Saturday, May 23, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend

This weekend is the unofficial start of summer, and judging by the traffic I saw yesterday here on the Kenai, I'd say a lot of folks in Anchorage got an early start on it. That's good news for all our local breweries and brewpubs, as more visitors mean more demand for their beers. Of course it also means they have to serve fruit-laced brews like Island Girl and Kumquat Kolsch Ale, so it's not all beer and skittles as our British friends would say. Still, it's good to see tourist flocking in to enjoy our fine local beers.

And let's face it, our local brewers can use all the business they can get, to help pay the heavy taxes the state of Alaska imposes on them. In case you don't know, Alaska has the second highest state beer taxes in the nation. We were #1 for the longest time, until a couple of years ago when Tennessee jacked theirs up significantly and finally passed us.  Here's a graphic from the Tax Foundation which shows just how big a bite of state government (you know, those buffoons who can't even pass a budget) take from our hard-working local brewers.

Click to enlarge
As successful as craft beer has been in Alaska, I can't help wondering how many more excellent breweries we'd have if we taxed them like Wyoming, at $0.02 per gallon, instead on $1.07. Just to be clear, by far the single most expensive component in the retail price you pay for a beer is the combined federal and state taxes on it, to the tune of over 40%. So the next time you want to gripe about the price of beer, be sure to remember whose fault it is!

Let's move on to happier thoughts. Last night was the Brewers Dinner in Haines and today is the Beer Festival. I was able to attend both in 2012 and 2014, and hope to make it there again next year (what's with the even numbered years? Beats me.). After our local festivals, it's easily my favorite one. Here's the menu from last night courtesy of Dave Short:

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Photo courtesy of Denali Brewing Company

Based on my prior experience, I'm sure it was delicious. The festival today is sold out, so if you are planning to attend, I hope you already have your tickets.

Speaking of festivals, it's not too soon to mark your calendar for this year's Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival. It will be held from 5 to 10 pm on Saturday, August 8th, at the Soldotna Sports Center. This festival just keeps getting better and better each year, and all profits go to support local charities. I have been to every one so far, and have no plans to miss this one. Tickets are on sale on the website.

And if you are dwelling in Southeast and think Soldotna is too far to go for an August festival, how about the 4th Annual Capital Brewfest? It will be happening on September 26th.

More news: Last Saturday, Bobby Wilken of HooDoo Brewing announced that the brewery is releasing its beers in cans. HooDoo is going with 16 oz. "tall boy" cans and is using the "360End" design, meaning the entire top of the can comes off when it is opened. The cans feature a photo of downtown Fairbanks in 1916, and are designed to the labels can be easily modified for different beers. The first beer on offer is HooDoo's excellent Kolsch. The cans are being sold in four-packs at the brewery taproom. When I asked Bobby about possibly distributing cans elsewhere in the state, he replied: "Only on site for now.  We'll be playing it by ear as far as distribution.  In the short term, I suspect the demand in the taproom will take anything we can package.  A little further out and hopefully we can build enough inventory to share with more of the state!" Congratulation to Bobby and the rest of the HooDoo gang on reaching this milestone.

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing

From Midnight Sun Brewing Company, Darcy Kniefel reports that the tickets for the Big Stout Camp-out will go on sale next Saturday (5/30) at 2 PM at the brewery.  The camp-out will take place on the nights of Friday 8/28 and Saturday 8/29 in Cooper Landing. There are a total of 50 tickets available with packages for RVs and campsites. The ticket price includes 2 nights of camping, and dinner, stouts and cigars on Saturday night. Read more about it in my 4/4/2015 blog. She also reports that the brewery will be releasing a new beer, Powerline Pilsner, soon.

Speaking of pilsners, St. Elias Brewing Company has a new one on tap, AK Pilsner. This brew is the counter-part to the AK ESB brewed by Kenai River Brewing Company and reviewed by me on  5/5/2015. Both beers were brewed using only Alaska Grown hops, the first commercial beers ever to be produced that way. See below for my review, but I know that Zach only brewed a half batch of this beer, so if you want to taste this historic brew before its gone, don't delay. St. Elias Brewing is also finishing up an expansion of its outdoor patio seating, just in time for summer.

