Friday, April 17, 2015

New Breweries Everywhere You look...

They say spring is the season of new growth, and breweries across Alaska really seem to be taking that to heart. Darn near every day, I read another Facebook post or press release about a new brewery getting ready to open or an existing brewery expanding or building an new facility. It's an exciting time to be writing about craft beer in our great state, let me tell you! So let's move on to the latest news.

First off, Haines Brewing Company has at last broken ground on their new brewery, being built at 4th & Main St. in downtown Haines. Paul Wheeler & Jeanne Kitayama hope to move out of Dalton City in August and open the new brewery for business in September. With a larger brewhouse and expanded fermentation capacity, we can hope to see Haines' beers on tap more frequently in other parts of the state. Speaking of which, The Island Pub in Juneau had four of Haines' beers on tap last weekend; not sure if any are still left.

Photo of ground breaking courtesy of Haines Brewing

Based on their Facebook posts, the Wade brothers at Bearpaw River Brewing are making steady progress towards being open for business. Most recently, they took deliver of their initial complement of kegs. Here's a photo of all the kegs in the new brewery.

Photo courtesy of Bearpaw River Brewing
Bearpaw River also made this announcement:
Breaking news for the BRBC! We’ll be over at Silvertip Design & Gifts next Saturday, 25 April, for the “Who Let the Girls Out?” event in downtown Palmer. We’ll be there to talk about our project and show off a few toys (though no beer samples, unfortunately). We’ll have Big News to share as well. Stop by and say hello! 

Speaking of Facebook posts, Odd Man Rush Brewing in Eagle River has posted several photos indicating that they have made good progress preparing the future location of the brewery to receive its brewing equipment.

Photo courtesy of Odd Man Rush Brewing
Recently opened Resolution Brewing Company has announced expanded hours and days of operation; it is now open until 8 PM and is open on Sundays as well. Resolution just released its long-awaited Cerveza De Los Muertos, coming in at over 9% ABV and brewed with chiles, cinnamon, and cocoa. It's even available on nitro, along with traditional carbonation. Father Dyer is also back on tap, along with Tent City Saison, First Chair Amber, and a new beer, Guttersnipe Golden Strong.

Photo courtesy of Resolution Brewing

Out on The Rock, Ben Millstein of Kodiak Island Brewing Company has purchased three new small conditioning tanks to be used to make, as Ben puts it, "the strong stuff."

Photo courtesy of Kodiak Island Brewing
At Anchorage Brewing Company, they are brewing another batch of Anadromous Black Sour Ale and will be bottling the new Mosaic Saison next week. Owner Gabe Fletcher has also announced the date of this year's The Culmination Beer Festival. Instead of being held in the spring, as in past years, this year's festival will take place on Saturday, August 22, and will be held in the brewery itself. So mark you calendars and start saving your pennies, as Gabe promises that this year's festival will be the best one yet! Anchorage Brewing Company also posted a short video of its bottling operation.

At St. Elias Brewing Company,  the excellent Cross Bo Pilsner has run out, but it has been replaced with another lager, Goat Dope Bock. This is a beer that Zach Henry has brewed before; see my review on 2/8/2013. You really can't beat a good bock as a springtime beer. Look for a review of this newest version of the beer next week.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company has released the next beer in its Alaskana series: Mudflats Belgian Quadrupel. It's available at The Loft now and should be available around the state next Wednesday. At 10% ABV, 35 IBUs, look for lots of dark fruit and chocolate notes from this one, plus plenty of oak. Early reports are that it's pretty exceptional. Midnight Sun has also posted the menu for this Sunday's Beer Brunch (see my last blog for more details):

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On next Wednesday, April 22, Midnight Sun will be celebrating Earth Day by giving out hop rhizomes. Make a $10 donation to the Alaska Center for the Environment and MSBC will give you your very own hop rhizome to take home and plant!

I wrote last week about the May 1 Taste of Alaska event at The Pub at UAF. Well, the night before that event, on Thursday, April 30th, HooDoo Brewing Company and Midnight Sun Brewing Company will be going head-to-head at a beer dinner at Lavelle's Bistro in downtown Fairbanks. The event is called Paired Up, and here is the flier for it:

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Obviously, both of these breweries make great beers, and the last time I was in Fairbanks I had dinner at Lavelle's and was totally blown away by the food, so this has all the makings of a fantastic event.

As long as we are talking about beer dinners, Midnight Sun will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary on Tuesday, May 5th with a beer dinner at Kinley's Restaurant. Chef Brett is working on a menu which will par with all eight of the beers from the Alaskana series, which is no mean feat. I attended a beer dinner at Kinley's a few years ago and it was easily in the top three of all the many such dinners I've attended, so I'd recommend you make this one if you can. Look for a menu soon, but mark your calendar now.

Also on May 5th, Denali Brewing Company will be holding its own five-course beer dinner at Jack Sprat in Girdwood.  Here's the menu for that event:

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You can make reservations for this one by calling (907) 783-5225.

