Monday, May 30, 2016

The New Kenai River Brewing Is Open!

It's been a long time coming (kinda like this blog post), but Kenai River Brewing has finally completed its move to its new brewery and is open for business! The new building opened its doors to the public last Wednesday, and owner Doug Hogue was planning to brew on his new 20-barrel system for the first time last Thursday. I arrived about 10 minutes after the doors opened, but there were already folks in the tap room celebrating. Here are some photos of the soft opening taken by my wife Elaine:

Front-side of the brewery, with main entrance on the right.

The first crowd. The round area at the end of the bar will be reserved for growler fills.

A 100-barrel, an 80-barrel, two 40-barrel, and three 20-barrel conicals

Looking down on the brewing floor from the grain storage 

The new 20-barrel brewhouse from Specific Mechanical

Another angle on the brewhouse

18 regular taps plus 3 nitros!

The covered patio out back

The tap room from the patio door

While the new brewery is open now, the Grand Opening Celebration won't be happening until June 18, which is also Kenai River Brewing's 10th Anniversary. There will be live music and the beer line-up will be retro, featuring the beers that were on on tap when Kenai River first opened its doors ten years ago. Congratulations to Doug and the rest of the Kenai River Brewing Team on bringing their vision into reality.

As long as we're talking about improvements to Peninsula breweries, let's talk about the new layout of St. Elias Brewing Company's bar. Zach Henry has completed the installation of the new 12-tap tower for his beers and a smaller tower on the back bar for his house wines. Here are some photos of the new layout.

The new 12-tap beer tower

The new back bar layout

In addition, St. Elias has two new beers on tap. The Bavarian Hefeweizen is back for the summer, and is being poured in the traditional 20 oz. glasses. There is also a new lambic style on offer, brewed with a combination of apples and raspberries, which Zach is calling Frapple Lambic. Also, the H&H All-American Stout is now being offered in pints, rather than just goblets. Here's is a tap list, but this photo was taken before the Hefeweizen was added.

Since my last blog, we've had two big beer events here in Alaska. On Saturday, March 21st, the Alaska Crafted Festival took place in downtown Anchorage, and I attended it. The weather was fairly uncooperative, with light rain and gusty winds, but those who braved the elements had a wonderful time. The live music was great, the food on offer was excellent, and the beers, wines, mead, ciders, and spirits were superb. I hope there will be more such events in the future to continue to showcase the remarkable crafted beverages being produced in Alaska.

Click to enlarge

This weekend just passed was the 24th Annual Alaska Craft Beer and Homebrew Festival in Haines. I wasn't able to attend this year, but I'm sure that it was the same great event that it always is, with the Brewers Dinner on Friday evening and the Festival itself on Saturday afternoon. I know tickets to both sold out well in advance and that there were 20 breweries in attendance from across Alaska, including Kodiak Island Brewing, plus Yukon Brewing and Winterlong Brewing from the Yukon Territory in Canada. Senator Lisa Murkowski attended the Brewers Dinner, which was produced by Chef Travis Kukull of Seattle for the fourth year. This is the oldest beer festival in Alaska and always a wonderful time.

 May is a big month for brewery anniversaries. Besides Midnight Sun Brewing's 21st Anniversary on May 5, Glacier BrewHouse celebrated its 20th on May 20th, and Kassik's Brewery opened on Memorial Day Weekend ten years ago. Winterlong Brewing of Whitehorse will mark its one year anniversary on Wednesday, June 4th. Winterlong will be celebrating by releasing its Spruce Tip Ale, a Belgian-style saison, as well as having prizes, giveaways, and treats.

Click to enlarge

On the list of not-so-good news, it was announced on Friday, May 20, that SubZero Microlounge was closing, effective immediately. Apparently, the plan is to expand Flattop Pizza + Pool into the space that SubZero formerly occupied. Here's the statement from the owners:

