Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Alaska Brewers Rule!

Hello again out there in the blogosphere! Got lots of great beer news to report this week. First up, AK Beer Week was another smashing success. Each year we seem to have more and better events, and 2015 was no exception. I'm already looking forward to 2016, especially since I couldn't make it up to Anchorage for all the fun last week...

Part of each year's Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival, the anchor event for AK Beer Week, is the Barley Wine Competition. This year a panel of judges conducted blind-tastings of barley wines submitted by 31 different breweries. In the last few years, entries from within our state have not fared terribly well, with breweries from the Lower 48 taking home most of the trophies. But not this year! The Silver Medal went to Midnight Sun Brewing Company's Termination Dust Belgian-style Barley Wine, while St. Elias Brewing's Moose Juice Barley Wine took home the Gold! Senator Lisa Murkowski was even on hand to present the trophies to the winners. Third place went to Lagunitas Brewing's Old Gnarleywine, while Fremont Brewing from WA state won for Best Winter Seasonal with its Bourbon Abominable, a barrel-aged Winter Warmer.

Midnight Sun takes home second place. Photo courtesy of MSBC.

Zach Henry and his sister Jessie Kolesar receive their trophy. Photo courtesy of Senator Murkowski.
Congratulations to winning brewers Lee Ellis of Midnight Sun and Zach Henry of St. Elias. Great job, guys!

In other news, Alaskan Brewing Company has published its beer release schedule for 2015, in a very handy graphic.  Take a look:

Click to enlarge

Looks like we are going to have a new year-round beer, Alaskan's Imperial Red, formerly part of the Pilot Series, and three new Pilot Series beers, an Imperial Rye IPA in the spring, an Imperial IPA in the summer, and a Coffee Brown Ale in the fall/winter. The canned Amber and Freeride available dates refer to the Lower 48, I presume, since we Alaskans have had them for quite some time. The one thing I don't see on this graph is Alaskan's Barley Wine. Not sure if that means we won't see any in 2015, or if it just didn't make the graphic. Hopefully the latter...

Given how busy everyone has been for AK Beer Week, there isn't a lot going on amongst the breweries this week, but Arkose Brewery has announced a Valentine's Beer Meets Chocolate Event for February 13th. Four hand-crafted artisanal chocolates from JB Chocolatier are paired with Arkose's artisanal ales. $25 per person. You must reserve in advance at 907-746-2337.

Click to enlarge

Also coming up soon is the Frozen River Fest, as I mentioned in last week's blog. It looks like there will be one more brewery attending, as King Street Brewing Company has decided to throw its hat into the ring as well. By next week I should have the details on the Brewers Dinner being held on Friday, Feb 6th, at Mykel's Restaurant in Soldotna, so stay tuned for that. For now, check out these neat commemorative pint glasses which are now on sale at various beer bars around the central Kenai Peninsula.

Front of glass

Back of glass

That's it for news, so let's do some more reviews:

Epic Brewing's Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout: Brewed with coffee and cocoa nibs and aged in whiskey barrels, this is one formidable brew! It poured opaque with a small tan head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma reminded me of a black, sweet cup of coffee. Carbonation was good and there was plenty of mouthfeel, as the beer coated my tongue with a thick, rich sensation. The flavors of the coffee and cocoa blended nicely with the roasted malt, and there was a touch of alcohol heat from the 11.7% ABV. A delicious imperial stout, well-worth seeking out. Unfortunately, I got this bottle down in Seattle and haven't seen it for sale anywhere in Alaska.

Cigar City Brewing's Invasion Pale Ale: I received a can of this beer courtesy of Doug Hogue, who muled it all the way back from Florida, where he and his family were vacationing. I'd had some of Cigar City's brews at the GABF in Denver in 2010, and found them to be uniformly excellent. This is another great brewery whose beers we just don't get here in Alaska. This beer poured a cloudy orange-gold in color with a nice off-white head. The aroma had plenty of nice, citrusy American hops. Carbonation was good and the flavor profile was full of good, clean hop flavor, but without the bitterness of an IPA. A good American Pale Ale, spot on for the style.

Denali Brewing's Milepost #3 Belgian-style Dark Ale: This is one I've been wanting to try since I heard it had been released. Both previous entries in Denali's Flag Stop series were excellent, so I was expecting the same from this beer, and it did not disappoint. It poured opaque with a big mocha-colored head that left excellent lacing on the glass. The nose had tons of dark fruit notes - raisins, plums, cherries - plus oak and wine notes from its aging in Cabernet barrels. Carbonation and mouthfeel were both good. The flavor profile was right in the wheelhouse for a classic Belgian quadruple, like Rochefort 10 or St. Bernardus Abt. Loads of dark fruit notes, hints of tobacco, spices, and brown sugar. Very rich and warming, despite only being 6.9% ABV. Another excellent beer from Sassan Mossanen and the boys up in Talkeetna.

Finally, you may have noticed a bit of a change to the layout of this blog. Specifically, at the top of the right-hand sidebar, there is now a button that says Feed The Writer. Over the years, I have deliberately refrained from selling ad space on this blog, as I wanted it to be a place where readers could focus on beer, without being bombarded by the latest pop-up ad for whatever Google thought they might buy, based on its analysis of their search history. Still, while the blog may be a labor of love on my part, a man's gotta eat. Or buy beer, at least. Hence the new button.

If you've enjoyed this blog and found it to be worthwhile, and you are financially able to do so, I'd like to humbly suggest you consider kicking a couple of bucks my way. You can click on the button, and it will take you to a page where you can send me $2, $5, or $10 via Paypal. You can even do so anonymously, if you so choose. Or you could click on one of the links lower down on the page and buy one or both of my books. Cost you a bit more, but you'd get something tangible in return, along with the satisfaction of helping me support my beer-writing habit.

Regardless, I hope to see you here again next week, when there will be more beer news and reviews and perhaps even a sneak peak at the cover of my upcoming book from The History Press, Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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