Friday, August 22, 2014

Beer Camp & Beer Fest

Bit behind on the blogging (what else is new..), but I've got a lot of great beer stuff to write about since my last blog three weeks ago.

On Thursday, 7 August, I rolled up to Anchorage to help host the Beer Camps Across America event at Humpy's Alaskan Alehouse, sponsored by Sierra Nevada Brewing and their distributors here in Alaska, K & L Distributing. The event was a sell-out, with a hundred people paying $20 to sample all twelve of the beers in three flights of four 3 oz. samples. There was a pretty good turnout of beer writers as well.  Besides yours truly, Dr. Fermento and newcomer to Alaska Kristi Trimmer were also in attendance.

From L to R: me, Chris Heim of Sierra Nevada, Kristi Trimmer, Chris from Gold Rush Liquors, & Dr. Fermento. 
I included a graphic describing the beers in my last blog and they were uniformly excellent, but let me mention a couple of them that I thought were absolutely outstanding.

Torpedo Pilsner (5.2% ABV, 45 IBUs, brewed with Firestone Walker) - a pilsner infused with New Zealand hops using Sierra Nevada's hop torpedo technology, this brew was a clean, crisp masterpiece

Maillard's Odyssey Imperial Dark Ale (8.5% ABV, 40 IBUs, brewed with Bell's) - rich, dark, and chewy, this beer was everything you look for in a strong, dark ale.

Yvan the Great Belgian-style Blonde Ale (6.3% ABV, 50 IBUs, brewed with Russian River) - a delicious blend of brett and Belgian influences, plus plenty of hop goodness.  Doesn't fit in any conventional category, but who cares?

If you can still find any of these twelve beers, I strongly suggest you give them a try. My only regret is that they will not be offered in the future.

A couple of days later, on Saturday, August 9th, it was time for the 4th Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival.  As in past years, the weather looked very iffy in the morning, but the clouds parted and the sun shown just in time for the start of the fest at 5 pm. This year's event was another sell out, with 1200 attending and about another hundred turned away at the gate, after it sold out.  We had even more breweries in attendance than in the past, including a couple from pretty far away:

49th State Brewing from Healy

HooDoo Brewing from Fairbanks

49th State Brewing took the People's Choice Award for Best Beer with their 12 Belgian Quadruple, which was an absolutely fantastic brew, while Kenai River Brewing took the People's Choice Award for Best Brewery. Besides the great beers and wines on offer, their were several food trucks and lots of great music.  It was easily the best Kenai Peninsula Beer Fest yet.

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing

After the fest shutdown, Zach Henry of St. Elias Brewing hosted a private after party for all the attending brewers, at which I tapped the last cask of our collaboration beer, H & H Winter Warmer, which is now completely consumed.  However, we have decided to brew it again next month, for a December release, so you should get to drink it again this winter.

Tapping a cask of H&H Winter Warmer at the after party.

Besides the events above, there has been plenty of other beer news.  The Brew Dogs episode set in Alaska was broadcast on August 13th.  If you missed it, you can find it on HuluPlus or in reruns on the Esquire Network. The show was fun, though I was a bit disappointed that James and Martin never ventured any further into the state than the Juneau area.  At least they did send a film crew out to shoot some footage in Anchorage, Healy, and Fairbanks for their best breweries and best bars short segments. Here are their picks:

You may not agree with the exact rankings, but I think we can agree that they are all great beer bars and breweries and its good to see them get recognition

In other news, Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka has taken delivery of their first shipment of cans.  Here's the visual proof:

Photo courtesy of Baranof Island Brewing Co.
We should be seeing a lot more of their Silver Bay IPA soon, and that's a good thing!

Alaskan Brewing Company has moved their Pumpkin Porter from their Pilot Series to their first Seasonal release for fall. It will now be in 12 oz. bottles, rather than the 22 oz. bombers of the Pilot Series. For those of you who may have missed it last fall, Pumpkin Porter weighs in at 7% ABV, 25 IBUs, and over 11 pounds of pumpkins used per barrel.

