Friday, April 26, 2013

Missed It...

I had planned this blog to be a reckoning of what a fabulous experience last weekend's Culmination Beer Festival was.  Unfortunately, just before my wife and I were about to depart on the road to Anchorage on Saturday, we had a family emergency come up and had to cancel our plans to attend.

However, I have heard from many of the lucky folks who did get to attend how wonderful it was. (Way to rub it in, guys!)  The beers were superb and the attendees were there for all the right reasons. To quote my good friend Jim Roberts: "It was a whole different mood with serious beer drinkers in a dignified setting."  You can read much more about it in Jim's column in this week's Anchorage Press.  Given how successful it was, I'm sure we will be seeing another Culmination; I only hope I'll actually be able to make it to that one!

If like me you missed the Festival, all hope is not lost.  Some of the beers that were left over from the event will be going on sale today at Brown Jug, La Bodega, and Humpy's. Here's the list:

CAPTAIN LAWRENCE Smoke Porter $12.95
CAPTAIN LAWRENCE St Vincent Dubbel $19.95
CASCADE BREWING Strawberry $34.95
CASCADE BREWING Vlad The Imp Aler $49.95
CROOKED STAVE Origins Artisanal $14.95
CROOKED STAVE Surette Artisanal $9.95
FOUNDERS BREWING Breakfast Stout $4.95
JESTER KING Barrel Aged Sour Red $19.95
JESTER KING Organic Barrel Aged Wild Ale $19.95
JESTER KING Sour Barrel Aged Stout $19.95
GIGANTIC 22 OZ Geezers Need Excitement Choc IPA $6.95
LAWSONS FINEST Double Sunshine IPA  $16.00
LAWSONS FINEST Fayston Maple Imperial Stout  $24.95
LAWSONS FINEST Toast Black Ipa  $13.00
LOGSDON FARMHOUSE Seizoen Bretta  $15.95
SANTE ADAIRIUS Maiden Fields  $17.00
SANTE ADAIRIUS Saison Bernice  $17.00
SANTE ADAIRIUS West Ashley  $22.95
BLAUGIES-HILL FARM La Vermontoise  $14.95
JOLLY PUMPKIN Collababeire  $18.95
JOLLY PUMPKIN La Roja Grande Reserve  $17.95
JOLLY PUMPKIN Sobrehumano  $21.00
MIKKELLER GRASSROO Wheat Is The New Hops  $7.95
PRAIRIE Ale  $16.95
PRAIRIE Hop  $16.95
THE BRUERY Melange 3  $32.95
THE BRUERY Smoking Wood Rye  $22.95
THE BRUERY Sour In The Rye  $22.95
THE BRUERY Trade Winds Tripel  $11.95
THE BRUERY Mischief  $11.95
THE BRUERY Saison Rue $14.95
THE COMMONS Flemish Kiss  $16.95
THE COMMONS Fleur De Ferme  $16.95
THE COMMONS Urban Farmhouse Ale  $16.95

Quantities are most certainly limited, so if you want any of these fine brews, you'd better get after them post-haste.

Speaking of limited availability, Rob Weller of Specialty Imports reports that they have a very limited number of Distant Matter IPA kegs (#31685) in stock.  This beer is a collaboration between Anchorage Brewing Company and Hill Farmstead Brewery, which is a small craft brewery in Vermont producing IPAs and Belgian-style beers.  It's 6% ABV and uses Citra and Amarillo hops.  If you're the sort that buys beer by the keg rather than the bottle, I'd jump on this one.

On the national stage, the 8th Annual American Craft Beer Week is fast approaching. This year it will take place from May 13th thru May 19th.  This year's theme is "Toasts the Red, White, and Brew".  The Brewers Association press release states that there will be celebrations in all 50 states, but I have not yet heard of anything happening in Alaska.  So let's get something planned!