Beers on tap at St. Elias on 5/22/2015

As mentioned above, Kenai River Brewing Company also has a new brew on tap, Kumquat Kolsch Ale. If you have it at the brewery, you can get it infused with even more fresh kumquat flavor.

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing Company

Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady has two new beers on: its Honey Cream Ale is back, along with a firkin of Scotch Ale aged on vanilla beans and American oak chips.

Photo courtesy of Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady

Alaskan Brewing Company picked up two more awards, this time at the 2015 Australian International Beer Awards. Hopothermia earned a silver medal, and its Smoked Porter took home a bronze.

Bearpaw River Brewing only has three days left in its Kickstarter campaign. As part of the campaign, the brother Wade posted a video describing the beers they plan to brew. You can check it out here.

Finally on the news front, I wanted to give you an update on the availability of my new book, Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun. For reasons which aren't worth going into here, the book won't be arriving at the Alaska distributor, Todd Communications, until next Thursday, May 28th. Hopefully, it should reach the retail outlets around the state the following week. So if you have been holding off buying a copy from Amazon because you want to support local Alaskan businesses, you should not have to wait too much longer. Jim Roberts, AKA Dr. Fermento, wrote a very nice review of it in The Anchorage Press, which you can read here.

I have already planned some signing events in June. You can either purchase a book at these events or bring a copy you have already bought, and I'll be happy to sign it. For the latest info, check out my Amazon author page, but here is a list of what I've scheduled to date:

  • June 17th Soldotna Wednesday Market          11 am to 5 pm
  • June 19th Kenai River Brewing Company      4 to 6:30 pm
  • June 24th Midnight Sun Brewing Company   4:30 to 6 pm
As I schedule more events, I'll update my author page, so if you can't make one of these, keep checking it for others.

Now let's move on to some beer reviews.

I had to go down in the crawlspace in my home the other day, which is always the signal for me to review my "Beer Cellar" Book, to see if there are any beers aging down there which are ready to drink. I brought up several, and I will review them in this and future blogs as I get around to drinking them.

Alaskan Brewing's 2006 Smoked Porter: Over 8.5 years old, this beer is still in very good shape. Most 6.5% ABV porters would have crashed and burned years ago, but the smoke seems to keep these wonderful brews fresh. It poured opaque with a small tan head that dissipated to a collar. There was still a little smoke in the nose, along with some faint roasted malt notes. The carbonation was on the low side, but the mouthfeel was still good. The smokiness on the palate was muted but still present. Flavor profile was good, with no hints of oxidation. A real tribute to the brewer's skill to have a beer this old, which such low alcohol, taste so good.

Alaskan Brewing's 2007 Smoked Porter. A year younger, this beer tasted much smokier than the
2006. It also poured opaque with a small tan head that dissipated to a collar. Much more smoke apparent in the aroma, along with the roasted malt. Carbonation was also better than the 2006, with mouthfeel about the same. More smoke on the palate and a flavor profile closer to the fresh beer. Hard to believe that it's just the difference of one year, so I surmise that for whatever reason, the 2007 was made slightly differently than the 2006, which caused it to retain its smoky notes better.

Midnight Sun Brewing's 2012 Berserker Imperial Stout: Over 2.5 years on this beer. It poured opaque with a small but persistent brown head. The aroma was of sweet and roasted malt, with hints of the bourbon barrel-aging. Mouthfeel was excellent, and carbonation was still good. The flavor profile was rich and complex, as you'd expect, with notes of chocolate, coffee, and molasses. The elements from the bourbon barrel seemed to have reduced over time, which actually brought the beer into even better balance than when fresh, in my opinion. The 12.7% alcohol was slightly noticeable on the finish. This is a beer that definitely seemed to improve with at least two years of cellar time.

St. Elias Brewing's AK Pilsner: As mentioned above, this beer was brewed solely with AK Grown hops. It poured a crystal clear gold with a small white head. The nose was balanced between biscuity malt and hops. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. There were good clean malt flavors, balanced by a decent hop bitterness. I'd call it more in the style of a German than a Czech pilsner, but its an excellent summer beer and a historic brewing achievement for our state. 5% ABV.

