Friday, December 20, 2013

Last Blog of 2013

This will be it for 2013, baring some incredible breaking news that would necessitate me taking up my virtual pen between now and the New Year.  Looking back, it's been another great year for craft beer, and craft beer in Alaska in particular.  Good, sustainable growth, more new breweries on the horizon, multiple exceptional brews released -- yes, 2013 was a darn good year.  So let's wrap it up and go have a nice strong beer...

Lots of breweries and brewpubs will be closed on various days in the next two weeks, so rather than try to list them here, I will just remind you to check their websites or Facebook pages.

Speaking of websites, the one for AK Beer Week has been updated and new events are being listed regularly.  If you will be in Anchorage anytime from 10 to 19 January, you should definitely check out your options.

The Twelve Days of Barley Wine at Glacier BrewHouse is close to wrapping up, but you still have today and tomorrow to try them out.

Denali Brewing has released Milepost #2 in their Flagstop series; it's a Flanders Red Ale (see my review on 8/30/2013).  You can find bottles at their Beer Garden or Twister Creek in Talkeetna, or at SubZero in Anchorage.  They also have a slew of beer dinners coming up.  Here's the list that Shawn Standley sent me:

Fri, Dec 20: DBC Beer Dinner at Chinooks in Seward.  Each course will also have a bourbon paired with it. Here's the menu:

Chinook’s Bourbon/Beer Dinner Dec. 20, 2013
Welcome Beer: Agave Gold

Course 1
Grilled Spot Shrimp, Grits, Candied Bacon, Red Eye/Red Pepper Gravy, Truffled Popcorn
Cask Conditioned Single Engine Red aged with Pomegranate

Course 2
Smoked Beet and Goat Cheese Pie, Radish Sprouts, Pickled Beets, Foie Gras Mousse
Slow Down Brown

Course 3
Porter Braised Beef Cheek, BBQ Baked White Beans, Peppered Cabbage Roll, Pickled Peppers
Krük Schwarzbier

Course 4
Buttermilk Ice Cream, AK Barley Waffle, Vanilla Scented Fried Chicken, Bourbon Syrup
2010 Old Mad Dog Barley Wine

Mon, Jan 13: DBC Beer dinner at Eagle River Alehouse featuring: Agave Gold, Slow Down Brown, Kruk, NO DAM Way RyePA, 2013 Old Mad Dog Barley Wine

Mon, Jan 13: DBC Beer dinner at the Anchorage Curling Club.  Beers to be determined

Thurs, Jan 16: "I'll Have Another" collaboration release party at Café Amsterdam.  Coffee Stout.  Breweries: Denali Brewing, Midnight Sun, Kenai River Brewing, Haines Brewing

Jan ?-19: Burgers and Brew challenge at Taproot featuring burger and beer pairings from Denali Brewing and Midnight Sun

Note the collaboration beer release above at Cafe Amsterdam.  Each year, the four breweries listed agree on a beer style at the Haines Beer Fest to brew and release for AK Beer Week.  This year the style was coffee stout and all four beers will be released at 5PM on Thursday, January 16th.  Here's the flier for that:
I posted back on 12/6 pictures of Anchorage Brewing Company's new labels.  Here's some shots of the bottles themselves, "borrowed" from the Facebook page, fresh from being imprinted:

ABC will also be doing a Deal with the Devil Day at four bars in the Lower 48, and releasing their Jolly Pumpkin collaboration beer, Calabaza Boreal at The Culmination Festival on May 17th.

Out at Kassik's Brewery, they are rotating several specialty draft brews through New Years. including Chocolate Cherry Stout, Spiced Cream Ale, White Chocolate Ale (new release), and Smoked Russian Imperial Stout. They are also offering 10% off select 22 oz bombers, hoodies, shirts, hats, ornaments, and glassware.

Speaking of glassware, Homer Brewing Company has 2014 collectible pint glasses on sale.

Kenai River Brewing just finished brewing  batch #3 of their famous Gummi Bear Tripel, using 7,425 of the little candies.  Not sure when they plan to release it, but it's on the way.  I had a great time at the brewery last Friday night, signing books and drinking beer, even if it was blowing a blizzard out side!

