Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fall is Here

It's clear that summer's over here on the Kenai Peninsula. The fireweed has all gone to seed, classes have started again, and the temperature was in the upper 30s this morning before the sun came up. We're clearly into our few weeks of fall, and winter isn't that far away. Still, the weather during the day is great, with clear skies and warm temperatures, so let's all enjoy it while we can.

The Culmination Beer Festival took place on Saturday, August 20th at Anchorage Brewing Company. Since all of the beers offered are essentially unobtainable in Alaska, there's little point in my reviewing any of them. I'll just say that as always the festival was a superb beer tasting experience, with great food, good music, and a wonderful crowd of folks who respected the unusual and exceptional beers they were being offered. Can't wait until next year.

As it's the start of fall, it's time for the yearly release of pumpkin beers and Oktoberfest brews. Midnight Sun has released this year's versions of its two classic pumpkin beers: the heavy-weight T.R.E.A.T. (7.8% ABV, 30 IBUs) and the lighter Trickster (7.0% ABV, 22 IBUs).

Midnight Sun has released two other brews:

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The second, Ball & Chain Dortmunder, was brewed to celebrate the wedding of head brewer Lee Ellis to his fiancee Leah, which took place on Saturday, August 20th, in Seward. The brewery has also redesigned its website. You can check out the new layout here.

Bleeding Heart Brewery
 will be hosting an All-You-Can-Eat BBQ Buffet at the brewery on September 17th, from 5 to 8 PM. Tickets are $25 in Advance or $30 at the door and go on Sale on September 8. Congratulations as well to the brewery for taking a People's Choice Award at the Alaska State Fair.

Alaskan Brewing has decided not to release a pumpkin brew this fall. Instead, it is re-releasing its Alaskan Heritage Coffee Brown Ale, which was first released last year. Read a review of it in my 10/2/2015 blog. It will be released in September and will be available through mid-November.

As I was working through my compilation of festivals in my last blog, I missed one: the 2016 Yukon Beer Festival in Whitehorse. This is the 3rd time this festival has been held, and it will take place on October 14 & 15th in Whitehorse. Click on the link above for more info and tickets.

Speaking of Whitehorse, Winterlong Brewing Company is continuing to work on its expansion, which began back in July. This project includes a serious upgrade to the brewery's tap room, expanding it greatly and doubling the number of taps from 6 to 12. This expansion will allow the brewery to offer beers in regular size glasses, in addition to its samplers, for consumption on site. The target for opening the new space is late September. Here are a couple of photos of the work in progress, courtesy of Winterlong Brewing:

49th State Brewing Company has released a new beer, Blood Drop Red Ale. For every pint of this beer sold at either its Healy or Anchorage locations, the brewery will donate a dollar to the Blood Bank of Alaska.

Seward Brewing Company has announced that it will be hosting its Fall Beer Dinner on Tuesday, September 13th at 6:30 pm. Seating is limited to 24 folks, tickets are $75, and must be purchased in advance. The brewery will likely be closing its doors for winter soon, so this is one last chance to experience its outstanding cuisine.

The Double Shovel Cider Company in Anchorage now has a tap room. Its hours are 4 to 8 pm Wednesday & Thursday, and 3 to 9 pm Friday & Saturday. It's located at 502 W. 58th Ave, Unit C.

I mentioned Bodega-Fest in my last blog, but didn't have a flier for it to share. I've got one now, so here it is:

La Bodega will also be continuing its Summer Tasting series next Tuesday from 6 to 10 PM at Jack Sprat in Girdwood. This one will be focused on beers from King Street Brewing in Anchorage.

Here on the Peninsula, Kenai River Brewing is working hard to start filling more of the 18 taps in its new brewery. Currently, there are 13 beers on tap, including Kolsch, T200 Rye Pale Ale, and Duck it Down Rye Pale Ale.

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing
At St. Elias Brewing the popular Green Giant DIPA is back on tap.