"Although it was harrowing to announce that Sub Zero was closing last Saturday, we are excited to announce that the closure was for the summer expansion of Flattop Pizza + Pool. The expanded bar and restaurant space will now be open 7 days a week. Rest assured that we are incorporating many of the Sub Zero favorites, including our spectacular Kobe beef sliders, creative craft cocktails, and Belgian beer selections into Flattop’s expanded menu."
"We’d like to thank our friends, family, patrons and vendors for your tenacious support over the last ten plus years – and we thank our exceptional staff. We are so proud of the strides our team has made in recent years and the awesome amount of blood, sweat and tears they dedicated to Sub Zero. They worked hard to bring an incredible dining & beverage experience to each and every one of our guests. Sub Zero will live on in many features and menu items incorporated into the expansion of Flattop Pizza + Pool as well as its sister restaurant Williwaw. It is important to note that our valued Sub Zero bartenders, chefs, and servers are now part of our exceptional teams at Humpy’s, Flattop, and Williwaw."
"Sub Zero has been privileged to be a part of so many special life occasions - first dates, 21st birthdays, and wedding receptions; and to have played a part in nurturing the culinary & cocktail movement in the Anchorage food community. It’s our goal to continue this legacy by evolving our bars and restaurants to meet the expectations of our loyal local guests as well as visitors to our great city.
Stay tuned over the summer and fall for new and exciting changes to the corner of 6th & F!"

While I can see how SubZero might be a bit redundant, now that the Williwaw complex has opened, I will still miss it. I have some great memories of that bar, especially the Beer Dinners held there during Alaska Beer Week.  So long, old friend.

There's a new quarterly magazine coming out in June which should be of interest to the craft beer drinker in Alaska. Its called Edible Alaska, and will cover locally produced food and drink. Full disclosure, I will be doing some writing work for them. Here a shot of the cover of the first issue:

I mentioned that Kodiak Island Brewing was at the Haines Beer Fest last Saturday. If your summer travels should take you to The Rock, be sure to stop in and try its excellent beers. Here's a current tap list:

Click to enlarge

Well, that about covers the recent beer news. I've got five beer reviews for this blog, two of which are of classic Trappist ales that I've had many times but never got around to formally reviewing. Let's start with those.

Rochefort 6 Trappist Ale: It poured a lovely dark copper color with a big, off-white head. The aroma featured the classic Belgian dubbel profile of dark fruit notes (plums and raisins) plus the spicy, phenolic contribution of a Belgian yeast. The mouthfeel was fairly light and the carbonation was good. On the palate, the dark fruit and yeast notes were repeated, though the overall impression was of a lighter beer than many other dubbels out there. One of the classic Trappist Ales. 7.5% ABV.

Rochefort 8 Trappist Ale: It poured a dark but still translucent ruby color with a large and persistent cream-colored head. Again, the nose was dark fruit and yeast notes. The mouthfeel was medium and noticeable fuller than that of the 6, while the carbonation was excellent. The flavor profile was also similar to the 6's, but fuller, richer, and more complex. The finish was nice and also noticeably longer than that of the 6. 9.2% ABV.

Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp 2016 Tropical IPA: It poured a clear gold color with a nice white head that left good lace on the glass. The aroma certainly lived up to the beer's name, being chock-full of tropical fruit notes. The mouthfeel was light and the carbonation was good. The initial bitterness was good but not excessive, followed by plenty of clean, fruity hop flavors. A nicely-made brew. If you like your IPAs tropical, this one delivers. 6.7% ABV, 55 IBUs.

Brouwerij Van Steenberge's Gulden Draak 9000 Quad: It poured a dark, clear copper color with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The nose was full of raisins and figs, plus the spicy notes of the Belgian yeast. Mouthfeel was fairly light for the style, with satisfactory carbonation. On the palate the beer was fairly dry, with more dark fruit notes, followed by some alcohol heat on the finish. A nice Belgian strong dark ale, drier than most but still rich and satisfying. 10.7 % ABV, 25 IBUs.

Seward Brewing's Lazy Otter Lager: I picked this up on May 7th and drank it 19 days later, but the beer was still in perfect shape, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the crowler that it was packaged in. It poured a very light gold color, clear with a white head. The aroma was of malt and some crisp hop notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. On the palate, the malt and hops were in balance, making for an extremely drinkable brew. The perfect beer to have outside on a sunny day or after mowing the lawn, plus one that would pair well with almost any sort of food. 5.6% ABV.

That's it for this time. I hope everyone gets out and enjoys the excellent weather we are having here in Alaska. Remember to be careful with fire; everything is tinder dry out there, so it won't take much to get a huge blaze started.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Seward Brewing Company and Grace Ridge Brewing Company

With the coming of spring here on the Peninsula, plants are budding and breweries are opening and reopening. In the reopening category, Seward Brewing Company opened its doors for the season on Thursday, May 5th. I managed to get over there on Saturday, May 7th, to check things out. Here are some photos, courtesy of my wife, Elaine.