Well, that's it for this week. Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend and the start of summer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Back from a (Denali) Road Trip

Hello again, faithful readers. No Friday blog last week, as Elaine and I were on travel. We decided to visit Denali National Park. This time of year, before the tour buses begin running, the park allows people to drive the Park Road as far as Mile 30. Since we had only ever visited the park in the autumn, during the road lottery, we decided it would be fun to check it out during the spring. Of course we couldn't go all the way to Denali and not check out the breweries up that way.

On the way up, we detoured two miles up the Talkeetna Spur Road to meet Sassan Mossanen at Denali Brewing Company's brewery. The expansion that I saw in progress last fall is now complete and the small brewhouse formerly located at the beer garden in downtown Talkeetna is happily ensconced in its new home at the brewery. That doesn't mean that all construction work is complete; far from it. Denali is in the process of putting in a new outdoor grain silo to hold its 2-row barley malt, and another silo to hold its spent grain until local farmers can pick it up. The brewery also has plans to install three 240-barrel outdoor conical fermenters, and has already added a whirlpool vessel to its brewhouse. Along with the lauter tun, mash tun, and kettle, this fourth vessel effectively means Denali can brew batches of beer 24/7.

Denali Brewing Company. Photo by Elaine Howell.

DBC's tap room. Photo by Elaine Howell.

On the new beer front, Denali also has some interesting stuff coming down the line. Sassan and I sampled a beer currently aging in some Jack Daniels whiskey barrels. The base beer is Twin Engine, an imperialized version of Single Engine Red, and once it has had enough time in the wood, Sassan plans to blend the barrels together for a fall release. Another future beer is One Tree, a Belgian Golden Strong Ale made with locally-produced birch syrup. Finally, Denali will be bottling its classic Louisville Sour, in 12 oz. stubbie bottles. The beer and bottles are ready to go, but there have been problems sourcing decent six-pack carriers. Look for 400 cases to go on sale in Talkeetna in July; I predict they will go fast.

Photo by Elaine Howell

After finishing at Denali Brewing, it was time to head another 150 miles north to Healy and 49th State Brewing Company. The brewery opened for the season on April 25th and the co-owned Prospector's Pizzeria opened on May 9th, while we were in town. Unfortunately, head brewer Jay Bullen was out of town, but brewer Vincent Larochelle, owners David McCarthy and Jason Motyka, and head chef Todd Podborny made us feel extremely welcome. 49th State conducted a significant expansion in the spring of 2014, and this was my first time getting to check out there new 15-barrel, three-vessel brewhouse. Of course, the original 1/2-barrel Sabco Brew Magic system is still tucked away in a corner; it's being used for pilot brewing now. Another new addition is a crowler machine, which was waiting to be installed behind the bar when we were there. Finally, 49th State has plans to eventually install a bottling line to produce 22 oz bombers. No bad for a place that only had one beer on offer when I fist visited in September of 2011. Elaine and I also ate dinner twice at 49th State Brewing and once at Prospector's Pizzeria, and the food was, as always, superb.

49th State's new brewhouse. Photo by Elaine Howell

L-R: Vincent Larochelle, Jason Motyka, David McCarthy, & Todd Podborny. Photo by Elaine Howell
49th State's beer board. Click to enlarge.

I have some reviews of the beers at 49th State Brewing later in the blog, but now let's move on to other beer news. It's just been announced that SABMiller is purchasing Meantime Brewing Company in the United Kingdom; link to the full news story here. I've always been impressed with Meantime's beers, and even used them in my college course as examples of classic British Ale styles. Let's hope Meantime can maintain its quality under its new overlords.

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Another big piece of news, at least to me, is that my new book, Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun,  has officially been released. The Alaska distributor, Todd Communications, is still waiting on them to arrive from the publisher, so there are no copies yet in any local stores, but I received a couple of complimentary ones directly from the publisher, and I am well pleased with them. If you are the sort of person who retails books and would like to order some, please contact Kyle Forbush at Todd Communications (907-929-5508 or As soon as I receive my pre-ordered copies, I hope to set up several signing events around the state.

