Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Better Short & Early Than Long & Late?

I'm getting this blog out a little early and keeping it a little shorter than usual, since I'll be too busy to get it out later this week.  My work will be taking me to Anchorage tomorrow and I'll be taking Friday off to spend with my daughter, who is visiting this week.  So, while it may be a bit short, it's the best I can do for you this week.

I was in Anchorage this weekend, for the first time since I missed attending The Culmination Beer Festival.  That gave me the chance to finally make it to La Bodega to pick up some brews that they'd been holding for me.  Here's a picture of my haul:

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell

As I get chance to drink each of them, I'll be posting reviews in the coming weeks.

I recently received an email about a tea-focused podcast called Steeping Around.  Tea is much more my wife's thing than mine, but this podcast had done a series of shows about tea as an ingredient in beer, including interviews with brewers like Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, Spike Buckowski of Terrapin Beer Company, and Blake Collins of Borderlands Brewing.  The specific beer-related shows are:

Show 90:  The Beer Necessities
Show 91:  Brew from the Borderlands
Video:  Steeping Around Live, from Borderlands
Show 92:  Tea Brews by Terrapin
Show 93:  Head Full of Dogfish

Certainly worth a look, particularly if you enjoy tea-infused brews.

I also was contacted about a new beer app out there, called Beer Fridge, available on iTunes.  I've tried out several apps on my Ipad (I still don't use an Iphone), and this one seems better than most, though the Alaska information is still more than a bit lacking.  I'm going to try to give them some feedback on that, but in the meantime you might want to check it out, especially if you are an Iphone user.

Speaking of beer apps, there's one in the works exclusively for craft beers brewed in Alaska; it's called The Beer Up Here.  Based on the description of what they are trying to produce, it could be a very cool and useful app.  I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product.

We've had a couple of pretty big items hit the beer news wire.  First, Alaskan Brewing Company has announced that they will be discontinuing their Alaskan Pale Ale as a year-round beer.  The stated reason is their inability to reliably source the U.S. Tettnanger hops required by the beer's recipe.  "The U.S. Tettnanger hops' availability, consistency and quality had started to become an ongoing issue for the past several years," said David Wilson, Quality Assurance Manager at Alaskan. "With most hop varieties we are able to order based on the characteristics we are looking for in the taste and aroma, but because so few farmers are growing this hop, we have had a hard time coming up with the consistency we need to brew Alaskan Pale year-round."

Alaskan Pale Ale has been around since 1987; despite its name, it's actually a Golden Ale.  It was originally called a pale ale to differentiate it from Alaskan's flagship Amber Ale.

On a more positive note, Alaskan announced the return of their popular Pilot Series seasonal, Alaskan Raspberry Wheat, an American-style Wheat Ale that has red raspberries added during fermentation.  Last year, the Tasting Room and Gift Shop at the brewery sold out of their complete stock in under an hour.  This year they have increased the amount on hand, so things might last a bit longer.  The beer will go on sale on Friday, May 31st.

Alaskan has also announced that Bitter Biliken ESB will be joining their Rough Draft Export series, so you can look for this brew in the finer beer establishments of the Pacific Northwest.  There is also a new beer in their Rough Draft Limited series: Hoar Frost IPA

Midnight Sun Brewing has a new brew on tap, Second Hand Smoke, a "small" smoked stout, made from the second running of their excellent Barfly Smoked Imperial Stout (see my review on 2/1/2011).   Despite being a second running it's still 8.5% ABV.  Get it while it lasts.

Denali Brewing Company has announced the date of this year's Talkeetna Beer Festival.  Last year's was postponed due to flooding; hopefully the weather goods will be kinder in 2013.  It will take place from 2 to 6 PM on Saturday, September 28th, at Sheldon Community Arts Hanger in beautiful downtown Talkeetna, so mark your calendars now.

