Friday, October 17, 2014

Technical Difficulties

Well, I'm late on the blog again. This time, it's been technical issues.  My portable hard drive, where I keep most of my "good beer stuff" crashed, and I've been trying to have it resuscitated, at least to the point where I can grab my data of it.  So I've been delaying this blog, in hopes that I would get it back, but I've decided that I just can't wait any longer, so here goes.

First things first, it's time for everyone to vote in this year's Northwest Brewing News Reader's Poll. Since I write for the NWBN, I'm barred from voting, but for the rest of you, here's your chance to weigh in on the best beers, bars, and breweries in Alaska and the rest of the Pacific Northwest.  Follow this link and cast your votes:

October is a big month for brewery anniversaries in Alaska.  Arkose Brewery celebrated their third anniversary last weekend, on Saturday, 11 October. June and Stephen Gerteisen opened there doors on that date in 2011 and have gone from one success to another ever since. They are continuing to expand and just hired their first two employees: Andy Dennis and Ryan Simmons. If you missed their anniversary celebration last Saturday, you can still purchase Anniversary Tasting Glasses at the brewery for $5, until they are gone. Also look for Arkose at the Mighty Matanuska Brew Fest tonight and tomorrow evening, from 6 to 10 pm at Raven Hall of the State Fairgrounds in Palmer.

The second brewery anniversary this month is that of HooDoo Brewing, which opened for business on October 31, 2012. Like Arkose, HooDoo has been embraced by its local community and has experienced exceptional growth.  They recently installed additional brite tanks to boost their serving capacity and are sponsoring the first every Interior Beer Train, the HooDoo Choo Choo, which will be rolling down the tracks tomorrow. No word yet on what Booby and his crew have planned for their Halloween/Anniversary Party this year, but I'm sure it will be spectacular.

In other beer news, Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling has a new beer on tap, Red Flag Ale.  Here's how the describe it:

Red Flag Ale is an American-style IPA brewed with American 2-Row, Rye, and a touch of deeply-roasted malts to impart of deep-red tint and malt depth to balance the massive hop additions. The substantial alcohol content is offset with generous kettle additions of Amarillo, Columbus and Citra hops from the Pacific Northwest and then dry-hopped in the cellars with even more Cascade hops; this beer is un-filtered to retain the subtle yeast and malt notes and huge hop aroma.
7.8% ABV / 85 IBU

This beer is brewed in honor of America's service men and women, and in particular  the 354th Force Support Squadron at Eielson AFB.

Today is the last day for 49th State Brewing Company this season. Tonight will be their Closing/Halloween Party, so I'm sure everyone in Healy will be there.  See you guys next spring! 

Midnight Sun Brewing Company's Beer Ambassador Darcy Kniefel sent me the following list of upcoming events a few days ago:

October 25th: 5pm to 8pm
Beers and Bites for Anchorage Waterways Council

Join Midnight Sun Brewing Company for an exclusive tasting to be held in the brewery. We will be digging out some fun stuff you haven't seen for a while, as well as some new stuff you may not have tried. there will be local, fresh bites to pair along with the beers and a silent auction. Best of all not only does the proceeds go to the Anchorage Waterways Council, but there has been a generous offer to MATCH the funds, so whatever comes in will be doubled! Tickets are $50 with discounts for military, students and seniors. you must be 21 years of age to attend this event. Get your ticket order form at the  Anchorage Waterways Council website,

October 29th: 6pm
BodegaFest Beer Dinner at Kinley's

Growing on the love that is Bodega Fest, this year's festivities will kick off with a beer dinner at Kinley's Restaurant and Bar. With beers hand picked by the Bodega Ma'am herself, Pamela. There will be many breweries to taste from. Midnight Sun Brewing Company's offering will be FrancoisK, a dark wheat ale brewed for and with the La Bodega crew, just for Bodega Fest. This will be the premier tasting of this beer. For reservations or more details on the dinner give a call to Kinley's at (907) 644-8953.

November 4th: 6pm
Hard Sun Beer Dinner at The Hard Rock Cafe

Hard Rock Cafe, although new on the scene in Alaska, has become a great supporter of Craft Beer in AK. A great tap line up and now Tuesday night Craft Beer Nights. To add to the fun, they will be doing a Craft Beer Dinner once a month and Midnight Sun Brewing Company is proud to be the first brewery invited to the table. This will be a four course meal paired and prepared with beer from Midnight Sun. We will kick it off at 6pm with casual passed apps and a greet beer, then sit down for the second course at 7pm. For more details keep an eye on the Hard Rock Cafe Anchorage Facebook page. Schwag bag? You bet they are going to have them, it's going to ROCK!

Also, their seasonal beer (and one of my personal absolute favorites) CoHoHo Imperial IPA is back!