Grace Ridge Brewing in Homer will be open on Labor Day from noon to 8 pm. It has also debuted a new beer: Halibut Cove Lemon Tart.

That's about it for news, so let's review some beers.

Firestone-Walker's Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA: This beer poured opaque with a big, mocha-colored head that left good lace on the glass. The aroma was full of citrusy American hop notes. Carbonation was great, and the mouthfeel was light. There was good bitterness up front, with spicy rye notes, followed by good hop flavor. Unlike many so-called black IPAs, this beer was not loaded with roasty flavors, which I think is good. If your black beer has lots of roasted notes, you've made a hoppy porter, not a black IPA. 8.3% ABV, 80 IBUs.

Stone Brewing's RuinTen Triple IPA: It poured a deep, clear copper color, with a big, off-white head. The nose had tons of citrus hops, plus hints of toffee. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light to medium. There is a tremendous initial bitter attack, as you'd expect from 100 IBUs, then the big malt backbone moves in to bring things a bit more into balance, followed by some alcohol heat on the finish. It lives up to the Triple IPA name, so if you're looking to smash your palate with bitterness and alcohol, here's the beer for you. 10.8% ABV.

New Belgium's Bretta IPA: It poured a clear gold with a huge white head. The aroma was a combination of spritzy citrus hop notes and brett funk. Great carbonation and a light mouthfeel. On the palate there was moderate initial hop bitterness, followed by notes of brett funk, followed by hop flavors on the finish. A very nice beer, particularly if you are as fond of brett as I am. 7.5% ABV, 75 IBUs.

Sierra Nevada's Ovila Quad: I had cellared this bottles for a bit over a year. It poured a dark, barley translucent ruby color with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The nose was classic quad: plums, figs, raisins. The mouthfeel was medium, and the carbonation was okay. The taste profile was luscious, rich and complex, with notes of dark fruit, leather, and tobacco. The beer tasted perfectly Belgian; I could have easily believed it was made in a Trappist monastery in Europe, rather than in Chico, CA. 10.2% ABV, 21 IBUs.

Midnight Sun Brewing's 2011 Arctic Devil Barley Wine: Another bottle that I pulled in my recent visit to my beer cellar, this beer was over five years in the bottle. There was a slight his as I popped the cap, so it did retain some carbonation. It poured a dark honey-color with a small cream-colored head that quickly dissipated to a collar. The aroma was rich in caramel & toffee notes, plus a hint of oak. Carbonation was low, as you'd expect, and the mouthfeel was medium to heavy. The flavor profile was plenty of rich, thick malt notes, plus oak and some sherry notes, falling away to a long slow finish with some alcohol heat. The beer was still good, but I think I could detect the first hints of deterioration, so if you have any 2011, I'd recommend drinking them now. It's possible that if I had taken some extra precautions, such as waxing its cap, this bottle might have been able to be cellared a bit longer. 13.4% ABV, 20 IBUs.

That's it for this week. Get out an enjoy this great weather while we have it, as we all know it won't last much longer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Festive Season

We are now into what I always think of as the festive season here in Alaska, i.e. the season when it seems we're having a beer festival about every other week. Yes, we have great festivals other times of the year, but it always seems that we have the greatest concentration of them in this part of the year.

First up was the Annual Kenai River Beer Festival, which took place last Saturday. As this is my local fest and I had a (small) part in getting it off the ground a few years ago, I suppose I'm biased, but I still think it's one of the best festivals in the state. The weather could have been better this year, but the sporadic light rain couldn't keep the hardy beer drinkers away. Here are some photos that I snapped at the start of the festival.

Kenai River Brewing had a new twist this year. In order to taste the various vintages of its Winter Warlock Old Ale (which changed each hour and ranged from 2015 all the way back to 2009), you had to find the "Winter Warlock" and get a "magical gem" from him, which you then surrendered (along with a drink token) for your sample. Here's what the Warlock looked like:

All this helped Kenai River Brewing win the Best Brewery in the People's Choice Awards (for the 5th year running, I believe). King Street's IPA won as Best Beer. All-in-all, it was a great festival.

