Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Return of the Blog: Alaska Beer Week 2015

So back on December 9, I said this blog was going on hiatus for a month. It's the middle of January, so it's time to get back in the saddle. In case you are keeping score at home, I did indeed get the manuscript for Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun finished and shipped off to my publisher, The History Press, all 40,900 words of it. The book is currently scheduled to hit store shelves on May 11th. I will of course post more details when it gets closer to that date, including where you can pick up a copy, should you be so inclined.

Meanwhile, Alaska continues to be the land that winter forgot, with next to no snow on the ground and temperatures well above normal. The Tustumena 200 has been postponed in the hope that we might eventually get enough snow around here to run the race, but I wouldn't bet on it. The Frozen River Fest is still going to happen as scheduled on Saturday, February 7th, from 3 to 6 PM in Soldotna Creek Park, even if the Kenai River isn't frozen. There should be ten breweries, wineries, and meaderies offering their wares.  Here's the list:

  • Kenai River Brewing
  • St. Elias Brewing
  • Homer Brewing
  • Midnight Sun Brewing
  • Denali Brewing
  • Broken Tooth Brewing
  • Arkose Brewery
  • Baranof Island Brewing
  • Celestial Meads
  • Bear Creek Winery
Plus Specialty Imports will be pouring beers as well. It's $10 general admission (kids 12 and under get in free). An additional $5 gets you the commemorative 16 oz. mug and wristband, allowing you to drink alcohol, and tokens for 4 oz. of beer/wine/mead are  $2 each. Buy as many or as few as you want. There will be free coffee on offer, along with hot chocolate and food vendors. There will also be live music and other activities.

Kenai River Brewing and St. Elias Brewing have each produced a special brew for the Fest, a doppelbock. Look for it to be on tap at each location in the week leading up to the Fest, as well as at the event itself. There will also be a Beer Dinner the Friday night before the Fest at Mykel's Restaurant, featuring beers from all the out-of-town brewers. More details on the dinner - time, cost, menu - soon.

Right now, pretty much all the brewers from across the state are either in Anchorage or on their way there for Alaska Beer Week. In the past, I've tried to post the events, but the sheer number of them has gotten so large that I can't really keep up, and that's a good thing. If you'll be in Anchorage anytime between now and Sunday, you should definitely check out the list of events on the Alaska Beer Week website, Barb Miller of Midnight Sun Brewing Company does a stellar job compiling all the many events on offer, so take advantage of her hard work and check out the events page. There are also events and beer releases at other breweries across the state.

During my hiatus, I spent two weeks down in Seattle, celebrating Christmas with my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. While beer was certainly not the focus of the trip, you can't go to a beer town like Seattle and not have a few! Besides beers picked up in stores, I did stop at one brewery/brewpub: Big E Ales at 5030 208th Street Southwest, in Lynnwood, WA.

The food there was excellent, and I tried two of its beers: 12 1/2 Man IPA and Scotch Ale. The IPA weighed in at 6.5% ABV and a serious 98.4 IBUs, though it did not taste overly bitter. It was brewed with Centennial, Columbus, Cascade & Chinook hops for flavor and dry hopped using Citra hops. I liked the Scotch Ale even more than the IPA. It was 7.2% with some great flavors from the caramelization produced by long boil. Looked nice in the glass, too:

Big E Ales' Scotch Ale

I picked up a couple of other interesting brews while down in the Seattle area. The first of  these was Hair of the Dog Brewing Company's Doggie Claws Barley Wine. Hair of the Dog is one of the many great craft breweries whose brews simply aren't sent to Alaska, so I seldom get to sample any of them. Unfortunately, I think the bottle I picked up hadn't been treated as well as it should or else had some other problem.It poured a very dark honey color with zero carbonation. The nose was nothing but malt, despite the beer having 70 IBUs and being described as being made "in the West Coast style", which implies to me that it should be a hoppy American Barley Wine, a la Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot. On the palate, there was some alcohol heat from the 11.5% ABV, but nothing to balance the overwhelming malt sweetness. As I said, the brewery has a great reputation, so I'm going to assume I just got a bad bottle, until proved otherwise.

No head on this one...

I also had a bottle of Pelican Pub & Brewery's Mother of All Storms (2014). This is the bourbon-barrel-aged version of the brewery's Stormwatcher's Winterfest Barley Wine. It poured opaque with a very small tan head that dissipated to a collar. Carbonation was on the low side, but the mouthfeel was very thick and rich. The nose had lots of roasty flavors, along with the malt and bourbon notes you would expect. I liked the beer very much, but found it to be very odd for one that claims to be an English-style barley wine; it reminded me much more of a Russian Imperial Stout. However, if you can get past that dissonance, it's excellent.

I'll have some more beer reviews from this trip in upcoming blogs.

There have been a lot of new releases in the last month from breweries here in the state; too many to recapitulate here. I have tried to keep up to date on my Beer on the Last Frontier Facebook page, so if you are curious, check them out here.

I did get a chance to sample one recent new release on Monday, when I stopped by The Loft at Midnight Sun Brewing Company for lunch and had a glass of the brewery's new Sloper Baltic Porter. This 9% ABV brew had lots of clean flavors and a good mouthfeel, and was delicious alongside my Ancho Beef Dip Sandwich.  I give MSBC high marks for this one. The brewery will also be releasing a salted caramel porter soon, but no name for that one yet.

MSBC's Sloper Baltic Porter

Midnight Sun also announced another new release today: Suicide Run Flemish Sour Red Ale. This brew has been aged in Malbec barrels with both brettanomyces and lactobacillus. Sound plenty funky.

Photo courtesy of MSBC

Here on the Peninsula, Doug Hogue of Kenai River Brewing has released another batch of his Skilak Wee Heavy Ale, an amped up version of his flagship Skilak Scottish. It's unfortunate that he brews this beer so rarely, as I think it is among the best he makes, right up there with his Winter Warlock Old Ale. You can read my review of a previous release of this beer in my 2/9/2009 blog, and this batch is very similar and quite excellent. Here's a photo of the latest release.

Kenai River's Skilak Wee Heavy Scotch Ale

Kassik's Brewery will be pouring its new Statny Statny Stout at the GABBF in Anchorage this weekend and releasing it in bottles soon. It's brewed with licorice and molasses.  Here's the label:

At St. Elias Brewing Company, there was a Snow Cap Lager on tap last month, but it has been replaced with a White Cap Lager. Still on tap at last report was the Baltic Porter, aged in bourbon barrels and Jaques Trappe Brune, a Belgian-style brown ale. I had some of this beer last month, just before heading to Seattle, so here's my review: It poured a cloudy brown with a decent off-white head. The aroma had notes of raisins, plums, cherries, and spices. Carbonation was good, as was mouthfeel. On the palate the dark fruits were still there, along with some hints of candi sugar and spicy yeast notes, falling away to a respectable finish. A very enjoyable interpretation of a classic Belgian style.

Well, that's about it for this week.  It's good to be back in the saddle again here at Drinking on the Last Frontier, and my New Year's Resolution is to be better at getting this blog out weekly in 2015, so wish me luck. Hopefully, you will get a chance to enjoy Alaska Beer Week and the Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival in all their glory. Just remeber to stay hydrated and be sure you've got a way home that doesn't involved getting behind the wheel yourself.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

1 comment:

Kevin Barrett said...

Here is another one from my Maine trip. Enjoying a Ale, while taking in the amazing beer. Good Flavor and test.