I wrote about some of the upcoming events for Midnight Sun Brewing Company two weeks ago, including their Beer Dinner at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood on May 1.  Here's the complete list of all their 18th Anniversary Week events:

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Also in Anchorage next week, Glacier BrewHouse will be hosting a Beer Dinner on Thursday, May 2.  Here's the flier for that one:

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As long as we're talking beer dinners, let's head down to the Peninsula, where Homer Brewing Company and The Homestead Restaurant are having their annual Dinner at the Brewery next Saturday, May 4th, at 6:30 pm. Chef Jeff Hulscher and sous Chef Alber Balderas come together to pair Homer Brewing beers with specially prepared high-end food that starts with crab wontons consisting of crispy wontons filled with crab, cilantro, cheese and red peppers. They're dressed with a spicy sauce and paired with Homer Brewing’s Red Knot Scottish Ale. This is followed by a cheese & ESB soup including Tillamook aged white cheddar and broccolini, paired with Homer’s King and Wings Extra Special Bitter. A shrimp spinach salad comes next consisting of fresh spinach with an orange abbey vinaigrette, topped with grilled rosemary shrimp and paired with Homer’s Abbey Ale. The main course consists of short ribs, braised with a porter reduction and served with roasted sweet potatoes and grilled marinated red cabbage and paired with Homer’s China Poot Porter. Pan-seared local sablefish is an alternative to the meat dish, also dressed with a porter reduction and accompanied by roasted sweet potatoes and grilled, marinated red cabbage. This is paired with China Poot Porter as well. For dessert, expect a “Cherry Garcia stout float” which consists of Cherry Garcia ice cream and a Florentine cookie paired with Homer’s Odyssey Oatmeal Stout. Call The Homestead at 235-8723 for reservations.

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, 49th State Brewing in Healy will be reopening tomorrow, April 27th.  While they have been closed all winter, they have not exactly been idle.  Before shutting down, they filled their fermenters with brews that would benefit from a long, cold aging through the winter months in Healy. Their opening day beer line-up will be as follows:

Baked Blonde
Solstice IPA
Golden Dahl Tripel
Oatmeal Stout
Vienna Lager
Vagabond Saison
Chocolate Porter
Smoked Marzen
White Peach Wheat
Double IPA

I'm really looking forward to heading up that way this summer to try out some of their new brews.

Up in Talkeetna, besides their canning efforts, Denali Brewing Company has also been bottling some special beers.  Somehow this escaped my notice until recently, when Boe Barnett was nice enough to send me some images of the labels for these beers.

Front label

Back label
Front label

Back label

Boe reports that the Bomb finished 4th out of 75 entrants in the Wild-Acidic category at The Festival of Wood and Barrel-aged Beers in Chicago last November.  I'm not sure how wildly distributed either beer is, but I'd certainly snag a bottle if you happen to be passing through Talkeetna and they are still available!

Speaking of competitions, a couple of our local breweries have been quite successful.  Alaskan Brewing Company's much-beloved Smoked Porter took a Bronze Medal in the "Specialty Other Special Feature Beer" category at the 2013 International Brewing Awards in London.  This competition has been held since 1886 and is often call "the Oscars of the brewing industry."  All the judges are currently practicing brewers, and this year saw over 800 entries in 10 categories with 35 classes.  Congratulations to the Brew Crew in Juneau.

Moving down to the Peninsula, the latest issue of All About Beer Magazine  reports that the Chicago-based Beverage Testing Institute recognized two beers from Kassik’s Brewery as being in the top three beers in the world in their respective categories for 2012. Their Big Nutz Imperial Brown Ale (8.5% ABV) took top honors in the Strong Beer category, while their Buffalo Head Barley Wine (10.5% ABV) was tied for third place in the Barley Wine category. Congratulations to Frank, Debbie, Jason, Luke & the rest of the crew at Kassik’s.

