Friday, March 27, 2015

The End of March

It's the end of March and April is right around the corner. Our early spring here on the Kenai seems to be continuing, which is good news. On the downside, the Alaska Legislature is still in session, which means no man's life, property, or liberty is truly safe. However, on balance, things are looking OK right now.

The grand opening of Anchorage Brewing Company's new brewery at 148 W. 91st Avenue last Saturday was a huge success. I got there right at 2 PM, which was smart, since by 3 PM the line to get a beer was about 100 people long! All the usual suspects attended, and everyone admired the amazing facility that Gabe Fletcher has constructed. It truly is a cathedral of beer. If you weren't able to make it to this event, the brewery taproom is open from 2 to 8 PM, Wednesday thru Sunday.

The serving counter

The beer line at 2 PM.

The barrel room

The brewhouse

Having a drink with Jed from Bearpaw River Brewing

The beer line at 3 PM!

Since I was back in Anchorage, I also stopped by Resolution Brewing Company. While there, I sampled its Ixelle Tripel. See my review below. Resolution has another new event happening tomorrow: yoga.

Today is the start of Talkeetna Beer Trippin'. Unfortunately, I'm not able to attend this year; maybe 2016. I posted the Schedule of Events back on March 6, but here is the menu for tonight's Beer Dinner with Denali Brewing at Twister Creek Restaurant.

Click to enlarge

Broken Tooth Brewing Company has announced that for a limited time it will be offering 5 gallon kegs of its gold medal wining Darth Delirium Imperial Stout. The kegs are $110 each and won't last long, but if you're looking for something special for your kegerator, here's your chance.

Alaskan Brewing Company has announced a couple of pieces of good news, following the completion of its major expansion project. First, its new brewery taproom and retail store will open tomorrow, March 28th. Second, thanks to its newly-expanded packaging space, its Icy Bay IPA will soon be joining its Amber Ale and Freeride APA on store shelves in cans.

Photo courtesy of Alaskan Brewing

La Bodega has a sake event coming up in two weeks, on Saturday, April 11th. Here's what they had to say about it:

We're proud to host sake ambassador Marcus Pakiser for our second annual Sake Expo! This year it will be Saturday April 11th at O'Malley's on the Green. We also have tickets for the Sake at the Movies event, to be held at the Snow Goose Theater. $10 to see Akira Kurosawa's classic "Yojimbo!" Sake flights and food available for purchase, popcorn with seasoning bar included in ticket price.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company is releasing three new beers. The first one is being released today, Double Red Hot Ale. Clocking it at 8%, Double Red Hot Ale is a red  double ale with an addition of cayenne, cinnamon and 50 #'s of red hots.

 The second beer, Spiced Carrot Ale, will be released tomorrow.

 The third beer is a surprise, so we'll just have to wait and see...

Glacier BrewHouse has also  released a beer: Citrus India Pale Ale.

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse
Here's how it's described:

This West Coast style was brewed using orange & lemon peel along with Simcoe & Amarillo hops to render incredible floral & citrus aromas. Unfiltered & tropical. Alcohol: 6.53% by volume Starting Gravity: 15.50 Plato (1.063 S.G.)

Haines Brewing Company is tapping its Captain Cook's Spruce Tip Ale today at the brewery, to celebrate the opening of "Arctic Ambitions: Captain Cook and the Northwest Passage" at the Anchorage  Museum. There are even two kegs of the beer at the museum! I reviewed this excellent beer on 6/1/2009.

Finally on the news front, today would have been the late Michael Jackson's 73rd birthday. I had the great honor to meet him on two occasions, and found him to be both a gentleman and a scholar. All of us who read or write about beer owe him a tremendous debt. So please join me today in raising a glass to the Bard of Beer.

Michael Jackson, 1942 - 2007

Moving on to beer reviews, I have six for this week, so that should make up for the last few weeks.