Monday nights at Seward Brewing Company are "Burger & Brews" nights. $20 gets a  hand-formed, chopped sirloin burger with white cheddar cheese, carmelized onions and caraway mustard on a homemade pretzel bun with fries plus two SBC beers of your choice.  Sounds like a darn good deal, if you ask me.

Gabe Fletcher of Anchorage Brewing Company is back from his European adventure and has
Gabe & new foudres (borrowed from ABC's Facebook page)
plenty of new wood, as in eight new foudres of varying capacities.  There are two holding 110 barrels, four holding 60 barrels, and two holding 45 barrels.  Also, for the first time, Gabe's forest of wooden vessels in expanding beyond his Brett Cave beneath Sleeping Lady.  Only four of these new foudres will be going into the cave; the rest are going into a new warehouse, where they will be used exclusively for sour beer.  Besides the new foudres, Gabe has received eight 500-liter barrels from the Laphroig Distillery, located on the island of Islay, part of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, which had been used to age whisky for 30 years.  Gabe says the first beer that's going in them will be a "big ass Imperial Stout".  He's also gotten sixteen 500-liter red wine casks.  All told, this represents an additional 617 barrels or 19,133 gallons of additional fermentation space.  I'm really looking forward to all the great new brews Gabe will be able to make with these new vessels.

Silver Gulch Brewing in Fox has announced a new beer, coming soon: Prudhoe Pig Oatmeal Rye Stout. Here's how they describe it:

"An Oatmeal Rye Stout with an intense flavor, but without the sticky strong alcohol or overt bitterness. Staining the glass black with an oily body, roasted oatmeal on the nose with a finish of pumpernickel bread from the rye. 5.7% ABV, 15 IBUs."

49th State Brewing in Healy has a new Wednesday night trivia contest, where the winners get to be the first ones to taste a new beer.  Here's the flyer for it, with details on the new beer, Maori Pale Ale:

Click to enlarge


The winner of the 1st Annual Limerick Contest at HooDoo Brewing was Kate Morrison.  Here's the limerick she won with:

The men at HooDoo are growing sexy mustaches
While the ladies can only bat their sweet eyelashes.
It's not fair to compare,
Gals can't grow that lip hair
With enough head, though, they can sport foamy lip splashes.

 Kenai River Brewing last Friday had a one day only sneak peek of their newest brew, a Chocolate Milk Stout.  It won't be on again until next August.  I stopped in for a quart of their Falconer's Flight Imperial Rye Pale Ale and had a sample of the new stout while they were filling my growler.  Very tasty!  I'm looking forward to having some more of it in August, perhaps at the 3rd Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival on Saturday, August 10th.

I've got three more beer reviews this time.  First, I opened a bottle of Orval, bottled on 4/29/2009, that I've had in my cellar.  I last wrote about this unique Trappist Ale on 1/4/2012, where I talked about the desirability of letting the bottles age for a bit to let the brettanomyces in them work on drying out and increasing the funkiness of the beer. I was very much looking forward to this four year old bottle, but I was a bit disappointed.  The beer poured the a clear orange-gold with the characteristic dense and mouse-like white head.  The Golding hops were still present in the nose, but weakened a bit by time and the brett character was noticeable.  However, on the palate the funky barnyard flavors seemed much less assertive than I remember; the entire flavor profile was a bit flat and lifeless.  Perhaps this is a case of too much of a good thing when it came to cellaring, or perhaps the bottle was mistreated on its way to me.  Either way, as I said, I was sadly disappointed.

Next, I opened a bottle of Deschutes Brewing's Mirror Mirror Barley Wine from 2009, with a "Best After" date of 4/20/2010.  It poured a deep honey color with a nice cream-colored head.  There was still noticeable hop aroma in the nose, but the malty sweetness was coming on strong.  Upon tasting it, it was clear that the time in the cellar had really let the different flavors meld and come into balance.  There was plenty of rich, deep malt flavor, but enough hop bitterness to maintain balance.  A delicious English-style barley wine; if you've got any of this in your cellar, I'd recommend pulling it out a drinking it now, as I doubt it can get much better.

