Friday, October 16, 2015

Still Waiting on the Snow...

It's mid-October here on the Kenai Peninsula, but still no snow. Last year, we got out first significant snowfall on October 9th, but here we are a week later with nothing and none in the forecast. Perhaps all the predictions of a warm winter will be accurate. Or maybe Mother Nature is just saving up to give us a super big blast, like she did to Fairbanks a couple of weeks ago. Time will tell, I guess.

Meanwhile, it's two weeks since my last blog. In my defense, I can only say that I have been pretty busy, between teaching my college class, doing presentations and book signings, and taking an on-line class together with my wife. The Peninsula Clarion covered my presentation at Kenai Peninsula College on October 8th and did a front page story on it, which you can read here. Plus I've been watching the baseball playoffs, of course... So let's start playing catch-up.

The really big news is, of course, AB-InBev's buying SABMiller for $104 billion. This deal has been rumored for years, but now it looks like it might actually take place. It will be interesting to see what the US regulators force them to divest, but from my perspective, the biggest impact on/threat to craft breweries may come from the consolidation of distributors. We are lucky here in Alaska to have three distributors (K&L, Odom,  and Specialty Imports), each of which handles craft beers. In some areas, there are only two, and one of them handles only AB-InBev, forcing all the craft breweries to use the other. It's much too soon to panic, but the merger process will certainly bear close watching, at least for craft brewers located Outside.

Like Alexander, will Carlo Brito weep because there are no breweries left to buy?
Speaking of distributors, Alaskan Brewing has announced that it is changing its Seattle-distributor to Odom Distributing. Odom has been distributing Alaskan's beers in Eastern Washington since 2004, and now will be handling the Seattle area as well. There is no indication that Alaskan has any plans to change its distribution within Alaska from K&L Distributing to Odom.

Since my last post, both the Eagle River Brewfest and Bodega-fest took place, along with the Great Alaska Beer Train. I wasn't able to attend any of them, but by all reports, they were each a great time. Tomorrow night, Saturday October 17th, will be the Mighty Matanuska Brewfest in Palmer.  Here's the poster for it:

Click to enlarge
I received the following updates from Darcy Kniefel, Beer Ambassador at Midnight Sun Brewing Company:

"Full Curl Wee Heavy Scotch Ale is BACK! A trusty favorite has returned for a fall (is that winter out there?) release. Originally brewed in the late 90's, Full Curl makes an appearance to many a fan's delight from time to time and we are sneaking him in for some fall sipping. First pour will happen on Wednesday (10/7) at 11am at The Loft at Midnight Sun and a draft only release will follow in the Anchorage Areas.

BarFly - OH YES! We will be celebrating National Stout Day, November 5th, with this year's release of BarFly Imperial Smoked Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels. Somber and smoky, BarFly Smoked Imperial Stout saunters into the room slowly. Thick smoke. Cool swagger. Good wood. Bit of bourbon. Sticky leather. Slow glances. Lingering looks. Vanilla. The only thing that didn’t make the glass was maraschino cherry. Bring your own and…WEAR OUT YOUR WELCOME. First brewed as part of our 2010 Pop Ten Series, BarFly was added to our Alaska’s Most Wanted line-up in 2014. Bourbon barrel-aging requires a long leisure so this beer is not on a set schedule but we hope to get a batch out about once a year. This will be a very limited release with some heading to each of our distributors in draft and bottle after the initial release in November at The Loft.

Toklat Hoppy Golden Ale aged in Chardonnay Barrels was released to a great reception at the March of Dimes Signature Chef's Auction last week and what a splash it made! For those looking to get a taste, you will have to come by the brewery as it is only available through our taps or cooler. The artwork was provided by local artist Katie Sevigny and the original artwork went home after the release to a very happy raffle winner! Grab your own version of the artwork on the bottle, and enjoy this oaky golden with Nelson Sauv hops, the fruit mingles with the barrel in a magical tango. A portion of all proceeds goes to March of Dimes. Very limited edition, get yours now!"
Personally, I'm very excited to see Full Curl make a re-appearance. It was always a personal favorite of mine, and I was bummed when it went out of regular production a few years back.