St. Elias Brewing Company will be releasing H & H Winter Warmer tomorrow, Saturday, December 21st.  See last week's blog for a description of this collaboration brew between myself and Zach Henry.  If you try it, I'd appreciate some feedback, so feel free to make a comment and tell me what you think.

Speaking of feedback, if you are one of the folks out there who has purchased a copy of Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Everything In Between (Beer on the Last Frontier: The Craft Breweries of Alaska) (Volume 2) , I'd appreciate it if you would take a moment to go onto and write a short review of it.  Feedback like that is the only way things get improved, and I'm always eager to write better.

Well, I think that about wraps things up for 2013.  I want to thanks each and every one of you for taking the time to read my ramblings in this blog.  I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.  I'll see you in 2014.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

More Breaking News: Two New Beers from Broken Tooth Brewing

Technically, this isn't breaking news at all.  It's "Regulars News that I should Have Reported But Totally Spaced Out."

Tyler Jones of Broken Tooth Brewing was kind enough to give me the head's up about two new releases on tap at the Moose's Tooth, but I completely forgot to include the info in my latest blog.

So here's what Tyler had to say about the two new releases:

Lunchtime IPA (Session IPA) You want a beer that’s bursting with hops and flavor like an IPA but won’t slow you down? This is it! Medium bodied, pouring a pale copper with tight white lacing and brimming with citric hop flavors with hints of orange and grapefruit. Lunchtime is a great time for IPA! Brewed By Sean Heyer OG 1.044, ~51 IBU, 4.7% ABV

Cheechokoholic (Brown Ale plus Cocoa) In the ancient Americas, Cocoa was offered to both Mayan and Aztec Gods as tribute. In modern Alaska we offer this Cocoa-infused ale as a brief respite to your hectic Holiday season. With three separate additions of Ghirardelli cocoa, this elixir pours a dark garnet color with a rich, roasty malt backbone and dry, clean finish. Some like it hot, some like it cold; we like it chocolate! Brewed by Sean Heyer OG 1.057, ~28 IBU, 5.2% ABV

They both sound mighty delicious, so head on down to the Moose and check them out!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Breaking News: New Beer Release at King Street

This came in from King Street Brewing Co. just too late to make yesterday's blog:

As the end of the year fast approaches, much like the diminishing daylight, many of us find ourselves scrambling to fit everything in during the limited time allotted.  Seeing an opportunity, King Street's lead brewer, David Short, has been experimenting, and has concocted a special treat to help keep you going during this crazy time.  Dave bills the creation as a Barrel Aged Breakfast Stout, and if you're a coffee aficionado, this beer is for you!  From the brewer himself:
Alaskans!  We are a hearty bunch.  We need a beer as robust as we are to carry us through the cold winter months.  In that spirit, and inspired by the ingredients in my wife's homemade Irish Cream, we aged our Irish Stout for four months in a Jack Daniels whiskey barrel, and then finished it off with spicing additions of cocoa nibs, Madagascar vanilla, and locally roasted Steamdot coffee.  The final product treats the pallet with a sublime blend of coffee, chocolate, roast, caramel, and graham cracker.  At 4.9% alcohol, this beer is smooth and deeply sessionable.  It'll have you racing out of bed in the morning to get your breakfast stout.  And, given that we're only going to release one or two of the three available kegs right now, you might want to do exactly that!

Sounds like the perfect beer for the snowstorm that we're in the middle of!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

Well, temperatures have again dropped below zero here on the Kenai, the forecast for this weekend includes 3 to 5 inches of snow, the tree is up and the wood stove is blazing, so it's Christmas time for sure.  Time to break out all those strong brews you've been cellaring for a special occasion and celebrate the Winter Solstice, Christmas, the turning of the year, and/or whatever else suits your

