Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Another Player Joins the Game: Welcome to Bleeding Heart Brewery

It's mid-April and lots of things are beginning to bloom here in Alaska, including our newest crop of breweries. First out of the gate is Bleeding Heart Brewery in Palmer, which opened for business at noon on Saturday.

Stefan Marty and Zack Lanphier. Photo courtesy of Bleeding Heart Brewery
Looks like the initial tap list consisted of the brewery's four flagship brews: Grounds for Divorce Coffee Porter, Valley Trash Dirty Blonde, Kold Shoulder Kristallweizen and the namesake Bleeding Heart India Pale Ale. Bleeding Heart has also fired up a blog, with an initial post about how it got started. Congratulations on finally making it, guys,, and I can't wait to get up to Palmer and check things out.

While Bleeding Heart is open for business, Quake Brewing in Eagle River is still working towards that goal. As part of that effort, Quake has initiated a campaign to raise $10,000 to help finish the brewpub. Quake will also be unusual in that it will offer other breweries' beers, alongside its own. To my knowledge, the only other brewpub in the state doing that is the Seward Brewing Company. Here's a video from February, describing their plans.

If you'd like to contribute to getting Quake Brewing up and running, check them out on

Speaking of new breweries, there was a report in the Alaska Dispatch News that a business plan for a new brewery in Unalaska won first place and $20,000 in a contest sponsored by the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association and Aleut Corp. Josh Good is a 5th Grade teacher who hopes to open the Unalaska Brewing Company. He's obviously got a long way to go, but I certainly hope he's successful, even if it means a long trip to pay him a visit and sample his beers. You can read the entire ADN report here.

While new breweries are working to open, existing breweries continue to expand. Midnight Sun Brewing Company has just taken delivery of a fancy new bottling machine. Here are some pictures of it being delivered:

Images courtesy of Midnight Sun Brewing Company
At Kenai River Brewing Company's new brewery, Doug Hogue finished assembling the new 20-bbl brewhouse last week, so it's likely been plumbed in and wired to power by now.

Some assembly required... Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing.

Brewhouse in its new home. Photo courtesy of Kenai River.
Ed Miner of Gakona Brewing let me know that he has bought a 3-barrel brewhouse from Odd Man Rush Brewing in Eagle River. He should be picking it up this week, and then he will need to get it plumbed in and wired up, but he expects to have it up and running by the beginning of June, give or take. Along with his new tanks, this should significantly increase his production.

Over at Bearpaw River Brewing in Wasilla, they have finally gotten ahead of the demand curve enough to send some beer out to a few places around the area. As of last Thursday, Bearpaw River was on tap at:

  • Spenard Roadhouse
  • PubHouse
  • Settlers Bay Golf Course 
  • Fat Ptarmigan 
  • La Bodega 
  • ER Alehouse 
  • Palmer City Alehouse 
  • Schwabenhoff

Or just hit the brewery itself.

Moving on to beer events, at 6 PM on Thursday, April 28, Kinley's Restaurant and Bar in Anchorage will be hosting the Sierra Nevada Beer Makers Dinner,which will feature the beers of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, paired with the amazing food that Kinley's is known for. There will be six beers and five course, and the detailed menu is posted here. The cost is $70 per person; call 907-644-8953 to make reservations. I have attended beer dinners at Kinley's in the past, and they were all amazing, so if you will be in Anchorage next week, I'd definitely try to make this one.

49th State Brewing Company in Healy will be celebrating the end of its annual winter hibernation with a 2016 Kick Off Party on Saturday, April 30th. The brewpub will actually open next Monday, April 25th. There's rumor that there might even be a barley wine on tap during the first week in Healy!

49th State Brewing Company in Anchorage will be hosting an Audience Appreciation Show by the comedy improv group Scared Scriptless this Saturday, April 23rd,  from 8 to 9:30 PM.

