Thursday, August 24, 2017

Summer's Passing

With all the rain we've been getting lately here on the Peninsula, it seems more like fall than the end of summer. Things are definitely heading in that direction, with schools starting back up and the fireweed in full bloom. Soon we'll start seeing pumpkin beers on the shelves again, a sure sign of the change of seasons.

The Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival was another big success, with Kenai River Brewing winning the People's Choice Award for Best Brewery (again! This is like 5 or 6 in a row, I think!) and newcomer Girdwood Brewing winning the People's Choice for Best Beer with it No Woman No Cryo New England-style-IPA.

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing
Photo courtesy of Girdwood Brewing
Well done to Matt Pyhala and the rest of the Soldotna Rotary on a great festival. Looking forward to 2018, when I'm sure it will be even better.

QUAKE! Brewing is open for business at last. The brewery is located at 1540 N. Shoreline Drive, Wasilla, AK 99654. Hours of operation are Wed - Fri = 5 - 8 pm, Sat - Sun = 12 - 8 pm. QUAKE! is also looking to hire a brewer; check out its Facebook page for more information.

Photo courtesy of QUAKE! brewing.

With fall on its way, it won't be long before termination dust appears on the Chugach Mountains. When that happens, it's the signal for Midnight Sun Brewing to release its barrel-aged Belgian-style barley wine, Termination Dust (reviewed 11/10/2014). So keep an eye out for it.

Photo courtesy of Midnight Sun Brewing

With the growing concentration of distilleries, breweries, and a cidery in South Anchorage, a new tourist brochure, a bike trail map connecting all of them, has been published.

Photo courtesy of Double Shovel 
Anchorage Brewing has announced new beer releases for tomorrow and Saturday. Here's what Gabe Fletcher had to say about it:


This Friday we will be releasing ALIEN CHURCH IPA in CANS! This is a beer that is made by Tired Hands Brewing in Pennsylvania. When Jean and Marty were up for The Culmination Festival we decided to brew an Anchorage version! ALSO, THE MASONRY WILL BE BACK WITH THERE WOOD FIRED OVEN cooking up some killer pizza! THEN on Saturday, we are releasing Cans of COAST2COAST TRIPLE IPA! This is our collaboration with Peter from OTHER HALF BREWING! It's a JUICY BEAST! Matt from THE MASONRY will be there all day Saturday as well! DON'T miss these releases! They are awesome and very limited!
Here's what the can labels will look like.



Alaskan Brewing has expanded its distribution to the state of Illinois; this is the 20th state in which Alaskan sells it beers. Alaskan has also released a new beer in its Pilot Series: Mocha Milk Stout. It's on local store shelves now, but I have not had a chance to review it yet.

Photo courtesy of Alaskan Brewing
Drinking on the Last Frontier, my monthly radio show, will be broadcast this Saturday at 11 am on KDLL 91.9 FM. The show will focus on beer festivals, with extensive interviews from the Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival. If you can't listen to the broadcast, the recorded show will be available on the station's website, www.kdll.org.


Don't forget the upcoming Alaska Crafted Festival (September 9), Talkeetna Brewfest (September 16), and Capital Brewfest (September 23). I've written about them in previous blogs, or you can follow these links for more information.

That's it for news. I've got five new beers to review this time.

Black Market Brewing's Aftermath IPA:  It poured a clear gold with a huge white head; very highly carbonated. The nose has tons of citrusy American hops. The mouthfeel was quite light, especially from the high carbonation. The initial bitter attack was not too overwhelming, and it was followed by lots of citrusy hop flavor and aroma. If you really love Citra, this is the IPA for you! 5.8% ABV.


St. Elias Brewing's Cokosesh IPA: In the glass, it was a clear gold color with a nice white head. There was a nice hoppy aroma with only the slightest hint of toasted coconut from the dry hopping. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. There was nice upfront bitterness, followed by good hop flavor and aroma, before falling away to a nice, clean finish. The coconut was essentially undetectable, at least to my palate. A very nice session IPA, perfect for a sunny summer's day.


Stone Brewing's Stone-Farking Wheaton Woot Stout: I reviewed an earlier vintage of this beer on 7/23/2015. This one poured opaque with a small tan head that dissipated rapidly to a collar. The nose was mostly notes of sweet malt and caramel. The mouthfeel was heavy and thick, with okay carbonation. On the palate, the flavors were rich and oily, with roasted coffee notes and caramel predominant. It seemed a bit sweeter than your typical imperial stout. There was some alcohol heat noticeable on the finish. Overall, a pretty tasty RIS. 13% ABV.