Kenai River Brewing's Frozen River Doppelbock: It poured a deep, clear honey color with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma was full of deep, rich malt notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was nice. The flavor profile was classic doppelbock, with deep, rich malt notes predominating. The flavor profile was very clean, and there was a touch of alcohol heat on the finish from the 10.5% ABV. This is the first lager ever produced by this brewery and an excellent example of this classic German style.

Kenai River Brewing's Duck it Down Rye Pale Ale: Brewed in
collaboration with Midnight Sun Brewing, this beer was hopped with Warrior and Sorachi Ace hops and dry-hopped with the latter as well. It poured a deep, clear gold color with a nice white head that left good lace on the glass. The nose was of lemon grass and dill from the Sorachi Ace. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. On the palate there was a lot of dill flavor up front, then some nice peppery notes from the rye. After a couple of glasses, the dill flavor became a bit overwhelming, which did reduce its drinkability somewhat. 6.0% ABV, 50 IBUs.

Resolution Brewing's Ixelle Tripel. Brandon Hall wants to focus on brewing Belgian styles, and he nails the tripel right out of the gate. Ixelle poured a slightly cloudy gold, with a nice white head that slowly dissipated to a collar. The aroma had the spicy, earthy, slightly peppery notes you'd expect from Belgian yeast, plus hints from the coriander added. Carbonation and mouthfeel were both very good. The flavor profile was classic Belgian tripel, slightly sweet with lots of interesting fruity notes, before falling away to a nice finish. As I said, this beer nails the style, so if you like tripels, be sure to get some before it's gone. 9.2% ABV.

Sierra Nevada Brewing's 2015 Beer Camp Hoppy Lagers: This hybrid style is becoming more and more popular, as it blends the hoppiness of an IPA with the clean flavors of a lager. This one poured a nice clear gold with a big white head that left good lace on the glass. The aroma was of hops, but not overpoweringly so. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. There was a nice bitter attack up front, followed by good hop flavor. The only flaw I detected was a rather abrupt finish, but overall, a very nice blend of lager and IPA styles. ABV 7.0%, 55 IBUs.

Sierra Nevada Brewing's Hop Hunter IPA: The beer poured a clear gold with a nice white head. The nose had tons of bright floral and citrus hop notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was nice. The beer was clean and crisp on the palate, but not overly bitter, with lots of nice hop flavor and aroma. Overall, a nice IPA, but not as good as Sierra Nevada's Torpedo Extra IPA, IMHO. 6.2% ABV, 60 IBUs.

Oskar Blues Brewing's Deviant Dale's IPA: This beer poured a deep, clear copper color with a big cream-colored head that left good lacing on the glass. The aroma had lots of big, citrusy American hop notes. Carbonation was good, but the mouthfeel was slightly on the thin side. There was good but not overpowering bitterness, nicely balanced by the malt backbone, then falling away to a good finish. Another fine beer from this excellent craft brewery. 8.0% ABV

Well, that's it for this week. Next week's blog may be a bit late, as I have some events to cover next Friday. Meanwhile, let's keep enjoying this nice spring weather by drinking lots of good, local craft beer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The First Day of Spring

It's the first day of spring and for once the weather here on the Kenai actually seems to be matching the calendar. Sure, we might get more snow anytime between now and Memorial Day, but there's little on the ground and it looks like we might get a running start on the growing season this year. Hopefully, this means a long, nice summer for 2015.

On the national beer news front, the Brewers Association has released the stats on craft beer for 2014, and for the first time, craft beer has over 10% of market share.  Here's the graphic will all the info:

Click to enlarge

Good news across the board. Statistics like these make it clear why AB-InBev suddenly felt the need to start running commercials against people who drink craft beer.

The big beer news in Alaska is, of course, the grand opening of the new Anchorage Brewing Company brewery tomorrow, Saturday, March 21, at 2 PM. I plan to be there, so I should have a lot to say about it in next week's blog. Gabe Fletcher posted some photos today on Facebook that show just how gorgeous-looking the new brewery is.

