Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 1st: International IPA Day

Well, it's that time of year again: International IPA Day! If you'll allow me to quote my favorite author on the subject of beer, myself, here's what I had to say last year at this time:

"It's a day when we pause from our busy lives to reflect on the impact that a style of beer, created some three centuries ago to sell to British nabobs busy building their Raj over the objections of the local inhabitants of the Indian sub-continent, has had on modern craft beer culture.  Nearly extinct as a style of beer forty years ago, today IPAs (and Double IPAs and Imperial IPAs and Black IPAs) bestride the beer world like a colossus.  Everybody brews them and almost everybody drinks them."
That statement is still accurate today.  The flood of IPAs pouring forth from craft breweries across the US and around the world shows no signs of slackening.  Indeed, judging by the recent statistics released by the Brewers Association, with the numbers of breweries continuing to grow at an amazing rate, I expect this trend will only continue.

Here are the latest numers for breweries in the US:

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 We now have more breweries in the US than we did in 1870!  At this rate, it won't be long before we have more than at any time in American history.  We truly are living in the Golden Age of American Beer.

And besides the number of breweries opening, the production of craft beer by volume also continues to grow, even as the big macrobrews continue to decline.  Granted, craft beer is still small by percentage of total beer sales, but its share keeps growing.

Click to enlarge

As if we need more evidence of craft beer popularity, here's another on for you: tickets for the 2013 Great American Beer Festival went on sale to the public earlier this week.  They sold out in twenty minutes.  Yes, you read that right: 49,000 tickets were sold in a third of an hour!  What does that say about the popularity of craft beer?

All this spells continued growth for craft beer in general and IPAs in particular.

 With its growing popularity, India Pale Ale has developed several sub-styles.Three are actually "official,", being defined by the Beer Judge Certification Program: English-style, American-style, and Double/Imperial IPAs.  But there are several others being brewed:

Belgian-style IPAs: similar to a standard IPA with regards to malt and hops, but brewed using a Belgian yeast.  Local examples: Bitter Monk DIPA from Anchorage Brewing Company or Mayhem Belgian IPA from Midnight Sun Brewing Company.

White IPAs: The grain bill of a wit beer but hopped like an IPA.  Local examples: Pretty Fly for a White IPA from Kassik's Brewery or Galaxy White IPA from Anchorage Brewing Company.

Brettanomyces/Wild IPAs: An IPA that uses either brett or wild yeast in primary or secondary fermentation.  Local example: Bitter Monk DIPA also fall into this category, as it uses brett in its secondary fermentation.

Rye IPAs: An IPA that includes Rye in the grain used.  Local examples: Kenai River Brewing's Imperial Rye Pale Ale series.

And last but not least, Black IPAs: as the oxymoronic names suggests, this is an IPA brewed with specialty malts to make it black in color, with a hint of roasted flavor.  Local examples: Kenai River Brewing's Black Water Bend-R Black IPA or St. Elias Brewing Company's Black Hole CDA.

So with so many different IPAs to choose from, I hope you will join me in hoisting a glass filled with this hoppy elixir to celebrate International IPA Day!

If you are looking for a place to hoist that glass, Kenai River Brewing has both their Falconer's Flight IPA and their Falconer's Flight Imperial Rye Pale Ale (reviewed 5/3/2013) on tap today.

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, King Street Brewing Company in Anchorage has started canning their beers, bringing the number of breweries in Alaska doing so to five.  Given the numerous advantages cans bring to the table, I suspect it won't be long before a sixth brewery joins the mix.

King Street is offering several of their beers in cans, on a rotating basis.  so far they have offered their Blonde Ale, their Hefeweizen, and their Pilsner.  Now, in honor of International IPA Day, they will be offering their IPA as well.  I was wondering how they would manage to offer so many different brews in cans, given the minimum run sizes (100,000+) associated with having cans produced.  Shane and Dana at King Street have come up with a very clever work-around.  All the cans are identical, except for the name and ABV of the beer.  These are added using a stick-on label to the can, meaning they can use the same base can for any of their beers!  Very clever, guys!  I picked up a six-pack of their Pilsner last Sunday at La Bodega and have been enjoying them (and our great sunny weather) all week.

Besides their new cans, King Street also has another new brew on tap: and oaked version of their Nirvana Wit.  The aging in a used chardonnay barrel was apparently very beneficial to the Nirvana,  "imparting a white grape flavor with soft European oak-derived honey-like sweetness, yet it still finishes crisp and has a new beautiful crystal clear presentation."  Sounds delicious, so be sure to stop by and give it a try, if you're in Anchorage.

