Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Northern Run, Part II

The lovely summer weather continues here on the Peninsula, which makes it tough to be inside on a
keyboard, instead of being outside, enjoying myself.  Still, beer news keeps coming, even when the weather's nice, and I have a lot of reviews from the trip to Fairbanks.  So let's get going.

I've written in the past about a new Alaska beer app being produced, called The Beer Up Here.  Well, the folks behind it have now announced that they will be releasing it at Augtoberfest on August 2 & 3rd at 49th State Brewing Company in Healy.  I've been following their progress on their blog, and it looks like it might be a very cool app, well worth checking out. Click on the link above to go to their website or look for it on iTunes after the release date.

Speaking of festivals, the Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival is getting closer all the time; Saturday, August 10th will be here before you know it.  Locally, tickets are on sale at Kenai River, Kassik's, and St. Elias Brewing Company, while in Anchorage they are available at La Bodega.  Remember to bring $30 in cash or check made out to the Soldotna Rotary, since the breweries are selling tickets on their behalf.  Last year's event sold out, so don't wait too long to get you tickets or you may be disappointed.

Speaking of La Bodega, they just brewed their first beer, The Gladys Golden
Ale.  They created it with Greg Mills of Sleeping Lady Brewing Co. and have posted plenty of pictures of the entire operation on their Facebook page.  The name honors Gladys the Goldfish, who used to live at their old location in the University Center Mall, and the beer will feature three different New Zealand hops.  Looks like a great time was had by all, and I look forward to tasting the fruits of their labor.  You should also mark your calendars for this year's Bodega-Fest.  It will be happening on Saturday, September 14th.  Note there's been a location change: instead of Kincaid Park, this year's festival will take place at Cuddy Park in midtown-Anchorage and will be benefitting a new charity, Alaska Public Media.

Anchorage Brewing Company shipped out their latest batch of Bitter Monk Double IPA last week, so you can expect to see it showing up on store shelves anytime now.  See my review on 10/12/2011.

All the breweries here on the Peninsula are working at full blast, trying to keep up with the tremendous summer demand from locals, tourists, and dip-netters.  Kassik's Brewery has earned two medals from the World Beer Championships, held annually by the Beverage Testing Institute.  Their Whaler's Wheat earned a Gold Medal with a score of 91/100, while their Imperial Spiced Honey Wheat earned a Silver Medal with 89/100.  Another feather in the cap for the Kassik's Team!

With all the dip-netters in town, I haven't been able to even get close to St. Elias Brewing Company for several weeks; their parking lot is full to overflowing pretty much all day.  However, they have announced a three new beers on tap: one brand new creation, Daddy WarBock (a bock aged in cabernet wine barrels), along with two old favorites: Brass Monkey ESB (reviewed on 4/6/2010) and Vanilla Bean Porter (reviewed on 8/3/2009).  Regardless of the maddening crowds, I plan to stop by and check them out soon.

Well, that more or less covers the news, so let's hit the reviews.

Let's start with Denali Brewing Company.  While I was in Talkeetna, I got to try their Kentucky Sour, a 5.7% ABV riff on a traditional Berliner-Weise summer beer, that's been aged in American oak.  It poured golden in color, with a small white head.  Pleasingly tart, especially in hot summer weather, with a bit of lemon flavor and some oakiness from the barrel.  Delicious.

I also had a glass of their I Squared Imperial IPA, 9.6% ABV and 122 IBUs (!).  It was a dark honey to tan color in the glass, with a small cream-colored head.  The nose was hops and some alcohol heat.  This beer was a real palate-wrecker; I could almost feel my tooth enamel dissolving in the hop bitterness!  You really have to like them bitter and strong to enjoy this one, but if that's what you're in the mood for, I Squared delivers.  To make it, they used six different malt varieties, ranging in color from Vienna to chocolate, and numerous hop varieties.  Zeus, Mt. Hood, Sterling, Willamette, and Czech Saaz were all added in the kettle, while more Czech Saaz, UK Challengers, and German Tettangers were used in the dry-hopping.  A bit of a tour-de-force, and you'll certainly not have more than one, but interesting nonetheless.