Finally, when I was in Anchorage this weekend, I picked up a growler of Distant Matter IPA at La Bodega's growler bar. 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.  It poured a lovely clear gold with a big white head.  The nose was full of citrusy American hops notes.  There was good carbonation and a pleasant mouthfeel.  The bitterness was restrained but there was lots of enticing hop flavor and aroma.  A really nice IPA and very enjoyable, so if you'll be in Anchorage anytime soon, I'd be sure to stop by and get some.

That's it for this week.  Next time around I'll have some reviews of the beers in the haul pictured above.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

American Craft Beer Week

So it's now American Craft Beer Week, which started on Monday and runs through Sunday, May 19th.  If you haven't done anything to celebrate it yet, you are seriously behind the times!  Breweries all over the state are having events, some of which I blogged about two weeks ago, and some of which were only announced recently.  There is a Coast-to-Coast Toast scheduled for 4 PM Alaska time today, Thursday, May 16th.  Sounds like a good reason to leave work early to me! Here are some events that you haven't missed yet.

Glacier BrewHouse has a special three course fixed price ($59.90) menu all week, featuring a wood-aged beer to pair with each course.  Here's the menu:

Click to enlarge

Looks like a great deal on both the food and the beer.

Arkose Brewery in Palmer has had several events.  Besides the Coast-to-Coast Toast, they will also be having a Beer + Chocolate Pairing on Saturday at 3 PM for $20 per person.  Here's the pairing list:

1. Maiden Mild + Salted Caramel
2. Bitter Earth ESB + Maple Ganache Rolled in Caramelized Pecans
3. Spindrift IPA + Lemon and Caramelized White Chocolate
4. Boxcar Porter + Cayenne

Call 746-2337 for reservations.

Up in Fairbanks, the folks at at HooDoo Brewing have been doing lots of stuff to celebrate ACBW.  First, they tapped their first ever lager, a Maibock.  Here's their tasting notes for it:

"HooDoo Maibock pours a rich golden color with a creamy white head on top.  The aroma is clean with an inviting malt complexity and a lightly spicy noble hop note.  With the first sip comes a juicy hit of delicious German malts.  Hints of honey, candy sugar, and clean aromatic hops.  Medium bodied, the rich malty flavors are supported by a soft underlying hop bitterness, balancing the beer."

 HooDoo also have special commemorative posters and t-shirts on sale.  They are also holding their 1st Annual Limerick Contest, with the five finalists ( Kate Morrison, Jason Jones, Kath N Kedan Griffin, Shawn Armstrong, and Andrew Slaygull) reading their entries tonight at 6 PM at the brewery to determine the winner.  Also tonight from 3 to 8 PM, the Sipping Streams Tea Co. will be offering mouth-watering Chinese dumplings (dim sum) at the brewery for $3 each or four for $10.  Finally, on Saturday at 11 AM, Homegrown Market will be cooking up locally made brats outside the brewery; stop by and have some lunch!

It's not an ACBW event (I posted their schedule for this week in my last blog), but Midnight Sun will be offering tours and tastings next Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday to anyone with a Tips/Tams card.  Here's the flier for that:

Click to enlarge
Too bad I don't live in Anchorage, as I'd be there for sure...

Down at Kodiak Island Brewing, they report that Wingnut Brown Ale is back on tap.  Here's the nice art that goes with it:

Out at Kassik's Brewery, the Imperial Spiced Honey Wheat is back on tap, and they have a new beer in the bottle for a limited time: Pretty Fly for a White IPA, at 8.3% ABV.  Here's a the label:

At Kenai River Brewing, they are celebrating American Craft Beer Week by offering $2 glasses of beer all week, with a different beer being on offer each day. So far, we've had Peninsula Brewers Reserve and Arctic XPA.