Passing through Anchorage on our way home on Sunday, I made it a point to stop at Anchorage Brewing Company and pick up a bottle of the just-released Mosaic Saison. See my review below. Here's what the brewery had on offer then:

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As I mentioned in my last blog, this week (May 11-17) is American Craft Beer Week. I'd like to tip my cap to HooDoo Brewing Company of Fairbanks for being the only brewery in the state to get its ACBW events listed on the national events calendar on, the Brewers Association website. Sounds like you guys did some fun stuff; well done!

Speaking of Fairbanks, next Saturday, May 23, there will be a Beer and Bacon Tasting at Griffin Park, as part of a bigger two-day 1st Annual Fairbanks Bacon Festival. The Beer and Bacon Tasting takes place between noon and 3 pm. Admission of $40 gets you 10 total samples of either beer or bacon, and extra samples cost $2. There will be 30 local chefs offering bacon concoctions and beers from HooDoo Brewing, Alaskan Brewing, and Silver Gulch Brewing on offer, plus a souvenir sampling glass.

Glacier BrewHouse will once again be offering the first Copper River Salmon of the season:

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Winterlong Brewing Company, the brand-new nano-brewery in Whitehorse, YT, will be having a pre-opening today from noon to 6 pm. Now there will be two places to stop for good beer when you are driving the Al-Can!

Photo courtesy of Winterlong Brewing

Speaking of new breweries, Bearpaw River Brewing's Kickstarter campaign has hit its $25,000 goal to help finish the new brewery's tap room, so now they've added a stretch goal to $35,000. The extra 10 grand will let them buy a forklift for the brewery. If they hit this stretch goal, they will be sending stainless steel cups to everyone who contributed. If you still haven't contributed, there are about 10 days left in the campaign and you can check it out here.

Over at Odd Man Rush Brewing in Eagle River, three new 20-barrel conicals have arrived:

Photo courtesy of Odd Man Rush Brewing
Finally, Gold Rush Brewing just outside of Skagway has just taken delivery of a new brewhouse and should be putting it to use very soon.

Photo courtesy of Gold Rush Brewing

At Kenai River Brewing Company, the big news was about their plans to build a new brewery. I reported on it in my last Redoubt Reporter column. Just today Doug Hogue told me that KRBC beers will be gracing the sides of two Specialty Imports delivery trucks, with Homer's Bear Creek Winery on the other side.  Here are some photos, courtesy of KRBC:

That's about it for news this week, so let's do some beer reviews.

49th State Brewing's Golden Dahl Tripel: It poured a slightly cloudy gold with a large white head that left excellent lacing on the glass. The aroma was classic Belgian tripel, with bright, fruity notes and a touch of spicy yeast elements. Carbonation and mouthfeel were both very good. Crisp, fruity flavors are very light on the palate, and the beer conceals its alcohol strength very nicely, before falling away to a pleasant finish. 8.7% ABV, 32 IBUs. Since I last had this beer in 2014, the recipe has been tweaked slightly to reduce its sweetness; I heartily approve, as the beer is even more finely balanced than before.  A truly excellent interpretation of this classic style.

49th State Brewing's Double on Tundra Dubbel: The dark yin to Golden Dahl's yang, this beer poured opaque with a nice off-white head. The nose was full of dark fruit notes, like raisins and plums. Carbonation and mouthfeel were both good. Flavor profile was spot on for a Belgian dubbel, with spiciness and dark fruit elements blending together in harmony before ending in a nice finish. 8% ABV, 22 IBUs.

49th State Brewing's McCarthy's Stout: This was the first beer I ever had at 49th State, back in 2011, so I thought I would taste it again and see how it was tasting these days. Answer: excellent! I poured opaque with the massive, creamy head that you expect from a stout served on nitrogen. Nice roasted barley aroma. Smooth, creamy mouthfeel from the nitro. Very nice classic Irish dry stout, smooth, roasty, and extremely drinkable. Puts the average Guinness to shame. 4.8% ABV, 35 IBUs.

