Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Big Fish Eat Little Fish and So On Ad Infinitum...

Before moving on to the primary topics of this week's blog, I wanted to share an exciting bit of personal news. Take a look at what will be the cover of my upcoming book from The History Press, Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun:

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I realize I may be a bit biased, but I think the cover looks spectacular, especially since all the images were taken by my wife, Elaine. The current publication date is set for May 11th, and obviously I will have more info as we get closer to that date, but in the meantime, you can join me in admiring this lovely cover!

Now that the good news is out of the way, on to the bad news, which comes in two flavors: Outside Bad News and Alaska Bad News. We'll start Outside.

The online beer world has been shaken by the news that one of the stalwarts of craft brewing, the Elysian Brewing Company of Seattle, has been sold to AB-InBev.  Hence the title of this blog, though to be honest, you can't really find a bigger fish than AB-InBev...

The right-hand fish is definitely AB-InBev...

The idea that Elysian Brewing could be purchased by the company that many craft beer lovers view as The Evil Empire has gotten a lot of folks quite upset. I'm a bit more sanguine about it than many, I must admit. First off, Elysian has never been one of my go-to breweries. I visited it once, maybe a decade ago, during a trip to Seattle, and I've had its beers on occasion, but that's about it. I'm sure if I lived in Seattle and drank at Elysian regularly, I might be more upset. Secondly, I think it's inevitable that we will see more and more such buyouts as the founders of more and more breweries reach the age when they are looking to cash out some of the years of blood, sweat, and tears they have invested in their breweries. Absent a family member who wants to take up the reins or some sort of employee buyout like New Belgium's, what else is there except to sell to a big company with lots of cash? I'm too much of a capitalist to begrudge someone selling the company they built with their own hands for a profit.

All that being said, I don't plan to purchase any beers produced by Elysian Brewing in the future. This isn't because I think they will not be well-made, tasty beers; far from it. I expect that Elysian's brews will continue to be just as good as they ever were, at least for several years. The reason I won't buy Elysian's beers is that I have only a limited amount of money to spend on beer (more's the pity) and I want my dollars to go to support independent, local brewers. I'd rather plunk down my $9 or $10 for a six-pack from a brewery here in Alaska than have it help fatten AB-InBev's bottom line. But I realize that's a purely personal decision on my part, so if you want to keep drinking Elysian or Goose Island or 10-Barrel or whatever the next acquisition by AB-InBev or MillerCoors turns out to be, go ahead. I won't think any less of you. Well, not that much less...

The Bad News from Inside is that the politicians in Anchorage have had the bright idea to slap an 8% (or maybe more) tax on alcohol to help fund their efforts to deal with the chronic drunks camping out along that city's streets. Never mind that Alaska already has the second highest beer taxes in the country. Never mind that the state rammed through a 10-cents-a-drink tax just a few years ago, supposedly for the same purpose. Of course, once the tax was passed, the state rerouted the money, but hey, that's what politicians do, right? The old bait and switch...

No, what get me so mad is that so many politicians regard the vast majority of people who drink alcohol responsibly as someone being the cause of the few who are chronic drunks. They must believe this or they wouldn't keep trying to make us pay for the care and feeding of said drunks. But it seems to me that the "chronic inebriates" are no more the fault of the responsible drinkers than people who take prescription medicine should be held responsible for those who abuse drugs. Is the Anchorage City Council likely to pass a sales tax on prescription drugs to fund drug treatment centers? I don't think so. So why try to lay the entire cost of this social ill onto the folks who consume alcohol? And don't tell me that this tax will be paid by anyone except the consumers. Everybody who wants to have a glass of wine with their supper or a beer after work will get stuck paying the tab.

I don't live in Anchorage, so I don't really have a say in this, even though I'll get stuck paying the tax on the beer I buy up there to bring back to the Kenai with me. But if you do live in Anchorage, I'd urge you to contact your representative on the City Council and tell them not to vote for this. If the City of Anchorage wants to spend more money on its social problems, that's fine. But it should tax all its citizens to pay for it, via property or sales taxes. Singling out one group and requiring them to shoulder the whole burden is just wrong.

