Monday, September 21, 2015

Talkeetna Brewfest After-Action Report

Hello again, craft beer lovers. As I mentioned in my last blog, I decided to delay this one until I had returned from the Talkeetna Brewfest, which took place on Saturday, September 19th. I'm back now, so it's time to get this blog on the street.

First things first, let's talk about Friday and Saturday in Talkeetna. The weather was very nice, with cold mornings and frost to remind us that winter is just around the corner, but lovely days and clear enough nights so that we could see some amazing displays of the northern lights. Elaine and I stayed at a wonderful place, the Talkeetna Chalet B&B, which I highly recommend to anyone visiting Talkeetna. On Friday night, I attended the beer dinner at the Denali Brewpub/Twister Creek Restaurant.  It was some amazing food, paired with some outstanding beers and meads.  Here are some photos of the various courses:

First course

Second Course

Third Course
Happy folks at the beer dinner

Denali Brewpub Tap List

Check out the menu in last week's blog to read a description and to see what was paired with with. Sorry I didn't get a picture of the dessert course, but I was pretty well gone by that point!  Sassan Mossanen and the rest of the team at Denali Brewing Company really outdid themselves with this one.

The next afternoon, the brewfest itself took place between 2 and 6 PM in the Sheldon Arts Hangar. I'd never been inside it before, but it's a very cool space to have any sort of event. Because the weather was nice, they were able to open the big hangar door, so while all the breweries were set up inside, the fest goers were able to spread outside while they enjoyed their samples. Besides unlimited pours of the various beers, wines, and meads on offer, there was also excellent cheese and charcuterie on offer as well, along with bread, fruit, and vegetable trays.

Cheeses from Fromagio's Artisan Cheese in Anchorage

Charcuterie from Mat-Valley Meats

Getting the fest started in the Sheldon Arts Hangar

As for the beers on offer, I had a couple of very interesting sours. Broken Tooth Brewing Company was pouring its Silvertip Sour (ABV 8.4%, 25 IBUs), which was a saison made from a sour mash, and Sleeping Lady Brewing Company was pouring its Bramble On Tart Raspberry Ale (4.5% ABV), also kettle soured. I enjoyed them both, along with many other great beers from the rest of the breweries in attendance. The only disappointment was the absence of both HooDoo Brewing and the Seward Brewing Company, both of which had to cancel. In summary, it was an excellent fest, very well-run and highly enjoyable to attend. I'm glad I finally made it and look forward to attending again in the coming years.

While I was in Talkeetna, I stopped by Denali Brewing Company's production brewery at Mile 2 on the Talkeetna Spur Road. Every time I visit this brewery, it seems to be undergoing another expansion. When I stopped in May, the brewery was about to receive three new 240-barrel fermenters, a silo to hold its 2-row pale malt, and a silo to hold its spent grain for pick-up by local farmers. When I stopped by this weekend, all those new addition were in place and the form was laid out to pour the slab for a huge new packaging hall.  Here are some photos:

Spent grain silo

The forms for the packing hall slab with three 240-barrel fermenters in background

The new 2-row pale malt silo

The taproom entrance, unfortunately closed on Saturday morning...

Congratulations to Denali Brewing Company on its rapid and sustained growth.

Speaking of growth, three more new breweries have either opened or are about two. Icy Strait Brewing in Hoonah apparently opened back in August. It has sifted to its fall hours and is open from 4 to 8 PM every day. Here's a picture of the taproom from the brewery's Facebook page:
Photo courtesy of Icy Strait Brewing
I ran into Ed Miner of Gakona Brewing in Talkeetna. He tells me that the brewery has received its final license from the state and that its beer's will soon be on tap at the Trapper's Den Tavern in the historic Gakona Lodge. The tavern is open year-round, so if you are passing through Gakona, stop and have a beer from Gakona Brewing. The first two offerings will be Berry Wheat Ale, made with raspberries, blue berries, and black berries, and Killer Rabbit IPA.

Finally, Odd Man Rush Brewing is holding its Grand Opening on this Friday, September 25th, from 5 to 8 PM. It has been holding some soft openings and initial reports are very positive, so check it out if you are in Eagle River this Friday.

However, as new breweries open, others are shutting down for the winter. Saturday, 9/19, was the last day for the Seward Brewing Company this year.  Owner Erik Slayter tells me they will be doing some projects in the brewhouse over the winter, so I'm looking forward to seeing how things have changed next spring.

