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:

Click to enlarge
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!

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