Saturday, April 4, 2015

Yes, It Was Indeed a Good Friday

This blog post is a day late. I usually try to get it out on Friday, but I was busy yesterday covering the visit of the senior U.S. Senator from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski, to the Kenai River Brewing Company in Soldotna. Politics really isn't my thing, but beer certainly is, and Senator Murkowski is the co-chair of the Senate Bipartisan Small Brewers Caucus. While most legislation impacting craft beer usually happens at the state level, the Small Brewers Caucuses (there's one in the House as well) do play a significant role in supporting the ever-increasing craft beer movement across the country.

As an example of how important these caucuses are, currently there are two different acts before Congress to change the amount of federal excise taxes collected from brewers. One is designed to help small brewers (the Small BREW Act) while the other is designed to fatten the wallets of the big multinational brewers (the BEER Act). Here's a side-by-side comparison:

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Given the deep pockets of the big brewing corporations, it's important to have someone looking out for the small craft brewers, and I commend all the senators and representatives who have joined the Small Brewers Caucuses. I am hopeful that Alaska's junior senator, Dan Sullivan will soon join the caucus as well.

Since taking on her role as co-chair and as a supporter of Alaskan industry, Senator Murkowski has been quite active in visiting and engaging with the various craft brewers around the state. In January, she addressed the annual meeting of the Brewers Guild of Alaska, held each year in Anchorage in conjunction with the Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival. She also presented the awards to the winners of the barley wine and winter warmer competitions at that festival. As I said, I'm not much into politics, but I do find it commendable when one of our political representatives goes out of his/her way to actually engage with their constituents. Given our small population base, Alaska is one of the few states left in the country where it's still possible for ordinary citizens to meet and talk to their representative and senators in a meaningful way, as our Founding Fathers intended.

Senator Murkowski arrived at the brewery at about 5 PM and spent an hour there, talking with owners Dogue Hogue and Wendell Dutcher, their wives Amy and Wendi, touring the brewery, and chatting with several of the patrons. Here are some photos of the event, courtesy of my wife, Elaine:

Having a drink in the brewery's taproom.

Doug Hogue explaining the production cycle to the senator.

From L to R: Wendell & Wendi Dutcher, Senator Murkowski, Doug & Amy Hogue

Besides Senator Murkowski's visit, the other big news from Kenai River Brewing is the presence of the Blue Moon Burgers Food Truck in its parking lot. It arrived on Thursday and will be parked there all summer, so if you are in Soldtona and want a delicious burger and fries, washed down by some excellent beer, you know where to go. Just remember, while Blue Moon opens at 11 AM, the brewery doesn't open until noon.

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing Co.

I paid a visit to Kassik's Brewery last Saturday, as part of a tour for the class I'm teaching this semester on The Art & History of Brewing. I picked up a growler of Barrel-aged Caribou Kilt Scotch Ale.  See my review below. Here's what was on tap at the brewery then:

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As of today, St. Elias Brewing Company has released a new beer, H & H Burton Ale. As with all the H & H (Henry & Howell) beers, I had a hand in making this one. It's actually the same recipe as H & H Winter Warmer, which went on tap in December of 2013. Check out my 2/12/2013 blog for details on the making of this beer. We decided to change the name this time around, since we didn't get the beer finished in time for winter!  Here's the current beers on tap at St. Elias Brewing:

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I got the following big piece of news from Darcy Kniefel of Midnight Sun:

"Midnight Sun Brewing Co. is excited to announce a Summer camp out like no other as a part of our 20th Anniversary Celebrations. Save the date: August 29th, Midnight Sun Brewing Company will be taking over a riverside campground in gorgeous Cooper Landing, Alaska. The evening will feature a fireside catered beer dinner followed by a session of cigars and stouts by the campfire."

"Pricing will include the use of tent or RV space for Friday and Saturday night as well as the dinner, cigars and stouts. While Friday night will have people on their own, the camp fires will be blazing for anyone who might have a bottle or two they might want to share around. Saturday is a great chance to go enjoy some local activities including hiking, fishing, a corn hole tournament, or whatever Alaskan relaxation you like before the big dinner."

"Tickets will officially be on sale in about two weeks, straight through the brewery. Packages are available for 2 or 4 people per site, so get your team together and get ready for a beer dinner like no other!"

Sounds like a great time, especially since Cooper Landing is only about 40 miles from my front door in Sterling!

La Bodega has a new beer in stock: The Calling IPA from Boulevard Brewing Company's Smokestack Series. Billed as Boulevard's hoppiest beer yet, The Calling weighs in at 8.5% ABV and 75 IBUs. Using a single malt base, eight different hop varietals were used as well as a small addition of lemon peel to add just another punch of citrus flavor. Expect punchy hop aromas and flavors of tropical fruit and pine over a bed of slightly sweet malt that leads to a dry, crisp finish.

