Saturday, December 19, 2015

Breaking News: 49th State Brewing to Buy Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady!

Hello! I wasn't planning to blog again so soon, but I just learned a very hot piece of news. The owners of 49th State Brewing in Healy, Denali Visions 3000 Corporation, are in the process of purchasing the Snow Goose Pub/Sleeping Lady Brewery in downtown Anchorage. I understand that Sleeping Lady Brewery will no longer be a brand name, with all beers being produced under the 49th State brand.

So long, old friend...

There should be a press release out in a day or two with more information, but I have confirmed that this deal is indeed underway. Completion is contingent on the approval of the ABC Board for the transfer of licenses. This deal represents a huge leap forward for 49th State, as it will allow them to produce and sell beer year-round, as well as giving them easy access to the prime Anchorage market.

Stay tuned for more details as they become available!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Bearpaw River Opens Tomorrow!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around the Peninsula. The big day is only a week away. However, for beer lovers in Wasilla, Christmas is coming a bit early, as tomorrow, Saturday, December 19, will be the long-anticipated opening of Bearpaw River Brewing Company. As I have blogged about in the past, this new brewery (28th in the state by my count) is located at 4605 E. Palmer-Wasilla Highway and is the handiwork of the four Wade boys: Jack, Jed, James, and Jake. They have been working on this project for three years, so it's great to see it finally coming together. KTVA 11 did a report on the opening, which you can view here.

Photo courtesy of Bearpaw River Brewing

The grand opening will be from noon to 8 PM tomorrow. It looks like there will be at least four beers on offer: Bearpaw River Lager (4.5% ABV, 29 IBUs), Cabin Fever Porter (6% ABV, 38 IBUs), Frontiersman IPA (7% ABV, 70 IBUs), and Sluice Box Belgian (6% ABV, 21 IBUs). There will even be a food truck parked outside - Oh My Goodness Sammies & Pies - so you can make it a lunch destination as well. Personally, I won't be able to make it all the way from the Kenai to Wasilla for the opening, but I wish the Wades all the best and look forward to getting up there to try their brews very soon.

Photo courtesy of Bearpaw River Brewing

In other immediate news, Anchorage Brewing Company will be tapping its first cask-conditioned beer today: a firkin of its Triple IPA dry hopped with Mosiac. It will be tapped at 2 PM, and will be available until its gone or 8 PM, whichever comes first.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

At Glacier Brewhouse, they are well into their annual 12 Days of Barleywine.  Here's what still to come:

THE 9th DAY OF BARLEYWINE – DEC. 18, 2015 2016
Big Woody Barleywine aged 7 months in American oak wine barrels from Beaulieu Vineyards in Napa Valley. (10.06% abv)
Belgian Dark aged 9 months in Buffalo Trace barrels. (8.10% abv)
Cask conditioned selection.

THE 10th DAY OF BARLEYWINE – DEC. 19, 2015
Belgian Quad aged 9 months Jim Beam barrels. (10.21% abv)
2014 Imperial Stout aged 1 year in Buffalo Trace barrels (9.25% abv)
Cask conditioned selection.

THE 11th DAY OF BARLEYWINE – DEC. 20, 2015 2016
Eisbock steel Aged (9.00% abv)
2014 Imperial Stout aged 1 year in raspberry infused Jim Beam barrels. (9.25% abv)
Cask conditioned selection.

THE 12th DAY OF BARLEYWINE – DEC. 21, 2015
2016 Dark Big Woody Barleywine aged 9 months in Jim Beam barrels. (10.90% abv)
2015 Imperial Stout aged 1 year in Buffalo Trace barrels. (10.31% abv)
Cask conditioned selection.

The cask conditioned selection varies each day, but is one of the following:
2016 Single Malt Big Woody Barleywine steel aged. (10.34% abv)
Belgian Dark aged 9 months in Buffalo Trace barrels. (8.10% abv)
Double India Pale Ale (8.00% abv)

This is a wonderful event, so if you love big beers you should definitely check it out before it's over. Glacier Brewhouse will also be doing a Blood Drive on Saturday, 12/19, from 11 AM to 6 PM. You can make an appointment on the brewery's website or just walk-in. Donors will receive a complimentary appetizer, a glass of root beer or cream soda, and a logo'd pint glass of their  choice. So if you'll be in Anchorage tomorrow, help save a life by donating some blood.

HooDoo Brewing is also having a public service event from 11 Am to 7 PM tomorrow: Reindeer & Beer, which is gathering contributions for the Fairbanks Food Bank.