At Kenai River Brewing Company, they have just released the fourth beer in their Imperial Rye Pale Ale series: Falconer's Flight Imperial Rye Pale Ale, aka FFIRPA, at 9% ABV and 103 IBUs. I haven't had a chance to try it yet, but if it's anything like the first three, it will be excellent.  And if you haven't gotten any of their superb Wee Heavy Skilak Scottish yet, what are you waiting for?

Seward Brewing Company reopened for business last week; they are now open from 4 to 10 pm, seven days a week.

St. Elias Brewing Company has put a new brew on, a Munich or Vienna Lager.  I have not had a chance to stop by and try it yet.  When I was last in, their excellent Czech Point Pilsner was still on tap, but it may be off by know.  Check out my column in next week's Redoubt Reporter for a discussion about fruit lambics in general and St. Elias' new Kriek in particular.

I haven't had the chance to try too much in the new beer department lately, more's the pity.  but I did drink bottles of Alaskan's Smoked Porter from 2006 and 2007 which I have had in my cellar.  This is a beer that really ages well, possibly because the smoke components act as anti-oxidation agents.  I like a fresh Smoked Porter, but then I love Islay Scotch Whisky -- the smokier the better.  A few years in the cellar helps tame the smokiness a bit, for those of you who aren't as fond of it as I am.

Both beers looked the same in the glass: opaque with small tan heads that dissipated to collars, though the '07 seemed to dissipate a bit more slowly.  The aroma was also similar with the smoke being balanced by chocolate and roasted elements from the malt.  On the palate, the initial attack of smokiness from the '07 was noticeably fiercer than that of the '06, then the malt flavors come in to balance, with the smoke returning on the finish for the '07.  Overall, I thought the extra year in the cellar produced a much better balanced and integrated beer, with a longer and smoother finish.  I'll be interested to taste another bottle of the '07 next year, to see how it's doing.

Well, that's about it for this week.  I hope to be back next week with more news and beer reviews.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Still Waiting on Spring

Well, Break Up went into a bit of reverse this week, with about a foot of snow up in Anchorage and nighttime temperatures in the single digits.  At least the snow mostly passed us by down here on the Kenai Peninsula, but the frigid temperatures have put our spring thaw on hold.  The forecast is for sunny days and slow warming for the next week, so perhaps winter will finally release its icy grip on us.

The breweries around the state haven't let the delay in spring's arrival slow them down; new beers continue to be released and new beer events are taking place.

Glen Brady of Silver Gulch Brewing has been named to the board of directors of the National Restaurant Association.  That makes him one of 94 directors responsible for running the organization the represents some 500,000 restaurant businesses.  See a full story in the Farbanks Newsminer here.

HooDoo Brewing has been pouring their brews at Arctic Man 2013 this week.  Given that the brewery is named after the range where the event takes place, this would seem to be a match made in heaven.  They are also now on tap at The Pub on the UAF campus.

Two brewpubs are getting ready to reopen after their long winter's nap: 49th State Brewing in Healy reopens on Saturday, 27 April, while Seward Brewing Company reopens next Thursday, April 18th.  SBC will also be hosting a Ducks Unlimited Bar Night. It will be 7 pm - 10 pm on Friday, April 19th. Ducks Unlimited has scheduled a silent auction, live music, games of skill and luck, and of course, gun auctions. For more information, please call Heather at 224-2255. This event is open to the public, with free admission. You do not have to be a DU member, and there is no pressure to join.  Seward Brewing Company will be open from 4 to 10 PM, seven days a week.

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Coming off their big success of the Talkeetna Beer Trippin' event last weekend, Denali Brewing has more good news.  Their canned beers are now available in the Seattle market.  Additionally, they will be having a beer dinner at Sullivan's Steakhouse in Anchorage this Wednesday, April 17th.  Here's the menu:

Sounds like it should be a great time. $75 per person, call 258-2882 for reservations.