Sierra Nevada Brewing's Scotch on Scotch Ale: I had this beer at Prospector's Pizzeria . Based on how it was listed on the menu, I've had trouble correlating it to anything listed on the Sierra Nevada website, so I'm going with how it was listed on the menu. It was clearly a Wee Heavy that had been aged in used Scotch whisky barrels, but I haven't been able to determine which whisky. It poured a semi-translucent ruby with a small, cream-colored head. The aroma was what you'd expect, sweet malt and a hint of smoke. The flavor profile was full of clean malt flavor, again with just a hint of smoke from the barrel. Another excellent beer from Sierra Nevada, which I doubt you'll find anywhere else in this state, so get it if you can. 9.4% ABV.

Firestone-Walker Brewing's 2015 Parabola Imperial Stout: Looking at the label, I knew this one was going to be one big beer. 14% ABV, 82 IBUs, aged in bourbon barrels. It poured almost opaque, but with some slight ruby highlights, and a small tan head that dissipated to a collar. The nose was rich and complex, with notes of chocolate, coffee, oak, and bourbon. Carbonation was OK and the mouthfeel was quite chewy and thick. The flavor profile was very similar to the nose, with lots of rich and complex flavors entwining with each other to form a delicious whole. The alcohol makes its presence known with some heat on the finish. An excellent beer, best shared in small snifters amongst several friends.

Anchorage Brewing Company's Mosaic Saison: Brewed exclusively with its namesake hops, this beer poured slightly cloudy with a huge white head that left good lacing on the glass. The aroma had lots of the floral, tropical, fruity, & earthy notes that characterize this hop variety. Carbonation was excellent, and the mouthfeel was light. On the palate there was more of the hop flavors, balanced by a nice malt backbone, and the lightest hint of brett funkiness. An excellent farmhouse ale, light and refreshing. I'd expect the brett notes to increase with time and that the beer will become bone dry, so if that's how you like your saisons, try cellaring this one for  6 months to a year. 6.5% ABV, 30 IBUs.

Well, that's it for this week. See you next week with more news and reviews.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Happy 20th Anniversary, Midnight Sun!

You have to hand it to the folks at Midnight Sun Brewing Company. When they first opened for business twenty years ago, they were clever enough to do it on May 5th, so every year they get to celebrate on Cinco de Mayo.  I want to offer my personal congratulations on hitting this huge milestone . Midnight Sun has brewed some phenomenal beers in the past and I'm looking forward to drinking the ones they dream up in the next twenty years!

As this year is the big 2-oh, the celebrations have been appropriately expansive. I've written about several of them in past blogs, so I'm not going to do a big recap here, but I do want to mention a couple of new items. Midnight Sun will be tapping a firkin in The Loft tonight at 5 PM, cask-conditioned Panty Peeler, on tequila-soaked oak chips and lime zest. MSBC has also released a new draft-only beer, The Adult, as part of the celebration.  Here's the info on it:

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Midnight Sun also took delivery of two new conical fermenters this week, and revamped its retail store.  Here are some photos, all courtesy of the brewery:

The new retail area in the main lobby at MSBC

One of the new tanks arriving via flatbed

Head Brewer Lee Ellis moves the new tank into place.
So once again, congratulations to Midnight Sun on a great twenty years!

On Wednesday, April 29th, I attended the K&L Distributors Trade Show in Anchorage. I'd been to other trade shows in the past, but this was my first time making it to K&L's. They are one of the three major craft beers distributors in the state (along with Odom and Specialty Imports) and handle several different breweries, though their main cash cow is, of course, AB-InBev. K&L counts Alaskan Brewing, Rogue, Sierra Nevada, and Lagunitas Brewing among its craft offerings, and it has recently been adding more, which was one reason I wanted to attend: to see what new offerings are in store for Alaska.

Part of the K&L Trade Show

Another section of the K&L Trade Show

I stopped first at the Alaskan Brewing booth, where I sampled the brewery's latest Rough Draft, a porter made with graham crackers, cocoa nibs, vanilla, and wild flower honey; very tasty! Next, I stopped at the Sierra Nevada Brewing booth, where I sampled River Ryed Rye IPA. This beer is only being released in cans and only in the Pacific Northwest, so we are lucky to be getting it up here in Alaska. I also learned that Sierra Nevada's delicious Nooner Pilsner (reviewed 3/13/2015) will also soon be available in cans here in Alaska. I also sampled beers from Cascade Lakes Brewing Company from Redmond, Oregon; both its Cyclops IPA and Hopsmack IPA were especially tasty. I had brews from Hopworks Urban Brewery and Iron Horse Brewery; the latter's Quilter's Irish Death was particularly good. I finally finished up at the booth of Lagunitas, where I sampled Waldo's Special, a seasonal beer the brewery releases on 4/20 each year. Very dank and hoppy, I liked it a lot.