La Bodega will be hosting a beer and small bites tasting with John Kathman of Rogue at its Northern Lights location on Tuesday, April 26th at 5:30 PM. $10 gets you beer samples and small bites. Seating is limited to 25, and tickets are only on sale at the Northern Lights store, next to Hearth.

Here on the Peninsula, the Three Bears Warehouse Store in Kenai has added a 6-tap growler bar to its liquor store. I'm told that the beers currently on tap are Elysian Brewing's Space Dust IPA, Alaskan Brewing's Honey Hemp Ale (ESB), Broken Tooth Brewing's Apple Ale, two beers from Glacier Brewhouse, and Kassik's Brewery's  Morning Wood IPA. This means we now have more growler fill options!

Moving on to beer reviews, I've got three for this blog.

Burton Bridge Brewing's Olde Expensive Ale: To be honest, I picked this one up on a whim at La Bodega because I liked the label design. It poured a deep copper color and was seriously over-carbonated, with a huge meringue-like head that took forever to settle, making this beer a real pain to pour. The aroma was zesty, with some pear-like notes. Too much carbonation, okay mouthfeel. Flavor profile seemed a bit off, which along with the excessive carbonation, makes me suspect problems with this beer. Some yeasty notes, but plenty of medicinal ones as well. Not really worth drinking, so I'm afraid I can't recommend this one, despite its cool label. 6.5% ABV.

Sierra Nevada Brewing's Otra Vez Gose-style Ale: This beer poured a cloudy gold with a white head that slowly dissipated to a collar. The nose had citrus & grapefruit notes. The mouthfeel was light and the carbonation was good. On the palate there was a subtle tartness, which made the beer seem light and refreshing, before making a nice, clean finish. I could see enjoying this on a hot day or pairing it with a nice, light salad. 4.5% ABV.

Black Raven Brewing's Splinters Bourbon-barrel Aged Scotch Ale: I am somewhat familiar with this brewery from its participation in the Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival, not to mention I'm a sucker for Scotch Ales, so when I saw this beer at La Bodega, I decided to give it a try. It poured a deep ruby color with a good cream-colored head. The aroma was strongly of bourbon, and only bourbon. Mouthfeel was good, a bit heavy as a Scotch Ale should be, and carbonation was okay. The flavor profile tracked with the aroma, i.e. overwhelmingly bourbon. For me, this beer illustrates the mistake many breweries make with barrel-aging: they allow the barrel to totally dominate the beer. If all I want is bourbon flavors, I'll drink bourbon! If I'm having a beer, I want it to taste primarily like beer, with some bourbon notes, not the other way round. However, if you want to drink a beer that tastes like bourbon and only bourbon, this one's for you. 10.8 % ABV.

That's it for this week. More news and reviews next week.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Support Your Local Brewery!

Support Your Local Brewery was created by the Brewers Association several years ago as a way to rally grassroots support for the craft beer industries in all 50 states. I first blogged about it over six years ago (2/16/2010) and have mentioned it on occasion since then. However, given the recent push by the governor to double our beer taxes here in Alaska, it seems like this might be a good time to mention it again. Basically, you can go to the website and see if there is any legislation pending on a state or federal level which would impact craft beer, read about it, and then decide if you want to contact your representatives and voice your opinion about it. If you don't want to check the website regularly, you can also sign up for email notifications, which are sent out whenever a local brewers guild needs to mobilize public support. Here's a much better known beer person than I to tell you why this is important:

So if you care about craft beer in Alaska or anywhere else, please go to and sign up.

Speaking of the Brewers Association, it has also released the list of the top 50 Craft Breweries in the US, based on volume of beer produced in 2015. Here's the graphic showing who and where they are, though several of these (marked with an asterisk) have been bought out by the mega brands, so they won't appear on next year's list.

Click to enlarge
You can see that in 2015, Alaskan Brewing Company ranked as Number 22 in total volume of craft beer produced.