Speaking of being in Anchorage, I haven't heard they're doing anything for International IPA Day, but tomorrow is First Firkin Friday at Midnight Sun.  Here's the flier for it:

Arkose Brewery has apparently been having some technical issues.  They have been closed since Tuesday, 7/30, but plan to reopen to the public next Wednesday, August 7th.  They will be having another Beer Meets Canvas Event on Saturday, August 10th, from 2 to 4 PM, for $30.  Here's how they describe the event:

"Sip. Relax. Create. Tap into your inner artist while we tap into our tap lines. Paint freely during this month's Beer Meets Canvas. The theme is "Summer Nights." Paint to the theme or bring your own inspiration. Includes one pint and all art supplies for 21 yrs and older. Pre-registration is required. Call 746-BEER (2337) to sign up."

They have also announced a new beer, Steed Rye IPA, to be released on Thursday, August 22nd, at 6 PM.

This Friday and Saturday will be 49th State Brewing Company's Augtoberfest, up in Healy  I written about it several times, so hopefully you've already made your plans, if you're going to attend.

I still haven't gathered my courage enough to brave the hordes eating and drinking at St. Elias Brewing Company, but they have announced a couple more new beers.  Not sure if there's any left at this point, but last weekend they had a cask of the Brass Monkey ESB available on their hand pump.  Zach Henry has also brought back a popular beer, his Flower Child XPA, this time using a mix of American and Australian hops.

Well, that's it for news.  Let's move on to some reviews:

Let's start with Arctic Saison from Grassroots Brewing, a subsidiary of Hill Farmstead Brewery of Greensboro, Vermont.  It was brewed at Anchorage Brewing Company in the spring; Batch #1 has a May 2013 release date.  It poured a slightly cloudy gold, with a white, slightly rocky head.  The aroma was earthy and slightly funky, thanks to the presence of brett; the barnyard notes were subtle, though likely to increase with time.  Carbonation was good, and mouthfeel was light.  The brett was evident on the initial attack, then floral notes from the hops, plus some citrus.  The finish was quite dry, which further accentuated the hoppiness.  Overall, a very dry and refreshing saison, perfect for the hot, sunny days of summer we've been having. 6% ABV.

Next, I need to wrap up from last week, with the third bottled 49th State Brewing Company beer that Jay Bullen was nice enough to give me.  This one was a Smoked Marzen, at 7.2% ABV.  This is a classic style from the region around Bamberg, Germany, and I found Jay's take on it to be spot on, just like his doppelbock.  It poured a dark ruby color with a nice, cream-colored head.  The nose was redolent with smoke,backed by a bit of malt sweetness.  Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium.  There was plenty of smoke on the attack, followed by the good, clean maltiness of a well-made marzen.  This brew could hold its own with the classic Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen.  Well done, Jay!

We don't get a lot from The Commons Brewery in Portland, Oregon up here, but I snagged a bottle of their Urban Farmhouse Ale at La Bodega a while back.  It poured a clear gold with a dense white head, looking every inch the classic saison.  The aroma was full of the earthy, spicy notes that tells you a true Belgian yeast is in play.The carbonation was goo, the mouthfeel was light.  The flavor profile was crisp and clean, with several flavor elements -bready, honey, citrus, floral - all in balance.  Another excellent summer refresher, in keeping with the historic roots of the style. 5.3% ABV.

I also picked up a bottle of Oak-aged Backburner Imperial Barley Wine from Southern Tier Brewing.  I've had many brews from Southern Tier, and while this one was good, it was not the best they produce.  It poured a dark honey collar with a small cream-colored head that dissipated rapidly to a collar.  The aroma was full of American hops: Amarillo, Centennial, and Williamettes.  The mouthfeel was surprising light for a 9.6% ABV barley wine.  The flavors profile had element of toffee and raisins in it, with good balancing hop bitterness, and oak and alcohol heat on the finish.  A workman-like effort, but not in the league of the really top-notch barley wines out there.

Finally, I picked up a growler of Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge from Brouwerij Bockor at La Bodega last Sunday.  This is a Flanders Red Ale by style, so I was expecting something sour and this beer did not disappoint me!  It poured a clear ruby color with a small, cream-colored head.  The nose was tart, with sour cherry notes, followed by some vanilla from the wood.  On the palate there was intense sourness in the initial attack, like sour cherries or plums, then some oak elements, then a return to lingering sourness.  Carbonation is on the low side, which helps make the sourness manageable.  The finish is long and intense, very dry and crisp.  5.5% ABV. Quite a complex sour ale, very enjoyable in hot weather.

Well, that's it for this week.  Be sure to celebrate International IPA Day and don't forget to get your tickets to next weekend's Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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