Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring For Real

Well it's finally spring for real up here on The Last Frontier, and it's actually been a pretty mild Breakup, since most of the snow melted months ago.  The roads are in good shape, people are starting to work on their yards and gardens, and tourist season is barely a month away.

Still, everything is not perfect.  The Alaska Legislature is still in session, so no man's life, liberty, or property is truly safe.  They did manage to pass HB 309, which requires the Alcohol Control Board to let distilleries in Alaska enjoy the same opportunities that wineries and breweries have, i.e. they can have a tasting room, offer samples, and sell their products directly to the public.  A small triumph for common sense...

With the coming of spring, all of the breweries are starting to ramp up their production in anticipation of the flood of tourists heading our way.   However, Alaskan Brewing Company has gone one better, breaking ground on a new expansion that will link its two existing buildings together and create more space for warehousing and packaging.  And Alaskan will need that space, since they have also announced that they will be canning Alaskan Amber and Freeride APA for sale in the in-state market!  I have been wondering how long it would take them to get on the can bandwagon; guess the answer is "until right now".  Alaskan also announced that they are expanding distribution into South Dakota and Michigan, which means they are now on sale in a total of 16 of the Lower 48.

Here are some nice photos that Alaskan sent out with their press release:

Co-founder Geoff Larson looking at the start of the new construction
Alaskan Amber cans at Auke Bay Harbor in Juneau

Alaskan Freeride APA cans overlooking Juneau

The tickets for The Culmination Beer Festival went on sale at 9 AM yesterday.  In spite of some computer glitches, they sold 150 of the 300 available spots within the first hour.  At last report yesterday evening, there were less than 100 left, so if you haven't gotten yours yet, you had better hurry.  You can reserve a ticket here: but you will need to pay for it with cash at the door.

49th State Brewing Company in Healy will be opening for the season this Friday, April 25th.  Here's the flier for their opening bash:

Click to enlarge

Denali Brewing Company has announced a Spring Beer Dinner at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge on Friday, May 30th. A selection of their beers will be paired with a four course dinner from executive chef Cris Rosemond. Including a nights lodging, it will be $134.50 per person.  Call 877-777-4067 to make reservations.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company will be celebrating their 19th Anniversary in May, and they are kicking things off with a dinner at Jack Sprat Restaurant in Girdwood at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, April 30th, where they will premiere their 9TEEN Saison anniversary beer.  It's a five course, five beer menu, which you can check out here. It's $90 per person, and you need to make reservations on the Jack Sprat website.

Glacier BrewHouse has three new brews on tap.  Here's how they describe them:

RYE PALE ALE - Made with 25% rye malt, which adds a distinct spiciness. Light copper in color, the RPA boasts a huge hop aroma and flavor accompanied by a slightly sweet, malty finish. The hop flavor has pine and citrus emanating from the Simcoe dry hop. The bitterness is mild and pleasant. A great quaffer for the spring. Unfiltered. Alcohol: 4.63% alcohol by volume. Starting Gravity: 10.50 Plato (1.042 S.G.).

 OAK AGED PORTER - Aged in American oak barrels for 1 year. Loaded with smooth chocolate and vanilla flavors from the oak. With medium body, low bitterness, and velvet mouth feel, this black beauty is sure to please. Nitrogenated. Alcohol: 6.69% by volume. Starting gravity: 16.00 Plato (1.065 S.G.)

 NUT BROWN - Malt plays a defining role in the profile of this ale. Several color malts are combined with premium imported base malt and a touch of chocolate malt gives the sweet nutty flavor and copper-brown color. Alcohol: 5.92% alcohol by volume. Starting Gravity: 13.10 Plato (1.053 S.G.).

If you haven't made plans already, you're probably too late, but Snow Goose also has a beer dinner scheduled for 6 PM tonight.  here's the menu:

Click to enlarge
Here on the Peninsula, new owner Erik Slater at Seward Brewing Company is getting closer to opening on Thursday, May 8th.  They've taken delivery of their grain and should start brewing soon.

Kenai River Brewing has acknowledged the arrival of spring with the return of their Hoppin' Salmon Wheat Ale. See my review on 6/1/2011 of this well-hopped American Wheat beer.

St. Elias Brewing Company has two new beer on tap. First, Dos Lobos Vienna Lager is back; see my review on 5/3/2013. Second, there's a completely new beer, Yeti White IPA, which I've reviewed below.