On the exterior, there's now a nice sign, though the brewery was never very hard to spot.

Heading inside, the first obvious change is that the big screen TVs have been removed from the bar, something I wholeheartedly approve of. If sports are what you're looking for, go to a sports bar. Me, I'm here for the beer.

The crowler machine is up and running, so you can can a 32 oz. can of delicious beer filled to order, and expect it to keep for a nice, long time. This is my crowler of Lazy Otter Lager being filled.

I chatted with owner/brewer Erik Slater for a few minutes, but he was shorthanded in the kitchen and was helping out on the cooking line, so we couldn't talk long. There is a new menu, which you can find on the brewery's website. I had a Pretzel appetizer and Mac's Meat Sandwich; both were excellent. My only disappointment was that the Inked Out Stout wasn't quite ready to drink, so I had a Pinbone IPA instead. The stout was delayed by a leaking man way cover, but it's on tap now. I snapped a picture of my IPA.

Pinbone IPA
It had tons of citrusy, American hop flavor to it. So, if you find yourself in Seward this summer, you should definitely stop by and check out the Seward Brewing Company.

In the opening brewery category, Grace Ridge Brewing in Homer opened for business at noon on Thursday, May 12. I stopped by about 1 PM, and it looked like there was a steady stream of folks dropping in to check things out. Don Stead and his wife Sherry were behind the counter, serving three different beers:

  • Kayak Beach Blonde Ale                  4.6% ABV      21 IBUs
  • Sadie Peak IPA                                 5.8% ABV     55 IBUs
  • Oystercatcher Stout                          4.5% ABV     32 IBUs (draft only, no growlers)

I tried samples of all three and enjoyed them all. The Kayak Beach Blonde has a nice clean taste, with a bit of hops but nothing to scare away the average macro beer drinker. Sadie Peak IPA uses Centennial hops in the boil and Amarillo and Simcoe as dry hops. It has lots of great hop flavor, but is fairly well balanced and very drinkable. The Oystercatcher Stout was brewed specially to celebrate the Shorebird Festival, and the ingredients included 10 dozen raw oysters in the 3-barrel batch. To my palate, the oysters gave it a hint of briny, marine flavor, which along with the roasted flavors made a delicious combination. Hours for Grace Ridge Brewing are currently 4 to 8 PM on Thursday, and noon to 8 PM on Friday and Saturday. The rest of the week it is closed, so Don can have time to brew and to sail. Here are some photos of the new brewery, also taken by my wife Elaine:

Sherry Stead waiting on customers

There is also an art exhibit in the brewery

Don Stead and yours truly chatting in the front of the brewing area

Grace Ridge's brewhouse

The exterior of Grace Ridge Brewing in Homer
It's currently American Craft Beer Week, and lots of breweries across the state have held or are holding events to celebrate it; too many to list here, so check your local brewery's website or Facebook page to see what it might be doing. However, we are counting down to a big event to wrap up the week: the First Annual Alaska Crafted Festival this Saturday, May 21, in Anchorage. Lots more details on the event have been released. Most importantly, you can get a 10% discount on your tickets using the promo code "Crafted", so if you haven't bought tickets yet, now's a good time. Here's the schedule for the Performance Stage:

  • 5 to 5:40 PM : Nervis Rex preforms, representing Anchorage
  • 6  to 6:40 PM: Denali Cooks performs, representing the Mat-Su
  • 7 to 7:40 PM: Strummin Dog & Double G performs, representing Southeast
  • 8 to 8:40 PM: Young Fangs performs, representing the Interior
  • 9 to 9:40 PM: Blackwater Railroad Company performs, representing the Kenai Peninsula

On the Williwaw Stage, there will be presentations and demonstrations:

  • 5:30 PM Meet the Author: I will be giving a presentation on Gold Rush Era Brewing 
  • 6:00 PM The Art of the Beer Cocktail
  • 6:30 PM Alaska Crafted Cocktail Competition
  • 8:30 PM Demonstration: Chilkoot Coffee by SteamDot
  • 9:00 PM Beer Trivia Contest for prizes

There will be five food trucks and thirteen other vendors there selling food and other items. Plus all the breweries, wineries, distilleries, etc. giving samples of their products. Here's a graphic that shows who will be there and where they are located in the state:

Putting it all together, this is going to be one amazing event. I'll be there and I hope you will be as well.