Photo courtesy of Alaskan Brewing Company
Denai Brewing managed to get all the blueberries they needed, so you can expect to see a Blueberry Wheat Beer from them in the near future.  They have also announced the date of this year's Talkeetna Beer Fest: Saturday, September 20th, from 2 pm to 6 pm at the Don Sheldon Community Arts Hangar in beautiful downtown Talkeetna. Tickets are $50 per person and include a selection of cured meats, fine cheeses, and locally baked breads, besides beer from several of the state's finest breweries.  Tickets are available from the Denali Arts Council's website. This is a fest that I really want to attend, but fate keeps conspiring against it. In 2012 it was flooding, and last year I was of of state when it took place, and this year I will be out of state again. Next year for sure!

At Midnight Sun Brewing, they will be releasing their Das Boot Pale Ale next Thursday, August 28th, at 5 pm.  All the proceeds of this beer will go to the local firefighters' Fill The Boot campaign for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. They will also be selling a limited number of 36 oz. glass boots at the release party in The Loft.  It's a great cause, so if you'll be in Anchorage, stop by and help fill the boot by emptying a glass...

Construction on the new home for Anchorage Brewing Company seems to be proceeding rapidly.  The only real snag they have hit was Gabe Fletcher's busting his right index finger up pretty badly trying to club a halibut. In spite of that mishap, the erection of the metal skeleton was complete on August 11th. Can't wait to see the finished product.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

Here on the Peninsula, Seward Brewing Company has been getting some rave reviews for their food and beer.  I haven't made it back there since my last visit in June, but I got to have some more of their beer at the Kenai Fest, and it was excellent. I definitely need to make time to try their food again before they close for the winter.

OK, let's do some beer reviews.

Sleeping Lady Brewing Company's Tiny IPA: I had a pint of this with my supper at the Snow Goose before I walked over to the Humpy's Beer Camp Event on August 7th. It was a clear light gold in color with a persistent white head that left good lacing on the glass. The nose was full of nice, citrusy American hop aroma, and their was a pleasantly bitter attack, followed by nice, clean hop flavor.  The kicker is this is a low ABV beer, about 3.5% ABV, give or take, but it's packed with great flavor.  One of the best session beers I've had this year. At tip o' my hat to Greg & Karl; nice job, gentlemen.

Oskar Blue's Old Chub Nitro Scotch Ale: This is a beer I've wanted to try ever since I heard it was being released. I finally managed to score some at The Brown Jug at 9200 Old Seward.  Manager Roy Chapel is doing an outstanding job on the beer selections there and anyone who likes good beer and finds themselves in Anchorage should definitely check it out. Back to the beer: it poured a very dark ruby with the super creamy head that you expect from beers on nitro. All the classic flavors of a great Scotch Ale are there, plus the outstanding mouthfeel from the nitro. This beer was already one of my all-time favorites (see my review on 3/31/2009), but having it on nitro just make sit that much better.  If you're a Scotch Ale lover like me, be sure to try this one out!

Midnight Sun Brewing's Cache Biere de Garde: The latest beer in the Alaskana series, this brew is aged in oak barrels. At 8.2% ABV and 20 IBUs, this beer is all about the malt and the oak. It poured a dark, semi-translucent honey color, with a nice cream-colored head. There was some oaky notes discernible in the nose. The carbonation was good. The initial impression is malt, then strong oaky notes that persist through the finish.  The beer is oaked to such a degree that it almost becomes astringent as you continue drinking it. This beer truly showcases the impact of oak aging.

Well, that's it for this blog.  Get out and enjoy the last few weeks of summer while you can.  The days are getting shorter and it will be fall before you know it.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Festive Time of the Year

As usual for Alaska, the summer is flying by. Hard to believe it's August already. At least that means dipnetting is finished for the year; the hordes can return to Los Anchorage and leave us hicks down here on the Kenai to rusticate in peace...

The good news about it being August is that we are now in the heart of the beer festival season in Alaska. First off, 49th State's Augtoberfest starts today in Healy. I have yet to attend this fest (next year, for sure!), but everything I've seen and hear tells me it's a fantastic time.

The brewery is offering special Bavarian-style food for the fest: Roasted Duck (duck braised in apple juice, fresh apples and white wine served with dumplings and red cabbage), Smoked Pork Chop (served with Bavarian sauerkraut, German potato salad, house-made dumplings and stone ground mustard), Smoked Trout Skewers (an Alaskan twist of the traditional "Bismarkhering", this is trout marinated in brine with blackening and pickling spices, then smoked on a stick), and Baked King Salmon (Alaskan King Salmon baked with German mustard and carmelized onions, then served with spaetzle).

