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!

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