At the 14th Annual Commercial Craft Brewing Competition of the West Coast Brew Fest, Alaskan Brewing Company took home a Gold Medal for its Summer Ale in the "Mixed" Category, another Gold Medal for their Black IPA in the "Porter/Black IPA" Category, and their Imperial Red Ale took a Bronze Medal in the "Amber Ale" category.  This year, there were 150+ entries in 18 categories.

I haven't had a lot of new beers lately, but I have had a couple. First up, Harviestoun Brewery's Ola Dubh Special Reserve 18.  This is an Old Ale (the name means "black oil"), made by aging the brewery's Old Engine Oil, a 6% ABV porter in casks that used to hold 18 year old Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky. The resulting 8% ABV beer is black as midnight, thick and viscous, with a small tan head that dissipated rapidly to a collar around the glass.  The nose is rich, full of sweet malt notes and peat smoke, with a touch of alcohol heat.  On the palate the texture is thick, with roasty malt leading the attack, but lots of well-integrated whisky and wood notes, that are most noticeable on the finish.  For a whisky lover such as myself, it doesn't get much better than this.

Next, I received a bottle of Oyster Stout from The Porterhouse Brewing Company in Dublin,
Ireland as a gift from a couple of fellow beer lovers. Stout and oysters as a pairing goes back at least as far as the mid-nineteenth century, and likely much father.  The briny taste of the oysters is perfectly matched by the roastiness of a good dry stout.  So it's not surprising that over the years, various brewers have tried mixing the two.  This version poured a very deep ruby color with a nice mocha-colored head that left good lacing on the glass.  The beer is hopped with Galena, Nugget, and East Kent Goldings; the Golding were detectable in the nose, plus plenty of roasted malt notes.  The carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was nice, with plenty of roast malt leading the attack, followed by hints of sweetness and saltiness. The presence of the oysters is very subtle, but they did seem to add some extra complexity to the beer, on its way to a nice finish.  I had heard good things about this brewery in the past, but this was my first chance to try any of their beers.  Assuming this brew is typical, I'd very much like to taste some more of their beers. 5.2% ABV.

Finally, I drank another bottle from my cellar, a Deschutes Brewey's The Dissident Sour Brown Ale from 2010.  The bottle had a "Best After" date of 11/1/2011, so I think I did my due diligence there.  It poured a slightly hazy reddish-brown, with a nice persistent cream-colored head.  The nose was primarily of tart cherry notes.  The mouthfeel and carbonation were good on the palate.  Initially, it was primarily the cherry-laced tartness, then the malt made its presence felt, making for a much better integrated and well-balanced flavor profile.  Personally, I'd love to know what this beer would have tasted like sans cherries, as I have a feeling that the base sour brown ale might have been delicious just on its own.  If you still have any bottles of this release in your cellar, I'd recommend drinking them soon.  I think the 2010 was in better shape than the 2008 that I tasted and reviewed back on 3/22/2013.

Well, that's about it for this week.  If the weather doesn't keep me from getting up to Anchorage, I hope to have some more interesting beers to review next time.

Until Next Week, Cheers!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Two New Beer Books

Well, it was snowing as I drove to work this morning.  Yes, two days into May and it's snowing.  This is the winter that just will not end.  Oh well...

On a more positive note, I recently received two new beer books which I had on pre-order from
Amazon.  The first is one I've been waiting for since I sat next to the author, Tom Acitelli, at a media luncheon in Denver at the Great American Beer Festival in 2010.  He told me then that he was working on a book that he hoped would be the definitive history of the American craft beer movement to date.  He called it The Audacity of Hops: The History of America's Craft Beer Revolution , which I thought was a pretty clever title.  Fast forward to last month, as his book was finally published.  I have not yet had the chance to sit down and read it from cover to cover, but in just my casual perusals to date, I can tell it's an excellent work.  Tom has done a fantastic job of research, but he has also coupled it with an interesting and engaging style of writing.  The result is no dry tome of history, but captures the excitement and vigor of the American craft beer movement.  I can't wait to incorporate this work into the college course I teach on beer.  If you have any interest at all in the American craft beer phenomenon, you need to read this book.