Also getting ready to pack it in for the winter is 49 State Brewing Company. Prospectors Pizzeria is closing after tonight and 49th State's last day will be Saturday, October 3rd. They will be holding an early Halloween Party on that date, including big prizes for the best costumes.

This Saturday, September 26th, Fairbanks area beer lovers will be able to ride the Hoo Doo Choo Choo, a trip from Fairbanks to Nenana and back, while enjoy light fare from Lavelle's Bistro and good beers from HooDoo Brewing.

Of course, the original Alaska Railroad Beer Train will be running on October 10th. The annual Great Alaska  Beer Train will be running from Anchorage to Portage and back. This train ride costs $169 for appetizers, music, and six half-pints of Glacier BrewHouse beers.

Click to enlarge

Also on October 10th, the 5th Annual Bodega-Fest will be taking place from 3 to 8 PM at the Aviation Heritage Museum. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online in advance. There will be live music from Moonicorn, The Dirty Hands, Superfrequency, The High Pets, and Big Fat Buddha. There will be food available from local vendors. On Wednesday, October 7, the 2nd Annual Bodega-Fest Beer Dinner will be held at Kinley's, starting at 6 PM. There will be five course, each paired with two beers, plus a greet beer, all for $75. Call 644-8953 to make reservations.

On Friday, October 9th, the Eagle River Brewfest will be held as a fundraiser for the Eagle River Boys and Girls Club. It will be at the Eagle River Elks Lodge from 6:30 to 9:30 PM. Tickets are $50 advance purchased here, or $60 at the door.

Click to enlarge

It's also Oktoberfest season, and breweries around the state are celebrating in their own ways. King Street Brewing Company will be celebrating Oktoberfest this Saturday, September 26th from 1 to 8 PM. For $25 you get 36 oz of authentic German-style beer, served in a commemorative 0.5 liter glass stein, and two German bratwurst sausages, along with traditional side dishes.  Here are the beers that will be on offer, along with their descriptions:

Munich Oktoberfest – An amber lager that has been brewed with all German malts (including Munich and Vienna), Noble hops, and Munich Lager yeast. Traditionally brewed in the spring and stored in caves during the summer, this beer is used to celebrate the autumn harvest. Grab some pretzels and a stein full of this!

German Bock – This dark lager with notes of grape and plum was released in February. It has been aging nicely in our cellar. The fuller flavor of the Bock is just perfect for these recent days that seem to have just a hint of chill in the air.

German Helles – Released as our Golden lager early spring and quickly sold out. Good thing we saved one keg for the party! It is the perfect beer to quaff down with a spicy sausage. This is our last keg and once it’s gone…you’ll have to wait until next summer to enjoy it again.

Bavarian Hefeweizen - Premium German wheat and Pilsner malts burst with flavor and perfectly compliment the rich clove and banana aromas in this authentic German Wheat Beer. Unfiltered and perfect for this occasion…pass the rye bread and mustard please!

German WeizenBock – A dark and malty version of a strong German wheat beer, this beer comes in at 7.4% ABV. We brewed this beer in 2014 and dug a keg of this exceptional brew out of our cellar just for this celebration!

Imperial Hefeweizen – The first beer from of a new Imperial Series of brews from King Street, this strengthen version of our Bavarian Hefeweizen has been given a healthy dose of New World hops for an unparalleled strength of flavor. 8.0% ABV.

HooDoo Brewing in Fairbanks celebrated the traditional start of Oktoberfest last Saturday in the traditional way, by having the mayor of Fairbanks tap a cask of Oktoberfest lager.

Courtesy of HooDoo Brewing Company.
I recently got an update from Midnight Sun Brewing's Beer Ambassador Darcy Kniefel.  Here's what she had to say about upcoming releases:

"Where the F@#$ did summer go?!?! I can not believe we are already back in to fall, and with that note we have this year's release of Termination Dust coming out at 5:00pm today. I fully admit we had seen Termination Dust sticking around on Monday, however we weren't quite ready in the packaging area to put the Termination Dust out there, this is almost 6 weeks earlier than last year's release, but hopefully this is a sign that we are going to get some good snow and we can get Head Brewer Lee back up on the slopes! The rest of us will be comforted by this 13% Belgian Style Barley Wine aged in Oak Barrels. It was an award winner last year, and we look forward to another great winter of TD keeping us happy and cozy by the fireside.