Next up is The Culmination, which will be taking place this Saturday at Anchorage Brewing Company, starting at 2 PM. Amazingly, I think there are actually a few tickets left, so if you haven't purchased yours yet, there's still time. And don't forget Hill Farmstead Brewery Day tomorrow at Anchorage Brewing; I wrote about this in detail in my last blog.

Speaking of Anchorage Brewing Company, it is putting three new beers on tap today:

Migrating Eyes - Collaboration with Tired Hands, spelt saison aged one year in French oak. Fermented with Tired Hands house culture.

An Eternity - Collaboration with Gigantic Brewing, Saison aged one year in French oak with Organic Oregon Marion Berries and Alaska Apples.

Mikkeller Invasion- Rustic IPA brewed with Citra and Galaxy Hops, fermented in Foudres with Brett. Dry hopped with Citra and Galaxy.

On September 17, Glacier Brewhouse will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Here's the flier for it:

September 17th will also be the day of the 5th Annual Talkeetna Brewfest. I attended this last year and had a great time, so if you can be in Talkeetna on that weekend, I strongly recommend it. Tickets are available at

September 17th also happens to be the date of the 5th Annual Capital Brewfest at the Juneau Arts & Cultural Center (JACC) from 12:30 to 5 pm. See what I mean about the Festive Season? So if you're in Southeast, here's an alternative festival for you.

Silver Gulch Brewing will be celebrating Oktoberfest on 16 & 17 September. It will have First Tap of this year’s Oktoberfest Brew Great polka from Alaska Blaskapel. Plus Steve Brown and the Bailers Tickets are only $10 at the door! Designated drivers get in free.

And we're not done yet! One week later, on Saturday, September 24th, it will be Bodega-Fest in Anchorage's Lucy Cuddy Park from 1 to 6 PM. Tickets are $39 and on-sale now. Besides beer and music at the fest itself, this year there will also be a concert at Tap-Root after the fest itself. Click on the link above for all the details.

But wait, there's more! October 1 is this year's Zwanze Day, sponsored by Belgian brewery Cantillon. Anchorage Brewing Company will be a Zwanze Day location again this year, as it was last year. There are only 27 other locations in the entire US, so were are fortunate to have one in Alaska.

Whew! That's a lot of festivals in the next six weeks or so. See why I think it's the Festive Season?

In other news, Midnight Sun Brewing has released its 21st Anniversary Beer, Grand Crew Brew. I got to taste a small sample of it at the Kenai Beer Festival, and I can tell you that it's outstanding! You definitely want to pick up as many bottles of this one as you can find, both to enjoy now and cellar for later. I believe it's only available at the brewery itself.

If we didn't have enough going on in the next few weeks, you can add in the Grand Opening of Quake Brewing Company in Eagle River on 1 September. Everything appears to be on track, and you can get details on Facebook here.

Arkose Brewery will be a part of an event called the Sapling and Smolt Soiree, along with the Great Land Trust, on August 28th, just before the start of the Alaska State Fair in Palmer. Here is the flier for it:

Arkose will be pouring its Palmer Extra Pale Ale and its Sister City Raspberry Saison. The brewery will also be hosting another of its regular Beer Meets Chocolate events this Friday, August 19th.

Newcomer Grace Ridge Brewing was at the Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival (and I believe it will be at the Talkeetna Brewfest). It is hosting a fund raiser for the Kevin Bell Arena/Homer Hockey Association on Friday, August 26th, from 4 to 8 PM. Here's the flier:

Note that there will also be beers from Kenai River Brewing and Odd Man Rush Brewing on offer as well.

St. Elias Brewing's Old's Cool Session IPA (reviewed in my last blog) has already run out. However, the very popular Green Giant DIPA should be back on tap before the end of the week. Here's the current tap list:

That's the news, now let's do some reviews.