Speaking of the Winter Solstice, on Saturday, December 21st, St. Elias Brewing Company will be releasing H & H Winter Warmer.  This is a collaboration beer between myself and Zach Henry of St. Elias.  By collaboration, I mean that Zach supplied the ingredients, the equipment, and the brewing expertise.  I supplied the "Hey, wouldn't this be  a cool beer style to brew," a few suggestions on the recipe, and some grunt labor hauling grain bags and shoveling out the mash tun on brew day.  That brew day was way back on September 6th, by the way; the beer has been quietly conditioning at the brewery ever since.  Stylistically, it's a Burton Ale, a style that doesn't really exist anymore, but was once incredibly popular, both in Britain and around the world. I stopped by last Friday for a sample, just as Zach was dry hopping it with East Kent Goldings.  Even without the dry hops and totally uncarbonated, I could tell it was going to be a great beer.  It's darker and slightly sweeter than an IPA, but almost as hoppy, and at about 7% ABV, it'll keep you nice and warm through the coldest winter.  As I said, it'll be on tap on Saturday, December 21st, so be sure to stop by St. Elias Brewing Company and have a glass, then let us know what you think of it.

On this Friday, December 13th, I'll be signing copies of both Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island Breweries (Beer on the Last Frontier: The Craft Breweries of Alaska) (Volume 1) and Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Everything In Between (Beer on the Last Frontier: The Craft Breweries of Alaska) (Volume 2) at Kenai River Brewing Company in Soldotna.  I'll be there from 5:30 to 7:30 in the evening, so feel free to stop by and pick up a copy or two, either for yourself or as Christmas gifts, and I'll be happy to autograph them for you.

As long as I'm tooting my own horn, I might as well mention the class I'll be teaching in the spring semester, CED A157 The Art & History of Brewing.  It's a one credit course taught on Tuesday nights from 5:30 pm to 6:45 pm at the Kenai River campus of Kenai Peninsula College.  It starts on January 21st and runs through April 29th.  We taste a different beer in each class, take field trips to the local breweries, have guest lecturers, and generally have a great time while learning about the origins of various beer styles, how to store and serve beer properly, how to pair it with food, and a whole lot more.  If this sounds like something that might interest you, you can find more information at the KPC website at or by calling 907-262-0330.

Enough about moi, let's get to the latest beer news.

Things are starting to rev up with Alaska Beer Week.  The website will be up soon, and you can subscribe to get email notices of updates here.  Tickets for the Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival are on sale through Ticketmaster.

HooDoo Brewing in Fairbanks has just released a new brew, a Porter.  It's brewed with a Maris Otter pale malt base, plus seven specialty malts, then aged on Madagascar Vanilla beans.  Word is, it's smooth, rich and delicious.  They also have their Mild, Kolsch, and IPA on tap.

Glacier BrewHouse's Twelve Days of Barley Wine Fest is in full swing; stop by and check it out!

Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady has their $5 Growler Wonderful Wednesdays & Fantastic Fridays.  You can get fills of their Golden, Pale, Scottish, Porter, & Stout at that price.

Anchorage Brewing Company's Hibiscus Double IPA is on tap around town.  There's only 8 kegs total, so it won't be around long.

Homer Brewing Company had some of their 2008 Barley Wine on tap; supplies were limited so it may be gone soon, if it's not already.

I only have one new beer review for this week:

Nissefar Christmas Ale from Haand Bryggeriet in Norway: I picked up a bottle of this brew at Country Liquors in Kenai.  It poured a very deep, almost opaque ruby color with a nice, mocha-colored head.  The nose was rich, with notes of licorice, caramel, dark fruit, and some subtle smoke.  The mouth was medium to full with good carbonation.  The licorice gives depth to the overall flavor profile, with more dark fruit elements, then a hint of smoke on the finish.  Almost like a delicious slice of fruit cake in a glass. 7% ABV.

That's it for this week.  I should have more reviews for next week, and hopefully some events for Alaska Beer Week.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tis the Season to Drink Good Beer!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas out there, and lots of cool new beers are being released.  It's been a couple of weeks since my last blog (other than to announce the release of Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Everything In Between (Beer on the Last Frontier: The Craft Breweries of Alaska) (Volume 2) ), so let's jump right into the beer news.

 Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling Co. got their Osculum Infame Belgian Golden Winter Warmer on tap on Thursday, December 5th, just in time to celebrate the 87th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.  See my review on 1/19/2010 about this excellent beer.

