Friday, February 26, 2016

Another Great Frozen River Fest!

It's been two weeks since my last blog, but that's because I was busy last weekend with the 2nd Annual Frozen River Fest here in Soldotna. I'm happy to report that the Fest was another big success, with even more folks attending than last year. Let's talk specifics.

First, on the Friday night before the Fest, we had a wonderful Meet the Brewers Dinner at The Flats Bistro in Kenai. Tickets were $50 each and all 80 tickets sold out. The dinner started off with cans of Kenai River Brewing's Peninsula Brewers Reserve as the welcome beer, then moved into a delicious five course meal. Here are some photos that I took:

Folks enjoying themselves at The Flats

Crispy Pork Belly paired with Arkose's High Ridge Double Red Ale
Chiffonade Crab Salad with Avocado paired with Bear Creek's Spring Harvest Wine
Braised Short Ribs on Sweet Potato Mash w/ Creamy Garlic Sauce paired w/ Denali's Schwartzbier and Broken Tooth's YellowEye PA
Triple Layer Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse Cake paired with Midnight Sun's Sloth Imperial Stout

I neglected to get a picture of the second course, which was a Sweet Curry Corn Chowder with Crab Stock, paired with St. Elias Brewing's H & H All-American Stout. Every course was excellent, and the pairings were spot on in almost every case. Everyone I spoke to at and after the dinner thought it was a great time, so I'm hoping it will be the first of many such evening here on the Central Peninsula.

On Saturday, the Frozen River Fest itself took place, from 3 to 6 PM. We had over a thousand attendees, and over 650 of them paid $25 for a commemorative mug and some beer tokens to sample the 13 different breweries, wineries, and meaderies present. That's up from 870 total last year, with only 601 drinkers. The weather wasn't bad for February, and the big snow didn't start until later that night, after the Fest was all over. I was pretty busy working as a volunteer, but I did manage to snap a few photos and sample a beer or two.

Opening the ticket booths

The view from the stage between bands

Music on the center stage, beer samples in the pavilions to the left and right of it.
Back a bit farther. You can see one of the four food vendors on the right.

Overall, it was another great Festival, followed by a fine after party for the participating breweries, held at the Kenai River Brewing's unfinished but still spectacular new brewery.

Christening the new tap room at KRB's new brewery

However, besides the Frozen River Fest, there's been some other news in beer around the state in the last couple of weeks.

HooDoo Brewing in Fairbanks received not one but two awards from the Chamber of Commerce. In early December, the three-year old company was recognized as the 2015 Bill Stroecker Business of the Year by the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce. Presented annually, The Bill Stroecker Business of the Year award honors the accomplishments in the business community of a member of the Chamber who has shown drive in leading local development with sights on the future of Fairbanks. The business is recognized for consistent community involvement, an excellent business reputation with the public, and as a leader in their own profession and/or field of business. Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce named HooDoo Brewing Company a 2016 DREAM BIG Blue Ribbon Small Business Award winner. The annual program recognizes companies for their dedication to the principles of free enterprise and contributions to restoring jobs and supporting economic growth. The 2016 DREAM BIG award winners were selected from a record number of applicants across the nation for demonstrating exceptional business practices in areas including strategic planning, employee development, community involvement and customer services. This also gives HooDoo a shot at an even bigger honor: All of this year’s winners will be honored at the 12th annual America’s Small Business Summit, which will take place June 13-15 in Washington, D.C. During the summit, one regional finalist will receive the DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Sam’s Club®, and a $10,000 cash prize courtesy of the U.S. Chamber. If you'd like to help them win this national honor, follow this link: and vote for them. Congratulations to Bobby Wilken and the rest of the team at HooDoo Brewing and best of luck in the final voting.

On the subject of awards, Prospectors Historic Pizzeria and Alehouse just outside Denali National Park, has been selected by as the Best Beer Bar in Alaska. Owned by the same group that owns 49th State Brewing, Prospectors has over 49 different craft beers on tap, from across Alaska and around the world. readers were asked to nominate their favorite craft beer bar in their state and fill out a short survey about what makes it so great including atmosphere, staff, beer selection and special events. Obviously Prospectors made a deep and favorable impression on the numerous tourists who visit Denali National Park each year; I know it did so on me. See my blog from 5/15 of last year to read about my most recent visit to Prospectors. Congratulations on the win!