Moving on to 49th State Brewing Company, while I was in Healy I had a pint of their Baked Blonde Ale, 5.6% ABV and 18 IBUs.  I was a lovely clear gold with a nice white head in the glass.  There was some good hop aroma in the nose (Zythos & Cascade).  On the palate there was good, clean malt flavors and some nice hop bitterness.  Refreshing and well-made, it's a fine introductory beer, guaranteed not scare anyone off craft beers.

Their head brewer, Jay Bullen, was nice enough to give me a few brews from their Hibernation Series that they had hand bottled in swing-top bottles.  So far, I've had two of them.  The first was a Doppelbock at 6.8% ABV.  It poured opaque with a small tan head.  The nose was rich, with lots of caramel notes, spot on for the style.  On the palate the carbonation was good, and there was all the clean, deep caramel & malt flavors you look for in this style, with just a touch of alcohol on the finish.  An excellent doppelbock, as good as any I've ever had.

The second beer was a Chocolate Porter, at a hefty 7.4% ABV.  I'm unsure if Jay used real chocolate in this beer, or just chocolate malt.  Given the sweetness, I suspect the former.  It poured opaque with a small but dense khaki-colored head.  The nose was packed with sweet, chocolate notes.  The mouthfeel was good, as was the carbonation.  Quite sweet on the tongue, with the porter roastiness making its presence known only on the lingering finish.  One of the sweetest porters I've ever had, but very tasty.

At Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling Company, I had a glass of their Prudhoe Pig Oatmeal Rye Stout, 5.7% ABV & 15 IBUs.  I don't think I've ever had a beer combining oatmeal and rye before, so I was very curious to learn how they would work together.  The answer, at least in this instance, is "quite well".  The beer poured opaque with a nice tan head.  The nose was sweet (lactose?) with some roasted notes.  On the palate there was soem nice silkiness from the oats and some interesting spiciness on the finish from the rye.  An unusual combination, but it works and I enjoyed the beer very much.

OK, let's shift gears from upstate to some bottled beers from Outside,

I got to try some from the Dunedin Brewery in Florida, thanks to a visit from some of Elaine's relatives.  My brother-in-law Mark brought me two beers to sample, Rye Heart Southern Rye Ale and Mundofolbick Imperial Stout.  The former was an interpretation of a Scotch Ale, one of my favorite styles.  It poured a deep ruby color, with a small tan head that dissipated rapidly to a collar.  The aroma was all malt, with caramel sweetness and some hints of heat from the 7.7% alcohol.  The flavor profile was deep, clean maltiness with hints of caramel and some pepper notes from the rye, falling away gradually to a nice finish.  An unusual take on a Scotch Ale, but one I really enjoyed.

The Mundofolbick Imperial Stout came in at 9.7% ABV, poured opaque was another small tan head that dissipated rapidly to a collar.  The aroma was of sweet malt and roast coffee.  The mouthfeel was good, and there was plenty of roasted flavor on the initial attack, which was then balanced by some sweeter notes, before falling off to a nice, smooth, finish.  This one was right in my sweet spot for how I like my imperial stouts and an excellent beer.

I also had a bottle of Smoking Wood Imperial Rye Porter from The Bruery in California.  Prior experience told me that anything they produced would be outstanding, and this beer did not disappoint.  It poured opaque, with a big, dense tan head.  The nose was impressive, with roasted malt, oak, whiskey, and smoke all present in force.  On the tongue, the rye whiskey and smoke lead the attack, with the other elements gradually making themselves felt, including some peppery rye elements.  Everything was very smoothly integrated, making for a very complex finished product.  At 13% ABV, this one is definitely a sipper to be shared amongst friends after dinner, and savored slowly to pick up all that complexity.  Truly outstanding.

Let's shift gears one more time, to King Street's Irish Gael Export Stout.  This beer was released back in the spring, so it's a little embarrassing that it's taken me until now to review it.  That being said, it was definitely worth the wait.  It poured opaque with a nice tan head that dissipated to a collar.  The nose was primarily of roasted coffee, but there were definitely some notes of wood and whiskey present.  Mouthfeel and carbonation were good, and the flavor profile was smooth, rich and complex.  The roasted malt flavors you expect from a stout were in the foreground, but you could also tell that there was a lot happening in the background, giving a lot of depth to the flavor profile.  A very nice barrel-aged stout and one that makes me very eager to try King Street's next barrel-aged release.

Well, that does it for this week.  I'll be back next week with more news and reviews.  Meanwhile, get out and enjoy this sunny weather while it lasts!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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