Since my last blog post, Kevin Burton and the gang at Glacier BrewHouse have released three more new beers.  Here's how they describe each of them:

IMPERIAL PUMPKIN - “Pumpkin pie in your face” best describes this brew. Our brewers combined 159 pounds of pumpkin with an array of spices. Flavors of pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove dominate. Brilliant pumpkin-orange in color. Served in a snifter. Alcohol: 10.42% by volume. Starting gravity: 22.90 Plato (1.096 S.G.) Growlers available!

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse

BEAM OKTOBERFEST - Aged eight months in Jim Beam barrels resulting in flavors of vanilla, bourbon, coconut, chocolate, and more. The beer is medium bodied, sweet, malty, and supremely smooth. The color is a brilliant light copper. Brewed using only the finest German Pilsner and Munich malts along with very subtle German hops. Alcohol: 6.06% by volume. Starting gravity: 15.26 Plato (1.062 S.G.) No growlers.

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse

WET HOP IPA (WHIPA) - This IPA was brewed with wet (fresh) Simcoe hops shipped directly to the brewery - the same day they were picked from the field - rather than going through the traditional drying and bailing process. Only available once a year at harvest time. Look for big fruity and herbal aromas from the wet hops. Alcohol: 6.53% by volume. Starting gravity: 14.00 Plato (1.057 S.G.) *No growlers.

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse

I somehow missed this until just the other day, but King Street Brewing is having a beer dinner at the Bradley House Restaurant this Sunday, October 19th.  The cost is $48, which includes dinner, five King Street beers, and a King Street pint glass.  There are only a few seats left, so if you are interested, call  (907) 336-7177 to make reservations.

Alaskan Brewing Company and Broken Tooth Brewing Company each won a Bronze Medal at this year's Great American Beer Festival. Alaskan won with its Smoked Porter, the 21st medal that beer has earned at the GABF, while Broken Tooth won with Darth Delerium in the Other Belgian-style Ale category.

Broken Tooth also just put a new beer on tap, Little Boy Blue Blueberry Ale, at 5.7% ABV and 16 IBUs. 

On November 1, Alaskan Brewing will be releasing this year's Smoked Porter, along with a special vintage pack that contains a bottle of 2008 Smoked Porter, a bottle of 2013 Smoked Porter, and a logo'd tasting glass. Besides the Smoked Porter releases, Alaskan will also be releasing this year's Winter Ale and the next beer in their Pilot Series, the return of Double Black IPA.

Photo courtesy of Alaskan Brewing
Here on the Peninsula, one of our annual beer events is coming up soon: the Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance's 8th Annual Beer and Wine Tasting Event.  Here's the poster for it:

Click to enlarge

I've attended this event in the past and always had a great time.

Kenai River Brewing has an old favorite back on tap, Pillars Pale Ale, plus new stainless steel insulated growlers to take it home in. And if you haven't sampled this year's Winter Warlock Old Ale yet, see my review below on what you've been missing.

I had dinner at St. Elias Brewing Company last week and there were two new beers on tap:  Baltic Porter and Gypsy Pilsner.  See my reviews below for each.

Okay, that's the news.  Now let's do some reviews.

Kenai River Brewing's 2014 Winter Warlock Old Ale: Brewed exclusively with traditional Marris Otter malt and Fuggles hops, this is a classic English-style Old Ale. It poured a deep honey gold color with a small but persistent off-white head. The aroma was primarily malt, but with some hops notes present. Carbonation was good, as was the mouthfeel. Rich, deep, and warming on the palate, this beer shows what allowing a full year of cold-conditioning can produce.  It's another excellent vintage and a wonderful example of a classic English-style that seems perfectly at home here on the Kenai. 9% ABV, 70 IBUs.

St. Elias Brewing's Baltic Porter:  This is another of Zach Henry's bourbon-barrel-aged brews. It poured opaque with a small tan head. The nose has a strong bourbon and oak note from its two months aging in a whiskey barrel. On the palate there's good mouthfeel, smooth malty and roasty notes, then oak and plenty of alcohol heat on the finish. A nice take on the Baltic porter style, but there's so much bourbon here it almost overwhelmed me.

St. Elias Brewing Company's Gypsy Pilsner: Crystal clear gold in the glass with a nice white head; definitely looks a proper pilsner.  There's a nice, clean hop aroma; very inviting. Carbonation is excellent and the mouthfeel in nice. Good up front bitterness, balanced by nice biscuity malt flavor. Another outstanding pilsner from St. Elias.  Exceptionally drinkable.

Well, that's it for this week.  I'll have more reviews next week.  Until then, keep drinking good beer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Down in the Cellar...