Denali Brewing's latest addition to the canned offerings, Chuli Stout, is now in stores.  Look for it at
Brown Jug now and more stores in a couple of weeks.  Denali also has a new beer out in limited quantities,  called Chinook Pale, a West Coast-style Pale Ale.  Here's how they describe it : 

Burst hopping with Chinook hops creates a low ABV session ale. The strong aroma of grapefruit gives way to restrained bitterness in this easy-drinking pale ale. 4.1% ABV, 31 IBUS.

Look for this on tap at the usual venues, like Humpy's, Cafe Amsterdam, La Bodega, Tap Root, and Brown Jug. Next up should be a schwarzbier and their No Dam Way RyePA.

King Street Brewing Company has officially released their Nobility Barley Wine.  They did a pre-release of a couple of cases of this barrel-aged English-style barley wine a few months back and I was able to snag a couple.  See my recent review on 11/15/2013.  It makes a great stocking stuffer!

Speaking of barley wines, Alaskan Brewing Company has released their 2013 Alaskan Barley Wine.  This brew weighs in at a hefty 10.7% ABV, 65 IBUs.  It's perfect for cellaring, as the flavors tend to mellow and improve over the first three years or so.  This beer was first released in 2003 for the GABBF, and it has become a real classic.

Speaking of the Great Alaskan Beer and Barley Wine Festival, tickets are now on sale via Ticketmaster.  Unless tasting beer with 2500 drunken twenty-somethings is your idea of a good time, I strongly suggest you sign up for the Saturday afternoon Connoisseurs' Session, from 2 to 5 PM.  It costs a little more, but it's certainly worth it.  There will be lots of other events leading up to the GABBF during Alaska Beer Week, so be sure to like them on Facebook and keep an eye on their website.  It hasn't been updated, but soon will be.

As long as we're still talking about barley wine, Glacier BrewHouse will be starting their Twelve Days of Barley Wine Festival next Tuesday, December 10th.  It will run through Saturday, December 21st.  Look for two or three barley wines to roll out each day.  If you'll be in Anchorage at any point during those days, you need to check it out.

Gabe Fletcher of Anchorage Brewing Company has announced that he will be bottling this year's version of his amazing and award-winning barley wine, A Deal with the Devil.  This 17.3% monster took first place in the barley wine competition at the last GABBF.  See my review of it on 1/25/2013.  The amount available will be extremely limited, but I will definitely be snapping up all I can.  Oh, and the label is totally kick-ASS:

Click to enlarge

Gabe has also announced Between The Staves,a collaboration brew with Crooked Stave out of Denver.  Here's the label for that beer:

Click to enlarge

Additionally, the date and brewery list for the 2014 Culmination has been announced.  The festival will take place on Saturday, May 17th from 4 to 8 PM at the Dena'ina Center.  I missed last year's due to a last minute family emergency, so I'm definitely planning to make it this year.  The  breweries are:

1.Jester King Brewery
2.Sante Adairius Rustic Ales
.Grassoots Brewing
6.Prairie Brewing
7.Crooked Stave Artisan Project
8.Jolly Pumpkin Artisanal Ales
9.Hill Farmstead Brewing
10.Russian River Brewing

11. The Rare Barrel
12. Mystic Brewing
13. Societe Brewing
14.Anchorage Brewing Company
15.Brewery Vivant
16.Evil Twin
17.The Ale Apothecary
19.Logston Farmhouse Ales
20.Side Project
21.The Bruery
22.The Commons Brewery
23.Tired Hands

26.Wild Beer Co.
27.Faction Brewing
28.Tree House Brewing
29.Off Color Brewing
30.Against The Grain
31.Heretic Brewing

33.Lost Abbey

Looks like a pretty amazing list, if you ask me!

Midnight Sun Brewing Company has announced their first AK Beer Week Event: Fermented and Frozen Ice Cream Social on Wednesday, January 15th. It starts at 5 PM and the first flavor on offer will be The Devil's Dulce De Leche made with Arctic Devil Barley Wine.

