Friday, January 24, 2014

AK Beer Week: The Aftermath

So I survived another Alaska Beer Week, more or less intact.  While it is no where near the scale of some of the beer weeks in the Lower 48 - the ones that have 300+ events - Alaska Beer Week has become quite the extensive (and intensive) experience.

I'm not about to give you all a beer-by-beer account of my time in Anchorage, but let me hit a couple of highlights.

The Humpy's and Sub-Zero Belgium Beer Dinner of Wednesday Night - I've attended this dinner in years past, but this year I must say that Billy Opinsky and his chef outdid themselves. Here is a copy of the menu:

As you can see from the menu, the only dish which did not contain king crab was the dessert!  Not to mention all the fabulous beers which were served with the various dishes.  The event went from 6 PM to almost 11 PM, and I could barely make it back to my hotel, I was so stuffed with good food and good beer!  Kudos again to Billy for a superb evening; even at $100 per person, I'm sure he lost a ton of money on the affair.

On Thursday afternoon, I took in the annual Specialty Imports Trade Show.  As always, it was a total class act, with a nice buffet and plenty of interesting new brews to sample.  Here are a couple of things that jumped out at me:

Arkose Brewery in Palmer has signed on with Specialty, so now we can have some hope of seeing their fine beers down here on the Peninsula on occasion!

Ben Love of Gigantic Brewing in Portland was there, pouring several new brews, including a wicked Russian Imperial Stout. I'm looking forward to snagging bottles of all his latest releases.

Kenai River Brewing was pouring their famous Gummi Beer Tripel.  Here's their new graphic for it:

Plus, there were several new artisanal cider makers and meaderies there.  Both of those sectors are growing rapidly.  By the way, if you are interested in cider, I highly recommend this book:

World's Best Ciders: Taste, Tradition, and Terroir by Pete Brown and Bill Bradshaw.  I read it over the holidays and learned a tremendous amount about traditional & artisanal ciders from all over the world.

Thursday Night was the joint event between the Great Northern Brewers Club and the Brewers Guild of Alaska at The Snow Goose.  This year's event was organized a bit differently, with lots of excellent food and plenty of great beer.  To avoid the gatecrashers we've suffered from in the past, this year tickets and IDs were required at the door, which seemed to produce a much more mellow atmosphere inside.  The guest speaker were Peter Bouckaert and Kim Jordan from New Belgium Brewing Company in Ft. Collins, CO. and Dick Cantwell from Elysian Brewery in Seattle, WA.

Saturday at the Connoisseurs Session of the Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival proper, the winners were announced for the various categories.  The Winter Seasonal Award went to Shmaltz Brewing (I missed exactly which beer). Anchorage Brewing Company's A Deal with the Devil Barley Wine (last year's winner) took 3rd place in the Barley Wine contest, Firestone-Walker's Sucaba took second, and Alameda Brewing's Ol' Alger was chosen as the best of the barley wines.  Congratulations to all of this year's awardees.

Speaking of ABC's A Deal with the Devil, the beer they were pouring at the fest was from last year's batch, because all of this year's release went into bottles.  By the time you read this, every bottle that hit the shelves in Anchorage will be gone.  In fact, they disappeared so fast, even with a one-bottle-per-customer-max rule, that Pamela Hatzis and her crew at La Bodega saved the last dozen bottles and held a drawing for a chance to buy one.  However, I think that the drawing was this morning, so if you haven't scored a bottle yet, I'm afraid you are out of luck.  I understand that 63 cases of this beer will be heading south in about three weeks, so if you are reading this blog Outside, you'd best check with your local beer store to see if they'll be getting any.

Oh, and by the way, it sells for $30 a bottle, and it's worth every penny...

I wrote above that Kenai River Brewing was pouring their Gummi Bear Tripel up in Anchorage.  As of today, Friday, 1/24, they have it on tap at the brewery.  Also new at the brewery are two brand-new 40-barrel fermenters.  Here are a picture of one of them arriving, and then both in place, courtesy of Doug Hogue:

These new vessels pretty much fill all the available brewery space.  If Kenai River wants to expand anymore, they are going to have to get themselves a bigger building!

While I was in Anchorage, I had lunch one day at Flattop Pizza + Pool, the new venture located between Humpy's and Subzero, on the corner of 6th Ave and F St.  I was there quite early, so there wasn't much going on, but that gave me good chance to check the place out.  Lots of big screen TVs give it the sports bar feel, several nice pool tables, and about 12 to 15 local beers on draft (I forgot to count the exact number).  I had a nice Anchortown Pizza for lunch, and a glass of Flattop Pale Ale, the house beer brewed for them by Denali Brewing Company

The beer poured a deep copper color, crystal clear with a white head that left good lacing on the glass.  The aroma was nice, with plenty of good, citrusy American hop notes.  Mouthfeel and carbonation were both good, with a decently bitter attack up front, that gradually feel away to a nice, clean finish.  Very well done, and an excellent accompaniment to the pizza.  If you are in the downtown corridor and looking for pizza and beer, Flattop should definitely be on your short list of choices.

I also finally got around to reviewing St. Elias Brewing Company's Matushka Imperial Stout.  This is a beer that Zach Henry has brewed before, but I think he has really hit the bulls-eye with this version. It poured opaque with a big brown head.  The aroma was of roast malt, vanilla from the oak, dark fruit, and I swear I was getting notes of pears from it as well!  Nice carbonation and excellent mouthfeel - chewy and oily, just the way I like my RIS.  The flavor profile was rich and complex; I picked up coffee, lots of malt, more oaky vanilla, even some chocolate.  Best of all, no hint of how strong the beer is, none of the solventy alcohol heat you sometimes get on beers this big.  An excellent brew, probably in the top ten beers I've ever had from St. Elias.

Well, that's about it for this week.  I should a have a longer blog next week, along with more beer reviews.  Until then, get out and drink some good beer!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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