Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Big Fish Eat Little Fish, Part Deux

Well, this has been an interesting week! Let's revisit the two main topics from last week, only in reverse order.

The proposed 8% (or more) alcohol sales tax for Anchorage: Epic Fail. Six of the eleven members of the Anchorage City Council show their good sense (or at least their good sense not to try to lay another tax on their constituents to boost spending on chronic drunks, who aren't exactly known for making it to the polls) and voted last night against even putting this dumb idea to the voters for them to vote down. So that's good news, at least until the next time the politcos try to stick it to the consumers of alcohol with another "sin" tax.

Dick Traini can kiss my a** ...
The AB-InBev buyout of Elysian Brewing: this one got even more surreal with the broadcast of AB-InBev's infamous Super Bowl commercial, which included a gratuitous bitch-slap at brewers of "pumpkin peach ales." What makes that so hilarious is the fact that Elysian Brewing is well-known for brewing Gourdgia on My Mind, a Pecan Pumpkin Peach Ale. So AB-InBev was basically cutting down its latest acquisition. Meanwhile, poor Dick Cantwell is probably wishing he could just take his millions and ride off into the sunset, instead of having to hang around and engage in the ever more futile task of trying to convince Elysian's employees and (former) drinkers that AB-InBev really will respect craft beer in the morning... Sucks to be you, Dick, but as the old saying goes, "He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon."

Taking a step back and looking at the commercial in the wider context, rather than just with respect to the Elysian purchase, I actually see it as a good sign. Initially, I was irritated by it, as I assume most craft beer drinkers were, but after giving it some thought, I think it shows even more than the recent spate of buyouts that craft brewing is really starting to worry AB-InBev. Dropping several million dollars on buying a Super Bowl ad isn't something you do if you don't perceive craft beer's growth as a real threat. Not to mention they just gave craft beer the sort of exposure we could never have afforded to purchase ourselves. As the old PR adage goes, "Write anything you want to about me, just spell my name right!" Plus the responses from the craft beer world are already flooding the websites, like this one.

So, as I said above, I'm actually pretty sanguine about the whole affair. I'm not worried that craft beer can't whip Budweiser in a fair fight for the consumer's palate. No, I'm much more concerned with them trying to use their political muscle to keep it from being a fair fight. For example, you can read about what AB-InBev has been trying to pull in Kentucky here. We all need to be watchful and keep our powder dry for the next exchange of fire.

In other news, it looks like Gabe Fletcher has fired up his new brewhouse at Anchorage Brewing Company's new brewery. He posted a picture yesterday of his first batch.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing

Hopefully the new brewery's taproom will soon be open for business!

There are less than a dozen tickets left to this Friday night's Meet the Brewers Reception/Beer Tasting at Mykel's Restaurant in Soldotna. The event starts at 6:30 and there will be heavy appetizers and brews from nine different breweries/wineries/meaderies to sample. The cost is $40, and this is a great chance to meet and talk to the brewers/vintners one on one. If you haven't gotten your ticket yet, you'd better hurry up; they are available at Kenai River Brewing and at Mykel's.

Click to enlarge

The Frozen River Fest will be happening this Saturday from 3 to 6 PM at the Soldotna Creek Park. In order to speed up admittance, Kenai River Brewing is selling the sampling mugs in advance. You can pay $15 at the brewery and you'll be given your sampling mug. You bring the mug to the Fest, get your ID checked, get a wristband, and a token for one 4 oz pour. You must bring the mug, as it's the proof that you pre-paid. The idea is to speed things up at the gate, so you can get to drinking the beers that much quicker!

Glacier BrewHouse has a new beer on tap as of last Friday: a Belgian Blonde Ale.  Here's how they describe it:

Belgian Blonde Ale - This blonde beauty was brewed using premium pilsner malt, noble hops, Belgian candi sugar and secret spices. The special Belgian yeast strain adds complex, classic, Belgian aromas and flavors that meld perfectly. Smooth and refreshing with a touch of juicy fruit flavor. Alcohol: 6.80% by volume. Starting Gravity: 15.10 Plato (1.061 S.G.).

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse

Alaskan Brewing has announced that more of its beers will be available on Alaskan Airlines flights. Freeride APA will be available in cans on board starting in February, along with Amber Ale in bottles. In April, Freeride will be replaced with Icy Bay IPA in bottles. Alaskan's Summer Ale and Freeride will return in June and Summer Ale will stay on until September, when Amber comes back to replace it.

That's the news for this week. Let's hit the reviews.

Alaskan Brewing's Big Mountain Pale Ale:  This is the newest beer in Alaskan's seasonal line-up, a replacement for the gone-but-not-forgotten year-round Alaskan Pale Ale. See my blog of 5/22/2013 for the story behind that brews demise. Big Mountain pours a light copper in color, very clear with a small, cream-colored head. The aroma has plenty of citrusy, fruity notes from the Mosaic and Simcoe hops used in the beer. Carbonation is good and the mouthfeel is fairly light. There is nice bitterness up front, but it's well-balanced by the malt, keeping this brew firmly in the pale ale range. After the initial bitter attack, there's good hop flavor and aroma behind it, falling away to a nice finish. This beer focuses on what I think it the major virtue of pale ales: decent hoppiness without overwhelming bitterness. In other words: drinkability. This is a beer you can drink two or three of without any palate fatigue. A nice addition to Alaskan's stable fo beers. 5.7% ABV.

Kenai River Brewing's I'll Have Another Rye Kolsch: The brewery's contribution to the 2015 I'll Have Another AK Beer Week Collaboration, I picked up a growler of this to enjoy with friends during the Super Bowl. The beer poured a light honey color, with a decent head. The aroma was nice, and on the palate there was plenty of the clean, crisp maltiness you expect from a kolsch, plus the added interest of some peppery notes from the rye. Very nice and an excellent accompaniment to the many different finger foods we shared at the party. A great beer to have when you're planning to have more than one!

Kenai River Brewing's Galaxy Imperial Rye Pale Ale: While picking up the big growler for the Super Bowl party to share, I also grabbed a smaller growler of this beer just for myself. It poured a slightly dark honey color, with reddish tints and a small off-white head that left good lacing on the glass. The nose has the tropical fruit notes that you expect from Galaxy hops. Carbonation and mouthfeel were good. There was a significant initial bitter attack, followed by more tropical fruit flavor from the hops and peppery notes from the rye. These imperial rye pale ales are big beers, so they need plenty of hops for balance, meaning this is not the beer to have when you're planning to have more than one. This bad boy is a palate wrecker that you'll want to drink slow, but it's an excellent beer none the less.

That's it for this week. I hope to see you at Mykel's on Friday or at the Frozen River Fest on Saturday. Be sure to dress warm!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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