Speaking of reviews, here are a few:

Deschutes Brewing's Cinder Cone Red Ale: This beer poured a deep, clear red with a big, cream-colored head.  The aroma was laced with nice, citrusy American hop notes.  Carbonation and mouthfeel were good.  There was decent bitterness up front, but plenty of malt backbone for balance.  Clean, crisp flavors made this a very nice and highly enjoyable read ale.  5.3% ANB, 55 IBUs.

Vielle Provision Saison Dupont Cuvee Dry Hopping 2013:  This is a new twist on one of my Saison Dupont, using Triskel hops. The cork came out with the loud pop I always expect from Dupont's beers, and it poured a lovely bright gold with a huge white head.  The nose had all the earthy, spicy notes that I associated with the characteristic Dupont house yeast, plus some additional ones from the dry hopping.  Carbonation was outstanding, of course, and the beer was deliciously dry and hoppy on the palate, with plenty of spicy notes from the yeast.  Given that I think the classic Saison Dupont is an absolute masterpiece of a beer, I can't say that this version was any better, though it is a fascinating variation on the theme.

St. Elias Brewing Company's Yeti White IPA: This is Zach Henry's first foray into the White IPA territory, but he nails it.  Yeti pours a cloudy gold with a big white head.  You can pick up the spice notes in the aroma - orange peel and coriander, I think -- plus fruity notes from the hops.  Carbonation was good, and mouthfeel was light.  There's a refreshing up front bitterness that works well with the spicy notes, before falling away to a nice finish.  Very clean and even more drinkable than your typical IPA, this beer is a taste of spring and a promise of the summer to come.

Well, that's it for this week.  I'll have more beer news and reviews next week.  By the way, I've also created a Twitter account, to better put Breaking News and such.  You can find me at BillHowellauth; not enough characters to spell out "author" I'm afraid.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Breaking News: Culmination Reservations Open TOMORROW

I should have a new blog out tomorrow, but that will be too late for this piece of news:

Reservations for this year's Culmination Beer Festival open tomorrow, April 22nd, at 9 AM.

Tickets are $100 each and can be reserved with a credit card at:

Remember, your card is only used to hold your reservation; you will still need to pay for your ticket with cash at the door.

Last year this festival sold out in a couple of days, but it wouldn't surprise me if things go faster this year, so don't miss out.

The Festival will take place on Saturday, May 17th, from 4 to 8 PM, in the Tikahtnu Ballroom of the Dena'ina Center in downtown Anchorage.

I'll see you there...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Happy National Beer Day!

Yesterday was National Beer Day, though as far as I'm concerned, pretty much every day should be
Beer Day!  I was hoping to get this blog on then, but things go away from me, as they often do.

For those of you who don't know, National Beer Day commemorates April 7, 1933, which was the day that beer became legal again after over a decade of Prohibition.  That's certainly something to celebrate in my book!

Lest we become complacent, it's worth remembering that the same anti-freedom forces which foisted Prohibition on this country almost a century ago are still with us.  If you want to hear them, just listen to anyone who's opposing the legalization of marijuana, though they'd outlaw alcohol again as well, if they thought they could get away with it...

There have been plenty of goings on at the various breweries around the state since my last blog.  This past weekend the Talkeetna Beer Trippin' and the Beer & Swine Festival took place, both of which were huge successes, judging by what I've seen posted about them.

At Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling Company, they have a new batch of Snowhook IPA on tap; this one has been increased to 75 IBUs!  also, tonight, Tuesday, April 8th is they are having a Scotch Tasting. They will be pulling a couple gallons of their 2013 Barley Wine that has been aging on High West whiskey barrels for the last three months.  Sounds delicious!

HooDoo Brewing Company released another new brew on Thursday, April 3rd: their UK IPA.  Here's how they describe it:

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing Co.
"Brewed in the style of an English IPA from the 1800’s, our UK IPA is distinctly English. A simple malt bill of 100% English Maris Otter malted barley lends the beer a humble base that perfectly carries the distinct flavor and aroma of Golding hops. Goldings have been cultivated since the mid-1700s and are revered for their sweet, fruity contributions to English Ales"
It weighs in at 6.5% ABV and 67 IBUs.  Sure wish I could taste it!

I'm a little late on this one, but Arkose Brewery has replaced their Olde Colony Winter Ale with their New Colony Hefeweizen, in anticipation of spring.  I say in anticipation, since it snowed again last night...