Denali Brewing has a second dinner coming up soon.  This one is on April 24th, at Jack Sprat's in Girdwood, at 6:30 pm.  This is the menu and beer pairings, from the restaurant's website: The welcome pairing will consist of  deep fried pickles, white cheddar, and Pimenton popcorn combination paired with Denali’s ESB. The second course will be an artichoke salad with hearts of palm, Wassail poached pink lady apples, radish and watercress with white truffle oil, all paired with Denali’s Wassail Winter Ale. The third course will pair Maple Leaf Farm roast duck, pineapple fried rice, cashews, scallions, and a hoisin glaze with Denali’s Hibernale. This will be followed with a “cheese and crackers” plate consisting of delice de Bourgogne, blackberries, celery, Alaskan wildflower honey and a sesame and celery seed lavash. This will be paired with Denali’s Bomb, a beer I have not heard of before and know nothing about. The 5th and final course will be sopaipillas with bananas, caramel ice cream, Mexican chocolate and dulce de leche paired up with Old Mad Dog 2012.  If you are interested, call 783-5225 for reservations, as there is only seating for 30. $65 per person.

 Midnight Sun Brewing Company has a Beer Maker's Dinner coming up, also on Wednesday, April 17th. This dinner is at 6PM at Kinley's Restaurant.   Here's the menu for that one:

Midnight Sun Belgian Beer Maker's Dinner

6pm - Wednesday, April 17, 2013

$70 per person
Reservations Required. Please call: 907-644-8953

Greet Beer

Snowshoe White:  Belgian Style Wit Beer, ABV: 4.8% IBU: 12

First Course

Fallen Angel:  Belgian Golden Ale. ABV 8.5% IBU: 35
Blue Crab and Wild Pacific Shrimp Cake with Chilies, Corn, Black Beans, and Chipotle Aioli

Second Course

Panty Peeler: Belgian Tripel Brewed with Coriander and Orange Peel, ABV: 8.5% IBU: 15
Pan Seared Kodiak Scallop with a Grapefruit and Dijon Mustard Sauce, Gingered Jasmine Rice Cake, Sautéed Napa Cabbage, Peppers, and Carrots Topped with Black Tobiko

Third Course

Barn Burner: Belgian Red, ABV: 8.5% IBU: 27
Grilled Pork Chop on a Creole Crawfish Demi with Organic Stone Ground Grits and Sautéed Swiss Chard

Fourth Course

Modern Romance: Belgian Chocolate Ale brewed with Mayan Spices: ABV 10.2% IBU: 37
Chili and Cocoa Rubbed Beef Brisket with Roasting Jus, Mashed Potatoes, and a Strawberry Salsa

Fifth Course

Monk’s Mistress: Belgian Style Special Dark Ale, ABV: 11.5% IBU: 13
Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate and Orange Crème Anglaise Sauce

I was fortunate enough to attend a beer dinner at Kinley's in January, and I can assure you the food there is absolutely superb.

Besides this beer dinner, Midnight Sun is gearing up for their 18th Anniversary Celebration, on the week of 29 April to 5 May.  Look for their anniversary beer, Bionic Blonde, a Belgian Blonde Quadruple (??), to be released on April 29th.  There will also be a Beer Dinner at 6:30 PM on May 1st at the Aurora Bar & Grill at the Alyeska Resort.  $65 per person and you can make reservations here. This will be the menu for that dinner:

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There will be plenty of other events throughout the week.  Check the Midnight Sun website or Facebook page to stay abreast of the happenings.

Another big event coming up in Anchorage is The Culmination  Beer Festival, next Saturday, April 20th, but if you don't already have your tickets, that ship has sailed, I'm afraid.  However, on the same day, Glacier BrewHouse will be doing another of their A Pint for a Pint events, from 10 AM to 5:30 PM.  Here's the flier for that:

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It's a worthy cause, without a doubt.