The second book that I received was called simply Cheese & Beer by Janet Fletcher.  As you might guess from its title, it is wholly dedicated to pairing up those two most delectable foods.  While I like to think I know a fair amount about beer, my knowledge of cheese is somewhat limited, so I was very interested in what I could learn from this book.  Lavishly illustrated, I found what the author had to say about craft beers to be spot on, so I suspect her cheese recommendations are equally good.  This is the first book that I have come across which is solely dedicated to pairing cheese with beer, and I'd say it was long overdue.  If you really enjoy good artisanal cheese, you should definitely buy this book.

Up north in Fox, Silver Gulch Brewing has their Old 55 Pale Ale available from the cask!  Get some while it lasts!  In Fairbanks, HooDoo Brewing currently has their Kolsch, their Stout, and their IPA on tap.

Now that they are open again, 49th State Brewing Company has a new website.  Check it out here.

Gabe Fletcher of Anchorage Brewing Company is currently in Copenhagen, Denmark, getting ready to pour his brews at a beer festival being held there on May 3rd & 4th.  Sounds like a lot of fun, though I'm not quite sure what to make of their festival logo...

As I wrote last week, we're in the middle of Midnight Sun Brewing Company's celebration of their 18th Anniversary.  If you will be in Anchorage this week, you should certainly be checking out that list of events I posted last week.

Looking ahead to American Craft Beer Week, May 13 thru May19, I'm sure there will be events planned all around the state, but it seems Midnight Sun is first out of the gate.  Here's a list of what the have planned so far:

SAT MAY 11 @ 11am
During AK Beer Week in January, the fine folks from Black Raven Brewing Co. in Washington traveled north to collaborate on a beer. Sun of a Beak, Imperial Bourbon Barrel Coconut Porter, will be released simultaneously in Washington at Black Raven Brewing Co. and Alaska at The Loft at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. for Craft Beer fans to enjoy.

SAT MAY 11 @ 9pm
Even if it is still snowing we are getting our cans over to Mad Myrna’s for the grand opening of their outdoor, summer time Tiki Bar. Be one of the first to sip a can of Kodiak Brown, Snowshoe White Ale or Sockeye Red IPA in the best outdoor Tiki Bar in Alaska.

SUN MAY 12 @ 12:30pm
Midnight Sun Brewing Co. Tour for Crush and The Cellar
The Folks of Crush and The Cellar will be coming to tour the brewery, taste some beers and get a brief beer class with Darcy.

MON MAY 13 @ 6pm
BEER DINNER: OLD Midnight Sun Brewing Company @ Sub Zero/Humpy’s
Kick off Craft Beer Week with some incredible pairings from Humpy’s/ Sub Zero and some fine selections from the cellars of Midnight Sun Brewing Co. and Humpy’s.
Reservations: 276-BEER


Greet Beer: CoHoHo Imperial IPA brewed with Juniper

Appetizer: Midnight Sun 3000 / Belgian Style Barleywine 2013 /13.2%
Grilled tomato & tart cherry compote. Served on grilled on Baguette and finished with fresh thyme.

Salad: Arctic Devil / Barleywine 2002/ 10 %
Fresh apples tossed with crisp romaine, dates, raisins and walnuts in barley wine vinaigrette. Topped   Fried goat cheese.

Entree: The New Black /Belgian Black Bier 2010/ 8.4%
Bier braised lamb shank w/ sweet potato mash and baby arugula & grilled radicchio

Dessert: Tree Hugger /Spruce Tip Stout 2010/ 12.6%
Chocolate raspberry mouse with fresh berries and crushed coffee beans

THU MAY 16 @ 4pm
Raise a glass to Craft Beer! This will be a massive toast, taking place at the same time from coast to coast, so you can raise any glass wherever you are, but if you happen to be in The Loft at Midnight Sun Brewing Co. we will have a taste of 3000, Belgian Style Barleywine Oak Aged in Red Wine Barrels for you to offer your SALUT to!