All four photos courtesy of Anchorage Brewing
I suspect just about every beer-lover in Anchorage is going to try to be there tomorrow; should be a great time.

Resolution Brewing Company's grand opening last Friday was apparently a great success. It was covered on both the local CBS and NBC TV stations in Anchorage. Things were so busy that growler sales were limited to one to a customer. Resolution is open again today and tomorrow, and there is a new beer on tap, Ixelle, a Belgian-style tripel, brewed with coriander and weighing in at 9.2% ABV and 20 IBUs.

Photo courtesy of Resolution Brewing

Kenai River Brewing Company in Soldotna had a very successful St. Patrick's Day Party last Tuesday. I had to teach my college classes that afternoon and evening, so I was only able to stop by for one beer at 2 PM on my way into town. However, that one beer was a glass of Kenai River's superb Russian Imperial Stout from 2013, which beats a stupid green beer all to hell, let me tell you!

Erin go Bragh!

I didn't get to stay for the free food (corned beef, Louisiana gumbo, and more) or to try the keg of Spruce Tip Beer that Doug put on after the Russian Imperial Stout ran out about 4 PM. Maybe next year the party won't be when I have to teach; at least I hope so.

What's currently on tap at Kenai River Brewing

Kenai River has a couple of new beers on tap. Duck It Down Rye Pale Ale is a collaboration beer brewed with Midnight Sun Brewing Company during last month's Frozen River Fest. It's hopped with Warrior and Sorachi Ace hops, which give it elements of lemon grass and dill. 6.0% ABV, 50 IBUs. Frozen River Doppelbock was brewed for the Frozen River Fest but took its sweet time finishing, so it's only going on tap now. This beer is the first lager ever offered by Kenai River Brewing and the strongest beer they have brewed to date, at 10.5%. I'll have reviews of both of these beers in next week's blog.

Frozen River Doppelbock. Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing.
 In my blog on 1/28/2015, I wrote about plans Doug Hogue and Zach Henry had to brew beers using locally-grown Alaskan hops, produced by Lasse Holmes in Homer. The first beer, an ESB, is being brewed today at Kenai River, and the second, a lager, will be brewed on Sunday at St. Elias Brewing. I will have more details about this experiment in my 1 April Redoubt Reporter column.

At St. Elias Brewing Company, there is a new beer on tap: Chainsaw Lager. I reviewed a previous incarnation of this beer back on 6/13/2014, but the new version has juniper berries added to it.

49th State Brewing Company has announced that it will be opening for the summer on April 25th, 2015. Seward Brewing Company announced previously that it will be opening on May 1, 2015.

Speaking of Seward, Sak Town Liquor Store at 11912 Seward Highway is getting close to having a growler bar.  Look for it to be finished and pouring sometime in April.

When finished, this will be the growler bar.

Bearpaw River Brewing Company in Wasilla seems to be making substantial progress toward opening. The brewery now has a location, at 4605 E. Palmer-Wasilla  Highway, and this week it took delivery of its new 10-barrel brewhouse from Global Stainless. Read all about it in the brewery's blog.

Arkose Brewery in Palmer has changed its taproom hours for the next week. Here are the new times:

Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady has some new brews on to celebrate spring. From left to right: Cask Scottish Ale aged on oak, Vanilla Porter, Irish Red Ale, and Vienna Lager.

Photo courtesy of Snow Goose.

There is apparently a new nano brewery trying to start up in Homer. I know almost nothing about it, but it's called Bishop Brewing and has a Facebook page here. When I get more info, I will pass it on.

Photo courtesy of Bishop Brewing

HooDoo Brewing put a new beer on tap on Thursday: a Belgian Golden Strong Ale.