Over at Anchorage Brewing Company, besides gearing up for The Culmination,  they've been bottling like crazy, including 1300 cases their batch of Mikkeller AK Alive.  The Alaska-Denmark connection will continue to grow, as Gabe Fletcher is traveling to Europe for the first two weeks of May.  He will be pouring six Anchorage Brewing Company beers at a festival in Copenhagen, then traveling to the Netherlands to do a collaboration brew with Menno Oliver from Brouwerij De Molen.  How cool is that!

At King Street Brewing Company they will be releasing their very first bottled beer on Tuesday, April 15th: Irish Gael Export Stout.  Here's the label:

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This brew is 9% ABV and aged in bourbon and chardonnay barrels, then re-blended.  Sounds magically delicious.  Later this year, look for a barrel-aged barley wine from King Street : Nobility English Barley Wine.No release date yet, but here's the label for that beer:

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On Wednesday, King Street will be releasing their third seasonal of the year, Nirvana Wit, a beer based on the winner of last August's Anchortown Invitational Homebrew Competition, a Belgian Witbier by John Boyd.  Shane Kingry describes Nirvana Wit as follows: "complex herbal lemongrass aroma introduces you to this beer and is followed by a light sweet citrusy wheat taste that ends crisp, dry, and with a clean and refreshing tartness."  Sounds like a great spring beer.  Now if we could just get some spring weather to drink it in...

 Here on the Peninsula, Kassik's Brewery has a new beer on tap: Pretty Fly for a White IPA.  This is a White Double IPA, weighing in at 8.3% ABV.

Kenai River Brewing has their latest batch of Wee Heavy Skilak Scottish Ale.  This is easily my favorite of all the great beers they brew, so if you like this style, be sure to drop by for some.  Also, as of yesterday, they had some of their excellent 2012 Winter Warlock Old Ale on tap, limited supply and for sale by the goblet only.  If you missed it last winter, this is your very last chance.

At St. Elias Brewing Company, I managed to do a proper review of their Czech Point Pilsner last Saturday, when my beer class was toured around the brewery by Zach Henry.  See below.  Last Tuesday, they put another new brew on, the first in a new series of beers Zach is calling The Mark of the Yeast series.  This one is a Kriek.  Here's what he has to say about it:

"Authentic Lambic beer is produced by spontaneous fermentation, where it is exposed to the wild yeasts and bacteria that are said to be native to the Senne valley, in which Brussels lies. It is this unusual process which gives the beer its distinctive flavour: dry, vinous, and cidery, usually with a sour aftertaste. We fermented this Ale using a distinctive Lambic yeast strain Captured from this region. It spent 9 months in Hungarian oak where tart cherries ("Kriek" is Flemish for Cherry)were added, feeding this unique yeast strain which produced a dry tart cherry pie character.
8% ABV."

Sounds delicious and I'm looking forward to trying it.

Finally, down at Kodiak Island Brewing Company, they have a couple of more brews on tap.  First, their Arctic Night Baltic Porter is back.  This batch is aged on oak and weighs in at 9.5% ABV.  They are also pouring a batch of their Snowshoe Pale Ale, which is their single hop beer.  This version is hopped with Simcoes, so expect grapefruit and pine aromas and flavors.  Easy drinking at 4.5% ABV.

Moving on to beer reviews, we'll start with the Czech Point Pilsner from St. Elias Brewing.  According to Zach Henry, this is the first pilsner he's ever brewed.  So they only thing I can say about his first attempt is: Nailed It!  The beer pours a lovely clear gold with a nice, dense white head.  The aroma is spot on, full of Saaz noble hop notes.  The carbonation is great, the mouthfeel light, and the flavors crisp and clean.  This beer is everything good pilsner should be (and so seldom is in the world today).  I predict this beer is going to fly out of the tanks, so get some before it's gone.