If you haven't done so already, mark your calendars for the brand-new Alaska Crafted Festival on May 21st in Anchorage. As I mentioned in my last blog, this event is looking like it's going to be one of the premiere events of the beer season, especially for those of us who can't make it to the sold-out Haines Fest the following weekend. I'm even more excited about it now, as I've been asked to give a presentation on the history of brewing in Alaska and do a book signing as part of it. Tickets are selling fast, so if you plan to attend, you'd better buy yours sooner rather than later.

There will be a Beer Dinner featuring beers from 49th State Brewing Company this Wednesday, April 13, at The Sitzmark Bar & Grill in Girdwood. Here's the menu:

6 beers and 5 courses.
Prospectors Gold as a welcome beer.
1st) Roasted Pineapple, Jicama & Watercress Salad Crisp – Baked Blonde
2nd) Choucroute Garnie – Amber Borealis
3rd) Buffalo Style Fried Oysters w/ Celery Carrot Salad – Vagabond Saison
4th) AK Barley Risotto w/ Braised Beef Short Rib – Solstice IPA
5th) House Made Marshmallow “S’more” skewer – Smoked Marzen

There will be music by Melissa Mitchell and Spiff. Weather permitting, there will also be a bonfire.

The dinner starts at 7 PM and runs until 10. Tickets are $49 and are available at

I wrote last week about the opening plans for Bleeding Heart Brewery in Palmer. I also mentioned that Grace Ridge Brewing in Homer was not far behind. I've got some additional info on that opening, courtesy of Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts' column in last week's Anchorage Press. Here's the relevant quote:
 “We’re brewing our first beer in our system,” says owner/brewer Don Stead. “We’ll be opening in the first part of May, but we’ll definitely be open in time for the Shorebird Festival [May 12 through 15]. We want to open a little bit before that, but if this is my first brew, it will be tight getting it in before May” he says.
You can read the rest of the column for more details on the brewery's plans.

Not far behind Grace Ridge Brewing is Cynosure Brewing in Anchorage. It's located at 144 Potter Dr., just east of C Street, between Dowling and International Airport. It's the brainchild of Clarke Pelz, long-time head brewer at Broken Tooth Brewing. No firm date there yet, but the best estimate seems to be late May or early June for its opening.

Anchorage Brewing Company has announced that it will be partnering with The Motorcycle Shop to hold the First Annual Vintage Barrel and Bike Show at the brewery on Sunday, May 15th. More detail as they become available.

Here on the Peninsula, the big news is the arrival of Kenai River Brewing's new 20-barrel brewhouse from Specific Mechanical. It's been delivered to the new brewery (see pictures below, courtesy of Kenai River Brewing); now Doug Hogue just need to figure out how to put it all together!

New Mash Tun

New Hot Liquor Tank
Talking with Doug, I learned he plans to hold the Grand Opening of the new brewery on Saturday, June 18th, to coincide with Kenai River's 10th Anniversary Celebration. The brewery will have a soft opening before that in mid- to late May, stay tuned for the exact date. Here's the tap list at Kenai River as of Tuesday, April 5:

That's about it for news this week, so let's do a couple of beer reviews.

Alaskan Brewing's Kicker Session IPA: I first wrote about this beer back on March 7th, based on a press release from Alaskan, and I've been waiting to see it show up on our local shelves. I finally found some last week at Country Liquors in Kenai, so here's a review. It poured a clear gold with a slight red tint and a large white head that left good lacing on the glass. The aroma was of citrusy American hops. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. The initial bitter attack is restrained, greatly increasing the drinkability, followed by nice hop flavor and aroma on the back end. Finish is a tad quicker than I would like, but it leaves you eager for another sip. If you are looking for a hoppy beer that you can drink several of without suffering palate fatigue, this is a fine choice. 4.5% ABV, 45 IBUs.