Southern Tier Brewing's Salted Caramel Imperial Stout: It poured opaque with a small tan head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma was caramelized sugar and cocoa notes. The mouthfeel was medium to heavy, with good carbonation. Flavors were rich and thick, with intense notes of caramel, chocolate, and coffee. A big sipper, and one that would make an excellent ingredient in dishes calling for a big stout. 10% ABV.

49th State Brewing's Foxcatcher Saison: I picked this up in a crowler during my first visit to the new Anchorage location. It poured a slightly cloudy gold with a nice white head that left good lace on the glass. The nose had the peppery, earthy notes I associate with a Belgian yeast. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. Good upfront bitterness, followed by earthy, farmhouse notes. An excellent saison in the style of the classic from Dupont. 6.2% ABV.

Midnight Sun Brewing's Feast Doppelbock: This beer was released several weeks ago, but I finally managed to score a bottle. It poured a deep, semi-translucent ruby color, with a nice, cream-colored head. The aroma was rich and malty, with no noticeable hops. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was rich and heavy. The flavor profile was all strong, smooth malt flavors, with hints of oak and alcohol from the barrel-aging. A delicious doppelbock. 7.4% ANB, 15 IBUs.

Boon's Oude Geuze (2011-2012): From the famous Belgian brewery, this beer poured a clear, slightly reddish gold color with a big white head. The nose was full of tart and oaky notes. Carbonation was intense, and the mouthfeel was effervescent. On the palate it was tart and refreshing. A superb geuze, very dry and oaky. 7% ABV

Stone Brewing's Who You Callin' Wussie Pilsner: I found this in a six-pack of 16 oz. cans at Country Liquors in Kenai. It poured a clear gold with a nice white head that left good lace. The aroma had plenty of noble hops. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile was clean and crisp, and reminded me strongly of German pilsners. A very nice and enjoyable beer.

That's it for this blog. I hope to see you at one or more of the upcoming festivals. Look for me at The Culmination this Saturday for sure.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Breaking News: Hill Farmstead Brewery Day on August 18th at Anchorage Brewing

I just got word about a new event leading into The Culmination Festival on August 20th at Anchorage Brewing Company. Thursday, August 18th, from 2 to 8 pm will be Hill Farmstead Brewery Day at Anchorage Brewing. In case you have been living under a rock craft beer-wise, Hill Farmstead Brewery is one of the most respected breweries in the US and was named as the best brewery in the world three years running. Unfortunately, we usually only see its beers here in Alaska as part of The Culmination Festival, so this a chance to experience a wide variety of them on a pay-as-you-go basis. There will be twelve different Hill Farmstead brews on tap. Here is the list, along with the brewery's description of each one:

Edward: Edward (1917-2002) is our grandfather; Hill Farmstead Brewery rests upon the land that was once home to him and his five children. In his honor, this American Pale Ale is dutifully crafted from American malted barley, a plethora of American hops, our ale yeast and water from Edward’s well. It is unfiltered and dry hopped. Aromatic and flowery, with impressions of citrus and pine, this is the ale that I dream to have shared with Edward. 13.5ºP, 85 IBUs, 5.2% ABV. Pale and Caramel malt; Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Simcoe, and Warrior hops; House Ale Yeast, and our Well Water.

Susan: Susan was our grandfather's sister - in her honor we offer this version of an American IPA. Nelson Sauvin Pale Ale An American Pale Ale bittered, flavored, and dry hopped exclusively with Nelson Sauvin.

Walden: A sessionable blonde ale. 4% ABV. 40 IBUs. Hopped with Motueka, Amarillo and Simcoe.

Mary: Mary was Edward's mother and our great-grandmother. A German-style pilsner brewed with our well water, German pilsner malt, our favorite German hops, and classic German lager yeast. 4.6% ABV.

Harlan: Harlan is Edward’s slightly more aggressive alter-ego. Dry-hopped exclusively with Columbus hops.