Next, I had a bottle of Thornbridge Brewery's Kipling South Pacific Style Pale Ale that I picked up in Anchorage.  I was greatly impressed with their Jaipur IPA which I reviewed on 12/5/2012, so I was eager to try this beer.  Apparently it was hopped using Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand, hence the "South Pacific style" on the label.  It poured a lovely clear gold with a nice white head that left good lacing on the glass.  The aroma was highly unusual, with tropical fruit notes mingling with the more typical hop elements.  Those flavors were also apparent on the palate, giving the beer what was to me a very odd flavor profile.  The carbonation was good, the flavors were clean, and the bitterness was good, but I personally couldn't get past the strange tropical fruit elements.  To me, it was like drinking a pale ale and chewing a piece of Juicy Fruit gum at the same time.  So I think I'll give the South Pacific ales a pass from now on, and stick to their excellent Jaipur IPA.

Finally, I had two more beers from Gigantic Brewing Company, both of which I also picked up in Anchorage.  The first was their Time Traveler Porter (Beer #7).  It poured very dark, but with some ruby highlights and a small tan head.  The aroma was of roast malt and caramel.  There was medium mouthfeel and good carbonation, with plenty of roasty malt flavors and some spicy hop bitterness, falling away gradually to a long, pleasant finish.  All-in-all, a nice, quality robust porter that would make a great pairing with a nicely grilled steak.  5.8% ABV.

 The second beer from Gigantic was The End of Reason (Beer #6), 8.3% ABV.  It poured a deep ruby color with a nice-cream-colored head.  The aroma was definitely of sweet malt, and that was what carried through on to the palate.  The brewery does not define a style for this beer, but I would call it either an Old Ale or an English-style Barley Wine.  Hops were just there for balance, and were not detectable.  A good beer, but not Gigantic's best.  The label indicates it to be suitable for cellaring, so it might be interesting to see how the flavor profile develops over time.

Well, that's it for this week.  Cross your fingers (if they haven't been frostbitten off!) that we get some warmer weather next week and make your beer dinner reservations.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Break(ing) Up Is Hard To Do

Sorry for the lack of blog activity last week and the premature posting of an unfinished blog this week; things have been more than a little busy for me.

So it's finally Break Up here in Alaska.  For those of you who live Outside, Break Up is the season in Alaska between Winter and Tourist (or Road Construction) Season.  Daytime temperatures soar into the low 40s, while nighttime temperatures still dip into the mid-20s.  These produces a wonderful thaw-freeze cycle, guaranteed to generate icy streets for morning rush hour and muddy ones for the drive home.

It's a messy, messy time to be an Alaskan, but it beats the hell out of winter.

The melting snow has also sent most craft breweries in the state into overdrive, as they try to stockpile enough beer to get them through the peak summer demand.  Forget brewing those time and labor-intensive big, barrel-aged barley wines and imperial stouts; now is the time to produce as much of their flagships beers as possible to sell to all the tourists that will soon be flocking to The Great Land.

So let's talk beer news:

Way up north in Fox (where I'm sure it's still winter), Silver Gulch Brewing Company has a cask of Pick Axe Porter on, as of last Friday, March 29th. See my review of this beer, keg version, back on 7/9/2009.  I'm sure it's even better on cask.  They also have a limited bottling run of their Northern Light Ale on sale, by the case only.  This beer is very lightly hopped with Willamettes, so it comes in at only 10 IBUs, and is described as clean and dry on the finish. 4.7% ABV.

In Fairbanks, HooDoo Brewing has four brews on tap: their German Kolsch, Belgian Saison, American IPA, and HooDoo Stout. Looks like they are continuing their growing penetration of the Fairbanks market.  We need some of your beers down here, guys!