Midnight Sun Brewing's Rider Sour Pale Lager: It poured a deep, slightly hazy gold with a wonderful off-white head. The nose had hints of brett funk, as well as a little oak, but nothing overwhelming. The carbonation was excellent and the mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile began with clean lager notes, followed by some brett tart funk, then oaky notes on the finish. This beer will not be everyone's cup of tea, but I loved it! I applaud Midnight Sun for being willing to try something as different and experimental as this (as opposed to just pumping out another new IPA variant). Great job, and I'm eager to try the next beer in the Wild Adventures series! 8.7% ABV, 25 IBUs.


Crazy Mountain Brewing's Lawyers, Guns, & Money Barley Wine: I stumbled on this at Country Liquors in Kenai. This new brewery from Colorado has just started to distribute here in Alaska, so I picked up a four-pack of cans of this beer. It poured a slightly cloudy honey color with a cream-colored head. There was a fair amount of American hop aroma from dry hopping. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium. On the palate, the malt and bitterness were in fairly good balance. Overall, I rate it an okay beer, but not a spectacular example of the American Barley Wine style. 10% ABV, 56 IBUs.


That's it for this blog. Get out and enjoy these last days of summer if you can do so in between the rain showers. The snow will be here before you know it.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Festivals, Festivals!

It's late summer here in Alaska, which seems to be just about everyone's favorite time to have a beer festival. There are two great ones coming up this weekend: the 7th Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival and Augtoberfest 2017. I've written extensively about them both in recent blogs, so if you need any more information about either of them, you can find it there. I'll be taping interviews for my radio show at the Kenai Fest, so be sure to say hello if you see me there.




Besides Augtoberfest, 49th State Brewing will also be taking part in another beer event in August. On Saturday, August 26th, the brewery and Major Marine Tours will be presenting the Blackwater Brew Cruise out of Whittier.



On the subject of festivals, there will be several in September as well. In my last blog, I wrote about the 6th Annual Capital Brewfest on September 23. However, there will be two others earlier in the month. On Saturday, September 9th, the 2nd Annual Alaska Crafted will be taking place from 5 to 9 PM in downtown Anchorage. Held on F St. between Humpy's and Williwaw, this is a reprise of last year's event, which was held on May 21, 2016 (see my 5/30/2016 blog for a report on it). This event is unique in that it features only Alaska-made beer, wine, and spirits.


The other September event will be the Talkeetna Brewfest on Saturday, September 16th. It's held at the Sheldon Community Arts Hangar in Talkeetna from 2 to 6 PM. Tickets are $55 each and are limited to 200, so advance purchase is recommended. I was fortunate enough to attend this festival back in 2015, and you can read about my experience here. Also, on the Friday night before the festival, the Denali Brewpub/Twister Creek Restaurant in downtown Talkeetna will be hosting the 6th Annual Collaborative Brewers Dinner, a truly exceptional meal. When I attended it in 2015, this was still just a beer dinner, but it has now grown to encompass Alaska-made wines, ciders, meads, and spirits, as well as beer. Seats are $75 and sell out quickly, so if you want to attend, call 907-733-2537 and make your reservations right away.


At the end of July, I attended The Culmination Festival at Anchorage Brewing Company. This festival is always a wonderful opportunity to taste beers which are not available at all here in Alaska. While the Festival ran for four hours, I could only be there for the first two, during which time I managed to sample 11 beers, or a different beer every 11 minutes or so, which is a pretty good pace, at least for me. The sad thing is that there were 93 different beers on offer, meaning that if I could have maintained that pace, I would have needed just under 17 hours to sample them all! As it was, I made it through less than 12% of what was available. It's the story of my life: So many beers, so little time...

While I only scratched the surface, I was particularly impressed with the beers from Toppling Goliath Brewing Company from Decorah, IA.  Two of its offerings, Assassin (2016 -Purple Wax) and Chain Smoker (2015- Cycle Collaboration) were truly outstanding, with the former being my choice for the best beer I tasted that day.

Anchorage Brewing will also be hosting Zwanze Day again this year, on September 23rd, starting at 11 AM.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing
The Travel Channel's show Food Paradise will be filming at Midnight Sun Brewing on Wednesday, August 16th, from 12:30 to 4:00 pm. If you'd like to be on TV, they ask anyone who hopes to be in the episode to wear bright, solid colors, please no logos of any kind and no white shirts. Midnight Sun has also announced that its Big Stout Campout will be on September 22nd at the Sheep Mountain Lodge. Midnight Sun has also released the first beer in its new Wild Adventures series: Rider, a pale lager, barrel aged with brett! Next up, Sporter, a sour porter.