King Street Brewing Company has announced that its taproom will now be open on Sundays! New hours are:

Monday thru Friday   2 to 8 PM
Saturday & Sunday    noon to 8 PM

Resolution Brewing's yoga at the brewery event, Brew-Ga, was so popular last Saturday that they have decided to make it a weekly event, every Saturday from 11 AM to noon. Resolution has a new beer on tap, First Chair Amber, along with Tent City Saison, Father Dyer Belgian Abbey-Porter, and Ixelle Tripel. The brewery also had it first "First Friday" art opening, showcasing the work of the late Rob Holt:

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Alaskan Brewing Company has reopened its taproom/retail store at the brewery following a renovation/expansion; here's a picture of the new space:

Photo courtesy of Alaskan Brewing

The Brewers Association also released its list of the 50 Largest Craft Breweries for 2014, and Alaskan Brewing Company came in at #20. Alaska Airlines is also offering a new beer from Alaskan Brewing this spring: Icy Bay IPA.

Photo courtesy of Alaskan Brewing Company

On Thursday, Glacier BrewHouse released three brand-new brews. Here's the description of each:

Eisbock: Big, malty, slightly fruity, and high in alcohol. The higher alcohol is a result of the icing process where a portion of the water is frozen and removed from the beer. Brilliant dark ruby red in color. Served in a snifter. Three-time Champion Winter Beer at the Great Alaska Beer & Barleywine Festival. Alcohol: 9.00% by volume. Starting gravity: 24.80 Plato (1.104 S.G.

Nitro Oak Bock: Aged one year in American Oak wine barrels. Medium bodied, malty, with velvety smooth flavors of vanilla, chocolate, and toastiness. The color is a brilliant dark ruby. Nitorgenated. Alcohol: 6.67% by volume. Starting gravity: 17.50 Plato (1.072 S.G.)

2014 Razz Infused Beam Imperial Stout: This is the big daddy of stouts. The style was originally brewed in England for Catherine II, Empress of all the Russias over 200 years ago. The high alcohol helped the beer make the journey to Russia. Our whopper was aged one year in a raspberry-infused Jim Beam barrel and boasts flavors malt, chocolate, roast, vanilla, coconut, alcohol, raspberry, and much more. Served in a snifter. A true comrade. Alcohol: 9.25% by volume. Starting gravity: 25.15 Plato (1.105 S.G.)

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse
Haines Brewing Company has announced a new shirt design for its Captain Cook's Spruce Tip Ale. Here it is:

Courtesy of Haines Brewing Company

Denali Brewing Company has released a special beer, Clean Air Pale Ale. It will be on tap at the Talkeetna Alaska Lodge and all proceeds will go to support the American Lung Association in Alaska as part of the Clean Air Challenge

Denali Brewing Company and Arkose Brewery are also supporting this year's ExTRAVELganza Auction at Evangelo's Restaurant on Saturday, April 11.  Here's the flier for it:

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Arkose Brewery will also be hosting another Beer Meets Chocolate event, this Friday, April 10th. Call 476-2337 for reservations.

 That's the news, now let's do some reviews. Only two new ones this week.

Kassik's Brewery's Barrel-aged Caribou Kilt Scotch Ale: I've been a fan of this award-winning wee heavy ever since Kassik's Brewery opened for business almost ten years ago. This version was aged in a wet bourbon barrel, which has given it a lot of strong bourbon notes in the nose and on the palate. It poured a dark, clear honey color, with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated fairly rapidly to a collar. The bourbon elements were dominant on the nose, completely over-shadowing the contribution from the malt. Carbonation was good, as was the mouthfeel. On the palate, the bourbon's contribution was again quite dominant, shadowing the malty notes from the base beer. If you are a huge bourbon fan, you'll probably love this beer, but personally I love Scotch Ales, so I felt that the base beer was being overwhelmed here. I think I'll stick to the straight Caribou Kilt.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company's Sloper Baltic Porter: I had a glass of this at the brewery back in January, but never did a formal review, so I recently picked up a bottle. It poured opaque with a small tan head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma was of malt and roasted coffee notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was nice. The flavor profile emphasizes the roasted malt notes a bit more than is typical in Baltic porters, which tend to be smoother, but I liked this approach. The balance between the sweet malt and the bitterness from both the hops and the roasted malt was spot on, and there was a very nice finish. An excellent porter, Baltic or robust, call it what you will. 9% ABV, 50 IBUs.

That's all for this week. I should be back on my normal schedule next week, so expect this blog on Friday, April 10th.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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