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 49th State Brewing Company in Healy has set the date for their spring opening: Sunday, April 27th.  They have also gotten their disc golf course officially registered and will be holding a putting tournament their on June 23rd; check out this link for more details.  They will also be hosting a Sunday Market this summer; here's the flier for that:

This is the big beer weekend at Denali Brewing Company in Talkeetna that I posted about two weeks ago.  If you are there, you are almost certainly having a great time. I am not there, so that's all I've got to say about it!  However, Backcountry Magazine did select Denali's Back Country Rye Pale Ale as the best beer in the Pacific Northwest.  Read about it here.

Anchorage Brewing Company's A Deal with the Devil Barley Wine took third place at the Hard Liver Festival in Seattle on March 23rd.  They report that their Culmination Beer Festival on April 20th is completely sold out.  The long-awaited (and I do mean LONG) Darkest Hour Belgian Imperial Stout is finally in the bottle.  This beer has spent two years in used rye whiskey and French Oak Pinot Noir barrels and weighs in at a staggering 13% ABV. It should be released in about three weeks, once the beer has had a chance to bottle condition.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company has released their summer seasonal,  Meltdown Double IPA.  This also means you can find some screaming deals on their winter seasonal, CoHoHo Imperial IPA, at Country Liquors in Kenai.  Not sure if there's any left, but a week ago it was going for $6.49 a bottle, marked down from $7.99.  I loaded up!

Glacier BrewHouse has completed their remodel and is open for business again.  If you are in Anchorage, stop by and check out their new look.

King Street Brewing has been working on a barrel-aged beer, King Street Export Stout.  Aged in the wood for several months, this will be their first ever bottled beer!  Speaking of barrel-aging, last weekend, they put Forever Winter on tap at the brewery.  This is their very popular Winter Warmer, but aged in a bourbon barrel.  Very limited in supply, i.e. only one barrel's worth, this brew is only available by the glass at the brewery, so no growler fills.

Moving down to the Peninsula, Seward Brewing Company is getting ready to reopen after their long winter's nap. No opening date announced yet, but they are hiring staff and hosting a Ducks Unlimited function on April 19th, so it should be soon.

At St. Elias Brewing, Zach Henry now has a Czech Point Pils, a Bohemian pilsner brewed with German malts and Saaz hops and fermented with a Bavarian lager yeast.  I haven't had a chance to do a formal tasting yet, but the small sample I had was extremely tasty!

Out at Kassik's Brewery, they are very busy trying to build up inventory before the inevitable summer spike in demand.  To help things along, they've purchased a new keg washer and hired another brewer, Drew.  A keg washer may not sound very sexy, but trust me, if you've ever tasted beer from an improperly cleaned keg, you know just how critical it is!  This new machine is highly automated, so it ensures that everything is done properly, in the correct order, for every keg.  Here's a photo of it:

Doug Hogue at Kenai River Brewing gave Cupid an assist by seaming an engagement ring into a can of Sunken Isle IPA at the request of a bloke named Stephen, so he could use it to propose to his girlfriend, Courtney.  It seems their first date a couple of years ago was at Kenai River, so it seemed appropriate for that to be where he asked her to marry him and Doug was happy to help out.  The plan went off without a hitch on Friday March 29th.  She said yes, by the way...

Also at Kenai River, they just brewed a batch of the Wee Heavy Skilak Scottish Ale, something they do much too seldom for my taste!  Kenai River is also clearing out the cooler, so they currently have some of their Monks in the Hood Dubbel on tap, until it's gone.  See my review on 4/24/2012.

Out at Kodiak Island Brewing, Ben Millstein has put up a brand new sign.  Here's a picture of it that I "borrowed" from their Facebook page:

Looking sharp, Ben!

Finally, Alaskan Brewing Company has released their summer seasonal, their Kolsch-style Summer Ale.

Whew!  That was a lot of news to get through!  Now let's move on the reviews.

First off, I snagged a growler of Anchorage Brewing Company's Frequency IPA during my last Anchorage trip at the La Bodega growler bar.  It poured a lovely clear gold color with a nice white head that left good lacing on my glass.  The aroma was full of bright, citrusy American hops,  On the palate their was plenty of good, clean hop bitterness and hop flavor.  While he may like making funky beers, this brew shows Gabe Fletcher is perfectly capable of making an excellent, straight ahead American IPA.  Very nice.