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing
Here's how the brewery describes it:

Originally developed at the Moortgat brewery in the 1940’s as a response to the growing popularity of Pilsner beers, this light-colored Belgian Ale is a complex marriage of fruity, spicy and alcohol flavors over a soft base of pilsner malt, noble hops and Belgian Candi Sugar. Pale and demure with a beckoning sparkle and aroma, its drinkability is unassuming...and sinister. ABV: 8.4% // IBU: 30 // OG: 17.2
Next Wednesday, HooDoo will be releasing another new brew, a Schwarzbier.

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing
Here's how the brewery describes that beer:

Pronounced “shvahrts-beer,” this beer is not only fun to say, but it’s tasty too! Schwarzbier is to lager what stout is to ale. This dark lager-style originated in southern Germany and is sometimes referred to as “Black Pils.” Our version of Schwarzbier uses 100% German malt, hops and yeast, along with classic German brewing techniques. The result is a surprisingly drinkable, but complex, lager with hints of chocolate, roast, and sweet and deliciously light finish.
ABV: 5.5% // IBU: 28 // OG: 13.3
Every Saturday at noon, HooDoo Brewing also taps a different cask-conditioned beer. This Saturday, it will be a Kolsch, aged for three weeks on kiwi and mango fruits.

Kodiak Island Brewing Company has released its bourbon-barrel aged Event Horizon Imperial Stout. This beer was the brewery's 1000th batch, and was brewed last July. It's available on draft and in bottles.

On St. Patrick's Day, King Street Brewing released another batch of its bottled Irish Gael Export Stout. I reviewed the first release of this beer on 7/24/2013. This batch was aged for 8 months in used Jack Daniels and white wine barrels.

Photo courtesy of King Street

Finally, I lifted the following from Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts' blog this week:

Denali Brewing Company just released Surly Bird, a German-style dark lager that uses traditional Pilsner and Munich malts and a light dusting of noble Euro hops. According to beer ambassador Shawn Standley, “this lager has subtle chocolate and coffee flavors with a crisp, clean lager finish.”
For beer reviews this week, I only have one, but it's a good one.

Anchorage Brewing Company's Anadromous Black Sour Ale (Batch #1, bottled March, 2013). I first reviewed this beer on 6/7/2013. I pulled this little beauty out of my cellar to celebrate the grand opening of the new brewery. It poured opaque with a decent tan head. The nose had notes of sour cherry, and it was oaky and vinous. The carbonation was fair and the mouthfeel was good. After two years in the cellar, the tartness on the palate had increased a bit, and the brett was noticeable on the finish, but I was actually surprised by how little the beer had changed from how it tasted fresh.  It was good then, and its just as good now. 8.5% ABV, 30 IBUs.

Well, that's it for this week. Get out and enjoy this great spring weather and keep drinking good local beer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday the 13th: Seems Pretty Lucky to Me

Well, it's Friday the 13th and a black cat has indeed crossed my trail (since one of our three cats is black). However, I'd say things are actually pretty lucky right now. The weather is beautiful, if a bit on the cold side for March (-6 F this morning), and there's plenty of good news from the beer world.  So let's get to it.

First off, noon today was the grand opening of Resolution Brewing in Anchorage.  I wrote plenty about this last week, but here are some additional tidbits. To celebrate the opening, Resolution Brewing is releasing another 50 memberships to its "The Uprising" Growler Club. $200 gets you two 32 oz growlers, a limited edition t-shirt and $2 off growler refills for life.

That's a damned fine deal, especially if you live near the brewery and can take maximum advantage. The beers currently on tap at Resolution are Peak 3 APA, Tent City Saison, Father Dyer Belgian Abbey, and Rewind IPA. I got to taste all except the APA a couple of weeks ago, so see my blog on 2/27/2015 for my impressions.