For beers, besides their numerous regular offerings, look for Augtoberfest (their take on the traditional Oktoberfest brew, a 5.6% ABV, 26 IBU malt forward lager), Bulliner Weisse (in the style of a Berliner Weisse, this tart and refreshing wheat beer comes in at 3.7% ABV, 5 IBUs), Grizzly Bear (a classic Munich Dark Lager, 5.4% ABV, 26 IBUs), and Hibernator (a 7.9% ABV, 20 IBU doppelbock).  Toss in some great music and you've got the recipe for a fantastic time.

As I said, I won't make it to this year's fest, but look for me there next year for sure!

An event I will be attending will be the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America Event at Humpy's Alaskan Alehouse on Thursday, August 7th. For those of you who haven't heard about Beer Camp Across America, Sierra Nevada has been celebrating the opening of their new brewery in North Carolina by brewing collaboration beers with some of the best craft breweries in the US. Those beers have now been released in bottles and at various events across the country. Next Thursday's event is your chance to sample them all in one place.  What are the brews you ask?  Here's the list:

Yvan the Great – Belgian-Style Blonde (Russian River)
Canfusion Rye Bock (Oskar Blues)
Myron’s Walk – Belgian Style Pale Ale (Allagash Brewing)
Alt Route – Altbier (Victory Brewing)
Electric Ray – India Pale Lager (Ballast Point)
Chico King Pale Ale (3 Floyds)
Torpedo Pilsner (Firestone Walker)
Yonder Bock – Tropical Maibock (Cigar City Brewing)
Double Latte – Coffee Milk Stout (Ninkasi Brewing)
There and Back – English Style Bitter (New Glarus Brewing)
Maillard’s Odyssey – Imperial Dark Ale (Bell’s Brewery)
Tater Ridge – Scottish Ale (Asheville Brewer’s Alliance)

Click to enlarge

The event at Humpy's kicks off at 7 PM. There will be a tap takeover of sorts along with special pours of all the beers. The cost is $20 per person, first come, first serve, and will feature 3 oz. pours of each beer, served in three flights of four beer each. Leading the discussion of the brews as joint Masters of Ceremony will be Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts and yours truly. So if you'd like to sit down and sample all of these exceptional brews at once, this is your chance.

Click to enlarge

Down here on the Kenai. the 4th Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival is happening next Saturday, August 9th, from 5 to 10 pm, at the Soldotna Sports Center. I've been writing about this for several of my last blogs, so this should come as no surprise, but there are a couple of new pieces of news. First off, HooDoo Brewing from Fairbanks has confirmed they will be attending, bringing the total number of breweries represented to nineteen! HooDoo's excellent brews seldom make it out of Fairbanks, so if you want to sample them here on the Peninsula, don't miss your chance. Also, all five of the breweries on the Peninsula (our three locals plus Homer Brewing and Seward Brewing Company) will be on offer.  This is the first time all of them have been at the same festival together.

The Fest is also looking for folks with a TAMS card to help pour beers for some of the out-of-town breweries. If you are qualified and interested, I think this is your chance to get in for free! Send a message via the festival's Facebook page (click here) if you are interested. If you are going to have to pay full freight, tickets are on sale for $30 each at St. Elias Brewing, Kenai River Brewing, and Kassik's Brewery.  Or you can buy them online via the Festival's website.

In other beer news, I received the following press release from Darcy Kniefel at Midnight Sun Brewing Company:

Midnight Sun Brewing Company, MDA of Alaska and the Firefighters are teaming up to FILL THE BOOT! On August 17th the brewery will be invaded by Firefighters who will assist in brewing the first ever batch of DAS BOOT. The beer is being designed by Midnight Sun Brewer Davey Cacey, and will be a "sessionable" pale ale. At least as sessionable as we can get. The beer will be released on Thursday, August 28th, the day before the Anchorage Fire Fighters do their annual Fill the Boot Fundraiser for MDA.

