Monday, March 7, 2016

Winter Makes a Brief(?) Comeback

It's March here on the Kenai, and for a bit it seemed like spring was already here. Then last Friday we got another couple of inches of snow, which snarled traffic all over Anchorage and the Valley, so we'll have to put the spring planting on hold for a while yet. On the plus side, it gives us a few more days to enjoy winter activities like skiing and snowshoeing; haven't been that many days this winter when you could do much of that.

First up this time, I'd like to start with a book review. The book is Beer Pairing: The Essential Guide from the Pairing Pros by Julia Herz and Gwen Conley. As you'd assume from the title, it's focused on pairing beer with food. Ten years ago, when I started developing my college class on beer, there were very few books on this subject; in fact, the only one I could find readily available was Garrett Oliver's classic The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food. However, in the last few years, more and more books on this subject have been published, with Beer Pairing being one of the most recent, just released in December. It's also one of the very best to date. The authors are certainly well-qualified to opine on the subject. Gwen Conley has had numerous jobs in the beer industry and is currently Director of Brewery Production, Quality and Interesting Brewery Things at Port Brewing /The Lost Abbey, while Julia Herz is the Craft Beer Program Director for the Boulder, Colorado based Brewers Association (BA) and Publisher of The book itself is lovely, a nice hardback printing, with lots of excellent color photos, interviews from other prominent individuals in the beer world, and plenty of sidebars to keep things interesting. The ideas presented are sophisticated and well thought out, and I found myself fascinated while reading it. If you are interested at all in pairing beer with food, I strongly suggest you check out this awesome book. You can find it in my Amazon Store or via clicking on the title above.

Moving on to news, Alaskan Brewing Company has made a couple of recent announcements. First up, its Jalapeno IPA is back as a Pilot Series release. You can read my review of a previous release in my 3/21/2014 blog.

Second, Alaskan Brewing has announced that its non-profit partner for 2016 will be the National Alliance for Mental Health 's local affiliate in Juneau, NAMI-Juneau. This means that all all tips collected at the brewery gift shop and tasting room, and money raised at brewery-hosted events like First Friday gallery walks and the annual Spring Fling, will go to NAMI Juneau. Additionally, Alaskan Brewing commits to donating beer and auction items for other events benefiting NAMI Juneau.

Finally, Alaskan has announced a new year-round beer: Kicker Session IPA. Weighing in at only 4.5% ABV, this is a beer designed to deliver lots of hop aroma and flavor, while keeping the alcohol level low enough so that you can enjoy more than one. Dry hopping with five varieties brings a high level of complexity to Kicker – both in aroma and flavor. Amarillo, Centennial, Citra, Simcoe and Mosaic hop flavors and bitterness come through boldly, with fruity flavors of strawberry and tangerine notes coming from the Citra and Amarillo, and a grapefruit and pine taste from the Simcoe and Mosaic. This is the first new six-pack beer that Alaskan has introduced since 2013, and it will be available in all 17 states where Alaskan's beers are sold.

Photo courtesy of Alaskan Brewing

Back on Monday, 2/29, Midnight Sun Brewing released an new Milk Stout with Vanilla Bean Beer. Here's the flier for it:

The Loft at MSBC is also accepting donations of non-perishable food items to help re-stock Bean's Cafe through this Thursday, March 10th.

Arkose Brewery released a new beer in its Small-Batch Nitro Series, Vanilla Orange Cream Ale. No growler fills, 12 oz. pours at the brewery only.

Anchorage Brewing Company released a video of the brewing of the next batch of its award-winning A Deal with the Devil Barley Wine. You can see it here. ABC has also announced that this batch will be aged in cognac, whiskey, rum, and apple brandy barrels, with each expression being bottled separately. Don't forget the upcoming Orval Day on Saturday, March 26th; it kicks off at Anchorage BC at 2 PM.