Photo courtesy of Midnight Sun Brewing


Quake Brewing Company in Wasilla has announced that it is now fully licensed and will be opening soon.



The Brewers Association has published the statistics by state for 2016. Here's how Alaska stacks up:

Click to enlarge
That about covers the news, so let's move on to beer reviews. As I mentioned in my last blog, I pulled a couple of beers out of my cellar, so let's start with them.

Midnight Sun Brewing's Grand Crew Brew (2016): This one has been in the cellar for just under a year. When opened, there was next to no carbonation left; in hindsight, perhaps I should have wax-dipped the cap. It poured a dark caramel to brown color with no head. The nose had mostly sweet malt notes with some hints of alcohol heat. The mouthfeel seemed quite heavy, though some of that was probably from the lack of carbonation. On the palate, it was smooth and silky, with lots of sweet malt notes, almost like drinking a bread pudding. It was still a decent beer, though it would likely have presented much better if there had been any carbonation left. 14% ABV, 59 IBUs.


Deschutes Brewing's Black Butte XXVIII: This beer was bottled on 6/13/2016. It poured completely opaque with a nice, persistent tan head. The nose was of cocoa, oak, and whiskey. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was medium. The flavor profile was rich and thick, almost oily; there were coffee and chocolate notes, hints of molasses, with a bit of alcoholic warmth on the finish. Another excellent beer in this classic annual series. Delicious! 11.5% ABV, 51 IBUs.


Harvey & Son Brewing's Imperial Extra Double Stout: A famous name in the imperial stout world. The beer poured black with a tan head. The aroma tantalized with tart brett notes. The mouthfeel was medium to heavy and the carbonation was good. On the tongue, there were notes of coffee and dark chocolate, rich and strong, before falling away to a long finish with hints of brett funkiness. 9% ABV.


Innis & Gunn's Original Ale: This Scottish ale poured a clear copper color with a small, off-white head. The nose had notes of caramel and hints of oak. Mouthfeel was medium and the carbonation was good. On the palate, I picked up sweet notes of toffee and caramel, but there was enough hop bitterness to balance, followed by hints of oak. A very nice beer made even more complex with the addition of the oak-aging. 6.6% ABV.


Innis & Gunn's Rum-Aged Ale: This beer was aged on rum-soaked oak chips. It poured a red-gold color with a nice off-white head. The aroma had notes of toffee and rum. The mouthfeel was medium and the carbonation was good. Like the Original Ale, this beer had notes of toffee and caramel, with the addition of subtle rum and oak notes. Very nice. 6.8% ABV.



Black Market Brewing's Quadrophenia: A Belgian Quad brewed with coconut palm sugar, this beer poured a deep red-gold in color with a nice cream-colored head. The nose had a subtle fruit odor, difficult to identify; I finally settled on apricot, but your mileage may vary. The mouthfeel was light to medium and the carbonation was excellent. On the palate, there was considerable sweet notes, both of fruit and caramel, followed by alcohol warmth on the finish. Unlike most Belgian quads, which seem to favor dark fruits (plums, figs, raisins) in their flavor profiles, this one seemed to recall lighter fruits (peaches, pears). Overall, I found it to be quite enjoyable. 11% ABV, 29 IBUs.


That's it for this week. Get out and enjoy this late summer weather while it lasts. Pick out a good beer festival or two from those coming up in August and September. Drink beer and be merry!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Okay, We're Full Up Down Here!

Less than a week to go on dip net season, and I'm confident that I speak for all the inhabitants of the Central Peninsula when I say "Enough already!" For the last couple of weeks, we've been inundated down here with the fisherfolk. Just turning on to the Sterling Highway means taking your life into your hands, the grocery stores are packed, and as for visiting any of the local breweries/brewpubs, good luck! I managed to slip into Kenai River Brewing last Friday to do a book signing, in the hopes of aiding owner Doug Houge in offloading some of the inventory he was so nice to buy from me. Doug told me that for the last week, they'd set a new record for food and beer sales each day. It's great for our businesses down here, but for the rest of us, man, what a hassle!

All the breweries around the state seem to be working at full throttle, trying to keep up with the summer demand. I'm frequently seeing posts about new beers being released, many of which seem to be made with fruit. So if you haven't checked out your local brewery lately, it's probably a good idea to do so and see what they might have on tap that's new.

