Friday, June 7, 2013

Summer At Last!

After what seems like two winters, it's finally summer here on the Peninsula.  Skies are clear and blue (mostly) and temperatures are upwards of 70 F (usually).  I'm busy and behind on this blog (typically), but I got lots of news and beer reviews, so let's get going (finally)!

One of the reasons I'm late with this blog is that I was writing an article for Alaska Magazine on Homegrown Beer & Wine.  Assuming my editor likes it, look for it in their November issue.

Silver Gulch Brewing will be having their annual Golden Days Beer Festival in Fox on Saturday, July 13th.  I'm planning to make this one, so if you're attending as well, look for me. Admission is $20 and get you 10 samples. Tickets are available at the gate or in advance at The Beer Store.  Call 907-452-2739 for more information.

Glen Brady from Silver Gulch will also be offering a couple of short course at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival later in July.  On July 23rd from 1 to 5 PM he'll teach you How to Improve Your Homebrew and on July 25th from 1 to 5 PM he'll lecture on the Pairing of Food and Beer.  Click on the links for prices and registration info.

Finally, Silver Gulch has a new brew on tap, or rather  an old brew back on tap, called Lowbush, a Cranberry Belgian Saison.  Here's how they describe it:

"A Belgian saison flavored with cranberries. Pilsen, Munich and Vienna malts are combined with Styrian Golding hops to give a delicate bittering, while spicy/peppery notes compliment the dry, tart, fruity brew."  5.6% ABV, 28 IBUs."

At HooDoo Brewing in Fairbanks,  they will be holding a Fairbanks First Friday event at the brewery from 3 to 8 PM today, June 7.  You can find more info here.  Their Maibock is tapped out, so currently your choices are their Kolsch, Stout, or IPA on tap.

I can't even begin to keep up with all the events/music/food deals going on at 49th State Brewing in Healy.  Everyday, I see a new one on their Facebook page, like their $5 Blonde and Burger deal on their Late Night Menu, or $9.95 all-you-can-eat ribs late on Wednesday nights.  If you are going to be in the Healy area at all this summer, you definitely need to check out this page and see what's happening there.  Plus they will be holding a Summer Solstice Brew Fest on June 21-22.  There will also be some lead in events earlier in that week, such as Beer Chats at Prospectors Pizzeria from 4-5pm on June 17th-20th and beer dinners at 49th State Brewing on the 20th and 229 Parks Restaurant and Tavern on the 19th.  I don't have any details on the cost, but if you'll be in Healy around the Solstice, I'd call the brewery for details.

Also on Saturday, July 13th, Denali Brewing will be celebrating their anniversary.  I don't have any details yet, but I'm sure it will be a great time and worth checking out if you happen to be in Talkeetna that weekend.

This weekend is Colony Days up in the Valley, and Arkose Brewery is a big part of it. They have brewed New Colony Hefeweizen in celebration.  The celebration runs June 7, 8, & 9. Next weekend on June 14th, is Business & Industry Day in Wasilla; Arkose beers will be on tap at the Beer Garden of that event.

In Anchorage, La Bodega will be having a meeting of their Beer Club on June 18th from 4 to 6 pm at Hula Hands Restaurant. Admission for current members is free, or you can sign up for three months membership or just pay $10.  They will be tasting the new 8th Trappist beer, from St. Engelzell Brewery in Austria and The Bruery's Tradewinds Tripel and Saison Rue beers.  There will also be Hawaiian food plates available for order.  If you plan to attend, please RSVP to La Bodega at 569-3800.  La Bodega also has new summer hours; they're now open from 10 am to 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

King Street Brewing has a new beer on tap.  Following their theme of the Year of Good and Evil, this one is named Devil's Moon.  It's a German-style helles lager, which should be delicious as we move into warmer summer weather.  Also, the Wheel Good Food Truck will be outside the brewery from 4 to 8 pm today.  Check out their menu here.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company has another First Firkin Friday tonight at 5 PM.  Artist Scott Clendaniel will be opening his June show at The Loft and the firkin will be Second Hand Smoke "Small" Smoked Stout, cask conditioned with cherries.  I had a sample of this brew, made from the second runnings from a batch of their Barfly Smoked Imperial Stout, back on Thursday, May 23rd.  I was heartbroken that they were only selling it by the glass and not by the growler; it was that good.

Glacier BrewHouse is encouraging folks to make Father's Day reservations there, with the slogan: "The last thing dad needs in another tie!"

 Broken Tooth Brewing and Midnight Sun Brewing Company have released their new collaboration IPA, Parallel Vines. Sean Heyer represented Broken Tooth and Davey Cacey represented Midnight Sun in the brewing process.  No details on the brew itself yet, but I'm sure it's good.

Here on the Peninsula, Seward Brewing Company has expanded their hours, now opening at 11:30 am until 9 pm.  Stop by and have a great burger for lunch!

At Kenai River Brewing Company, they have finished their first canning run of Peninsula Brewers Reserve (PBR).  Look for cans to appear in stores in a week or two, once they've had time to condition.

I haven't had the chance to stop in at St. Elias Brewing Company for several weeks, but I see they have three new brews on tap.  Island Girl Ale is back again, so it must be summer for sure; see my review on 6/15/2010.  The Melvinator is on tap; I believe it is a Bavarian-style Helles Lager.  There's also something called Chainsaw Logger; your guess as to style is as good as mine.