THU MAY 16 @ 6pm
So you drink a lot of beer, but do you know where it comes from? Do you want to get a sneak peak (taste) of what is in our tanks now? Join our FREE tour, offered every Thursday, but with even more craft beer fun during American Craft Beer Week.

FRI MAY 17 @ 6:30pm
This is the third annual, adults only, night out in the Zoo. Join the Midnight Sun Chapter of the American Assoc. for Zookeepers for beer tasting, silent auction, food and some furry friends putting on a special show. Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 the night of. To purchase go to

Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling Company has also announced an ACBW event.  Each day at 3:30 from May 13th thru 17th, they will be having a vertical tasting of a different beer style.  Some will be their own beers and some will be examples of the style from around the world.  There will be a presentation on the style each day by their head brewer, Levi Hansen.  $10 for each daily tasting.  Here's the schedule of styles:

Monday - Porter
Tuesday - Lager
Wednesday - Belgium
Thursday - Barley Wine
Friday  - IPA

Sounds like a helluva good time!

Here on the Peninsula, Homer Brewing Company's annual beer dinner with The Homestead Restaurant is coming up this Saturday.  See last week's blog for more details.

Seward Brewing Company is open and has posted their new food menu.  Here it is:

Click to enlarge

St. Elias Brewing Company has released another new beer, their Dos Lobos Vienna Lager.  It's a clean, slightly sweet, reddish lager that makes an excellent accompaniment to lots of foods.  I paired it on Sunday with some home-made BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, and it was superb.  When I was last there, they still had the excellent Czech Point Pils on tap, as well as Kriek Lambic and Forbidden Fruit Pomegranate Lager.

Let's do some beer reviews.

First up, something from the cellar.  I opened a bottle of Deschutes Brewery's Black Butte XXIII Porter this week.  It was released in June of 2011, with a "Best After" date of June, 2012, so it was quite ready.  25 % of this beer was bourbon-barrel aged, and it was brewed with orange zest, chocolate nibs, and Pasilla Negra chillies.  It poured opaque with a good-sized mocha colored head.  I could pick up the orange and chocolate in the nose, but not the bourbon or the chillies.  Great mouthfeel and good carbonation.  On the palate the flavors were rich and deep; a very complex profile, with all of the numerous elements -- oak, bourbon, chocolate, roasted malt, oranges, peppers -- in a nice balance.  It reminded me of a complex dance, with the various dancers moving in and out of the spotlight, without ever getting in each others way.  The 10.8% ABV was only evident in a touch of alcohol heat on the finish.  Delicious and worth waiting two years for!

Next, St. Elias Brewing Company's Kriek Lambic.This beer was fermented with a yeast strain “captured” from the air of the very same Senne Valley where traditional lambic is brewed. It was fermented in Hungarian Oak for nine months, where the sour cherries were added.  It poured a slightly cloudy, pinkish-orange color with a small head.  The aroma was tart, with notes of oak and cherries.  The taste was similar, being tart but not sour, with oak and cherry notes.  Dry and refreshing, this beer will be excellent in warmer weather (if we ever get any). 8% ABV.

Finally, Kenai River Brewing's Falconer's Flight Imperial Rye Pale Ale (FFIRPA).  The fourth in the series, this one is the best one yet, IMHO.  It poured a deep honey color with a big, off-white head.  The aroma is laced with the characteristic American hop notes from the Falconer's Flight hops.  At 103 IBUs, I was expecting an initial bitterness attack that would take the enamel off my teeth, but it was amazingly subdued, with the hops being very well-balanced by the big malt backbone. At 9% ABV, this beer is wonderfully drinkable, with on a slight lingering bitterness on the finish.  As I said above, I think this is the best beer yet in Kenai River's Imperial Rye Pale Ale series, so if you liked any of its predecessors, you really need to seek this one out.

Well, that's it for this week.  More beer news and reviews next week, I hope.

Until Next Time, Cheers!