King Street Brewing in Anchorage released a new brew last Wednesday, an Oatmeal Brown Ale.  Here's their description:

"Inspired by the brown ales found in traditional English pubs, this rich, yet restrained beer is not to be missed. A heavy dose of English crystal malts lends predominant caramel, toasted nut, and toffee flavors, while the flaked oats and a late addition of black strap molasses kicks the beer into a rich creamy-smooth decadence. East Kent Goldings hops give balance by reigning in the malt and provide the faintest floral aroma. At 5% ABV, this is a great ale for your next session with friends!"
At Midnight Sun Brewing Company, Meltdown Double IPA is back on tap for 2014.  Pleasure Town IPA will be released in cans any day now. They have also released Unite Strong Ale, an 8% ABV beer brewed with hibiscus and aged on sweet cherries and more hibiscus to celebrate International Women's Brew Collaboration Day. Finally, this week they will be releasing the first in their new Alaskana series of beers. This series will be 8 beers that represent our great state.  First up will be Hibernator, a smoked doppelbock.  Look for the bottles to be released at The Loft late this week.

When I was at Kassik's Brewery a few days ago, Frank told me that they have plans to brew an English Mild soon. Mmmmm...

Yesterday, Kenai River Brewing put their Hoppin' Salmon Wheat Ale on tap again. This super hoppy American Wheat beer features Amarillo hops and is a sure sign that spring is on its way...

At St. Elias Brewing Company, their Dos Lobos Vienna Lager is back on tap, and Zach reports he'll be putting a new beer, Yeti White IPA, on tap soon.

Photo courtesy of Baranof Island
Finally, Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka was awarded the 2014 Business of the Year Award by the Sitka Chamber of Commerce.  They also purchased Kenai River Brewing Company's used two head manual canner until they can take delivery of their new automated model.  Congratulations!

Now let's do some beer reviews:

I received a care package from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, with samples of three of their beers inside.  so far, I've only tried two of them.

Pine Mountain Pilsner:  This beer poured a crystal clear light gold color with a big white head that left good lacing on the glass.  The aroma had some nice crisp hop notes, in the noble European vein, rather than the citrusy American elements we get so used to.  Carbonation and mouthfeel were good.  On the palate there was a nice balance between good clean malt flavors and a crisp hop bitterness.  More in the style of s German than a Czech pilsner, this beer also received two thumbs up from my wife Elaine.  Having spent several years living in Germany, she is even more a connoisseur of German pilsners than I am.  Marvelously drinkable, this is an excellent beer. 5.2% ABV, 40 IBUs.

Armory XPA: Billed as an experimental pale ale, this beer has all the American hop elements that the preceding one did not.  It pours a clear copper color with a big off-white head that left good lacing.  The nose was all citrusy American hops.  Carbonation was excellent.  There was plenty of nice, clean bitterness up front, followed by more citrusy hop flavor, that gradually palls away to a nice finish.  A textbook American Pale Ale, experimental or otherwise. 5.9% ABV, 58 IBUs.

McEwan's Scotch Ale: As a sucker for a good Scotch Ale, I couldn't pass on this one when I saw it a La Bodega in Anchorage. It poured A deep, semi-translucent ruby color a big cream-colored head.  The aroma was of malt and caramel, with hints of toffee.  Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was nice.  The flavor profile was rich and complex, with the emphasis on the malt elements, and no discernible smoke.  It fell away to a long, warming finish from the 8% ABV.  A classic Scotch Ale; next trip I'm getting a six pack...

Anchorage Brewing Company/Crooked Stave collaboration Between the Staves Sour Ale: Managed to find a bottle of this at The Grog Shop in Homer. It poured very dark, almost opaque, but there were some ruby highlights. There was a small, cream-colored head that dissipated fairly quickly to a collar.  The nose was tart, with elements from Brett and oak noticeable.  Carbonation was medium.  The initial attack was quite sour, followed by notes of oak and cherry.  It reminded me quite a bit of Rodenbach Grand Cru, the classic wood-fermented sour ale.  You really have to like sours to enjoy this one, but if you do, you'll love it.7% ABV, 20 IBUs.

Finally, Victory Brewing's Storm King Imperial Stout: Another beer from this excellent East Coast brewery that I picked up at La Bodega. It poured opaque with a small tan head. The aroma had lots of roasted coffee notes plus some malt sweetness.  Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was fairly heavy.  On the palate there was plenty of nice roasty bitterness up front, then balancing a bit as the malt sweetness kicked in, before gradually dropping away to a long, lingering finish.  A very nice imperial stout, and with only 9.1% ABV, this one is scores higher on the repeatability scale than many.

Well, that's it for this week.  Hopefully I'll be able to post a it more regularly for the next month or so. Meantime, let's all keep hoping that spring really does get here, at least by the time the law says we have to take off our studded tires...

Until Next Time, Cheers!