Friday, November 20, 2015

Another New Beer Tour

I wrote in last week's blog about a new bicycle & beer that will be offered next year here in Alaska by a company out of Florida. Given how strongly I advocate buying local to support Alaska businesses,  it seems only fair that I should give some time to our local Alaskan beer tour company, Big Swig Tours out of Anchorage.

Big Swig Tours was founded in 2014 by Bryan Caenepeel, a ten-year veteran of the Alaska tourism industry. Tour size is limited to twelve, so you really get an individual experience. It currently offers two year-round tours, the Anchorage Brews Tour and Hops on the Rail. The Anchorage Brews Tour takes about 3.5 hours and hits King Street, Midnight Sun, and Chilkoot Charlies. The Hops on the Rail, the newest tour, starts with a train ride to Talkeetna, then visits to Denali Brewing Company, Arkose Brewery, Odd Man Rush Brewing, and finishes up at Resolution Brewing. You can find tour schedules, prices, and lots of details on Big Swig Tours' website. These are year-round tours, with others available during the summer only. As I wrote in my last blog, I'm always excited to see new opportunities for people, tourists and locals alike, to experience the exceptional craft beers we are lucky enough to have made here in Alaska!

Also of interest, I received an email this week about a new craft beer web series on YouTube. It's called All Hopped Up and follows a couple of guys as they try pairing craft beers and dishes at local restaurants. The only downside is that they are based in upstate New York. However, it's still an interesting idea and one that someone here in Alaska might want to take on. I might have given it a go myself, if I lived in Anchorage and had lots of restaurants to chose from. Below is their most recent video:

Let's move on to news from the breweries.

King Street Brewing Company released the next beer in its Imperial Series, the Imperial Pilsner, on November 11. Most of this batched was bottled, but a limited amount was offered on tap at the brewery. Not sure if there is any still left. Here's how they described it:

"If you like our Czech style Pilsner you may just love our Imperial version. This Pilsner intensifies Czech hop aroma and flavor while amplifying European malts. Spicy and flora aromas of Saaz hops slowly give way to the bread-like grain of Central European 2-row barley."

Photo courtesy of King Street Brewing

La Bodega has a couple of pieces of good news. First, there are several new beers on offer; the list includes Denali's Slow Down Brown, Sierra Nevada's classic seasonal Celebration Ale, Arkose Brewery's Bitter Earth ESB, Boxcar Porter and Steed Rye IPA  in 22oz bottles, Deschutes' Hop Trip and Chasin' Freshies, Two Beers Fresh Hop, and Bridgeport's Hop Harvest. Also available are a new doppelbock from Maui Brewing Co., The Doppel Shot Double Bock, New Belgium's Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale, Hopworks Urban Brewery's new winter ale Abominable, and Denali Brewing's One Tree Birch Beer. In addition, La Bodega just announced that they will be opening a third location, on Northern Lights between R.E.I. and the Middle Way Cafe. It will be a small place, with only a six tap growler bar and a limited selection, and the soft opening is schedule for this Wednesday, November 25th. Congratulations to Pamela and the rest of the La Bodega team!

There are a couple of beer events in Fairbanks, tonight and tomorrow. Tonight's event will be at 7 PM at the Blue Loon and will have a $20 flat fee. Tomorrow's event is at The Pub on the UAF Campus and charges $1 per ticket to taste a beer. To learn more on tonight's event, click here. The event at The Pub runs from from 6 to 9 PM, and you can learn more about it here.

Midnight Sun Brewing Company will be featured at both events, and will be releasing this year's versions of a couple of its classic beers next week. On Monday, November 23, this year's Arctic Devil Barley Wine will be released, while on Friday, November 27th, MSBC will release Barfly Smoked Imperial Stout. The Loft will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, of course. Both of these beers are absolutely amazing (see my reviews in previous blogs) and are not to be missed!

Anchorage Brewing Company has announced that it is working on a new batch of its outstanding Time Waits For No One Imperial Stout. Where the last batch was aged in used Laphroaig Scotch whisky barrels, this new batch will be aged in used 600 liter tawny port casks from Portugal. Also, today a limited quantity of ABC's Darkest Hour Imperial Stout goes on tap at the brewery; get it before it's gone.

The guys at Bleeding Heart Brewery in Palmer have finally received their federal brewing license. Now they get to start threading their way through the state's bureaucratic maze to get their state license.

Kodiak Island Brewing Company has received a top rating on's Trip Advisor site. Congratulations to Ben and the rest of the Kodiak Island team.

Photo courtesy of Kodiak Island BC

I mentioned above that Arkose Brewery's new bottled beers were available at La Bodega in Anchorage. The are also available at Country Liquors here on the Kenai. I picked some up there on Wednesday.

 Also here on the Kenai, construction of the new home of Kenai River Brewing Company continues at a rapid pace. Yesterday and today, they were setting the roof trusses into place.

Photo courtesy of Kenai River BC

Meanwhile, at the current brewery, Gummi Bear Tripel is back on tap. Here's the latest tap list:

Over at St. Elias Brewing, both the Queen of Hearts Lambic and the 2013 Moose Juice Barley Wine have kicked, but they have been replaced by the Kriek Lambic and the 2014 Moose Juice, which won 1st Place in the Barley Wine Competition at the last Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival. Next up is Green Giant Double IPA. Also, if you haven't gotten in and tried the Pizza of the Month, the Achilles, you really should. I had one last weekend and it was delicious!

St. Elias tap list

St. Elias Seasonals
The Achilles, the November Pizza of the Month

As far as reviews go, I haven't actually been drinking much new over the last few days, as I've been hitting local brews like St. Elias's Czech Pilsner and H & H East India Porter, along with Kenai River's Winter Warlock Old Ale pretty hard. But I do have one beer to mention.

Guinness Brewing's Foreign Extra Stout: While the standard bottle of Guinness Draught is nothing special (better than having to drink a typical macro lager, but not that much better), this beer is truly something else.  For many years, it wasn't even imported into the US; most Americans got their first exposure to it in the Caribbean, where it is extremely popular. However, a few years ago, likely in response to the growing popularity of craft beers, Guinness started importing here, and you can find it in 4-packs in better beer stores, like Country Liquors in Kenai or La Bodega in Anchorage. It pours and looks very similar to a regular Guinness, but looks are deceiving. For starters, it's 7.5% ABV instead on Draught's meager 4.2%. Second, on the palate it is thick, rich, and luscious, almost like drinking rich chocolate milk, but with enough roasted barley notes and hops for balance. In short, it tastes like I think Guinness did a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago, before it started it's long, slow dumbing down. If you like Guinness or any other dry stout, you really owe it to yourself to give Foreign Extra Stout a try.

Well, that's it for this week. Don't look for a blog next week, what with Thanksgiving and all. If you are here on the Peninsula, I'd like to let you know that I'll be at Kenai Fine Arts Guild Arts and Crafts Fair at Kenai Central High School on Friday, November 21, and Saturday, November 28, selling and signing my books. A book with a personal inscription from the author makes a great Christmas gift for family and friends! Even if you don't need any books, be sure to stop by and say hi if you're at the fair.

Until Next Time, Cheers.

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