Also, HooDoo Brewing was selected last week by the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce as this year's winner of the Bill Stroecker Business of the Year. Congratulations to Booby and the rest of the HooDoo team on this well-deserved honor.

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing.

King Street Brewing has released the last of its new Imperial series, the Imperial Stout.

Photo courtesy of King Street Brewing

 I also got to taste some of King Street's Oaked Old Ale at the Kenai Peninsula Brewing and Tasting Society's Christmas Party last weekend, and it was excellent!

Today at 5 PM at the brewery, Alaskan Brewing Company will be holding a Vertical Tasting of 15 years of its Alaskan Smoked Porter. Just $5 will get you samples of vintages back to 2001, and brewery staff will be on hand to discuss them.

Here on the Peninsula, St. Elias Brewing Company hasn't changed its tap line-up recently, but last Friday I helped Zach Henry brew a new beer which we will be calling H & H All-American Stout. Look for it to go on tap early next year. Also, Zach has decided to add his excellent Czech Pilsner to his list of flagship brews; it will replace the Even Keel Kolsch, which will become a seasonal. This is great news for me and every other craft beer lover in the area. The kolsch was fine, but the pilsner is outstanding!

Current seasonals at St. Elias

Speaking of the Peninsula, last week I stopped by Alaska Berries in Soldotna at 48660 West Poppy Lane, and spoke to owner Brian Olson. Along with his wife Laurie, he runs the only estate winery in Alaska. An estate winery is one where all the ingredients are produced on site; he doesn't use any grape concentrate or other ingredients except his own berries. I'm the first person to admit that I have zero palate for wine, but I enjoyed the samples I had and fell in love with the Haskap Jam. If you are a wine-drinker or just care about supporting a local business/family farm, you should stop by and check them out.

Fermentation room at Alaska Berries

Over at Kenai River Brewing, they have some new swag in which would make great Christmas presents. Stop by and check it out for anyone left on your gift-buying list. The brewery new construction was also featured in last week's Anchorage Press column by Dr. Fermento. Read it here.

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing

Kassik's Brewery is having a Christmas Sale, with 10% off all shirts, hoodies, and glassware.

Moving on to beer reviews, I've been pretty busy getting ready for Christmas, so only three new ones this time.

St. Elias Brewing's Kriek Lambic: This is another brew in Zach Henry's series of barrel-aged fruit beers. It poured a semi-translucent reddish color, with a small head that dissipated quickly to a collar. The nose was of tart cherries, but without any brett funkiness. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was fairly light. On the palate there was some tartness, along with good cherry flavor. Well-balanced and highly drinkable, it will be another popular addition to St. Elias's series of lambics.

St. Elias Brewing's Green Giant Imperial IPA: I reviewed an earlier version of this beer on 11/19/2014, but this release is sufficiently different that I thought it rated its own review. It poured a cloudy yellow-orange color with a small off-white head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma was chock full of tropical fruit and citrus; the Galaxy hops are strong in this one! Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium. The flavor profile is super tropical fruit juicy, almost like a stick of Juicy Fruit gum. The bitterness becomes more noticeable on the finish. Comparing it to my notes from last year, it seems to me that Zach has amped up the tropical fruit notes considerably in the version. And in the picture below, pay no attention to the logo on the growler; I got my glassware mixed up again...

Yes, it's a St. Elias Green Giant Imperial IPA...
Adnams Southwold's Tally-Ho Reserve (2012): I picked up this bottle at La Bodga earlier in the month. I was familiar with Adnams  Southwold 's Broadside Bitter from my time living in Britain, so I decided to give this English-style barley wine a try.  It poured a deep, semi-translucent ruby, with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The nose was full of the deep, rich malt flavor that comes from Maris Otter malt. The carbonation was okay, and the mouthfeel was quite good. The flavor profile was primarily malt, but very rich and complex, begging to be slowly sipped and savored. An excellent example of how time can improve a barley wine, this three-year-old beer is at its peak right now. An outstanding brew. 9 % ABV.

Well, that's about it for this time. I might get a blog out between Christmas and New Years, but it's probably just as likely that I won't. So let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2016. I'm sure the new year will bring us all many more wonderful new craft beers to enjoy.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Pearl Harbor Day

It's December 7th, "a date that will live in infamy," especially to a retired Naval Officer such as myself. I was stationed for three years at Sub Base Pearl, including 1991 for the 50th Anniversary of the attack. I don't know how many times I stood at attention to render honors as we passed the USS Arizona Memorial, or was topside for colors as the Ship's Duty Officer on a quiet Sunday morning, just like my predecessors were that fateful Sunday so long ago. Of course, I've also stood there at attention while the Japanese National Anthem played after our own, because there was a Japanese ship in port. It was a good reminder that whatever our current hostilities are, time heals all wounds.

