Friday, February 28, 2014

Early Spring?

It's hard to believe it's still February, what with daytime highs in the upper 40s and snow melting left and right.  Of course, Mother nature is probably just setting us all up for a killer late March cold snap, once everything has started trying to bloom.  Still, we might as well enjoy this good weather while we can.

I'm a week behind on this blog due to having to prepare and deliver a couple of presentations.  I gave on last Thursday as part of the KPC Showcase series and I've got another one tonight.

If you'll be out on the town tonight, I'll be giving a presentation at the Kenai Fine Arts Center, starting at about 6 pm, entitled "The Impact of Beer Upon History".  Yes, I know it's rather ambitious to try to cover 10,000 years in one evening, so why not come on by and see how I do it.  I'll be signing copies of my books afterwards, so if you missed out on getting them signed last week at the KPC Showcase, here's another chance.

Speaking of events, Green Star's Beer & Swine Fest will be taking place at the Snow Goose in Anchorage on Saturday, April 5th.  There will be two tasting sessions, one from 2 to 5 pm, and one from 6 to 9 pm.  Each session will be limited to 150 tickets, which will go on sale at the Green Star website on Tuesday, March 4.  Look for beverages from Midnight Sun, Bear Creek Winery, Odom Corp., Specialty Imports, Anchorage Brewing, Kenai River Brewing, Sleeping Lady Brewing, and 49th State Brewing, along with appetizers from various restaurants and a silent auction.  Here's the flier for it:

Sounds like it should be a fantastic time and it's for a great cause, so get your tickets next week.

The same weekend as the Beer & Swine, the Great Northern Brewers will be having their Talkeetna Beer Trippin' Event.  Here's the schedule for that:

Click to enlarge

I've yet to make one of these, but I keep hoping, as it sounds like a great time.

Up at HooDoo Brewing in Fairbanks, they tapped a new beer yesterday: HooDoo Tripel. Here's how they describe it:

HooDoo Tripel is a strong, effervescent ale brewed in the Belgian tradition.  One of the strongest styles of Belgian beer, Tripel is deceiving in its light color, and inviting in its aroma and candy-like sweetness.  Made with only the finest European malts, fermentable sugars are also derived from an addition of Belgian Candi Sugar during the boil.  This sugar addition results in not only a higher alcohol content, but also allows the yeast to ferment the beer to a high degree leaving a clean, dry finish.  Flavors from the yeast and malts compliment each other with peppery, fruity flavors dominating, and an occasional hint of bubblegum.  ABV: 8.3% // IBU: 30 // OG: 18.1

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing

Unfortunately, we never get any HooDoo beers down south; they're so popular in Fairbanks, that there's none left for us!

Due to not getting a blog out last week, I missed spreading the word about another great event, which took place at Glacier BrewHouse Wednesday night.  I think the flier speaks for itself:

Kudos to Jeff King and Glacier for supporting such a worthy cause.

Anchorage Brewing Company has released the label for their Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales collaboration beer:

Click to enlarge

At Kenai River Brewing, they've been quite busy pumping out 305 cases of Peninsula Brewers Reserve.  Here's the proof:

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing
At  St. Elias Brewing Company, there's both good news and bad news.  The bad news is the H&H Winter Warmer, the Burton Ale that Zach Henry and I brewed, has gone the way of all flesh.  All that's left is a single cask which Zach plans to put on handpump in the second half of March.

The good news is that it's been replaced by two new beers:  Insidious XPA and Queen of Hearts.  There's a review of the XPA below.  The Queen of Hearts is described as "a blackberry lambic style ale aged in red wine barrels with wild yeast for 8 months."  Zach also tells me that there should be a new Czech pilsner on tap by early next week; the twist of this one is that he used Sterling hops, rather than the traditional Saaz variety.  It will be interesting to see how it turned out.

OK, let's do some beer reviews.

Grassroots Brewing's Arctic Soiree: A collaboration between Anchorage Brewing and Hill Farmstead Brewing, you know this brew is unusual as soon as it hits the glass, since it pours a clear pink (!) with a small white head that dissipates to a collar.  The aroma has the distinctive Brett funk.  Mouthfeel is light and the carbonation is moderate.  On the palate there are floral notes from the hibiscus added, no perceptible hop flavor, followed by some tartness from the Brett and lime juice on the finish. 6% ABV. A very unusual brew, to say the least, but I enjoyed it.  To a certain degree, it reminded me more of herbal tea than beer.

