Friday, June 27, 2014

Back From Another Trip to Southeast Alaska

So no blog last week, but that was because I was on my second trip to Southeast Alaska in about a month.  The stops this time were Juneau and Sitka.  Elaine and I had visited Juneau several years ago, but this was our first trip to Sitka.  The purpose of the trip was research for Volume III of Beer on the Last Frontier: The Craft Breweries of Alaska, which will cover Southeast Alaska. We didn't get to spend a ton of time in either town, but we were there long enough to tour both Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau and Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka.

We'd toured Alaskan Brewing on our previous visit to Juneau in 2007, but the brewery has grown considerably since then, and more expansion is underway.  I've toured plenty of big breweries Outside, but it seemed really strange to be walking through such a big operation (about 145,000 barrels produced last year) in Alaska.

Checking out Alaskan's 100 barrel copper with Andy Kline.  Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell.

Alaskan's Tap Room & Gift Shop. Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell.
There expansion seems to be proceeding on schedule, and will provide them with some much needed space to expand their packing operation, as well as allowing them to move between their two current existing buildings using forklifts rather than trucks.  On the beer front, I got to sample one of their Rough Drafts, a very nice golden ale, light and refreshing.  It would be the perfect beer for a nice sunny summer day, if they ever get any of those in Southeast.  I also sampled a bottle of the next Pilot Series release, this year's version of their Imperial Red Ale.  It was nicely balanced and delicious.

Traveling on to Sitka, we visited Baranof Island Brewing Company, which was the only operating brewery in the state that I had not yet visited.  It was a Friday afternoon and by the time we left, the Tap Room was full of folks, enjoying a relaxing drink after a long week of work.  The brewer, Mike DesRosiers, gave me a tour of their small, but growing operation.  They are waiting on the first shipment of cans to arrive, at which point they will begin canning their Silver Bay IPA.  While I was there, besides a nice slice of pizza, I enjoyed a glass on their Single Speed Stout,  a glass of their IPA which had been run through a device filled with whole hops to give it an even more intense hop flavor and aroma, and a sample of their Spruce Tip Pale Ale.  They were all delicious, but I really liked the hop-boosted IPA.

BIBC Tap Room.  Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell.
Here are also some pictures from our visit in May to Skagway and Haines, all courtesy of my wife Elaine:

Skagway Brewing is tiny!

Paul Wheeler of Haines Brewing & Chatlie Papazian at the Brewers Dinner.

Part of the 1400 folks who attended the Haines Beer Festival.

Another shot of the Haines Festival.
Lots of good beer in Southeast Alaska; I'm really enjoying writing about it in Volume III of my book.

Moving on to other beer news, there a new beer on tap at the Snow Goose Pub in Anchorage.  It's a Honey Cream Ale brewed with spruce tips.  Usually you'll see spruce tip beers based around a pale ale, so basing on on a honey cream ales is a bit different.  I haven't tried it yet, but I hear it's very good.

Up in Healy at 49th State Brewing Company, things have been hopping all summer.  Here's a video of some of their latest musical excitement.

Tickets are now on sale for their big Augtoberfest event as well.

Denali Brewing Company's excellent Twister Creek IPA is now on draft at The Flats Bistro in Kenai.  Their Single Engine Red Ale was also the first beer poured at the brand-new Hard Rock Cafe in Anchorage.

The big news out of Anchorage is that Anchorage Brewing Company is going to be moving to a brand-new, built to order 7600 square foot brewery on King Street in South Anchorage.  I got the word from last week's column by Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts in The Anchorage Press.  Rather than just rewrite it, I think I'll just let you read it for yourself by clicking here.  Look for the new brewery to open in November, if all goes as planned.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company has released the next beer in their new Alaskana series: Cache, an oak-aged bierre de garde at 8.2% ABV.

Glacier BrewHouse has released another new beer today, a Double IPA.  Here's how they describe it:

Double IPA (DIPA) - Hops are the predominant characteristic in this brew. Over twice the amount of hops are used in this beer as compared to our standard IPA. The hop flavor is citrus, floral, and undoubtedly strong, but still clean. The bitterness is intense but held in check with the malt and high alcohol. Unfiltered and reddish-copper in color, this hop monster is a hop head’s delight. Alcohol: 8.20% by volume. Starting gravity: 17.40 Plato (1.072 S.G.)
Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse

I don't write often enough about what my buddy Ben Millstein of Kodiak Island Brewing Company  is up to, mainly because so little of his excellent brews ever make it off The Rock.  But just to give you all an idea of what were missing by not being on Kodiak, I thought I'd share Ben's latest brewery tap list:

Click to enlarge
Makes me want to hop a plane or a ferry to Kodiak...

 For beer reviews, I only have one this week, as I was too busy enjoys beers in Juneau and Sitka to formally review them.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company's  Zzzzz.. Hibernator Doppelbock: The first brew in their new Alaskana series, this beer poured a very dark ruby color with a small tan head.  The nose is smoke and sweet malt, striking a nice balance between them.  Mouthfeel is good and the carbonation level is nice.  On the palate it's the same as the aroma, smoke plus clean malt flavors, well-balanced between them, before falling away to a nice clean finish.  Very drinkable for such a big beer, mainly due to the excellent balance between the smoke and malt. 7.4% ABV, and 25 IBUs.

Well, that's it for this week.  I likely won't have a blog next week, what with the 4th of July holiday and all, so look for a new post in two weeks.  I should have several new brew reviews by then.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, June 13, 2014

There's a New Place to Eat & Drink Craft Beer in Town

Hello again, folks.  Been a busy couple of weeks.  First, I was sick as a dog for about four days (101+ fever anyone?), then my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson came up for a visit.  Hadn't with visited my #1 guy Liam since he was born in September, so spending time with him has taken precedence over writing about beer!