Finally, this weekend is the Kenai River Fest at Soldotna Creek Park.  There will be a beer garden, pouring both Kenai River Brewing and Kassik's Brewery beers.  My wife will have a booth at the festival, selling her photographic images, and I'll also be selling and signing our book, Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island Breweries (Beer on the Last Frontier: The Craft Breweries of Alaska) (Volume 1) .  Feel free to stop by and get your copy signed, if you haven't already.

OK, let's go to beer reviews.  I've got a bunch this time, many of them leftovers from The Culmination Beer Festival.

We'll start with some beers from Lawson's Finest Liquids, a tiny craft brewery in Warren, Vermont.  I'd had a slight acquaintance with their beers before, thanks to picking up a collaboration beer they did with The Bruery, Acer Quercus (see my 6/14/2012 review).  I was thoroughly impressed by it, so I was eager to try more of their stuff.  I was able to get three different beers from them.

First was their Double Sunshine IPA, at 8% ABV.  It poured a slightly cloudy gold with a big white head.  The aroma was all citrus and tropical fruit from lots of American hops, very appealing.  There was good bitterness up front and it persisted through the finish. Plenty of nice hop aroma and flavor, but balanced by the sturdy malt backbone.  A top-notch Double IPA.

Next I opened a bottle of their Fayston Maple Imperial Stout, at 10.1% ABV.   It poured opaque with a big tan head, a gorgeous-looking beer.  The nose was everything you'd look for in an imperial stout: full of big roasted coffee notes, plus some sweet elements from the maple syrup.  It's was incredibly rich and chewy on the palate, the sort of mouthfeel that you long for in a big beer like this.  The flavor profile was classic big roasty flavors, with some added sweetness, slowly falling away to a long, lingering finish.  Absolutely exceptional; one of the best imperial stouts I've ever had the pleasure of drinking.

Finally, I had a bottle of their Toast Black IPA, at 5.9% ABV.  This is what I'd consider a true Black IPA, as opposed to a hoppy porter.  By that I mean it has zero roasted flavors; it achieves its black color without adding anything to the standard IPA flavor profile.  It poured very dark but with some ruby highlights and a big khaki head.  The aroma is bursting with American hops,  The bitterness was good, but not overwhelming; this isn't a West Coast hop bomb.  Carbonation is nice and the hop flavor is good.  A nice solid IPA, that just happens to be as black as midnight!

In conclusion, judging by the four of their brews that I've been able to try, I have to say that Lawson's Finest Liquids is an exceptional craft brewery.  I hope I get the chance to visit them someday, and if you are lucky enough to see anything they brew for say, I'd recommend you snap it up!

Moving on from Lawson's, I had a beer from another East Coast brewery: Smoked Porter from Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in Elmsford, New York.  This is another brewery which I had read about but never had the opportunity to try.  The Smoked Porter poured opaque with a big mocha-colored head.  The nose had plenty of smoke, naturally, backed up with malty notes.  Mouthfeel was light, with the smoke leading the attack, before falling away to a nice finish.  Overall, it reminded me on the German smoked beers of Bamberg more than a more robust smoked porter like Alaskan Brewing Company's.  I'd say it's a bit more drinkable fresh than Alaskan's Smoked Porter is, but much less likely to age well.  Definitely a quality beer.

I also managed to obtain a couple of bottles of Anchorage Brewing Company's latest releases,
thanks to happening to be in Anchorage on May 23rd, when they hit La Bodega (Thanks, Pamela!).  The first one I tried was Anadromous Black Sour Ale, 8.5% ABV and 30 IBUs, which was brewed with brettanomyces, pedioccocus, and lactobacillus.  It was then aged in over 40 French pinot noir wine barrels before being blended and bottle-conditioned.  The beer poured opaque with a small tan head.  The aroma is rich and slightly tart, with a touch of dark fruit; no brett funkiness, at least at this stage, but some oak elements present.  Not super sour at first taste, pleasant tartness and more oak, with medium mouthfeel and moderate carbonation.  It defintely reminded me of another beer.  It took a few moments to pull it from the old memory bank, but then I had it: Midnight Sun's Cafe Amsterdam 10th Anniversary Dark Strong Gruit. I first reviewed that hop-less brew on 5/18/2009, then again on 6/1/2010, at which point it had soured considerably.  Anadromous reminded me of that aged, more-soured version. So the next question is this: what will several months in the cellar do to its flavor profile?  I'll let you know.

The second beer is technically a beer from Mikkeller, rather than Anchorage Brewing Company, albeit that it was brewed and bottled at ABC: AK Alive Alaskan Wild Ale. It poured a deep orange-gold with a big white head. The aroma has some spicy yeast notes and some hops; nothing overwhelming.  Great carbonation, light mouthfeel.  There's good hoppiness on the attack, then some yeast spiciness on the back end, falling away to a nice, long finish.  Extremely drinkable; you'd never guess this brew is 8% ABV.  Be a wonderful beer to sample sitting in the summer sunshine on my patio.

I think I'll wrap things up here, and save some reviews for next week.  Remember, if you're at the Kenai River Fest in Soldotna this weekend, stop by and say hello.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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