Next, Alaskan Brewing's latest entry to their Pilot Series, their Troppelbock Imperial Doppelbock.  It poured a dark honey color with a small cream-colored head that dissipated rapidly to a collar. The aroma was strongly of caramel and sweet malt notes, which carried through to the flavor profile.  There was a touch of alcohol heat on the finish.  The beer was aged on oak chips, but I was unable to really isolate any wood elements in the bottle I tasted, but perhaps they would come through more after some time in the cellar.  At 10.6% ABV, this is one strong doppelbock.

As I reported a few weeks ago, New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, CO is now distributing their beers here in Alaska, and they have made it to the Kenai Peninsula.  I picked up a couple of them at Country Liquors in Kenai, their 1554 Enlightened Black Ale and their Ranger IPA.

The 1554 poured very dark with ruby highlights and a nice cream-colored head that persisted and left good lacing.  The aroma was primarily of roasted malt with some chocolate notes.  Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was in the medium range.The flavor profile had more notes of sweet malt, chocolate and roasted flavors.  5.6% ABV and very drinkable, though a bit tame for my personal tastes.

The Ranger IPA poured a clear gold with a big white head.  The nose was all American hops, very bright.  On the palate there was good carbonation and it was a very well-balanced beer, no excess bitterness, just good clean hoppiness, with a light mouthfeel.  An excellent IPA, and easy to see why it's one of New Belgium's bestsellers.

Finally, I picked up several beers from an old favorite of mine, Fuller's in London.  When I lived in London from 1998 to 2001, there were only two breweries in the city: Fuller's and Young'sYoung's closed their brewery in 2006, leaving Fuller's as the only regional brewery remaining in the city, though several micros have subsequently opened.  They brew excellent beers in the classic British styles and export several of them in bottle form to the US.  I had three different beers.

First, London Pride.  This is the bottled version of their classic bitter.  It was light copper in color, with a big, off-white head.  The nose was of traditional English hops, plus a toffee-like aroma that I associate with Fuller's house yeast.  Good carbonation, nice mouthfeel, with the nice up-front bitterness of a classic British ale, backed up by biscuity malt flavors.  Clean tasting and moreish, a classic session beer at 4.7%.  While you have to taste it on cask to truly experience it, the bottled version is still an excellent beer.

Next, Fuller's ESB, the beer that defined a style.  While here in the US, Extra Special Bitter is a style, in Britain it's the trademarked name of this beer, the first of its kind.Visually, it's similar to London Pride, though with a deeper copper color.  The aroma is also similar, though a bit more intense.  On the palate, there is superb balance between the malt and hoppiness, with a rich and delicious flavor.  Undeniably a British bitter, but a bitter on steroids, with all elements intensified.  At 5.9% ABV, it's not as sessionable as its lighter brother, but who cares?  It's a true classic.

Finally, Fuller's 1845 Ale.  First brewed in 1995 to celebrate Fuller's 150th anniversary, this beer is actually in a once popular but now nearly extinct style, a Burton Ale.  Bigger, darker and maltier than an India Pale Ale, this was the style of beer which first made Burton-On-Trent famous as a brewery town, before IPAs even came into being.  It poured a deep ruby color in the glass, with a big, cream-colored head.  The nose was primarily of malt, again with the characteristic fuity, estery notes of Fuller's house yeast.  This is a malt forward beer, but with plenty of balancing hop bitterness and some hoppiness from dry hopping, I think.  A rich, complex profile, with lots of big flavors, it is a shame that this style has fallen from popularity. 6.3% ABV.

Well, that's it for this week.  Sorry for the incomplete post, and I'll be back next week with more news and reviews.

Until Then, Cheers!