On March 1, HooDoo Brewing in Fairbanks released a Rauchbier.  Here's how they describe it:
"As with all of our German-style beers, the entire grain bill is brought to Fairbanks from Weyermann Malt, Bamburg, Germany. Half of the malted barley, called “rauchmalt” is kilned over an open beechwood smoke fire, lending a smooth, sweet, smokey character to this clean drinkable lager. PROST! 5% ABV 28 IBUs"

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing

Odd Man Rush Brewing in Eagle River is hosting a St. Patrick's Day Pub Run. Here's the flier for it:

Click to enlarge
Moving on to the Kenai, it looks like things are moving along for the soon-to-be newest brewery on the Peninsula, Grace Ridge Brewing in Homer. They have a permanent sign up now, and expect to have the taps flowing in May.

Photo courtesy of Grace Ridge Brewing

Kassik's Brewery was selected as "The Most Underrated Brewery in Alaska" by Thrillist. You can read the entire list here.

It's a sure sign of spring when the Blue Moon Burger food truck returns to the parking lot next to Kenai River Brewing Company. They are currently open Wednesday thru Saturday from 11 AM to 7 PM. Kenai River has also posted pictures of its new 20-barrel brew kettle being fabricated at Specific Mechanical Systems on the West Coast. The new brewery that will house it is also moving right along; they have begun painting the interior walls, and it looks like it's going to be a colorful place! The blue box overlooking everything will be owner Doug Hogue's office.

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing
At St. Elias Brewing Company, there's a new beer on tap: H & H All-American Stout. As with all H & H brews, I had a hand in helping to create this one. It's an adaptation on one of my homebrew recipes, which I originally created as a tribute to the late Bert Grant. Bert Grant opened the first brewpub in the US since Prohibition in 1982 in Yakima, WA. In 1984 he released an Imperial Stout, unlike any that had been brewed before. Grant's version was the first to be heavily hopped with that most American of hops, Cascades. It helped usher in the dominant influence of American hops in the American craft beer movement. Bert Grant passed away in 2001, but this beer is a small effort in remembrance of his massive contributions to American craft brewing. See below for a review. Here's the current tap list at St. Elias.

Okay, let's do some beer reviews.

St. Elias Brewing Company's H & H All-American Stout: This beer poured opaque with a nice tan head. The aroma is rich, with plenty of roasted notes as well as notes of Cascade hops. The beer has a medium mouthfeel and good carbonation. On the palate, there are roasted coffee flavors, which help to balance the malt backbone, plus lots of hop bitterness and flavor for the Cascades. Full disclosure, I helped to brew this beer, but I still think it's excellent. It straddles the border of the American Stout and Imperial Stout style categories at 8.7% ABV and 72 IBUs.

Anchor Brewing's Anchor Barrel Ale: Part of Anchor's Argonaut series, this beer was brewed as a tribute to pioneer craft brewer Fritz Maytag. It is in the style of an English Strong Ale and was aged in Old Potrero Rye Whiskey barrels and on staves from those barrels. It poured a very dark ruby color with a small, mocha-colored head. The aroma was primarily malt and caramel, with some hints from the barrel aging. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium. The flavor profile was strong and malty, with hints of rye whiskey on the long finish. The barrel aging is subtle, unlike some beer were it is over-powering. Very nice.

Anchorage Brewing's 2016 Rondy Brew: I purchased my bottle at Country Liquors in Kenai. This is a saison, brewed with Motueka hops from New Zealand and hibiscus flowers, and bottled with brett. It poured a lovely clear light ruby color (from the hibiscus), with a nice, slightly pink head. The beer was fermented in a wooden foudre, then dry-hopped with the Motueka hops and the hibiscus. It's dosed with brett, then bottled and allowed to condition for another two or three weeks. That's sufficient time for plenty of brett to express itself in the nose, along with lime notes from the hops and floral notes from the hibiscus. The mouthfeel was light and the carbonation excellent, giving the beer a spritzy, effervescent quality. The flavor profile was a balance of sweet and tart, with the tartness coming from both the brett and the hibiscus. The beer fell away to a very refreshing finish. Another amazing beer from the ever-amazing Gabe Fletcher; I'd say this is the best Rondy Brew to date! 6% ABV, 30 IBUs.

That's it for this week. Enjoy this last gasp of winter; pretty soon it will be the muddy mess that's Break Up.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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