Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Trying to Keep Up

One of the biggest problems I have as a beer writer/blogger is just trying to keep up with the plethora of beer events/news/brewery openings. You'd think, given how small the Alaska beer scene is when compared to someplace like Portland or Denver, that it would be so simple to keep abreast of all the goings-on, but it's not. Frankly, I don't know how the guys who cover the beer beats in places like Washington State or Colorado manage it. All I know is, I seem to spend half my time scouring social media sites and twitter feeds for news, and still I miss stuff.

Case in point, Rough Woods Inn and Cafe, a brewpub in Nenana. I first heard about this nanobrewpub from a tourist last year, but was unable to find out anything about it, even after searching the Alcohol Control Board's website. I consulted with the Dean of Alaska Beer Writers, Jim Roberts, AKA DR. Fermento, and he came up dry as well. We weren't able to confirm that there was a brewery operating in Nenana until last month, when Ed Miner of Gakona Brewing happened to be passing through and confirmed its existence for both of us. Not only was there a brewery there, but it had been brewing since 2013! If you'd like to learn more about Rough Woods and its tiny brewing operation, I'll refer you to Dr. Fermento's excellent Anchorage Press article, which you can read here. My point is, despite our best efforts, a brewpub managed to operate for three years without either of us knowing about it.

The other challenge I face is that almost as soon as I write something, it's obsolete. The Alaska craft beer scene is such a fast-changing one that little stays the same for very long. Case-in-point, I published the first volume of Beer on the Last Frontier: The Craft Breweries of Alaska back in 2012. Four years later, it was woefully out of date. Seward Brewing Company had a new owner/brewer, Kenai River Brewing had moved to a new facility, other breweries had made significant changes, and Grace Ridge Brewing had opened its doors in Homer. It was time to bite the bullet and publish an update, and I have finally found the time to do so. The revised and updated version of Volume I is now available on Kindle, and the paperback version should be available in a few weeks. If you have already purchased a Kindle version, I believe you can download the updated version for free. If you haven't bought it already, you can purchase it for $6.99 on

The cover of the 2nd Edition
Of course, now that I've updated Volume I, it's time to start trying to get Volume II up-to-date. Sigh...

On a bit of a side note, friend and fellow author Doug Vandegraft will be selling and signing copies of his book A Guide to the Notorious Bars of Alaska this Friday, 9/16, at The Bow Bar in Kenai from 5 to 7 PM. The book is a great read, so if you'll be in town then, I recommend you stop in.

Enough about writing; let's talk beer news. This weekend is a big one for beer events, as I've been writing in previous blogs. To summarize, events taking place include:

Hopefully by this late date you have already made plans for which one you'll be attending. If you need more details, click on the links above or check out my previous couple of blogs.

Coming up next weekend, on Saturday, September 24th, is Bodega-Fest 2016. I posted quite a bit of info about this in my last couple of blogs as well. FYI, I'm planning to attend that one, so look me up if you are there and say hi. La Bodega is also holding another of its Beer 101 events tonight at its Northern Lights store, from 5:15 to 6:30 pm. $15 gets you a flight of six beer samples plus small bites from Hearth. Finally, the leftovers from The Culmination have gone on the shelves there and at other beer stores around town, so this is your chance to check our beers which aren't usually distributed here in Alaska. See below for my reviews of a couple of beers from Prairie Artisan Ales out of Oklahoma.

Click to enlarge

Alaskan Brewing is celebrating its 30th Anniversary with a new release of its Perseverance Ale. It first released this beer to mark its 25th Anniversary in 2011. See my blog on 9/7/2011 for a review of it fresh, and my blog on 10/2/2014 for a review of it with three years' cellar time. Congratulations to Geoff, Marcy, and all the rest of the folks at Alaskan for reaching this historic milestone. Here's to the next thirty years!

Photo courtesy of Alaskan Brewing Company

Anchorage Brewing Company will be releasing a new beer this Friday, September 16th. It's called Love and the Death of Damnation. It's an IPA brewed with Mosaic and Equinox hops.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

I've heard from Denali Brewing Company that more cans of its Slow Down Brown hit the shelves last week. Also, the Beer/Wine Dinner this Friday night before the Talkeetna Brewfest is sold out.

Photo courtesy of Denali Brewing Company

Tickets are now on sale for the annual HooDoo ChooChoo on October 1. You can get more info or tickets here.

Here on the Peninsula, St. Elias Brewing Company has its Oktoberfest Lager back on tap, and it's being served in 20 oz. glasses. Kenai River Brewing is having its parking lot paved with asphalt. Here's the tap list from Grace Ridge Brewing from my last visit on 9/2.

Grace Ridge tap list on 9/2/2016

Moving on to beer reviews, I have three for this blog:

Deschutes Brewing's Black Butte XXVII: Bottled on 7/20/2015, this one had been in my cellar for over a year. It poured dark with ruby highlights and a nice, mocha-colored head. The aroma was of cocoa, molasses, and bourbon notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium. On the palate there was a complex flavor profile with lots of coffee, chocolate and oak/bourbon elements. A bit of alcohol heat on the finish. Overall, Deschutes continues to deliver an excellent imperial porter with this series. 11.6% ABV, 60 IBUs.

Prairie Artisan Ales' Apple Brandy Barrel Noir (2016): A beer from The Culmination that I picked up at La Bodega, this imperial stout was aged in used apple brandy barrels. It poured opaque with zero head. The nose was difficult to detect with no carbonation to lift it, but what I could get was mostly roasted malt and oak notes. Zero carbonation and a heavy mouthfeel. The initial impression was of chocolate notes in a heavy, almost oily brew, with some alcohol heat on the finish. The apple and oak elements are fairly subtle. Not bad, but it could have used at least a little carbonation to open things up a bit. 12% ABV, 70 IBUs.

Prairie Artisan Ales' Pirate Noir Imperial Stout: This time round, the stout is aged in used rum casks. It poured opaque but with a small tan-colored head that dissipated quickly to a collar. The aroma was rich with malt notes. Carbonation was low but present, and the mouthfeel was heavy.  Thick and rich, the rum notes added an interesting counterpoint to the malt and coffee elements from the base imperial stout. Even the modest carbonation in this beer made it much more appealing than the completely flat apple brandy version. Different but very enjoyable. 11% ABV, 60 IBUs.

That's it for this week. Choose wisely amongst all the upcoming beer events and keep drinking good local craft beer.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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