Sub Base Pearl, December 7, 1941 The USS Narwhal fires on the attacking aircraft with her deck machine guns.

Sub Base Pearl today, with the USS Arizona and the USS Missouri in the foreground
As long as we're talking about historical dates, the Brewers Association has announced the end of the year numbers for breweries in the US. There are now 4,144 breweries in the US, which tops the previous all-time high of 4,131 in 1873. However, that should not indicate that there isn't room for any more. In 1873, the US population was only 42 million people, with breweries producing one barrel of beer for every 4.7 persons. Today, the population is 312 million, and we only produce one barrel of beer for every 14 persons. So we've still got a long way to go to match 1873 in beer production per capita.

But enough history, let's talk about Alaska beer. Elaine and I made another up-and-back shopping run to Anchorage on Friday, and I got a chance to make quick stops at  a couple of new establishments.

First, we stopped for an early lunch at the new Baked Alaska Alehouse in the Glenn Square Shopping Center in Mountain View, right next to the Bass Pro Shop. Dr. Fermento wrote about them extensively a couple of weeks ago (read his column here), so I won't repeat what he covered, but just add my impressions.


The back bar
Elaine and I both ordered burgers, which were excellent. The menu looked quite varied, and the other orders we saw being served (pizza, calzones, and sandwiches) all looked delicious. The place definitely has a sports bar vibe, with lots of big screen TVs, but they were turned down low, at least when we were there, so they weren't obtrusive. Service was good, with an order at a counter followed by table delivery. There also seemed to be a lot of take out orders. The beer selection looked pretty good, with lots of local beers on tap, and even some Duvel and Chimay bottles in the cooler. I did get the feeling that the beer was a bit of an afterthought, but perhaps that was only because it was early when we visited. Bottom line: while Humpy's and Cafe Amsterdam certainly don't have anything to worry about, the Baked Alaska Alehouse is a nice place to eat and have a decent beer in Mountain View. Or you could just get your food to go and head for the Resolution Brewing Company around the corner...

The second stop I made was to finally get out to Eagle Rive to check out Odd Man Rush Brewing Company, something I'd been trying to do since it opened in September.

Exterior of Odd Man Rush
Interior of Odd Man Rush

Current tap list

It was pretty quiet early on a Friday afternoon when I got there, which gave me to chance to chat for a few minutes with Reid MacDonald, the master brewer, who was manning the counter. A couple of folks came in for growler fills and a couple of people were enjoying beers and the view from the mezzanine. I only had small taster samples of three of the seven brews on offer, so no formal beer reviews, but I enjoyed them all. The Gordon Lyon Gose was easily the most unusual, light and spritzy, more at home on a warm spring day than in December, but still nice. The Pararescue 212 Vanilla Porter was nice and smooth, with lots of vanilla flavor. The UK Enforcer IPA is a variation on OMR's standard Enforcer IPA; it uses the same hops but replaces the American 2-row with Maris Otter malt. That classic malt gives it a rich backbone that helps balance the strong American hops. Reid told me that currently OMR's beers are only available at the brewery, though they may look at distributing to local bars and restaurants eventually. The brewhouse is a 10-barrel from Premiere Stainless, and they have three 20-barrel fermenters. Bottom line, we've got another fine local brewery in Alaska, something Eagle River has been sorely missing. It's a little out of my way, but I plan to be stopping in at Odd Man Rush Brewing every chance I get.

Let's move on to other beer news. As I reported in my last blog, La Bodega's third location, between REI and the Middle Way Cafe on Northern Lights, is now open. It's fairly small, with only 6 taps and a limited selection, but now there is a La Bodega option closer to downtown.

Photo courtesy of La Bodega

Arkose Brewery is continuing to expand its production capacity to support its new bottling operation. The brewery just took delivery of another 20-barrel fermenter. Here on the Peninsula, you can find Arkose Brewery beers at Country Liquors in Kenai.

Photo courtesy of Arkose Brewery
Gakona Brewing Company has its beers occupying both taps at the Trapper's Den at the Gakona Lodge, and sent kegs  of its Killer Rabbit IPA to the Texas Roadhouse at Tikahtnu in Anchorage earlier this month .

Photo of Killer Rabbit IPA kegs courtesy of Gakona Brewing

Winterlong Brewing Company in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, has started to bottle its beers, so if you are passing through while driving the Al-Can, be sure to look for them.