On Wednesday, King Street Brewing Company released the first of four beers in the brewery's new Imperial Series. The first beer was an Imperial Hefeweizen.  Here's how owner Shane Kingry described it:

Photo courtesy of King Street Brewing

"King Street Imperial Hefeweizen has roots that were inspired by our own tap room attendants that blend IPA and Hefeweizen King Street’s Imperial Hefeweizen is brewed to artfully blend a strengthened version of a classical Bavarian Hefeweizen with New World citrusy hops to create an incredible new bouquet of aromas and flavors."
The beers are in 750-ml screen-printed bottles, as well as limited draft distribution around town. The next beer in the series, King Street's Imperial IPA, will be released next Wednesday, 10/21.

Today in Anchorage is the release of Resolution Brewing Company's first collaboration beer, Black Cup Porter:

Click to enlarge

Arkose Brewery in Palmer celebrated its 4th Anniversary this month and has begun bottling its four flagship beers. Here's a photo, courtesy of Arkose, that shows its new bottles:

Congratulations to Stephen & June, and the rest of the folks at Arkose on reaching both these important milestones.

Here on the Peninsula, Kenai River Brewing Company continues to make good progress on the construction of its new brewery. The pour of the concrete for the brewery's floor was completed on Monday, and the walls will be up soon.

Photo courtesy of KRBC
At Kenai River's current brewery, Arctic XPA is back on tap, at least for the moment. The Winter Warlock Old Ale is still on and drinking extremely well. The KRBC Tap Room in Soldotna is getting to be a little like Rick's Cafe in Casablanca, as in "Everybody comes to Rick's". I was in there last Friday and snapped this picture:

Soldotna's Mayor-elect Pete Sprague meeting with his constituents

Kassik's Brewery will be teaming with 1 Crazy Cupcake for a series of events pairing beer and cupcakes. The first event scheduled for Thursday, October 22th, from noon to 7 PM at the brewery. Subsequent events are on November 5th & 19th. The event lasts all day, but the supply of cupcakes is limited so RSVP at 776-4055 to reserve yours. On tap at the brewery: the 2009 Barley Wine and the 2014 Smoked Russian Imperial Stout, as well as last keg of the Apricot Wheat. Coming soon: Barrel-Aged Statny Stanty.

No changes to the tap list at St. Elias Brewing since my last blog, but it does have some swanky new tap handles.

New tap handles made by Adams Fabrication

Finally, a short personal note. I'll be doing another signing of my books next weekend at River City Books in Soldotna. I'll be there from noon to 3 PM on Saturday, 10/24, if you need an autographed copy for yourself or perhaps as a gift for someone else. It's not too early for Christmas shopping, you know.

With the news done, let's move on to beer reviews. I only have two this week, along with a quasi-review. Let's do the quasi-review first.

Kenai River Brewing's 2015 Winter Warlock Old Ale: I don't really have a new review of this beer, as Doug Hogue consistently produces the same excellent brew year after year. Almost a year of cold-conditioning produces an exceptionally clean-tasting brew.  So rather than repeat myself, I'll just refer you to my review on 9/8/2008 and add that you really don't want to miss out on experiencing this annual fall treat. A truly outstanding old ale.

Brouwerij de Molen's Heaven & Hell Russian Imperial Stout: Another leftover from The Culmination, this beer poured opaque with a nice tan head that left good lacing as it slowly dissipated to a collar. The aroma was roasty and rich, promising a very intense experience. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was thick and chewy, which is how I like my imperial stouts. The flavor profile was rich and complex, heavy with both roasted and sweet malt notes. A definite sipper at 10.2% ABV, this was an excellent Russian Imperial Stout from The Netherlands.

Stone Brewing's Ruination Double IPA 2.0: First things first: I picked this off the shelf at Country Liquors in Kenai on 10/7/2015 and got around to opening it on 10/13/2015, at which point I noticed it had an "enjoy by" date of 10/6/2015. So shame on me for not checking it in the store, and I'm sure the folks at Stone would say that I shouldn't even review this bottle. However, I'm going to do so anyway, mainly because I thought the beer, despite being a week out of date, was still excellent. It poured clear gold with a big white head. The aroma was loaded with bright, slightly citrusy American hops. Carbonation was excellent, and the mouthfeel was light. The initial bitter attack was not excessive, and was followed by tons of hop flavor. As much as I liked the Stone's original Ruination Ale, I think this beer is a significant improvement, with more hop flavor and less palate-wrecking hop bitterness. If you like a good DIPA, I highly recommend you hunt up a bottle of this beer, preferably prior to its enjoy by date. 8.5% ABV.

Well, that's about it for this post. Hopefully I'll get a blog out next week, with more news and reviews, but you never know. Expect it when you see it.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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