Friday, June 28, 2013

Losing Daylight

Well, the Summer Solstice has passed, and we are once more losing daylight, and, as the Starks would say on Game of Thrones: "Winter is Coming".  But we've still got lots of summer before we have to start worrying about that, so let's eat, drink, and be merry while we can!

Speaking of being merry, tickets for the 3rd Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival should be on sale by this weekend at Kassik's Brewery, Kenai River Brewing, St. Elias Brewing, and Seward Brewing Company.  If you're in Anchorage, try La Bodega to pick up yours.  I strongly recommend you buy tickets in advance, as the festival gets better attended every year, so there's no telling how many they might have left to sell at the door this time round.  They're up to fifteen breweries in attendance this year, plus lots of other beers being poured by Odom and Specialty Imports.  Also tons of good food and good music.  Don't miss it!

One of the breweries in attendance will be HooDoo Brewing Company of Fairbanks.  They have just released a weissebeer, made with a real Bavarian yeast strain.  Look for lots of banana, cloves, and even bubble gum flavors in this one, all produced by this unique yeast.  A real summer thirst quencher, perfect for the Fairbanks summer heat.

I hear Midnight Sun has a couple of new brews, one on offer already and one coming soon.  Pleasuretown IPA is a standard or "single" IPA, brewed with plenty of citrusy hops, great for enjoying in the sun on MSBC's deck.  The have also brewed an as-yet-unnamed IPA with and for the Brown Jug Warehouse team.  It will be only available at their growler bar and at The Loft. Brewed with Columbus, Chinook, Citra and Pacifica hops, then dry hopped with Citra and Centennial, this IPA will need a name, and Brown Jug has decided to make a contest of it.  There's nothing on their website yet, but the details will be coming up there soon.  Basically, you will email in your name idea, and if your name is chosen you win a $500 gift card to Brown Jug. That's like a year of growler fills, if you are a moderate imbiber. Or one heck of a party! The beer will be delivered on Monday to their growler bar locations just in time for Fourth of July festivities.

At Denali Brewing, they have three new 120-barrel conical fermenters in service, which is always good news.  Plus, cans of their Twister Creek IPA and Single Engine Red Ale are now on offer at the Alaska Lodge in Sea-Tac Airport.  So if you're craving a good beer on your way to or from our fair state, you know where you can find it.

By all accounts the Solstice Brewfest at 49th State Brewing in Healy was a great success, and they are keeping the action going with nightly specials.  I should be there myself in a couple of weeks, and I'm really looking forward to it!

Over at Anchorage Brewing Company, they were bottling Batch #3 of their Bitter Monk DIPA (reviewed 10/12/2011) earlier this week, so once it bottle-conditions, we should be seeing it on the shelves.  The Arctic Saison, which they brewed in collaboration with Hill Farmstead Brewing (see my 5/22/2013 blog), has now been released and has been chosen as a Beer of the Month Club selection.  I believe it's on the shelves in Anchorage, so if you like funky saisons, you should definitely grab a bottle or two.

Here on the Peninsula, the brewers are all running as fast as they can, just to keep up with the summer demand.  At St. Elias Brewing, the Melvinator Helles and Chainsaw Logger are long gone, though this year's version of Sunfire Saison has taken their place.  The time around, Zach decided to use the Brasserie Dupont saison yeast strain.  The word amongst homebrewers is that this particular strain is tricky to use, but Zach reports he had no troubles.  The result is a saison noticeably drier and slightly hoppier that its predecessors by the same name.  Very nice, so get it while it lasts!.

OK, let's do some reviews.  I've been mighty light on them for the last couple of blogs, so let's make up for that, shall we?

First up, Sun of a Beak, a collaboration barley wine from Midnight Sun and Black Raven Brewing Company of Redmond, WA.  The beer was brewed with molasses, birch syrup, and toasted coconut, and weighed in at 8.3% ABV, 52 IBUs.  It poured opaque, with a big, tan head.  The aroma had toasty, roasty, and sweet notes, On the palate there were the same flavors plus some bourbon and wood notes from the barrel aging, but no discernible (at least by my palate) coconut.  This was OK by  me (I don't like coconut!) but several other on-line beer reviewers were disappointed by its absence.  At only 8.3%, it quite drinkable for a barley wine.