Photo courtesy of Winterlong Brewing

HooDoo Brewing Company's Belgian Golden Strong Ale went back on tap on 11/25. It  has also published its Saturday cask release schedule for the rest of 2015:

Anchorage Brewing Company has announced that there will be a limited release of its A Deal with the Devil Barley Wine this year. Because of the move to the new brewery, Gabe Fletcher did not brew any for release this year. However, three years ago, he filled a whiskey barrel with some of batch #2, where it has been ever since. At noon on January 10, 2016, 200 bottles of this very special beer will go on sale at the brewery for $50 each, limited one to a customer.  In case you are wondering if it is worth it, the latest issue of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine gave the regular A Deal with the Devil a perfect 100 rating. I wonder what they would give to this limited release? 100+?

From Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine
In addition to releasing its new Imperial Series beers, King Street Brewing Company released an Oaked Cherry Blonde on 11/25.

Photo courtesy of King Street Brewing

On the new breweries front, Quake Brewing's fundraising campaign has only 7 days left, and Bearpaw River Brewing in Wasilla has just announced the date of its grand opening: Saturday December 19th from noon to 8 PM. The brewery recently posted a picture of the completion of sealing its taproom floor. Looks like it's going to be a great place to drink some beer!

Photo courtesy of Bearpaw River Brewing
Here on the Peninsula, St. Elias Brewing Company has its Green Giant Imperial IPA back on tap, along with a Kriek Lambic. You should also check out its new December Pizza of the Month, the York. I had one on Saturday and it was excellent.

Tap list at St. Elias Brewing

At Kenai River Brewing Company, the Winter Warlock and Gummie Bear Tripel are finished, but a barrel-aged version of its Skilak Wee Heavy is on tap. See below for a review.

Finally, before we move on to reviews, I'd like to remind everyone about two opportunities coming up. First, Wynkoop Brewing's Beerdrinker of the Year contest is looking for submissions for the 2016 contest. I won this award myself in 2010 and had a wonderful time. The contest was on hiatus for a couple of years, but is now back in business. This time around, you can even submit a video resume if you'd like, but it's not required. For more information and to submit your entry, go to this webpage. You must submit your entry by February 1, 2016. Remember, if you don't enter, you're guaranteed not to win!

The second opportunity is the course I will be teaching next year at Kenai Peninsula College, The Art and History of Brewing (CED A157). I've taught this course annually since 2007, and it's a great deal of fun. We taste beer in class, tour the local breweries, and generally have a great time learning about beer styles, brewing, and pairing beer with food. The class is taught on Tuesday nights from 5:30 to 6:45 at the Kenai River Campus in Soldotna, starting on January 12 and running for 15 weeks. If you'd like more information or to sign up, call 262-0330.

Let's move on to beer reviews. I've got three this time.

Arkose Brewery's Boxcar Porter: I picked up a bottle of this at Country Liquors in Kenai.  It poured dark with ruby highlights and a nice tan head. The nose had some roasty notes, mouthfeel was light, and the carbonation was good. On the palate the roasted malt flavors were balanced, and the taste was very clean. Stylistically, I'd call it more of a brown porter than a robust one, and a very tasty one. 5.3% ABV.

Broken Tooth Brewing Company's Cocoa Caliente Porter: Another porter, but quite different from Arkose's. This one is made with the addition of both cocoa and hot peppers. It poured a deep ruby color with a nice cream-colored head. There was a hint of smoke in the aroma, either from the roast malt or, more likely, from the smoked peppers. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was nice. On the palate, besides the usual malt flavors, there was some richness from the cocoa and hints of spice from the chilies, which grew into a distinct warmth on the finish and as part of the aftertaste. I've always been a little leery of peppers in beer; sometimes they work quite well, but other times it can be a disaster. This beer is a bit in the middle: it tasted fine, but I'm not sure I liked the heat on the finish. 8.4% ABV, 30 IBUs.

Kenai River Brewing's Oaked Skilak Wee Heavy Ale: The Wee Heavy version of Kenai River's flagship ale has always been a huge favorite of mine; check out my review of it on 2/9/2009. The latest release of this beer spent a year and a day in a bourbon barrel. I believe the barrel was not particularly "wet", as the beer did not pick up a tremendous amount of bourbon flavor. What it did pick up was a great deal of oak, a nice addition to this strong, malty ale. If you like oaked beers or Scotch Ales, you should make it a point to taste this beer before it's gone.

Well, that's it for this time around. Good luck with the Christmas shopping, and I'll be back again in another week or ten days.

Until Next Time, Cheers!