Anchorage Brewing Company's 2014 Rondy Brew Saison with Lemon Grass & Brett: Another brew from the wooden world of Gabe Fletcher, this one tasted much more like beer than the preceding one.  It poured a slightly cloudy gold with a big white head that left good lacing.  The nose was a pleasing blend of funk from the Brett and citrus from the lemon grass.  Carbonation and mouthfeel were both good, and the beer was tart on the palate without being truly sour, thanks to the combo of Brett & lemon grass.  There was a touch of excessive bitterness on the finish, but overall I liked it a lot.  6% ABV, 30 IBUs.

Green's Gluten-Free Dry-Hopped Lager: I must admit, I only tried this beer at the request of Jhon Gilroy of Merchant du Vin, as I have not had much luck with gluten-free beers in the past.  Still, I am always willing to experiment, so I gave this beer a try.  It poured a slightly cloudy gold with a decent white head that dissipated to a collar.  The aroma had plenty of citrusy hop notes. Carbonation was OK, though the mouthfeel was slightly thin.  The bitterness was good, and it had a clean lager taste, but I thought the finish was a bit lacking.  All-in-all, judged against your typical craft beer, I'd say this one was decent, not exceptional.  However, judged against your typical gluten-free beer, it was outstanding.  Most gluten-free beers, I can't bring myself to finish my first glass, much less the bottle.  With this one. I actually drank a second bottle.  Personally, I am very grateful that I don't suffer from celiac disease, so I can drink the real thing. But if you are a beer-lover who needs to drink gluten-free, Green's Gluten-Free Dry-Hopped Lager is about the best things I've seen come along.
St. Elias Brewing Company's Insidious XPA: Pours a very light gold with a big white head. The nose reveals the presence of plenty of Galaxy and Citra hops.  Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light.  The hop flavor and aroma is great.  At  4.5% ABV, this is an excellent session ale. If it was summer, this would be a classic "lawnmower beer".  This is the beer to have when you plan to have more than one.

Well, that's it for this week.  Keep enjoying this warm weather while it lasts, and I'll be back next week with more beer news and reviews.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Breaking News: Baranof Island Brewing Receives $350K Loan from City of Sitka

I received this press release yesterday, just a bit too late to make it into my regular blog.  However, it's such big news that I don't think it can wait a week:

Baranof Island Brewing Company Receives Major Economic Development Loan

February 12, 2014

Sitka, Alaska:  On February 11, 2014, Baranof Island Brewing Company was granted a $350,000 development loan by the Mayor and City Assembly of Sitka.  The loan was granted from The Southeast Alaska Economic Development Revolving Loan, also known as the Stevens Fund. 
This loan will allow the microbrewery to purchase a new grain mill and establish a beer-canning line. 

Baranof Island Brewing Company was founded in 2009 by Rick and Suzan Armstrong, in a garage 2 miles outside of downtown Sitka.  According to Mr. Armstrong, “Right now, our 310 gallon system is simply not large enough to meet the growing demand for craft beer from Sitka.”  Mr. Armstrong notes that demand for Baranof Island Brewing Company beer has been growing, and last summer, the company was only able to fill half the Alaska orders for its various styles.  “With growing Alaska demand and with our expansion into Washington State” Mr. Armstrong said, “this loan is crucial to help us scale up our production facilities.”

The Armstrong’s predict that new grain mill will increase current efficiency and will allow for 1,356 extra gallons of beer to be produced per month. New fermenting tanks will also be on the shopping list. These new tanks will allow the fermenting and conditioning process to occur in the same tank, reducing labor and cleaning costs.

The most important investment will be a canning line. Canning is gaining favor in the craft beer industry as an economical method to distribute beer while preserving flavor. Glass bottles are expensive to ship to Sitka empty and even more costly to ship out full. Aluminum cans will drastically lower shipping costs and will increase the shelf life of Baranof Island Brewery beers.

