then, by all means do so!

As of this writing, there were only a dozen or so tickets left out of 300 for The Culmination Beer Festival on April 20th.  This looks to be one of the best festivals ever held in Alaska (or anywhere else for that matter), so if you haven't gotten a ticket yet, jet over to before they are all gone!

The guys at Anchorage Brewing Company report that they will be brewing a collaboration beer with Shaun Hill of Hill Farmstead Brewing when he comes up for the festival.  This Arctic Saison will be 6% ABV and will be fermented in their oak foudres using brett (of course).  Here's the label:

Up at Silver Gulch in Fox, they have their Osculum Infame Belgian Golden Quad on tap again.  Check out a review of this excellent brew in my 1/19/2010 blog. 10.5% ABV, 30 IBUs.

St. Elias Brewing has a new brew on tap: Forbidden Fruit, a light Munich Lager laced with pomegranate juice.

OK, let's do some reviews.

First, as promised last week, Deschutes Brewing's 2008 The Dissident.  I reviewed this beer back on 9/22/2008, so how has it changed after over four years in the cellar? When I opened it, it started to foam, so I poured it quickly.  It poured a clear, ruby color with a lasting, off-white head.  The aroma was tart with notes of sour cherries.  On the palate there was good carbonation, medium mouthfeel, restrained sourness and some nice woody notes.  It fell away to a long, interesting finish.  Comparing to my notes, I'd say the main change was a slight increase in sourness and carbonation.  Otherwise, it tasted a lot like the beer I had in 2008.

Next, let's talk Midnight Sun's 2013 Arctic Devil Barley Wine.  It was released back in January, and I've finally gotten around to trying a bottle.  It poured a dark honey color with ruby highlights and a small, cream-colored head that dissipated quickly to a collar.  The aroma was strong in malt, woody notes, and a touch of alcohol heat.  The flavor profile is deep and complex, with notes of brown sugar, molasses, toffee, oak, and some alcohol heat on the long, rich finish.   Once again, this is easily one of the best barley wines on the market.  Delicious now, but fully capable of being cellared for years, if your like English-style barley wines, how can you pass this one up?

Finally, when I was over at Kenai River Brewing a few weeks ago, Doug Hogue gave me a test can of the upcoming canned version of his Peninsula Brewers Reserve, run off on his fancy new automated canning line.  I got around to drinking it this week.  It poured a clear, deep gold with a nice white head.  The aroma was of light hops and some biscuity malt notes.  The was good carbonation and a light mouthfeel.  Overall, a good, balance, light golden ale.  Extremely drinkable, a classic lawnmower beer, and one which is unlikely to spook a newcomer to craft beers.

Well, that's about it for this week.  More news and reviews next week.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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