The other big beer news for this weekend is that Bobby Wilken from HooDoo Brewing made the long drive from Fairbanks to Anchorage with a load of beer kegs for some of the more discerning beer spots around town. Look for HooDoo's Kolsch and IPA to be on tap (either simultaneously or sequentially) at Rustic Goat, Cafe Amsterdam, La Bodega, and Humpy's. Unless you're a frequent traveler to Fairbanks, this is a rare chance to sample some of HooDoo's exceptional beers.

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing
Darcy Kniefel from Midnight Sun Brewing Company sent me an email with some details about two upcoming releases. Here's what she had to say:

"The first, AK Grown, was pretty much a dare from Gov. Bill Walker. He was discussing innovation and how Alaskans can work to be more innovative and bring more in to our own economy, his side joke was "If only someone would make a carrot beer...". Challenge Accepted! Marko took to the recipes and together he and Lee came up with a spiced carrot beer, containing 200# of locally grown carrots, ginger, cinnamon and cardamon. The beer will premier at the House Skits event in Juneau on Saturday, March 28th and at the brewery the following day. Clocking in at about 6% expect this ale to reminisce of carrot cake."

"The second brew is our Unite 2015 for United Women's Collaboration Brew Day. We had a great number of ladies from the Great Northern Homebrew Club as well as a local student working on a paper on gender roles in brewing and a new local brew fan join the ladies of MSBC for a day of brewing and hanging out. The recipe, which comes to us through the Pink Boots Society, was supposed to be a 4% Red Ale, to which we took note, and then doubled down. Chelsea worked to create a spicy red double ale. Clocking it at 8%, Double Red Hot Ale is a red  double ale with an addition of cayenne, cinnamon and 50 #'s of red hots. This cinnamon sweetheart will be released at the brewery on Friday March 27th!"

Both of those beers sound completely crazy; more out-of-the-box thinking from the crew at Midnight Sun.

Tonight is the second Friday, so it's Stand-Up Comedy Night at the Snow Goose.

I haven't gotten my copy yet, but the word is that the latest issue of BeerAdvocate (#98) has an article in it about 49th State Brewing Company in Healy.

Down here on the Peninsula, Kenai River Brewing Company put a new beer on tap today: Duck it Down Rye Pale Ale, made in collaboration with Midnight Sun Brewing.  Here's how the new brew is described:

A light, refreshing ale brewed with pale malt, rye and wheat. Hopped with Warrior and Sorachi Ace hops. Earthy spice from the rye that compliments the hints of lemon grass, dill and melon. 6.0% ABV, 50 IBU’s.

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing

Sounds pretty tasty, so I'll be stopping by to sample it myself soon.

Speaking of sampling, I only managed to taste one new brew this week, but it was an excellent one.

Sierra Nevada's Nooner Pilsner: I waxed a bit eloquent last week when I was writing about St. Elias Brewing's Cross Bo Pilsner, saying "There's nothing like a fresh, well-made pilsner to remind you why this style of beer took the drinking world by storm in the latter half of the 19th Century." Well, with Sierra Nevada's latest offering, I find myself wanting to say "Ditto." It poured a crystal clear gold, with a wonderful pillowy white head. The aroma was loaded with crisp noble hop aromas from Saphir, Tettnanger, and Strisselspalt hops. Carbonation was excellent and the mouthfeel was light. On the palate, the flavors were crisp and clean, with a nice balance between the hops and the malt. The beer claims to be a German pilsner, but in my opinion, its actually a bit closer to the Czech version. To me, German pilsners often have a bit more bready notes to them than Nooner does, which suits me fine, as I prefer my pilsners light and hoppy. The beer falls away to an excellent, clean finish, leaving you lusting for the next sip. Overall, an excellent beer, pairing well with almost any food, and a superb choice as a session beer. 5.2% ABV, 38 IBUs.

Well, that's about it for this week. Remember that Anchorage Brewing Company will be holding its rescheduled Grand Opening at from 2 to 8 PM on Saturday, March 21st. Hope to see you there!

Until Next Time, Cheers!