Kenai River Brewing's Dr. Rudi Imperial Rye Pale Ale: If the previous beer is designed for sustained drinking, this beer is its antithesis. It's a clear, reddish-gold in the glass with a small cream-colored head. The nose is balanced between malt notes and Dr. Rudi hops. The mouthfeel is medium and the carbonation is good. The initial attack has a ton of bitterness, but there are some balancing caramel notes, followed by more hop flavor, as it falls away to a long finish. At 9.2% ABV and 103 IBUs, the beer is not one you're likely to have more than one of, but it's excellent nonetheless.

Well, that wraps things up for this week. Get out and enjoy this great spring weather with some excellent craft beer and support your local brewery!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

It's Spring in Alaska and the New Breweries Are Blooming...

It looks like spring might be here on the Kenai Peninsula for real this time. Granted, it can still get below freezing at night, but we are seeing some warm sunny days that have pretty much taken care of all the snow an dice on the ground. Plants are starting to bud, and soon it will be time to start planting things in the garden. Of course, this also means we're getting into fire season again. After two pretty bad years, I hope this one is a quiet one here on the Peninsula.

Photo courtesy of Bleeding Heart Brewery

It's also springtime in the beer world, with new breweries starting to open like flowers. Bleeding Heart Brewery in Palmer has received its final license from the sate, and plans to open this month. Here's the word, straight from Bleeding Heart:

"We will be having our Soft Opening the 16th of April, 12 - 8. We will then be involved in the "Who Let the Girls out" event in Palmer the following weekend and starting April 28th we will begin holding Brewery Hours. Currently our projected days/hours will be Thurs/Fri 4-8, Sat 12-8."

Bleeding Heart is a true nanobrewery, as it will only be brewing one barrel batches, and has a tasting room with a capacity of only 20 persons. You can only find its beers at the brewery and at three or four local places in Palmer. Initial beer offering will include Bleeding Heart IPA, Kold Shoulder Kristalweizen, Valley Trash Dirty Blonde, and Grounds for Divorce Coffee Porter. The brewery is located at 16013 E. Outer Springer Loop Road in Palmer, just south of the golf course.

Photo courtesy of Grace Ridge Brewing

Only a couple of weeks behind Bleeding Heart, Grace Ridge Brewing in Homer also received its final state license, meaning it will also be opening soon. Grace Ridge is planning to open on May 12th, I believe. It will be a bit bigger than Bleeding Heart, more on the scale of Resolution Brewing in Anchorage. Check out my 11/9/2015 blog for more details on Grace Ridge.

Photo courtesy of Grace Ridge Brewing

The opening of two more breweries (the 26th and 27th in the state, I believe), just mirrors the national trend. The Brewers Association has published the numbers for breweries opening in 2015, and here's the graphic showing them:

Click to enlarge
Growth in both the number of breweries and the volume of both beer and dollars value continues at a rapid pace. If you have any doubt why AB-InBev & MillerCoors are snapping up craft breweries, this graphic should make it clear.

Saturday, March 26th was Orval Day at Anchorage Brewing Company. It began at 2 PM, and by the time I arrived at 2:45, all of the aged Orval was already gone. I could only stay for about 45 minutes, which only gave me time to enjoy one glass of fresh Orval and some delicious Orval cheese, but the place was packed with people enjoying themselves. I haven't heard if all the Orval Gabe Fletcher had acquired was consumed, but I wouldn't be surprised. Here are some photos I snapped of the event:

Busy serving counter

Orval beer and Orval cheese

Live music

Delicious Dave was in the house!

View from behind the counter

I have gotten more details on the Alaska Crafted Festival, which will be held on 21 May in Anchorage. As I mentioned in my last blog, this new festival is sponsored jointly by the Brewers Guild of Alaska and the Distillers Guild of Alaska, and will showcase local food and beverages. This event will be huge, encompassing the entire city block containing Williwaw, Humpy's, Flattop, and Sub-Zero, including F Street between 6th and 7th and the parking lot behind Sub-Zero. I'm told that the food and beverages will be grouped by regions of the state. Tickets are on sale now, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they sell out, so if you want to attend, I'd grab one now.

Speaking of food, Midnight Sun Brewing Company has posted the menu for its Beer Brunch, happening next Saturday, April 9th. No reservations, just first come, first served.

Click to enlarge
Also, there will be a MSBC Bacon & Beer Tap Takeover at Lavelle's in Fairbanks on April 23rd. Finally, Midnight Sun's Sloth Belgian-style Imperial Stout was selected as on of the 101 Best Beers In America by Men's Journal Magazine. The other winner from Alaska was Anchorage Brewing's A Deal with the Devil Barley Wine. MSBC also won Best Brewery in a recent KTUU Channel 2 Viewers' Choice poll.

Arkose Brewery is continuing its Small-Batch Nitro series, with Hazelnut Chocolate Porter.

Baranof Island Brewing Company is holding its annual keg hunt. Two kegs have already been found, but I believe a third is still in play...

Keg #1 found. Photo courtesy of Baranof Island BC

Keg #2 found. Photo courtesy of Baranof Island BC
Gakona Brewing Company just took delivery of two new 1-barrel fermenters, which should increase its capacity significantly. Ed Miner is getting back in the brewing groove after a nice winter's rest.

Here on the Peninsula, I bumped into Frank & Debbie Kassik yesterday, and they told me they had just returned from driving to British Columbia to purchase a new brite tank for Kassik's Brewery. At Kenai River Brewing Company, they are getting closer and closer to being able to start moving into the new brewery later this month. There is also a new brew on tap, Dr. RIRPA, which stand for Dr. Rudi Imperial Rye Pale Ale. At St. Elias Brewing, Green Giant DIPA has been replaced in the tap list with Goat Dope Bock. Zach Henry is also working on installing a new 10-tap tower on his bar in the next couple of weeks. Here's the current St. Elias tap list:

That's it for news. Moving on to reviews, I only have two new beer reviews this time, but I do have a product review, so let's start with that.

The Koolernaut: this is a more sophisticated version of the traditional beer koozie. Besides insulating your beer to help it hold its temperature, the Koolernaut has a built-in temperature indicator, so you know exactly how cold (or warm) your beer is. It also comes with small "ice pucks" that you can freeze and then insert into the Koolernaut under your beer bottle or can to help it stay cold. Here in Alaska, it would need to be a pretty hot summer day for you to really need the pucks, but I can see how they might be needed in, say, New Orleans where I grew up. The Koolernaut even has a nice beer style vs. serving temperature guide printed on the back. You could also use it by first inserting a warm beer into it and then sticking it into the fridge or freezer. The temperature indication would then tell you when your beer had reached a proper serving temperature. So if you typically use a beer koozie, I'd recommend you consider upgrading to The Koolernaut. It will run you $15 plus shipping.

The Koolernaut and two ice pucks

50F? Looks like my Twister Creek IPA is ready to drink!

Kenai River Brewing's I'll Have Another Hoppy Lager: This was originally released back in January, as part of Alaska Beer Week, but I didn't get to try it until now. It poured a clear, light honey color, with a nice white head and good lacing on the glass. The aroma had lots of what I think were Citra hop notes. The carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. There was a nicely bitter initial attack, followed by lots of hop flavor, against a clean tasting malt background. Very nice.

Ballast Point Brewing's Grunion Pale Ale: Another beer which has only recently become available in Alaska. It poured a clear copper color, with an off-white head. The nose was a mixture of citrus and melon notes from the hops used. Carbonation and mouthfeel were both good. On the palate there was moderate initial bitterness, followed by lots more fruit & melon-like hop flavors. If you like fruity hop notes, this is the pale ale for you. 5.5% ABV, 50 IBUs.

Well, that's it for this week. Get out and enjoy our new spring weather and make plans to visit some of the new breweries which are opening across the state. Will we make it to 30 by the end of the year? Maybe...

Until Next Time, Cheers!