Speaking of American Craft Beer Week, both HooDoo Brewing Company and 49th State Brewing are participating in its "Biggest Small Beer Ever Made Event", where craft breweries across the country will be brewing the same beer recipe, an imperial porter.  Here's a video about it:

I believe you will be able to sample the beer at the Alaska Crafted Festival, as well as at these breweries. Also as part of American Craft Beer Week, there will be a National Toast at 4 PM Alaska Time tomorrow, Thursday, 19 May. If you can, try to raise a glass with the rest of the craft beer lovers across America at that time.

Let's move on the some other beer news.

First up, Midnight Sun Brewing has announced that it will be releasing its Panty Peeler Tripel in cans, making it the fourth beer to join MSBC's canned offerings. The label has been approved by the feds and the brewery is just waiting on the cans to be made and delivered, so look for them to hit the shelves sometime mid-summer. MSBC has also released its Buzzwinkle Sour Wheat Ale, which I wrote about in my last blog.

Click to enlarge

Alaskan Brewing Company has made a couple of major announcements. First, long-time Chief Operations Officer, Linda Thomas, has been named the new CEO, while the founders of the company, Geoff and Marcy Larson, are looking forward to dedicating more time towards building the pioneering legacy of Alaskan, focusing on innovation and the spirit of craft brewing. Second, Alaskan will begin distributing its beers across Ohio this summer. Ohio will be the 18th state to which Alaskan sends its beers, and also the easternmost one.

Starting May 31st, La Bodega will be holding a beer tasting event focused on a local brewery every other Tuesday at the beer garden at Jack Sprat Restaurant in Girdwood. First up, 49th State Brewing. Here's the ad for the events:

King Street Brewing Company just released a new seasonal brew yesterday: a Belgian Rye IPA.

Arkose Brewery is continuing its Small Batch on Nitro Series. Last Thursday, it was Black Cherry Porter.

It's Spruce Tip Time in Southeast. At Haines Brewing, the Captain Cook's Spruce Tip Ale is back on tap.

Photo courtesy of Haines Brewing

This Saturday, from 3 to 8 PM, it's the Spruce Tip Festival at Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka.

Click to enlarge

Here on the Peninsula, St. Elias Brewing Company has a new beer on tap: Frapple Lambic. It's flavored with both apples and raspberries, then barrel-aged with brettanomyces. At Kenai River Brewing, they are in the throes over trying to plan and execute the move into the new brewery. All questions about opening dates are being referred to a Magic 8-Ball...

That's it for news, so let's move on to reviews.

I paid a visit to Costco recently, and while I was there I came across a 4-bottle variety pack from Sierra Nevada Brewing. It was called the High Altitude Series, and consisted of Dunkelweizen Bock, Six Rights  Double IPA, Chocolate Chili Stout, and Bourbon-barrel-aged Bigfoot Barley Wine. The bottles were bomber sized, and the whole pack was only $29.99, which I thought was a pretty good price, so I picked one up. I've reviewed the Barrel-Aged Bigfoot before, so I'm only going to do the other three today.

Sierra Nevada's Dunkelweizen Bock: It poured opaque with a small, cream-colored head. The aroma was of roasted malt and chocolate. The mouthfeel was good and so was the carbonation. The flavor profile was slightly sweet, with lots of rich, deep flavors of roasted malts, falling away to a long finish. It reminded me of a nice dessert, rich and satisfying. 7.2% ABV

Sierra Nevada's Six Rights IPA: It poured a clear copper color with a big, off-white head. The nose was all citrusy American hops, but with a slightly unusual element that reminded me of tangerines. The mouthfeel was light and the carbonation was excellent. The initial attack had good bitterness, but balanced with a robust malt backbone. Overall, a very nice beer, walking the line between a single and double IPA. 8% ABV

Sierra Nevada's Chocolate Chili Stout: I approached this brew with some trepidation, as I am typically not a fan of chili in beers. It poured opaque with a big tan head. The aroma was of dark chocolate and malted milk. Mouthfeel  and carbonation were both good. On the palate there were rich chocolate and roasted notes up front, then the slightest amount of chili heat on the finish. The chili was very understated, which is how I like it if it has to be there at all; your mileage may vary. 8.5% ABV

Black Market Brewing's Seek & Destroy Smoked Quad IPA: With a style like a that, it was hard to know what to expect for this beer. It poured a deep copper color with a big, off-white head that left good lace on the glass. The nose was smoke free, with only notes from the American hops. Mouthfeel was medium, and the carbonation was excellent. There was good bitterness up front, followed by mild smoke flavor. Surprisingly, I got no heat from the 12.7% ABV. There a lot going on in this beer, but I'm not really sure everyone's on the same page. Still, it was not a total train wreck, so if you are curious what a "smoked quad IPA" tastes like, give it a try.