Broken Tooth Brewing has begun releasing some of its beers in 750ml crown-capped bottles. Last week, I reviewed their Double Winter Warmer and their Devil's Thumb DIPA.  Those two brews have not been released yet, but two others, Foulweather IPA and Beg, Yarrow, or Steal Saison have gone on sale at the Moose's Tooth.  Unfortunately, at the time I write this, the Foulweather has already sold out and the saison isn't far behind, so you may have missed your chance at them.  See their reviews below.

Moving on to the Peninsula, Kenai River Brewing Company just released a new Single Hop IPA today.  This one is hopped with Pacific Gem hops from New Zealand.  The Herkules Imperial Rye Pale Ale is still on tap; see my review below.  Kenai River will also be hosting a book signing by yours truly.  I'll be there from 5:30 to 7:30 next Friday, December 13th, to sign copies of both Volume I and Volume II of my book, Beer on the Last Frontier: The Craft Breweries of Alaska.  If you already have a copy, feel free to bring it by, otherwise you can purchase one at the brewery.  They make great Christmas gifts...

Word on the street is that the Seward Brewing Company has been sold to a new owner.  I haven't been able to confirm that, but as soon as I do, I will put the word out here.

St. Elias Brewing Company has several new brews on tap, starting with a delicious Peche Lambic.  They have also released this year's Moose Juice Barley Wine, a blend of several previous years' batches.  I haven't had a chance to try it myself, but Zach Henry says it's the best he's ever made. Also on tap is their Matushka Imperial Stout.

Speaking of St. Elias, mark you calendars for the release of H&H Winter Warmer on the Winter Solstice, December 21st.  This beer is a collaboration between Zach and myself (Henry & Howell, H & H).  It's based on one of my homebrew recipes which recreated a once popular but now extinct British beer style known as a Burton Ale.  If you'd like to know more about it, check out this column I wrote for The Redoubt Reporter.  You can expect the beer to be sweeter and darker than an IPA, and not quite as hoppy, but very warming on a cold day at about 6.5% ABV.  If you try it, let me know what you think!

OK, let's hit the beer reviews:

Broken Tooth Brewing's Foulweather IPA: A companion to their flagship Fairweather IPA, this beer poured a lovely clear gold with a large white heavy; beautiful in the glass. The aroma was full of bright floral and citrus hop aromas; very enticing.  Carbonation was good, and the upfront bitterness was very nice, followed by clean, crisp hop flavors and aromas, falling away to a nice finish.  All-in-all, an excellent brew and a good match for their Fairweather IPA.

Broken Tooth Brewing's Beg, Yarrow, or Steal Saison: As the name implies, this beer is made using the ancient brewing herb yarrow.  It has a sweet but slightly bitter taste and was once used in the recipes for gruit, the herb mixture used to flavor ales prior to the use of hops.  It poured a clear gold with a small white head that dissipated to a collar.  The nose had spicy, peppery notes, some from the Belgian yeast and some from the yarrow.  There was good carbonation and a flavor profile with earthy, spicy Belgian yeast notes, as well as some herbal bitterness from the yarrow.  An unusual brew, but one with an interesting flavor profile.  I very much enjoyed it.

Kenai River Brewing's Herkules Rye Imperial Pale Ale (H.I.R.P.A.): This beer poured a deep honey color with a nice, cream-colored head.  The aroma has hints of pine, lemon, and black pepper, at least to my nose, but is fairly well-balanced with the malt elements.  Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium.A first-rate bitter attack is balanced by a solid malt backbone, enhancing its drinkability.  The 8.6% ABV is evident in a slight heat on the finish.  Extremely drinkable for 103 IBUs.

Boulevard Brewing's Reverb Imperial Pilsner:  Another in this brewery's excellent Smokestack Series of brews, this beer makes it easy to understand how this style took the world by storm in the 19th Century. In the glass it's a beautiful clear gold with a nice white head.  The aroma is of fresh, bright Saaz hops.  The carbonation is effervescent, and the beer is full of crisp, clean hoppiness, balance by clean malt flavors.  This is an outstanding example of just how good a pilsner can be.  7.7% ABV.

Well, that's it for this week.  Be sure to keep an eye out for those great seasonal beer releases.

Until Next Time, Cheers