We finally got to release the Big Fish Home Brew Competition Winner last night at Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse. We had some waiting to do as we needed Spruce Tips to be collected at just the right time. Just the Tip Spruce Tip Ale was brewed with Josh and Sean in a summer heat and came out as the perfect fall beer. Crisp and warm with a hint of fruit from the tips. We will have this available around town as well as on nitro fairly soon.

On October 1st we will be proudly attending the March of Dimes Signature Chef event at Den'aina as we release a beer created just for the Alaska March of Dimes. Toklat Hoppy Golden Ale Aged in Chardonnay Barrels was brewed to go in a very special bottle with the label art created by local artist Katie Sevigny. There will be a VIP tasting of the beer prior to the main event, a tasting during the event and an opportunity for the attendees to win the original artwork. Bottles will be available for sale on October 2nd at The Loft and a portion of all sales will go to the March of Dimes.

As the guys were pouring Toklat in to the Chardonnay barrels they realized they had a few to spare, so they filled the rest with a round of Midnight Sun Golden Ale (formerly Kolsch) and a small batch will be released next week at the brewery. The flavor is amazing on this guy, with a light time in the barrels, the oak comes through without overwhelming!"

Darcy also mentioned a special upcoming event:

"Finally in October, on Saturday the 24th, we will pair up with Anchorage Waterways Council to do another round of Brews and Bites. This is the only private tasting session we do in the brewery and we go deep in the cellar to find some fun stuff. Tickets are not yet available, but as soon as they are we will share the link. They sold out pretty quick last year."

Sounds like a great time, so mark your calendars and get your tickets early.

Finally, way out in Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory, it appears that newcomer Winterlong Brewing Company is having trouble keeping up with the demand for its beer, something many craft breweries around Alaska can relate to. In the latest post on the brewery website, the husband & wife owners explain that while they are currently completely out of beer, they have just taken delivery of enough new fermenters to double Winterlong's capacity.

Well, that's about it for news this week. Since I'm running late on this blog as it is, I think I will hold off on my reviews until later in the week. Enjoy this nice fall weather while it last, 'cause we all know it won't last very long!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Friday, September 11, 2015

It's Raining, So This Must Be September...

The coming of fall is making itself felt here on the Peninsula. The trees are turning, school is back in session, and it's raining. Even with this dreary weather, there's lots happening on the beer scene, so let's dive right into it.

The big news on the national level is Heineken's purchase of 50% of Lagunitas Brewing for $500 million. You can find various spins on the deal from owner Tony Magee's "Everything is Awesome!" post to various ones that decry the end of craft beer as we know it. As usual, reality is somewhere in between, but in keeping with my philosophy that there are plenty of truly small and independent craft breweries out there who really need my money, I will be crossing Lagunitas off my "beers I drink regularly" list. See my previous post on the Elysium buyout for more details.

Moving on to more pleasant stuff, there are several beer events happening this weekend. Tomorrow, Saturday September 12th is the Beer Dinner at Seward Brewing Company. It was limited to 25, so it may already be sold out. Here's the menu:

Seward Brewing Company has also shifted to its winter hours, until it closes next Saturday, September 19th.

Also this weekend is another Beer Meets Canvas event at Arkose Brewery in Palmer, tomorrow at 2 PM. Arkose also re-released its excellent Spindrift IPA yesterday.

Speaking of re-releases, Midnight Sun Brewing Company is re-releasing a classic today: Pride, a Belgian-style pale ale aged in chardonnay barrels with brett, which was first brewed back in 2007 as part of its Seven Deadly Sins Series. See my review from 9/14/2009.

Over at Resolution Brewing, there is a nice new sign out front, to replace the temporary banners:

Photo courtesy of Resolution Brewing

Here's what's on tap today at Resolution:

Photo courtesy of Resolution Brewing

Speaking of being on tap, next Saturday, 9/19, will be Cantillon Zwanze Day 2015 at Anchorage Brewing Company. The following amazing brews will be on tap:

By the Bottle:
  • Vigneronne
  • Cuvée St-Gilloise,
  • Drie Fonteinen Oud Geuze,
  • Grand Cru Bruocsella

 On Tap:
  • Zwanze Wild Brussels Stout
  • Kriek
  • Iris Grand Cru
  • Rosé de Gambrinus
  • Classic Gueuze  

If you are all interested in Belgian beers and you'll be in Anchorage next Saturday, you need to check this out.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend this event, because I'll be in Talkeetna next Saturday for the excellent Talkeetna Brewfest. It's from 2 to 6 PM at the Sheldon Community Arts Hangar. I'll also be attending the beer dinner on Friday night at Denali Brewpub. I suspect it's sold out, but here's the menu:

Click to enlarge
If you'll be at either the dinner or the brewfest, be sure to look me up and say hello.

