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!

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