Friday, April 24, 2015

Out of Hibernation & Open for Business

It's not just the bears that have come out of hibernation here in Alaska, it's the breweries as well. Tomorrow, Saturday, April 25th, 49th State Brewing in Healy opens for business. As they have done for the last couple of years, Jay Bullen and his crew will be offering the Hibernation series, a line of big beers which have benefited from a long cold-conditioning while the brewery was closed for winter. I plan to make the trek north myself soon, to see what they've got on offer this year.

Less than a week behind 49th State, Seward Brewing Company will be opening for the season next Friday, May 1. Erik Slater has been busily brewing up beers to pair with his excellent food, all on offer in a beautiful location in downtown Seward. Fingers crossed for nice weather next weekend and an enjoyable road trip to Seward.

The third seasonal brewery in Alaska is Gold Rush Brewing, located a couple of miles north of Skagway on the Klondike Highway. Not sure exactly when it will be opening for the season, but judging by its Facebook page, Gold Rush will be undergoing a major expansion. Two weeks ago, it posted pictures of a new brewhouse, which was expected to be in Skagway before the end of April. I'm beginning to wonder if there is any brewery in Alaska which isn't in the process of expanding in some form or fashion!

New brewhouse. Photo courtesy of Gold Rush Brewing.

Besides these established breweries re-opening for the summer, several of the crop of soon-to-open breweries have announced progress. Bearpaw River Brewing Company has received its Federal Brewer's Notice (TTB), an important milestone. Still lots of hoops to jump through on the state level, but the guys in Wasilla seem to be making excellent progress. Bearpaw River was also visited this week by a film crew from The Alaska Channel.

Photo courtesy of Bearpaw River Brewing

Odd Man Rush Brewing in Eagle River has posted several photos of the progress being made in building out the interior of the brewery. They are currently framing in the bathrooms, cold box, and loft.

Photo courtesy of Odd Man Rush Brewing

In Haines, they are pouring the foundations for the new home of the Haines Brewing Company.

Photo courtesy of Haines Brewing Company

While all that is good news, there was also some bad news: the 6th Annual Skagway Homebrew Festival has been cancelled, as the Alaska Alcohol Beverage Control Board has decided it (and the five previous festivals, which were approved by ABC) is illegal. The ABC Board's position now is that any event at which homebrew is consumed cannot charge an admission fee to the public. This sort of reading of state laws has caused problems elsewhere, most recently in Oregon, where a special law had to be passed by the state legislature to allow long-running (as in decades...) homebrew festivals to continue to be held. Given the near-total dysfunction of the Alaska State Legislature, I wouldn't count on any fixes for us coming out of them anytime soon...

On to happier news. The Biergarten at HooDoo Brewing in Fairbanks is now officially open for the year. Here is a photo of owner/brewer Bobby Wilken courageously ensuring it is safe and ready for the public:

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing

The menu for Midnight Sun Brewing Company's 20th Anniversary Dinner at Kinley's , taking place on May 5th at 5 PM, has been released:

Click to enlarge

This one is sure to sell out, so call Kinley's and make your reservations now.

Anchorage Brewing Company has a new beer on offer in the brewery taproom: Improv is a collaboration beer, brewed with Shaun Hill of Hill Farmstead two years ago, during the first Culmination Festival. It's a beautifully balanced sour ale, aged for two years in French oak. Also on offer is fresh Galaxy White IPA. Here is a picture of ABC's current taproom offerings:

Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing.

Moving on the the Peninsula, a website promoting "The Kenai, Alaska's Playground" had a nice write up on the five breweries/brewpubs on the Peninsula. You can check it out here.

Here are the beers on offer at St. Elias Brewing Company as of Tuesday, April 21:

Click to enlarge

That's it for beer news this week. Let's move on to reviews:

St. Elias Brewing Company's Goat Dope Bock: This beer poured a lovely deep, clear gold color with a small cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma was full of clean, sweet malt notes. The mouthfeel was very good and the carbonation was acceptable. The flavor profile was just what you'd expect from a bock: good, clean malt flavors up front, with only enough hops to give balance to the malty goodness, before falling away to a nice finish. An excellent seasonal choice, and another excellent lager from St. Elias.

Kassik's Brewery's Buffalo Head Barley Wine: I first reviewed this beer back on 6/28/2012, when it was just on the cusp of being released in bottles, but I thought that after almost three years, perhaps I should take another look. I am happy to report that this beer is still just as exceptional as it was then. It's everything you look for in an English-style barley wine: rich and warming, with a deep, complex flavor profile that invites you in for some serious contemplation. Truly an outstanding beer.

Well, that's about it for this week. I hope to have some more new beers to review by next blog.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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