More news: Paul Wheeler of Haines Brewing has brewed his 1337th and last batch of beer at his old location in Dalton City. He'll be moving the brewhouse to his new digs at the corner of 4th and Main in downtown Haines. The new brewery is scheduled to open to the public on Monday, September 14th. Paul is still looking for a new 7-barrel system to replace his current 3.5-barrel one.

Courtesy of Haines Brewing

Construction on the new home for Kenai River Brewing in Soldotna continues at a good clip. The last time I stopped by the site, it looked like they were working to put in the sewer and waterlines before beginning the foundation work.  Meanwhile, the road work in front of the old location looks like it's almost finished at last. Here's what was on tap at Kenai River Brewing yesterday:

Tap list as of 9/10/2015

Last Friday, Zach Henry and I brewed another of our historical recreation-collaboration beers at St. Elias Brewing. Our previous efforts included a Scotch Ale and a Burton Ale. We plan to call this one H & H East India Porter, and it's based on research by Ron Pattison (Shut Up About Barclay Perkins).  If you are interested in reading more details, check out my latest column in The Redoubt Reporter. The beer we brewed is a very hoppy (90+ IBU!) porter, with an O.G. of 1.064 and a target F.G. of 1.014. It's hopped and dry-hopped exclusively with East Kent Goldings and fermented with an English yeast. We won't be able to send it around the Cape of Good Hope by ship, but otherwise it's a close a recreation to an 1860 East India Porter as we can manage. Look for it to go on tap in a couple of months or so.

Mashing in H & H East India Porter

Speaking of on tap, here's what was on offer at St. Elias Brewing as of last Friday:

St. Elias tap list on 9/4/2015
See below for a review of Snowbird Belgian White IPA.

Speaking of reviews, the Alaska Dispatch News finally got around to reviewing Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun.  You can read the review here. If you're still looking to buy a copy, you can get one at several of the local breweries, Barnes & Noble, or via my Amazon store.

That looks to be about it for news this week, so let's move on to some reviews.

Anchorage Brewing Company's Czech Pilsner: I picked up a growler of this on my last trip to Anchorage and shared it with Zach Henry while we were brewing last Friday. It poured a slightly cloudy gold with a big white head. Lots of good noble hop aroma. Good carbonation and the mouthfeel was light. Crisp ho bitterness up front, nice hop flavor followed. Overall, a very well-made, highly drinkable beer.

St. Elias Brewing Company's Snowbird Belgian IPA: I had a pint of this after drinking the aforementioned Czech Pilsner. It poured a cloudy gold with a white head. Lots of citrusy notes in the nose from the Citra, Simcoe, Centennial, and Sorachi Ace hops used, along with orange peel. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was fairly light. On the palate there was plenty more bright, citrusy hop flavor. A refreshing brew, but it's 7.2% ABV so not as sessionable as some.  Excellent beer.

Holy Mountain Brewing's The Goat Rustic Brett Saison: A leftover from The Culmination, I picked this up at La Bodega. It poured a crystal clear gold with a white head that was smaller than you usually see on a saison. There were hints of brett funk in the nose, but not super strong. Carbonation was on the low side, but still okay, and the mouthfeel was nice. On the palate there was a bit more maltiness than I'm use to in brett saisons; they tend toward the dry side. With more time to work, it's likely this one would dry out also. The brett was present in the flavor profile, but it was subtle. This is the brett saison for folks who don't like brett a whole lot, I guess. Overall, good but not great. 4.9% ABV.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company's Tundra Wookie Belgian Special Dark Ale with Tart Cherries: This beer poured a semi-translucent ruby color with a small, mocha-colored head. The nose was rich, with notes of plums, figs, and the tart cherries. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was very nice. On the palate there were more dark fruit notes, balance by some pleasing tartness. The overall impression is a beer that in vinous and rich, almost like a dessert. I really enjoyed it. 13% ABV, 13 IBUs.

Well, that's it for this week. With the Talkeetna Brewfest coming up, I may or may not get a blog out before it. Either way, it's time to get out and enjoy these festivals and start laying in your beer supplies for winter.

Until Next Time, Cheers!