On my way of out town, I made a quick pit stop at Anchorage Brewing Company; I had neglected to purchase one of its growlers when I was at the grand opening, so I decided to stop and get one. Plus, I'd seen on Facebook that a new beer had just gone on tap, a Triple IPA.  When I came in, Owner Gabe Fletcher was behind the bar, so I ended up having a beer and chatting before continuing on my way south. See my review of the new Triple IPA below. Gabe also told me that he is going to brew a beer called Expiration IPA. Similar in concept to Stone Brewing's Drink By Date IPAs, Gabe intends for this beer to be consumed extremely fresh, with every bottle have a large "expiration date" sticker on it, hence the name. ABC will be releasing its new Mosiac Saison (see my last blog), this Sunday, May 10.

ABC's tap list on 4/29/2015

The growlers at Anchorage Brewing Company are a steal at $35 each. They are powder-coated stainless, double-walled vacuum insulated, and have a well-designed cap that not only achieves an excellent seal but doubles as a handle.

The brewery has also announced another special event for next weekend.  Here are the details:

Anchorage Brewing Company Presents:
An evening with Ron Jeffries from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales

            Please come and join us for this epic event! Ron Jeffries, the founder and creator of Jolly Pumpkin beers will be at our brewery on Saturday May 16th  2pm-9pm. We will have 4 of his wild beers from Dexter, Michigan on tap for you to try, as well as 3 of the collaborations that we have been working on for the last year.

Starting at 4pm till closing there will be live Jazz music from the ABC Brett Quintet and delicious Taco’s from Carve Catering!

            Here is the list of beers we will be serving:
Brewed with clementine, yuzu peel, lime peel, pink Himalayan salt, and coriander.
5.5% ABV 11 IBU’s

MI Nugget of Madness
Barrel Aged Tart Pale Ale
Brewed and dry hopped with 100% Michigan grown Nugget hops
5.9% ABV 40 IBU’s

Biere de Mars
Flanders Style Sour
7% ABV 30 IBU’s
A sustaining beer that is brewed to comfort the gusty ides of March and welcome in a wealth of warmer weather.

Oro de Calabaza
Artisan Wild Ale
8% ABV 30 IBU’s
Brewed in the Franco-Belgian tradition of Golden Strong Ales. Spicy and peppery with a gentle hop bouquet and beguiling influence of wild yeast.

Calabaza Boreal
7% ABV 40 IBU’s
Brewed with grapefruit peel, peppercorns, fresh grapefruit juice, Mosaic and Galaxy Hops. Fermented and aged in Foudres with Saison yeast, brett, and Oro de Calabaza from the barrel.

Ron and Gabe Collaboration #2
6% ABV 32 IBU’s
Brewed with Experimental Hop 05256. Fermented in French oak barrels with saison yeast and a mix of brettanomyces strains. Dry hopped in the barrel with Citra Hops.

Ron and Gabe Collaboration #3
6% ABV 40 IBU’s
Brewed with Citra Hops, Coriander, and black peppercorns. Fermented in French oak barrels with saison yeast and a mix of brettanomyces strains and apple juice. Dry hopped in the barrel with Galaxy Hops.
Sounds like it will be an absolutely fabulous evening!

Seward Brewing Company awoke for its long winter's nap and opened for business last Friday. I haven't made it over there yet, but hope to soon. The brewpub is offering a special Mothers Day Brunch this Sunday.  Here's the menu:

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Also happening in Seward, the Seward Alehouse will be holding a IPA Blind Tasting event on Thursday, May 7th, at 7 PM.

I recently learned that another new brewery is in the process of opening. While it's not in Alaska, it is in Whitehorse, the the Yukon Territory (which I always think of as sort of honorary Alaska...). Winterlong Brewing Company received its license to brew on April 20, and fired up its kettle the next day. I expect they will be open for business soon. Owned by Meghan & Marko Marjanovic, you should see this new small brewery offering its beers at the Haines Festival on May 23.