That's it for this time. Next time round, I should have a report on how things went at the Alaska Crafted Festival. Enjoy the rest of American Craft Beer Week.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Happy 21st Birthday to Midnight Sun Brewing Company!

This Thursday, May 5th, will be the 21st anniversary of Midnight Sun Brewing Company opening its doors, way back in 1995. While I've only been in Alaska since 2004, I still remember visiting its cramped original location on Arctic Blvd, next to the taxidermist's shop. As the second oldest operating brewery in Alaska (after the venerable Alaskan Brewing Company, which will turn 30 this fall), Midnight Sun has come a long way from those early days. You can read about its trials and tribulations in my book Alaska Beer: Liquid Gold in the Land of the Midnight Sun if you are so inclined.

For the celebration on Thursday, which starts at 5 PM, MSBC will be tapping a firkin of Panty Peeler Tripel, cask conditioned with tequila soaked staves and lime zest. There will be 21 beers on offer, either on tap or in bottles. Friday will be First Firkin Friday,with a special art show featuring art from the brewery's crew and their loved ones. There will be a firkin of  5000 Berliner Weisse, tapped at 5 pm. Then on Saturday there will be another Beer Brunch in The Loft, from 11 am to 3 pm. Here's the menu:

Click to enlarge

Midnight Sun has also posted a photo of the label for a new beer it will be releasing soon: Buzzwinkle Sour Wheat Ale, featuring the moose made famous in Chad Carpenter's Tundra comics.

Photo courtesy of Midnight Sun

Congratulations again to Midnight Sun and I'm looking forward to the next twenty-one years!

Speaking of May 7th, Arkose Brewery will be holding a special Mother's Day Edition of its popular Beer Meets Chocolate at 3 PM. Enjoy four handcrafted chocolates from JB Chocolatier paired with four artisan ales from Arkose. 21 yrs and older. $25. Buy tickets online or call 746-BEER. Arkose is also continuing its Limited Release Nitro Series, with Key Lime Pie Pale Ale still on tap at last report.

Photo courtesy of Arkose Brewery

Up in Healy, 49th State Brewing opened its doors on 25 April and held a grand opening party last Saturday, April 30th. This Saturday, May 7th, Prospectors Pizzeria will be holding its opening party. Doors open at 4 PM, and music starts at 8 PM from The Kris Eli Jones Band and Hall, Tark, and Dansom. No cover charge.

Anchorage Brewing Company will be releasing a new beer on Thursday, May 5th, Crazy Ray's IPA. This will be the first IPA that ABC has bottled on a regular basis for the fishing season. The Crazy Ray Boat and Crew will be there along with Kodiak Custom Lures and the folks from Port Ashton Lodge. They will be serving some of their famous salmon tacos! Here are pictures of the bottle:

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company
Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

Grace Ridge Brewing Company has been posting on its Facebook page as beers have been brewed and kegged. Looks like it will be open at noon on next Thursday, May 12th, just in time for the kick-off of the Shorebird Festival down in Homer. Owner Don Stead is initially offering five core beers: Sadie Peak IPA, Jackalof Porter, Diva’s Toasted Nuts Brown Ale, Oystercatcher Stout, and Kayak Beach Blonde.

Photo courtesy of Grace Ridge Brewing
The First Annual Alaska Crafted Festival on May 21st is less than three weeks away now, and excitement for it continues to build. The organizers have released a graphic, showing all the producers that will be in attendance.

I've been asked to give a short presentation on brewing in Alaska prior to Prohibition, plus I'll be signing copies of my books. There will be live music and food, and even mixology demonstrations on making cocktails using local ingredients. Performance schedule is as follows: 5 p.m. Nervis Rex representing Anchorage; 6 p.m. Denali Cooks representing Mat-Su; 7 p.m. Southeast entertainment TBD; 8 p.m. Young Fangs representing the Interior; 9 p.m. Blackwater Railroad Company representing the Kenai Peninsula.Tickets are $75 a person or $120 for a couple and are currently available online. They will also be sold at the door, unless the event sells out in advance, which seems likely.

Also on May 5th, Odd Man Rush Brewing will be releasing its infamous El Guapo Blonde Ale, brewed with 80 pounds of jalapeno, Anaheim, and habanero peppers.