Moving on to New Belgium Brewing Company, the first beer from them is their Rampant Imperial IPA. It poured a deep, clear gold with a dig, dense white head.  Very enticing.  The nose was full of bright American hops, with plenty of resiny and citrusy notes.  There was plenty of good bitterness in the initial attack, as you'd expect, followed by lots of good, clean hop flavors and aroma.  Dangerously drinkable for an imperial IPA, it's 8.5% ABV could easily sneak up on you.  I also found it curious that it's priced the same in our local stores as it's less hoppy & less alcoholic sibling, Ranger IPA.  Worth seeking out.

The second brew from New Belgium is a new American classic, this year's version of their La Folie Sour Brown Ale, a member of their Lips of Faith series.  One of the first sour ales ever brewed in the US, this is a beer I've always wanted to try.  It poured a deep, translucent ruby, with a nice cream-colored head.  The aroma was a pleasant sourness with lots of malty back notes.  There was a serious sour attack, with good mouthfeel and good carbonation.  I could detect none of the wood-aging (other than the sourness itself), and I thought the finish was a bit lackluster, but overall a very nice sour brown, reminiscent of the classic Leifman's Goudenband Brown Ale that was its inspiration. 7% ABV.

I also had another of the Lips of Faith series from New Belgium, Heavenly Feijoa Tripel, brewed in collaboration with Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel of Montreal.  I will admit that I had to use Google to see just what a feijoa was.  Here's a picture of its fruit and flowers:

So what would it be like, used in a 9% ABV  tripel?  The beer poured a clear gold with a small, white head. The aroma had the earthy, spicy notes of a Belgian yeast, plus some tart, citrus notes from fruit.  On the palate, it seemed the tart fruit notes came through more strongly than the spicy yeast flavors, a reversal from the nose.  I typically am not taken by fruit beers, but this one was pretty good, actually.  Not sure I'd buy another, but I'm happy I tried it.  And now I know what a feijoa looks like...

A friend brought me back a bottle of Winema Wit from the Pelican Pub & Brewery in Pacific City, Oregon.  It poured a cloudy gold with a nice, white head.  The aroma was classic wit: orange peel and coriander.  One the palate it was nice and refreshing, with good carbonation and a light mouthfeel, plus good, clean flavors.  A very nice wit, and the perfect beer to enjoy on a hot summer afternoon. 5.1% ABV, 18 IBUs.

Speaking of hot summer afternoons, weekend before last I came in hot and sweaty from a hike.  After a shower, I was looking for a refreshing beer to drink while I grilled up some steaks for supper, and I selected an Origins Burgundy Sour Ale from Crooked Stave.  It was an inspired choice! It poured a dark ruby with a nice bream-colored head.  The nose had some tartness and some wood, which were replicated on the palate: sour, oaky, refreshing and revitalizing!  Just want I wanted after a long, hot hike.  I can't think of a recent time when the beer in my hand better matched my mood and what I wanted to be drinking.  Excellent brew, like everything else from Crooked Stave.  6.5% ABV.

Last, but certainly not least, Darkest Hour Belgian-style Imperial Stout from Anchorage Brewing Company.  This beer has been a very long time in coming, but trust me, it was worth the wait.  Aged in French oak pinot noir and rye whisky barrels, this is a 13% ABV , 40 IBU heavy weight.  It poured opaque with a nice, persistent mocha colored head.  The nose had lots of whisky and wood notes, mixed in with the roasted barley and malty sweetness - very rich and complex.  On the tongue, it was more of the same, with a thick, chewy mouthfeel surrounding notes of dark fruit, chocolate, roasted coffee, oak, whisky, and wine, all in an intricate and complex dance across your taste buds.  The finish is long and slow, with some alcohol heat at the end.  This is a superb beer, one deserving of being savored in small glasses between a group of appreciative friends.  When I tasted it for this review, I was drinking alone and feeling almost guilty for keeping it to myself.  Seek it out at all costs.

Well, that's about it for this week's blog.  Next week's may be a bit late, what with the 4th of July holiday and all.  While you wait, get out and enjoy this summer weather while it lasts.  After all, we're losing daylight...

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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