Speaking of new, Anchorage Brewing Company will be two beers in cans on Friday, 28 July: Crazy Ray's IPA and Lines Double IPA. These will be the first two beers off the brewery's brand-new canning line. Saturday, July 29th will be The Culmination Festival; if you're planning to attend, you'd better have your tickets already, as it's sold out. Gabe Fletcher has also released some additional details about The Deal with the Devil Day, October 28th. It's been decided that sales of the boxed set will be first-come, first-served, one to a customer, so if you want one, you had better plan on standing in line to get it.

Photo courtesy of Anchorage Brewing


Also this Saturday, the 5th Annual Beer & Bacon Fest will be happening in Anchorage:



At Midnight Sun Brewing, long-time brewer Davy Cacy has left to attend diving school. The brewery farewell party for him on July 17th, at which they tapped his last brew, Walk the Plank West Coast IPA. I'd like to wish Davy the best of luck in all his future endeavors.



Congratulations to Odd Man Rush Brewing in Eagle River for winning the Bear Paw President's Community Service Award from the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce.

Photo courtesy of Odd Man Rush Brewing


Congratulations as well to Bearpaw River Brewing of Wasilla for winning the 2017 Foraker Award for Best Family Owned Business from Alaska Business Monthly Magazine.

Photo courtesy of Bearpaw River Brewing

Girdwood Brewing now has a crowler machine, allowing it to offer its beers to go in freshly-filled 25.4 oz. aluminum cans.

Photo courtesy of Girdwood Brewing 

Seward Brewing Company and Bleeding Heart Brewery have brewed their first collaboration beer: Imperial Chowder Stout. Ingredients included potatoes from Palmer and oysters from Ressurection Bay.  Should be interesting, to say the least...

Photo courtesy of Bleeding Heart Brewery
Tickets are now on sale for the 6th Annual Capital Brewfest, to be held at the Juneau Arts and Cultural Center on September 23.



Tickets are also on sale for the 7th Annual Kenai Penisula Beer Festival on Saturday, August 12th, at the Soldotna Sports Center. You can get them online or at one of the local breweries. As you can see from the flyer below, there will be over 20 breweries in attendance.


I'm still doing Drinking on the Last Frontier, my monthly radio show, on KDLL FM 91.9 Kenai-Soldotna. My next show will be broadcast this Saturday, July 29th, at 11 AM. On it, I'll be interviewing Bobby Wilken of HooDoo Brewing Company in Fairbanks and Matt Pyhala, the Festival Coordinator for the Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival. If you miss the show's broadcast, you can find a podcast of it on www.kdll.org.

Eat your heart out, Edward R. Murrow...

That's it for news this time around. I've only got one new beer review this time, though I just pulled a couple of beers out of my cellar. I haven't opened them yet, but I'm sure I will have before my next blog.

Kenai River Brewing's Grapefruit Lil' SIPA: I reviewed the base beer, KRBC's Session IPA or Lil' SIPA, back in my 9/28/2016. I liked it then and I've enjoyed it frequently since then. This version is infused with grapefruit, obviously. It poured a hazy red-gold color with a small white head. The aroma had strong grapefruit notes, almost completely overwhelming the contribution from the Citra hops. The mouthfeel was light and the carbonation was good. On the palate, there's a ton of grapefruit flavor, but it interacts well with the bitterness and citrus notes from the hops. If you really love grapefruit, you'll certainly like this beer. If like me, you're not terribly fond of it, you'll likely find this beer not to your taste. 4.5%, 65 IBUs.



That's it for this blog. As mentioned in this blog and my last one, there are many beer festivals happening in the next few weeks, so it's a good time to be making plans about which ones you'll attend. Maybe I'll see you there!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

It's Dip Net Season on the Kenai

I guess I should start off by apologizing; it's been almost a month since my last blog. Summer is, of course, a super-busy time for all Alaskans, compounded in my case by a visit from my daughter, son-in-law, and two grandkids, but that's really no excuse for letting this blog languish for so long. However, it's currently dip-net season here on the Kenai, which means it a wonderful time NOT to go anywhere or do anything away from home, so this should be a good time to get caught up.

Tickets for the 7th Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival are now on sale. The festival will be on Saturday, August 12th, from 5 to 9 pm, at the Soldotna Sports Center. Tickets are available at Kassik's Brewery, Kenai River Brewing Company, St. Elias Brewing Company, or on-line at http://www.kenaibeerfest.com/. Tickets are $30 General Admission from 6 to 9 pm, or $50 for the VIP/Connoisseur Hour, starting at 5 pm. For entertainment, Meg Linsey from Season 9 of The Voice has been confirmed, along with other live bands. The early session is limited to 200 tickets, so if you are interested, you should get your before they sell out.