May 5th is also the day that Seward Brewing Company reopens for the summer season, after its long winter hibernation.

Bearpaw River Brewing has sent several kegs of its beers to the growler bar at the Brown Jug Warehouse store on Old Seward in Anchorage. So if you haven't made it up to Wasilla to check out its beers yet, this is your chance.

Here on the Peninsula, Kenai River Brewing Company's new brewery is rapidly moving toward completion. The sign is up on the side of the building, so folks driving by on the Sterling Highway will have no doubt about what is is. The Grand Opening will take place on Saturday, June 18th, to coincide with the brewery's 10th Anniversary. Doug Hogue tells me that he's going retro with the beer line-up for that event by bringing back all the beers that were on tap when the brewery opened in 2006, so stand-by for the return of such brews as Pothole Porter, Swiftwater Stout, and Eagle Rock ESB! The soft opening will probably be in late May, but that date is still pretty squishy. Here are some photos that I took on Thursday, April 28th:

The new sign, visible from the Sterling Highway

The new covered patio on the side away from the Sterling

The new tap room, looking from the patio door toward the main entrance

The new 20-bbl brewhouse, plumbed in and ready to go
Moving on to beer reviews, I have five for this blog.

Black Raven Brewing's Raven de Garde Pale Ale: In my last blog, I gave a less than stellar review to a bourbon barrel aged Scotch Ale from this Redmond, Washington brewery. This time around, I have to say that this was one of the best and most enjoyable brews I've had in recent memory. It poured a clear, light copper in color with a big white head. The aroma had the characteristic peppery, spicy notes that scream Belgian yeast. Carbonation was excellent and the mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile was a nice balance between hops, more Belgian yeast notes and brett funk, with the last becoming more pronounced on the finish. In some ways, this beer could almost be and American version of the classic Orval. Yes, it's that good. I went to Country Liquors and bought all they had on the shelf, but if you see it there or anywhere else, buy it. ABV 7.4%.

Denali Brewing Company's One Tree Birch Beer: Another special release from the Talkeetna brewery, this is a Belgian-style Golden Strong Ale made with birch syrup from a local provider. It poured a deep gold color, with a large, off-white head. The nose had the spicy, peppery notes you'd expect from Belgian yeast. Carbonation was great, and the mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile had some fruity notes to it, reminding me more of a tripel rather than the classic clean and hoppy profile of Duvel. There was a touch of residual sweetness on the finish, likely from the syrup priming. A very nice beer and a great utilization of a local ingredient. 9.1% ABV.

Black Raven Brewing's La Mort Rouge (2016): This is a Strong Dark Belgian Ale that's been aged in red wine barrels. It poured a deep, semi-translucent ruby color, with a small but persistent cream-colored head. The aroma was highly complex, with a mix of dark fruit and vinous notes. Carbonation was low but acceptable and the mouthfeel was medium to heavy. The complexity of the nose was repeated on the palate, with rich dark fruit flavors (plums, raisins, figs) intertwining with oak tannins and wine elements, before for falling away to a slow, long finish. This is a definitely sipper and a great beer for lovers of big red wines. I liked it, though not as much as the pale ale I reviewed above. 9.3% ABV.

Southern Tier Brewing's Grand Arbor Farmhouse Ale: This is a different take on how to use a local ingredient (maple syrup this time) in a Belgian-style beer. It poured a slightly cloudy gold with the typical huge white head of a saison. Again, the aroma had plenty of the spicy, peppery notes I always associate with a Belgian yeast. Carbonation was great and the beer had a nice, light mouthfeel. There was some initial up front hop bitterness, then the beer slowly settled back, until I picked up some alcohol warmth on the finish. Not a superb saison, but an eminently drinkable one. 9% ABV.

Hanssens Artisanal's Oude Gueuze Lambic: I tried this beer a  few years ago, but blending lambics is quite an art, so I decided to try it again. It poured a slightly cloudy gold with a big white head. The nose had the tart sourness you expect in a good gueuze, with some brett funk as well. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light and effervescent. There was nice tartness up front, followed by light notes of brett funk, falling away to a long finish. There are few things better than a good, well-balanced gueuze, and this certainly was one. 6% ABV.

Well, that's about it for this time. Get out and enjoy some of the beer events happening in the next few days and get your tickets for the Alaska Crafted Festival on May 21st.

Until Next Time, Cheers!