Baranof Island Brewing Company’s beers are available for sale throughout Alaska and in northern Washington State. The company currently produce six main unfiltered and unpasteurized American style ales, with an additional rotating list of seasonal ales. 
Contact:  Nick Feurey
(914) 656 7319 - cell

As I said, this is big news, especially about Baranof Island purchasing a canning line and joining the ranks of breweries in Alaska using that packaging.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Six More Weeks of Winter

Well, here we are on the back half of winter.  We got a nice break for a bit, while the Lower 48 got to experience a typical Alaskan winter (heh, heh, heh), but now things are back to normal, i.e. single digits during the day and below zero at night.  Times like these, you need a good beer to keep you warm.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company is releasing a new beer in collaboration with Modern Dwellers Chocolate Lounge: Modern Romance Spicy Chocolate Dark Ale, brewed with cacao nibs, cocoa powder, cinnamon, chilies, and Mayan Spice blend.  9.3% ABV, 37 IBUs. It will be released on draft at MSBC's The Loft, at the Museum downtown and in the City Beer Store in San Francisco on Valentine's Day.  Bottles will be available in March, as soon as they receive government approval for the label:

Also coming in March will be the next addition to MSBC's list of canned beers, their new Pleasure Town IPA.  Here's the label for that:

This addition will mean that four of MSBC's beers are now available in cans.

King Street Brewing has their Coconut Chocolate Porter (AKA La Dolce Vita) back on tap.

Glacier BrewHouse was recognized by OpenTable with a 2014 Diner's Choice Award.  They will also be having another Blood Drive this Saturday from 10:30 am to 6 pm.  A donation gets you a pint of root beer and a free appetizer, and the pleasure of knowing you helped save a life.

Up in Fairbanks, HooDoo Brewing will be celebrating Valentine's Day by hosting an event with A&K Cupcakes.  They will be pairing their delicious mini-cupcakes with Hoodoo's Stout and Barley Wine.  It runs from 3 to 8 pm.

Here on the Peninsula, Kenai River Brewing has their new Pacific Gem Imperial Rye Pale Ale (PGIRPA) on tap.  I had a glass of it last night while my college class was touring the brewery on a field trip.  It was delicious!  Kenai River has their new tanks fully connected and was in the process of brewing the third batch of the day to fill them up.

On Thursday, February 20th, I'll be making a presentation as part of the KPC Showcase series.  I'm calling it "Is Craft Beer the New Wine?  And Is That a Good Thing?" The presentation starts at 7 pm in the McLane Commons and there will be a book signing afterwards.

On Saturday, February 22, the 4th Annual Taste of the Kenai will be happening at the Sterling Community Center from 6 to 9 pm.  Food and drink vendors from all over the Peninsula (including St. Elias, Kenai River, Homer Brewing, High Mark Distillery, and Bear Creek Winery) will be there.  Last year's event sold out, so if you are interested, act soon.  Tickets are $50 a person.

OK, let's do some beer reviews:

Alaskan Brewing's Hopothermia Double IPA: I mentioned this beer's release in 12 oz. 4-packs back on 1/10/2014, but here's the review. It poured a dark, clear copper color with a big white head that left good lacing on the glass. The nose had tons of bright floral and citrus American hop notes.  Carbonation was good as was the mouthfeel.  The initial bitter attack was good, with enough malt for reasonable balance, followed by plenty of good, clean hop flavor.  A very well-made DIPA, and more drinkable than the average interpretation of this style. 8.5% ABV.

Chimay's Cinq Cents Tripel: It poured a clear gold with a huge white head.  The aroma has spicy,earthy Belgian yeast notes and is recognizably from the Chimay house yeast.  Carbonation is good and the mouthfeel is light.  There is some nice up front hoppiness, then the fruity, peppery notes from the yeast, falling away gradually to a nice finish. 8% ABV. A classic brew and an old-favorite of mine. 

Gigantic Brewing Company's Most Premium Russian Imperial Stout: I mentioned in my 1/24/2014 blog that I had tasted this beer at the Specialty Imports Trade Show the week prior and was looking forward to obtaining a bottle.  When I managed to do so, it poured totally opaque with a nice brown head.  The aroma had all the roast malt and coffee notes you look for from a big RIS.  The mouthfeel was excellent, nice and chewy, with good carbonation. The flavor profile was rich and complex, with coffee, chocolate, and dark fruit notes fighting it out for supremacy.  Overall, the beer is extremely well-balanced and the 10% ABV is completely obscured by the big flavors.  An excellent Russian Imperial Stout, and well worth seeking out.

That's it for this week.  Stay warm out there and drink good beer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!