A few weeks ago I finally broke down and decided to reorganize my beer cellar. I've been buying beers to keep off-and-on since I picked up my first bottle of Thomas Hardy Ale in 1991, but bouncing around the world as a naval officer really isn't conducive to having a beer collection of any size. So it wasn't until I retired and moved to Alaska in 2004 that I could really put away beers in any significant numbers. So that's when I started cellaring beers in earnest.

Of course I made all the rookie mistakes. I cellared the wrong kind of beers. I didn't keep good track of what I had, so things got forgotten. I didn't cellar enough bottles of each beer, so I couldn't taste the beer regularly to see when it was at its peak.  I didn't have any sort of shelf plan, so finding bottles was difficult. You get the idea.

So a few weeks ago, I reorganized my entire cellar and spread-sheeted  my inventory, including dates in, target dates out, and actual dates out. Hopefully, this will allow my to keep better track and ensure I stay on top of when a specific beer is at its peak.

Click to enlarge
In hindsight, I wish I'd had some sort of guidebook to cellaring, so I wouldn't have had to learn things the hard way. In 2004 no such book existed, but today there is one:Vintage Beer by Patrick Dawson. If you're at all interested in cellaring beer and don't want to make the same rookie mistakes as I did, I strongly recommend picking up a copy.

As part of the great cellar reorganization, I pulled up a couple of brews to open. The first was a bottle on Meantime Brewing's Naval College Old Porter, which had been resting comfortably down there since the fall of 2012. Here's my review of the fresh version of this beer in my 10/19/2012 blog:

 It poured a deep, almost opaque ruby color in the class, with a nice tan head.  The nose was of chocolate, dark malts, and perhaps a touch of peat smoke from the barrel-aging.  On the palate there was tremendous mouthfeel, thick and rich, like melted ice cream.  The flavor profile was very complex and deep- chocolate, coffee, smokiness, vinous notes from the wood, with the barest touch of brett funk; be interesting to cellar a bottle for several months to see if the brett flavors increased.  Long, slow, finish, with more smoke at the end.
So what had changed in this beer in the course of two years? Surprisingly little. The beer had perhaps dried out a bit, and the brett notes had perhaps increased a bit. I also did not detect the smokiness this time. However, it was still an excellent beer, clearly none the worse for wear after two years in the cellar.

The second beer I tasted was a bottle of Alaskan Brewing's Perseverance Ale from 2011. Brewed to celebrate Alaskan's 25th anniversary, this was a seriously sweet brew when fresh.  Here's how I reviewed it on 9/7/2011:

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell
Perseverance Ale pours totally opaque, with a small tan head that dissipates to a collar.  The aroma has a hint of smoke, plus plenty of sweet notes battling it out with roasted flavors.  On the palate the story is much the same, with 50 IBUs of bitterness to balance the big malt bill and the syrup and honey additions.  The beer is deep, rich, and complex; the finish is long, with some sweetness making itself felt, then a touch of alcohol heat from the 9% ABV at the very end.  It will be interesting to cellar the beer for a year or more, to see if these sweet flavors dry out over time.

After three years in the cellar, I am happy to report that the sweet flavors have indeed dried out a bit, allowing the roasted and smoked malt elements to become more prominent and bringing the beer's flavor profile into much better balance. It's a much better beer today than it was in 2011, and it may get better still with another year or two. I've still got some left in the cellar, so we shall see.

Moving on to current beer news, Silver Gulch Brewing in Fox has a brand-new beer on tap: Red Flag IPA. It's an unfiltered red rye IPA that's been dry hopped.

At HooDoo Brewing Company, they are continuing their Oktoberfest celebrations through this Saturday, October 4th. They have also announced a new Beer Train event in partnership with the Alaska Railroad and Lavelle's Bistro: the HooDoo ChooChoo.

Similar to the Beer Train which has run for several years from Anchorage to Portage and back, this train will run from Fairbanks to Nenana and back, with HooDoo providing the beer and Lavelle's Bistro the food. By the way, Elaine and I ate at Lavelle's during our last visit to Fairbanks and their food was AWESOME! The train departs at 4 PM on Saturday, October 18th. If you're interested, click here for details and tickets.

Things are slowing down a bit at 49th State Brewing as they get ready to go into winter hibernation. Currently, they are open from 4 PM to Midnight, and their last day will be Friday, October 17th. However, they will be going out with a bang, with a Halloween Party that night.

Denali Brewing has released their Slow Down Brown Ale and their Purple Haze Blueberry Wheat Ale; look for it on draft at various taps around the state.

In The Valley, the Mighty Matanuska Brew Fest is fast approaching. It will take place October 17th & 18th, in Raven's Hall at the State Fairgrounds in Palmer, from 6 to 10 PM.  Tickets are $30 for each night.