Citra Single Hop Pale Ale: An American Pale ale bittered, flavored, and dry hopped exclusively with Citra hops from the American Pacific Northwest. 5.5% ABV.

Arthur: Arthur (1922-2005) was our grandfather’s youngest brother; Hill Farmstead Brewery rests upon the land that was once home to him and his 13 siblings. In his honor, this farmstead™ is crafted from American malted barley, American and European hops, our distinctive farmhouse yeast and water from our well. Unfiltered and naturally carbonated, this is the ale that I dream to have shared with Arthur. 6% ABV, 13ºPlato

Arthur - Dry hopped version Our traditional farmstead ale is crafted from American malted barley, American and European hops, our farmhouse yeast and water from our well. This iteration was conditioned in our oak Foudres and then generously hopped with Cascade.

Nordic Saison: In May of 2014, our friend and mentor Anders Kissmeyer of Kissmeyer Beer & Brewing visited Hill Farmstead Brewery, along with our dear friend Will Meyers of Cambridge Brewing Co., to brew a special collaborative beer. Inspired by our guests and their journeys, this beer was brewed with the resourcefulness and inventiveness of the Nordic tradition, as well as the creative spirit of its three architects. Farmstead ale brewed with honey, heather, rose hips, rhubarb and wheat.

Works of Love Anchorage Brewing #1: A farmstead ale fermented in oak tanks, this beer was brewed in collaboration with our friend Gabe Fletcher of Anchorage Brewing Co. using barley, organic Vermont wheat, organic Vermont oats, fresh apples from Fletcher Orchard, hops, yeast and our well water.

Works of Love Anchorage Brewing #2: When our dear friend Gabe Fletcher from Anchorage Brewing visited us last September, we brewed two beers; this is the result of the second brewday. Brewed with malted barley, organic oats, wheat and organic buckwheat, this beer was fermented in oak foudres, aged in wine barrels and dry-hopped with Mandarina Bavaria hops.
This represents a unique opportunity for Alaskans to experience one of the top craft breweries in the world. If you'll be in in Anchorage on August 18th, don't miss it!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Visit to 49th State in Anchorage

Well, it's August here on the Kenai, which means that 1) the summer continues to fly by and 2) dip netting season is finally over, which means we get our town back from the hordes from Anchorage and points north. For the first time in three weeks, you can hope to get into a brewery or store without it being packed to the gills.

Ironically, while everyone from Anchorage was down here, Elaine and I needed to make one of our semi-monthly shopping runs to Anchorage last Monday. This made for my first chance to visit the newly-opened 49th State Brewing in the former Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady location downtown. We rolled in at about noon and found the place fairly full; the rainy weather having closed the outdoor patio and pushed everyone inside. We ate on the ground floor, where the main bar is located, but did walk upstairs to check out the new arrangement up there as well.

The main bar at 49th State Brewing in Anchorage

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As you can see from the photos, the place looks great after the big makeover. The beer menu is extensive; since it was the middle of the day, I limited myself to a glass of the Flanders Red (reviewed below) and a taster of the Moderation Triple IPA on nitro, which was excellent. The food was also fantastic. We shared a pretzel appetizer, then Elaine had the mac & cheese and I had a burger. The bar is also equipped to sell crowlers, as well as filling glass growlers. Bottom line: everything about the place was great, and I look forward to visiting it whenever I find myself in downtown Anchorage.

This Thursday and Friday will be Augtoberfest at the original 49th State Brewing in Healy. I have yet to attend the festival, but everyone who has says it is a great time, so if you can be in Healy on the 4th and/or the 5th, you should definitely attend.

I did a breaking news post last Wednesday to remind everyone that tickets for The Culmination Festival were going on sale. Sales have been brisk, with less than 100 (out of 300 total) tickets left. You can get then at or at the brewery. The Culmination is Saturday, August 20th.

