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:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

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!

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