Liam Kile Thompson

However, while they were here we all went to dinner at a brand-new restaurant, The Flats Bistro, at 39847 Kalifornsky Beach Road in Kenai, which just opened on Friday, June 6th.  Not only do they have exceptional food, they have twelve beers on tap, all of which are brewed in Alaska.  Breweries represented include Kassik's, Kenai  River, Midnight Sun, Denali, Silver Gulch, Glacier BrewHouse, and Alaskan. Even more importantly, owners Luke and Naomi are taking their beer offering seriously.  I know this because (full disclosure) they had me provide training to their staff on beer serving and food pairing on the Monday before they opened.  So if you're going to be in this area and are looking for a place to have some wonderful food and great craft beer (or wine; they have that too), I strongly recommend checking out The Flats.  You can get reservations at 335-1010, but they always hold half their tables for walk-ins.

Photo courtesy of The Flats Bistro
Moving on to other beer news, HooDoo Brewing has been offering a cask-conditioned version of their IPA, as well as a special Fathers' Day deal on their Braulers and glassware.

At 49th State Brewing in Healy, they'll be having a Solstice Brewfest Brewer's Dinner on Thursday, June 19th.  Here's the poster:

Click to enlarge
The Solstice Brewfest itself will take place on Saturday & Sunday, June 20th & 21st.  To see a list of bands and to buy tickets, check out this webpage.

Arkose Brewery reports that their beers are now on tap at the Eagle Hotel and Lounge in Palmer. Ask for their High Ridge Double Red, New Colony Hefeweizen, and Boxcar Porter.

Anchorage Brewing Company has just bottled a couple of new beers.  First, there's their collaboration brew with Jolly Pumpkin, Calabaza Boreal.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

Next, there's Thank You, a German Hefeweizen dosed with Brett.  It's made in gratitude to Gary Klopfer, owner of  Sleeping Lady Brewing, whose brewhouse Gabe has been using to produce his beers. 

Photo Courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company
Finally, the next batch of ABC's original beer, Whiteout Wit, will have a new label design:

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

Over at Glacier BrewHouse, there's a new beer on offer, a Black Rye Bock.  Here's how they describe it:

This dark lager combines the characteristics of three winter beer styles. All three of these styles traditionally come from the colder harsher areas of Europe. The styles are (1) Black Beer (aka Schwartzbier) originating from Bad Kostritz in Thuringia (former East Germany); (2) Rye Beer which at one time was only made in hardier areas of Eastern and Baltic Europe; and (3) Bock Beer which is widely known as the higher alcohol lager of Northern Germany. Our Black Rye Bock has a distinctive bitter chocolate palate and black color reminiscent of a black beer. The spiciness from the rye malt shines through in the flavor. The high alcohol balanced with malty sweetness rounds out this black beauty. Smooth drinking with a punch makes this lager a perfect dark quaffer for our Arctic summer. Alcohol: 6.67% by volume. Starting gravity: 17.45 Plato (1.072 S.G.)

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse
At Midnight Sun Brewing Company, the big news is the return of a classic: Barfly Smoked Imperial Stout is back! See my review of this wonderful brew back on 2/1/2011. MSBC is limiting folks to 6 bottles per person, but even so, it will go quickly, so get yours while you can!

Photo courtesy of Midnight Sun Brewing

Moving on to the Peninsula, Kenai River Brewing has their Black Water Bender back on tap.  I hear they did a roaring business at the Kenai River Festival last weekend.

On Monday, I and my family paid a visit to Seward, and while we were there we stopped in at the Seward Brewing Company.  They had four of their beers available, and I had a pint of their Inked Out Stout, which was quite tasty.  As good as the beer was, the food was even better.  I had a plate of their lamb fires, which are fries smothered in shredded lamb, cheese curds, and gravy.  They were exceptional, and the perfect choice for a cold and rainy day, which is what last Monday was.  If you find yourself in Seward, be sure to stop by and check them out.  I also see that they released a new Imperial IPA yesterday, weighing in at 8.8% ABV.

I shared a growler of St. Elias Brewing Company's TurmOil CDA with my son-in-law a few nights ago and found it to be excellent: nice and dark but no roasty flavors to distract you from the hop flavor.  St. Elias just put two more of their returning summer brews back on tap today: Island Girl Raspberry Kolsch and their Hefeweizen.

Well, that's about it for this week.  I should have some new beer reviews in my next blog, as well as some pictures from the various festivals I been to in the last month or so.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Correction to "A Tale of Two Festivals"

Hey, folks, I've got a bit of a correction to last week's blog.  Sorry it's taken me this long, but I was pretty sick for the entire weekend and into the first part of this week.

Anyway, I stated in my last post that his attendance at the Haines Festival last month was AHA founder Charlie Papazian's first visit to Alaska, which turns out not to be accurate.  This mistake did not make it past the eagle-eye of Jim Roberts, AKA Dr. Fermento, who sent me the following photo:

Photo courtesy of Jim Roberts.

Here's what he had to say about it:

"Charlie visited as a guest of the Great Northern Brewers Homebrew Club in August of 1995."

"Pictured here is Charlie, of course, and to his right, the founder of Great Northern Brewers, Pat Oldenberg, me of course, as 2nd President of GNBC ('92, '93) and to the far left, Doug Simpson, 3rd President of GNBC ('94, '95)."

"Just thought you'd find that entertaining.  Oh, and the picture was taken at the now defunct (and recently torn down) Sophie's North Slope Restaurant and Regal Eagle Brewpub (first in the state of Alaska) which was then piloted by none other than Ken Pajak."

"How's that for a bit of history?"

As ever, I stand corrected, enlightened, and in awe. All I can do is tip my hat and say, "You Da Man, Jim!"

Until Next Time, Cheers!