Tickets are also on sale for the Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival, which is now only 10 days away on Saturday, August 13th. This is always a wonderful time, with live music and food vendors as well as beer, so if you'll be in Soldotna that weekend, you should plan to attend. Tickets are on sale at the local breweries on on the festival's website.

Denali Brewing Company has released its excellent Louisville Sour Ale in bottles.

Midnight Sun Brewing kicked off its new Beer Club with delivery of its August box on Monday. The picture below shows its contents. MSBC is taking sign-ups for the September box now. Note the bottle of its 21st Anniversary beer, Grand Crew Brew, which will be released to the rest of us on Monday, August 8th.

Photo courtesy of MSBC
US Senator Lisa Murkowski paid a visit to Odd Man Rush in Eagle River last week. It good to see our elected representatives taking a keen interest in promoting our local craft breweries.

Photo courtesy of Odd Man Rush Brewing

Also in Eagle River, Quake Brewing has announced that it will open its doors on Thursday, September 1.

La Bodega will be having another tasting on August 16th at its Norther Lights location. This one is entitled "Alaskan Cuisine Pairings." It will be presented by Nikole and Pamela of La Bodega with special guest star Jacob Davis of Hearth Artisan Pizza. They will guide you through a sampling of common Alaskan foods and the beer, wine, cider and sake that they love as pairings. The tasting starts at 5:15 pm and ends promptly at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $20 and are only on sale at La Bodega's Northern Lights store.

Let's move on to beer reviews.

Denali Brewing's Agave Gold Ale: This beer poured a clear gold with a nice white head that left good lace on the glass. The nose was light, but had a bit of hop aroma. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile was very clean, with hints of fruitness. A light, refreshing beer for the hot summer days in Talkeetna. 5.1% ABV.

St. Elias Brewing's Old's Cool Session IPA: It poured a slightly cloudy honey color with a big, off-white head that left good lace on the glass. The aroma was packed with Simcoe and Citra hop notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light to medium. The initial bitterness was good but not excessive, backed up by a nice amount of hop flavor and aroma. As the name implies, this is a nice, straight ahead IPA, with no weird new hops or bells and whistles, just plenty of good hop flavor and aroma. At 5.8% ABV, it might not meet the technical definition of a session beer, but it's so good you'll definitely want more than one.

St. Elias Brewing's Frozen River Scottish Ale: Brewed for this year's Frozen River Fest held back in February, this beer has aged nicely in the brewery's cellar. I believe my growler of it leaked, so when I poured it, there was little carbonation or head. It was a deep, semi-translucent ruby color, with medium mouthfeel and a nose of malt and caramel. The flavor profile was spot-on for the style, with a heavy presence on malt and caramel notes. Now that dip netting is done, I need to get back to St. Elias to try this again, as I feel it would be superb with the proper carbonation. 6.5% ABV.

Black Raven Brewing's Pour Les Oiseaux Saison: We've been getting more and more beers here in Alaska from this brewery in Remonds, WA. This one is a saison dosed with brett. It poured a hazy gold with a small white head that dissipated to a collar. The nose has some hints of brett funk along with light citrus notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. On the palate there was oak, brett funk, and some moderate bitterness, that fell away to a nice , long finish. A nice beer now, but I'm very curious as to what 6 to 12 months in the cellar will allow the brett to do to it. 7.2% ABV.

49th State Brewing's Flanders Red Ale: This poured a dark ruby color with a small but persistent cream-colored head. The nose immediately advertised that this was a sour ale, and had been aged in wood. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium. On the palate the beer strongly reminded me of that classic Flanders Red, Rodenbach. It was tart but balanced, with the oak notes contributing to the overall experience. A truly excellent Flanders Red, and worth seeking out if you enjoy sour beers at all. 6 % ABV, 15 IBUs.

That's it for this blog. Be sure to take advantage of all the up-coming beer festivals and get out and enjoy this summer weather while it lasts. Another couple o months, and we'll be wondering where it has all gone.

Until Next Time, Cheers!