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!

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