Alright, let's move on to some good news. First up, congratulations to Denali and Alaskan Brewing Companies for winning medals at the 2015 Best of Craft Beer Awards. Alaskan took Gold in the Smoked Beer Category with its 2013 Alaskan Smoked Porter, while Denali Brewing took Silver in the Blonde Ales category with its Mother Ale and Bronze in the Irish Red Ale category with its Single-Engine Red. Well done! If you are curious, here's the complete list of winners:

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There are now more details about the beer event taking place in Soldotna on Friday, February 6th, that I mentioned in last week's blog. It will be a Meet the Brewer’s Tasting at Mykel’s Restaurant in Soldotna. It starts at 6:30pm and will be a chance to meet the brewers and vintners who are participating in the Frozen River Festival. Tickets are $40 and are on sale at the Kenai River Brewing Company. Participants will get to enjoy a diverse appetizer buffet, sample beer/wine/mead from 9 different companies, and chat with the folks who made them!! A perfect warm-up for the Frozen River Fest, which will be the next day, from 3 to 6 pm in Soldotna Creek Park.

Another bit of good news, Resolution Brewing in the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage had a soft opening last Friday. Still no beer for sale yet, but they had some folks in to check out the new brewery and taproom. The intrepid James "Dr. Fermento" Roberts was on hand, as was a reporter for the Mountain View Post. You can check out her interview of him here. Hopefully, Resolution Brewing will be able to start selling its beer real soon.

Resolution Brewing Company. Photo courtesy of Mountain View Post.
Finally, I got a piece of big news from Doug Hogue. It seems that Lasse Holmes down in Homer has managed to grow some hops using a high tunnel and actually got them to produce cones. He lost a lot of the harvest due to not having enough people to harvest them quickly enough (something that Doug is going to help out with this year), but he did get enough to actually use in making a commercial beer. Since supplies are limited  the plan is to brew a 4.5 barrels on an English Pale Ale at Kenai River Brewing on March 18, and then brew 4.5 barrels of a lager style at St. Elias Brewing on March 22. The hops are a mixture of Chinooks, Cascades, and Centennials. What makes this so significant is that to the best of my knowledge, these beers will be the first commercial beers ever brewed utilizing only hops grown in Alaska. And that's a pretty big deal, if you ask me. Stay tuned for more details as they become available.

I only hope they look this good...

Since that's about it for news, let's move on to reviews.

Castle Brewery's Gueuze Fond Tradition: I'm always a sucker for a new gueuze and this was one I'd never had before. It poured a slightly cloudy orange color with a nice, off-white head. The aroma was sharp and tart. The carbonation was good and the beer was effervescent on the palate. It was not as tart as some lambics I've had, and it was well-balanced. There was no discernible brett. Overall, I'd call it an acceptable but not superb gueuze. I think I prefer Boon's or Cantillon's version to this one.

Midnight Sun Brewing's Matanuska Thunder Funk: Sticking with the sour theme, this beer poured a light orange color with a small but persistent white head that left good lacing. There was some brett funk in the nose, but it was light. Carbonation was good and the beer was light on the palate. In the flavor profile, the brett funkiness was evident, along with a slight tartness that lingered for quite a while on the finish. A very refreshing beer, it will be interesting to see how this one evolves as the brett continues to work on it. 5.9% ABV, 20 IBUs.

King Street Brewing's Portage Weizenbock: Another bottle release from King Street, this beer was aged in used wine barrels. It poured a deep, semi-translucent ruby with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated rapidly to a collar. The barrel-aging was very evident in the nose, which had lots of oaky, vinous notes. Carbonation was good and mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile seemed to be dominated slightly by the wine elements, which made the beer's contribution a bit difficult to discern. Still, a delicious and well-made brew. 7.4% ABV.

Well, that's it for this week. Keep fighting the good fight and drinking good local beer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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