On Friday, October 10th, the Eagle River Brew Fest will be held at the Eagle River Lions Club at 16630 Eagle River Road, from 6:30 to 9:30 PM. The price includes a high-end buffet style dinner, a commemorative pint glass and samples from Alaskan Brewing, Arkose Brewing, Broken Tooth Brewing, Celestial Meadery, Denali Brewing, Glacier BrewHouse, Midnight Sun Brewing, and Sleeping Lady Brewing.Tickets are being sold at the Boys' and Girls Club in Eagle River and all proceeds got to benefit that club.

Over at Midnight Sun Brewing, Lee Ellis had finally officially declared that there is termination dust on the mountains, so Termination Dust Belgian Barley Wine has been released on draft and in bottles! MSBC has also released their Son of Berserker Stout in bottles.

Photo courtesy of Midnight Sun Brewing Company

Glacier BrewHouse has another new beer on tap, a Black IPA.  Here's how they describe it:

Black IPA (BLIPA) - All of the hoppy and fruity goodness of an American West Coast IPA combined with the gentle and supportive darkness from the special debittered black malts. Darkly hopalicious. Alcohol: 7.67% by volume. Starting Gravity: 18.60 Plato (1.076 S.G.).

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse

I've mentioned this before, but it's worth mentioning again: Bodega-Fest will soon be upon us. This year it will take place on Saturday, 1 November, from 5 to 9 PM. Besides moving later in the year, this year's fest will be held indoors, at the Alaska Aviation Museum. The $35 ticket gets you a commemorative glass and 15 tasting tickets. On the Wednesday before the fest, October 29th, there will be a Beer Dinner at Kinley's in Anchorage. I've been to a Kinley's beer dinner in the past, and they are always top-notch.

Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka is also celebrating Oktoberfest.  Here's the poster:

Seward Brewing Company closed for the season on September 29th.

On October 1st, Kenai River Brewing Company released this year's version of the outstanding Winter Warlock Old Ale. I got an early taste of the 2014 Warlock at the Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival in August, and it was excellent. So be sure to stop by and pick some up before it's gone.

St. Elias Brewing Company has their excellent Oktoberfest Lager back on tap, for sale in 20 oz glasses, and also a new beer, called Grasshopper, described by owner Zach Henry as a "session IPA". I had a couple of pints and found it deliciously hoppy, but not too strong to have more than one of. A real session beer indeed!

I've already reviewed a couple of brews above, but let's do a few more:

Kenai River Brewing Company's Smores Beer: I wrote in my 9/5/2014 blog about how this beer was made, but how does it taste? In a word, very much like a smore.  If you like smores, that's a good thing. Sadly, I don't much care for them, so this brew isn't really my cup of tea. It has a pronounced coconut aroma and flavor, presumably from the graham crackers, and plenty of chocolate notes from the nibs added to the brite tank. It's a well-made brew, so if smores are to your liking, be sure to check it out.

Scuttlebutt Brewing's Hoptopia Imperial IPA: I picked up a bottle of this beer on my recent trip to Seattle; the brewery is located in Everett, WA. It poured a deep, slightly cloudy gold with a big, off-white head that left good lacing. The nose was surprisingly well-balanced between malt and hops; most imperial IPA are straight hop bombs. Carbonation was good, as was the mouthfeel. On the palate, the sense of balance continued, with a nice upfront bitterness being eventually restrained by a good malt backbone. There also some nice toffee notes.  All-in-all, this beer had a very "English" feel to me, despite its use of American hops. A very nice brew and one that makes me eager to try other offerings from this brewery. 8% ABV.

Firestone-Walker's Opal Dry-hopped Saison: I picked this up in  Seattle also, though it may be available in Alaska, as we do get some of this brewery's releases. This beer poured a clear, very light yellow color with a nice white head. The nose had the spicy, earthy notes I always associate with a Belgian yeast. Carbonation was excellent, and the beer was very dry, like a classic saison. Hoppiness was good, and the flavors were very clean. An outstanding example of a classic dry saison, in the style of Saison Dupont. 7.5% ABV.

Elysian Brewing's Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout: I actually did not bring this one back from Seattle, but was given it as a gift. It poured opaque with a big-mocha colored head. As expected, the nose was a combination of roasty flavors and sweet malt notes. Carbonation was good, as was the mouthfeel. On the palate the beer presented a nice balance between the sweet malt elements and the roasted, coffee-ish notes. The only thing that I feel could have been done better was the finish, was a little abrupt. Still, a very nice take on blending a coffee and a milk stout. 5.6% ABV.

That's it for this week. Get out and enjoy this beautiful fall weather while it lasts.  All too soon that white stuff is going to start falling from the skies...

Until Next Time, Cheers!