To celebrate the release, The Loft at Midnight Sun Brewing Company will have, for the first time ever, traditional German Beer Boots for purchase. The boots will be a "one and done", weighing in at 36ounces of foamy love and will travel home with their purchasers, once they have been drained. There will be a very limited supply of the boots, so if you would like to be a part of this, come early! A portion of the proceeds from the boots as well as from the beer sales will go to MDA to support their efforts in finding a cure for muscular dystrophy.

As the release party also falls on a Thursday night, which is Tour Night at Midnight Sun, we will have our traditional FREE Brewery tour starting at 6:00 and we will include a tour of a fire truck which will be on sight for the night. The Firefighters will be at The Loft all night from 5-8pm to kick off the Fill the Boot extravaganza and there will be a chance for you to help fill the first boot.

Darcy also tells me that MSBC will be doing a second release of their outstanding Berserker Imperial Stout! They'll be bottling next week, with the beer hitting shelves the week after. Darcy says that this is the start of what they hope will be a new tradition of two releases of Berserker each year. Now that's what I call good news...

In other good news, it looks like the construction of Anchorage Brewing Company's new facility on King Street is proceeding on schedule.  They've posted several pictures of the construction on their Facebook page.

Denali Brewing Company in Talkeetna needs blueberries and they'll pay good money for them!  Here's the poster for that:

Glacier BrewHouse has two new beers on tap.  The first is a Strawberry Cream Ale.  Here's how they describe it:

Light, unfiltered, and refreshing with aromas of strawberry. Milk sugar (lactose) was added to render the ultra-creamy body. Infused with real strawberries! Nitrogenated.
Alcohol: 5.66% alcohol by volume. Starting Gravity: 13.70 Plato (1.056 S.G.)

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse

The second is a Saison.

French style Saison with fruity and spicy flavors supported by a soft malt character and slight tartness. Made with special French Saison yeast, zest of lemon peel, and a touch of honey. Definitely a smooth operator. Alcohol: 6.38% by volume. Starting Gravity: 14.00 Plato (1.057 S.G.).
Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse

King Street beers are now available in the Fred Meyer stores in Anchorage and Eagle River.  Hey, guys, how about some love for the Peninsula!

Photo courtesy of King Street Brewing

Let's move on to some beer reviews.

St. Elias Brewing Company's Savage XPA: Another in Zach Henry's series of hoppy session ales, in the vein of his Insidious XPA (see my review 2/28/2014). This beer poured a crystal clear gold with big white head; very pretty in the glass. Besides the typical hoppy notes in the nose, I thought I was picking up some tropical fruit notes, leading me to think thank Zach had used some Galaxy hops, which he later confirmed. Carbonation was good, and there was a nice clean bitterness up front, then more tropical fruit/mango notes, before falling away to a nice finish. A great, easy-drinking brew, just what you want in a session ale.

Founders Brewing Company's All Day IPA Session Ale: Sticking with the theme of session ales, I got to try this one, thanks to the generosity of a colleague, who had her parents hand carry some up from Michigan for me. It also poured a clear gold with a nice white head. The aroma was classic American hops, very citrusy and fresh. The carbonation was good, was the mouthfeel. Initially there was a crisp, clean but not overwhelming bitterness, then lots of hop flavor before dropping down to a nice clean finish. At 4.7% ABV and 42 IBUs, this is indeed an excellent session beer.

Deschutes Brewing's Foray Belgian-style IPA: This is another of the oxymorons that craft brewers seem to love today, like black IPAs. Technically, there's no such thing as a Belgian IPA, since Belgian brewers don't brew IPAs. However, it's come to mean an IPA that uses a Belgian yeast to impart some of the characteristic peppery, spicy notes that such yeasts are known for. So this beer is Deschutes' entry in this new style, which I bought at our local Fred Meyer. Foray poured a clear light gold with a big white head. I picked up plenty of citrusy hop notes in the aroma, but none of the earthy, spicy notes I look for in a Belgian beer. Carbonation was excellent, and the beer had a nice mouthfeel. On the palate there was plenty of nice, bitterness, followed by lots of great hop flavor, but I tired in vain to pick up anything that I could identify as Belgian yeast notes. Frankly, it just tasted like a good American IPA to me. 6.4% ABV.

Well, that's it for this week.  If you're going to be at either the Humpy's Beer Camp Event or at the Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival, be sure to look me up and say hi.

Until Next Time, Cheers!