Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

Hello again and Happy Halloween! We seem to be getting a slight reprieve from the start of winter here on the Peninsula, with temperatures in the upper 40s, but we all know that won't last. Besides, every one I know keeps hoping for a "real winter" this year, unlike the last couple. We'll see if that enthusiasm still lingers come February.

Some interesting stories are percolating on the "National Beer News" Desk. The first one is the announcement by Stone Brewing of significant layoffs. Somewhere between 50 and 100 employees, some of whom had been with the company for quite some time, were given their walking papers. This is the same Stone Brewing which is busily expanding by opening new breweries in Richmond, VA and Berlin. So we have a craft brewery that seems to be behaving more or less like one of those big, industrial breweries that its founder, Greg Koch, loves to rail against. What does it mean for Stone's beers? Beats me, but it does give me pause when I'm standing in the bottle shop, trying to decide how to dispose of my limited beer budget. For when a craft brewery (whatever that is; insert your own definition here) begins acting just like a big corporate brewery (ditto), is it still a craft brewery? It take some thinking on...

Speaking of big corporate breweries, here's a link to an article in which Carlos Brito, the Brazilian banker who is head of the Belgium-based AB-InBev, opines that the American beer drinker is "tired of choice." I'm not sure where and when he developed his keen grasp of the American psyche, but I guess we should thank him for doing his level best to ensure we are never again confronted with an over-abundance of choice. If Brito had his way, there would be no choice required on our part, as the only beers we'd be able to purchase would come from his company, even if they were tarted up with different names. It would be laughable, if it wasn't so damn serious...

The face of the enemy, Carlos Brito

Moving on to more local news, Midnight Sun Brewing's trademark dispute with Sockeye Grill & Brewery in Boise, ID is still on-going. I confirmed late last week that the status was still the same as reported in my last blog, i.e. a Cease & Desist Letter has been sent, but the two breweries are still trying to work things out between them. As soon as I hear anything differnt, I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, today is MSBC's Halloween Horde Beserker Release Party, starting at 4 PM at The Loft.  There will be flights of vintage Berserkers (2008, 2013, Nitro 2014 and 2016) for $12.On Saturday, Anchorage legend Mr. Whitekeys stopped bye and helped Head Brewer Lee Ellis brew up the first batch of Christmas in Spenard Spiced Brown Ale. Mr. Whitekeys is evidently a big fan of MSBC's Kodiak Brown Ale, so he was happy to help put his own unique spin on this new brew. Finally, MSBC will be releasing a new batch of Buzzwinkle Sour Wheat Ale next week.

Photo courtesy of Midnight Sun Brewing

Speaking of Halloween parties, today is also HooDoo Brewing's 4th Anniversary, and they will be celebrating at the Thanks Fairbanks, We're Four Event, starting at 3 PM. Congratulations to Bobby and the rest of the team there; keep brewing those great beers.

More beer event news: Here's the schedule for La Bodega's Winter in the Wood Tasting Series at Jack Sprat Restaurant in Girdwood:

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Also coming up this weekend is the Beers by the Bay event at the Sea-Life Center in Seward. Here's the flier for that one:

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In additional new beer release news, Denali Brewing Company will be releasing its Big DIPA Double IPA soon, and cans of its Schwarzbier should be replacing its Slow Down Brown on store shelves soon as well.

Last Saturday, Anchorage Brewing Company released a new batch of its excellent The Tide and its Takers Tripel. This beer was last released in July of 2014, and to celebrate the new release, the brewery tapped a keg from that previous batch as well.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Company

Here on the Peninsula, St. Elias Brewing Company has released another new beer: Czar's Gone Wild, a Russian Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels with Brettanomyces. See my review of it below. Here's the current tap list:

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Okay, let's review some beers:

St. Elias Brewing's Czars Gone Wild Imperial Stout: As mentioned above, this RIS is barrel-aged with Brettanomyces. It poured opaque with a tan head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma was rich with malt and bourbon notes. Carbonation was low but acceptable (I poured it from a growler, which could account for this); mouthfeel was heavy and viscous. The flavor profile held lots of rich malt notes, bourbon elements, with hints of brett funk. It will be interesting to watch the brett influence change over time. An unusual but excellent take on the standard Russian Imperial Stout.

Anchor Brewing's Old Foghorn Barley Wine: When it was first brewed in 1975, this beer became the first modern barley wine brewed in the US. I have enjoyed it many times over the years, but never got around to formally reviewing it, so here goes. It poured a clear ruby color with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The nose had caramel and toffee notes; a classic English-style barley wine, this beer had no discernible hop aroma. The malt-forward flavor profile is also characteristic of that style. Only 8.8% ABV, which seems pretty tame by today's standards, and 52 IBUs. Like many of Anchor's beers, Old Foghorn broke trail for all the craft beers that followed it, and illustrates the tremendous debt owed by all modern beer lovers to Fritz Maytag.

Sierra Nevada Brewing's Estate Homegrown IPA: All the barley and hops for this beer were produced in Chico, CA, from the Sierra Nevada complex. It poured a clear, very pretty copper color with a big, off-white head that left good lace. The aroma was of American hops, primarily Cascades. Carbonation was excellent, mouthfeel was light. There was a nice initial bitter attack, then hop flavor and aroma, but the beer still maintained excellent balance. 6.7% ABV, 67 IBUs.

Well, that's it for this week. Happy Halloween to you all, and good luck making your final preparations before winter arrives in full force.

Until Next Week, Cheers!

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