Denali will also be having an event this Wednesday, April 22, at the Eagle River Alehouse:

Glacier BrewHouse released another new brew yesterday; this one is called simply Red. Here's how they described it:

Red: Red, malty, smooth, and medium bodied with luscious hints of chocolate and caramel. Malt plays a defining role in the profile of this ale. Several color malts were combined with pale malt to form a wonderful malt profile. 
Alcohol: 6.43% by volume.Starting Gravity: 16.50 Plato (1.068 S.G.).

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse
Glacier BrewHouse also announced that its Dinner with the King event last month raised over $3000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Great job guys!

Speaking of red beers, I have heard that Alaska will soon be getting a limited distribution of of Sierra Nevada's new River Ryed IPA in 12-packs and on draft. 6% ABV, 50 IBUs, hopped with Chinook, Citra, and Equinox.

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Finally, on the news front, a word about distilleries. I don't usually write much about distilled spirits or wine, since my main passion is beer, but here are a couple of things I thought worth mentioning.

First, Ursa Major Distilling is moving from Fairbanks to its new facility just outside of town in the historic mining camp of Ester. The distillery is looking for donations to help support this move, to the tune of $25,000. As of this writing, the campaign has only raised $5,775. If you are interested in tossing a few buck in to help out a local Alaskan distillery (particularly if you live in the Fairbanks area), you can do so here.

Second, Port Chilkoot Distillery in Haines won a Double Gold Medal for its 50 Fathoms Gin at the 15th Annual San Francisco World Spirits Competition on March 31st. This is the second gold medal that 50 Fathoms has one this year; it also received a gold medal at the American Craft Spirits Association Awards held in Austin, TX. Elaine and I had a chance to visit Port Chilkoot last May, when we were in town for the Haines Beer Festival, and we were both impressed with what we saw. So congratulations to owners Sean and Heather on the awards. Unfortunately, I won't be sampling any 50 Fathoms; my gin days ended (badly) when I was still in college, and I'm strictly a beer and Scotch whisky man these days...

Photo courtesy of Port Chilkoot Distillery
That about wraps up the news this week, so lets move on to reviews.

My first review is actually not for a beer but for a new type of plastic cup. A company called Fermented Reality out of Florida has created a new line of high quality plastic cups optimized for drinking IPAs, called B Cups, and asked me if I would be willing to give them a test drive.  As I have a policy never to turn down free beer-related stuff, I agreed and last week I received four of the new cups in the mail. Here's a photo of one of the cups in use:

You can see that the shape is somewhat similar to the IPA glasses being sold by Speiglau. The cup holds 17 oz., so it can easily handle up to a full pint plus a head. The plastic is BPA free and fairly hefty, so it feels pretty good in your hand. You could easily use the same cup multiple times by just hand washing it in between uses (no dishwashers). So far, I have consumed two different IPAs from the cups, and I would say the experience is comparable to drinking the same beers from a Speiglau IPA glass, minus the expense of the glass and the worry about breakage. It seems to me that these B Cups would represent a vast improvement over the typical red cups in which beers are often served at outdoor events, or even the ubiquitous shaker pint glasses seen in so many craft beer bars. The price point is $10 for a pack of 4 cups, so they are not super cheap, but still much cheaper than replacing a broken Speiglau glass. Bottom-line, I think these B Cups lived up to their billing; if you are looking for a good plastic alternative to expensive beer glassware, you should seriously consider them.

I only got around to drinking one truly new beer this week, but it was a good one:

Alaskan Brewing's Imperial Rye IPA:  It poured a clear, deep red-copper color with a big, off-white head that left excellent lacing on the cup. The aroma had notes of citrus, rye, melon, and then some sweet caramel. The carbonation is good, and the mouthfeel is nice. On the palate, there is good balance between sweetness up front and bitterness in that back, plus peppery notes from the rye. A long, fairly dry finish with little evidence of the 8.5% ABV.  A very well-constructed Rye IPA.

My second review is an old beer under a new name:

St. Elias Brewing's H & H Burton Ale: This is beer has been brewed before in December, 2013, and was released as H & H Winter Warmer. It is a Burton Ale, a nearly extinct style which was one of the ancestors of India Pale Ale in Britain. It poured a dark ruby color with a nice, cream-colored head. The nose is not overly hoppy, especially since it was brewed using English rather than American varieties, but the dry-hopping with East Kent Goldings does give it a decent hop nose to balance the Marris Otter barley notes. On the palate the carbonation is good and the mouthfeel is quite nice. There is more balance than is typical in an IPA, with plenty of malt sweetness to go with the nice, earthy bitterness from the Fuggles used as the bittering hops. The finish is long and moreish, with the 6.5% ABV being well-concealed. Dangerously drinkable, this is a style of beer that truly deserves a resurrection.

Well, that's it for this week. Be sure to mark your calendar with all the upcoming beer events and keep drinking the good stuff.

Until Next Week, Cheers!

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