The guys at Bearpaw River Brewing Company have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help finish their taproom.  Lots for cool rewards on offer. They have 20 days to go and are only a little over $5k short of their $25k goal, so I think they will likely reach it. If you are interested in tossing in a few bucks, you can find all the details on their Kickstarter page here.

Speaking of Kickstarters, Bleeding Heart Brewery in Palmer continues to make progress toward opening, and has scheduled a party for all its Kickstarter backers for July 12th

Here on the Peninsula, Kenai River Brewing Company has been making some news. In my column in tomorrow's Redoubt Reporter, you can read all about its exciting new plans. However, last Friday, May 1, the brewery made history, by releasing the first ever commercial beer brewed with Alaska Grown hops! I stopped by and had a glass, but had to leave before they tapped the cask-conditioned version, dry hopped with 2 oz. of Fuggles.  See my review of AK Hop ESB below.

Photo courtesy of KRBC
Brewer Devin standing by to tap the cask!

Finally, some personal news. We are moving ever closer to my next book, Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun, being released. While I'm waiting on that, I'm working to finish Volume Three of Beer on the Last Frontier: The Craft Breweries of Alaska. I thought you might like a sneak peak at its cover, created by by lovely and talented wife, Elaine:

I hope to have it done in the next few weeks.

Now let's move on to beer reviews:

Boulevard Brewing Company's The Calling IPA: A new release from this excellent brewery, I picked up a 4-pack at La Bodega. It poured a clear gold with a nice white head that left good lace on the glass. The aroma was of bright, citrusy hops; I reminded me quite a bit of Denali's Twister Creek IPA. Carbonation was good, as was the mouthfeel. On the palate, there was good bitterness, then plenty of nice, clean hop flavors. A well-crafted IPA from Boulevard. 8.5% ABV.

Anchorage Brewing Company's Triple IPA. Gabe Fletcher is
looking for a better name for this brew, so feel free to give him your suggestions! It poured a bright, slightly cloudy gold with a big, pillowy white head. The nose was chock full of bright citrus and tropical fruit hop notes. The carbonation and mouthfeel were both quite good. On the palate, the beer showed amazing balance; Given the 210 IBUs, I was expecting something overly bitter, but not so. This beer exhibits superb hop flavor and aroma, yet remains very drinkable. Anchorage used over 160 ponds of hops to make 22 barrels of beer, including dry hopping it three times in two different tanks, yet there is none of the vegetal notes you often get with highly hopped beers. This is really wonderful beer and only its 9% ABV will keep you from drinking glass after glass...

Kenai River Brewing Company's AK Hop ESB: As mentioned above, what makes this beer unique is the source of the hops used to make it. Given that Doug Hogue and the other brewers involved were pretty much guessing at the alpha acid content, they could have been excused if the beer hadn't turned out very well. However, this beer is actually a rather good ESB. It poured a cloudy, dark honey color, with a small, off-white head that dissipated to a collar but left good lacing. The aroma was about spot on for a classic British ESB, hoppy but not excessively so. The taste profile was also classic ESB, with a nice malt backbone being balanced with good bitterness. Tasting this beer made me think that there might be a bright future ahead for craft beers brewed with AK Grown hops. 5.4% ABV, IBUs ???, but I'd guess 35, give or take.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company's Mudflats Belgian Quad: This beer poured opaque with a huge,persistent tan head. The aroma was rich and complex, with notes of raisins, chocolate, oak, and alcohol - a big beer without a doubt! Carbonation was excellent and the mouthfeel was good, with a slight chewiness that I like in big, dark brews. The flavor profile was classic Belgian quad, with lots of dark fruit notes, chocolate, oak, and a bit of alcohol heat on the finish. I suspect this beer would cellar well, so I plan to pick up a few more bottles to experiment with. 10% ABV, 35 IBUs.

That's it for this blog. Look for a new one next week. Speaking of next week, May 11 thru May 17th is American Craft Beer Week (ACBW). So make it a point to find a local event and celebrate!

Until Next Time, Cheers!