Speaking of winners, Glacier BrewHouse will be holding another Dinner with the King event at 6:30 PM next Wednesday, March 2, at Orso's in Anchorage. Dine with Iditarod Champion Jeff King at this fundraiser for the Make a Wish Foundation. Tickets are $99; call 274-2739 for reservations and help support this worthy cause.

Click to enlarge
This isn't exactly Alaska news, but I thought I'd throw it out there. Everyone seems to think that China represents one of the great untouched areas for craft beer expansion. I wouldn't know about that; I'm not an expert on China's craft beer scene. However, someone who is an expert is Rick Green.

Rick Green

Rick lives in China and writes a newsletter about Chinese craft beer called The Great Hop Forward Leader. You can find him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Rick was kind enough to send me a review copy of his book How to Drink Beer in Mandarin. It's an English to Mandarin glossary of craft beer styles and terms. I don't read Mandarin, so I have to take Rick at his word as to its accuracy, but I can see how it would be extremely useful to the craft beer lover who found himself working or vacationing in China. So if that's you, click on the book name above to order yourself a copy and consider subscribing to Rick's newsletter.

Arkose Brewery is looking for a few good lady brewers to join them on March 5th to brew a beer to benefit the Pink Boots Society's scholarship program. They can only accommodate a limited number of brewers, so sign-up now by calling 746-BEER or emailing

It's Fur Rondy weekend, and Anchorage Brewing Company has released its version of this year's Rondy Brew. This year's batch is a Spelt Saison brewed with Motueka hops and Hibiscus! And Brett of course. Here on the Peninsula, you can find it at Country Liquors in Kenai.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

 Here on the Peninsula, besides the Frozen River Fest, the big news is that St. Elias Brewing Company has finally replaced its old and non-functional hand pump with a sleek new model.

St. Elias celebrated by putting a cask of its Williwaw IPA on last Thursday, 2/18. With the new hand pump, we should be able to look forward to regular offering of cask-conditioned beers in Soldotna.

Moving on to beer reviews, I only have three this time around.

Midnight Sun Brewing's 2016 Arctic Devil Barley Wine: This beer is a perennial favorite of mine, so I'm always stoked when it's released each year. Besides snagging as many bottles as I can afford to cellar, I usually have one "fresh", like this bottle. It poured a clear dark honey color, with a small-cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The nose was rich and deep, full of toffee and malty goodness, promising delights on the palate. The mouthfeel was medium and coating, with low but acceptable carbonation. The flavor profile was classic English barley wine: smooth and malty, with undertones of oak and alcohol warmth on the finish. Excellent now, but it will be sublime in 2 to 3 years. 13.4% ABV, 20 IBUs.

Arkose Brewery's High Ridge Double Red Ale: The bottle of this beer that I purchased at Country Liquors in Kenai had absolutely zero carbonation; a bad cap seal, I'm guessing. Fortunately, I got to taste it properly carbonated at the Meet the Brewers Dinner, so this review is based on that session. A clear ruby red in the glass with a nice cream-colored head that lingered. The aroma was definitely on the malty side, with no real hop notes. Mouthfeel was medium and carbonation was good. Smooth and rich, with lots of caramel notes; hops present for balance, not bitterness. A nice, easy drinker that paired well with the crispy pork belly it was served with. 6.8% ABV.

Broken Tooth Brewing's Darth Barrelium '14 Belgian Imperial Stout: The beer poured opaque with a small tan head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma had malty and roasty notes, plus hints of oak from the barrel aging and some alcohol. The mouthfeel was a touch thinner than I expected for such a big brew, and the carbonation was low but acceptable. On the palate, I picked up coffee, cocoa, and oak, along with some alcohol warmth, especially on the finish. A big, barrel-aged imperial stout, with all the elements you'd expect from such a beer. Very nice. 11.8% ABV, 40 IBUs.

Well, that's it for this time around. In case you haven't heard, The Redoubt Reporter will be ceasing publication, so my monthly column will no longer be appearing there. Meanwhile, enjoy this early Break Up we seem to be having here in Alaska.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

No comments: