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!

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