Speaking of selling out, if you were planning to attend The Culmination at Anchorage Brewing Company on Saturday, July 29th, I hope you have already purchased your tickets; it's now officially sold out. Anchorage Brewing has also announced that this year's Deal With the Devil Day will be October 28th. Here's what owner Gabe Fletcher had to say about it:

 This year's release will be VERY special... We will be selling a custom wooden box set containing six different barrel variations. All packaged in wax-dipped 375ml bottles. These batches were aged for 16 months. Here are a list of the barrel varieties:
  • Glenmorangie Scotch Whisky
  • Apple Brandy
  • Woodford Reserve Double Oak
  • Rum
  • Cognac
  • A special double oaked version that spent 1 year in Cognac and then was transferred into freshly emptied Woodford Reserve Double Oak for 4 months to add even more complexity.
All but one of these are only single cask agings, meaning there won't be much! We will have around 340 box sets available.




If you'll be in Fairbanks in early August, it looks like there will be a new festival there. Here's the flyer for it:

click to enlarge
49th State Brewing Company in Healy will be holding its annual Augtoberfest on 11 & 12 August. I've never been able to attend this festival myself, but by all reports, it's a great time. Here's the flyer for this year's festival.

click to enlarge

It's a bit of old news now, but Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka finally opened the taproom in its new location on Saturday, July 1.


As long as I'm covering old news, the new 907 Alehouse & Grill in Anchorage opened its doors on June 21st. I haven't had a chance to visit it myself yet, but it has a lot of beer on tap and the menu looks pretty good.


HooDoo Brewing in Fairbanks has become the first brewery in the Alaska to significantly harness solar power for its operations. Here's their press release:

HooDoo Brewing Company, began the new rooftop solar installation project as soon as snow melted off their brewery this April. The array of 60 solar panels was energized in mid-May, and will produce up to 110 kilowatt hours of electricity per day, or about one-third of HooDoo’s power per year. Additionally, it will reduce the CO2 produced by combustion by roughly 1.5 tons per month during the summer season. 
“We are a community-focused company,” owner and brewer Bobby Wilken said, noting an emphasis on providing a product and service for the people in his hometown while being conscious of the environment. “We look at this solar project as pushing our community forward. We’ll generate a nice chunk of renewable energy that runs our meter backwards and anything extra goes back into the community’s grid.”
The project is the product of a partnership with local solar company, Renewable Energy Systems of Alaska. The company spent most of the winter building out supports, reinforcing the trusses and roof of HooDoo’s 1970’s Alaska Pipeline-era building to support the weight and mechanics of the new solar project.
“They’re 100-percent committed to doing it right,” Wilken said of RES. “They’re great local business people, and they’re doing it right for the right reasons.”
Energy generation will fluctuate seasonally, due to HooDoo’s subarctic location, but will feed into the community grid year-round. Over 3,000 kilowatts have been generated from the project so far, harnessing Fairbanks’ 20+ hours of daily sunlight in June and July. Data is gauged by a real-time, cloud-based monitoring system.
“The people of Fairbanks make our product sustainable and viable, but anything else we can do to push the boundaries is absolutely fantastic,” Wilken continues. “The brewing process is water and energy intensive. The quality of our beer is our first priority, but we’re always looking for ways to make our process more reliable, more efficient and it doesn’t hurt to make our environmental footprint a little smaller.”




Cooper Landing Brewing Company made a post on July 4 stating that they hoped to have the licensing process completed and to be selling beer soon. I'll let you know when I hear more.


Midnight Sun Brewing Company will be holding several events in both Anchorage & Fairbanks this week:

Anchorage events
Fairbanks events
Congratulations are in order for both Barnaby Brewing and Alaskan Brewing Company. The former took a Gold Medal in the 2017 US Open Beer Championships with its McSteamy California Common, while the latter took a Silver Medal with its Raspberry Wheat.


Finally, I'm still doing my monthly radio show, Drinking on the Last Frontier, on KDLL 91.9 FM in Kenai. It's broadcast on the last Saturday of each month at 11 am, and then the recorded shows are available on the KDLL website. If you haven't checked it out yet, I'd really appreciate you giving it a listen and then giving me some feedback on it. There will also be a fundraiser for KDLL this Saturday, July 15th: the 5th Annual BBQ, Burgers and Blues at the Vagabond Inn from 4 to 9 pm. Kenai River Brewing donates the beer.


It's been almost a month, but I've only had four new beers in that time to review.

Boulevard Brewing's Changeling Dark Sour Ale: It poured a semi-translucent ruby color with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma was mostly tart cherries, but there was a hint of brett funkiness. The carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium. On the palate, there was a nice balance of the tart cherry notes and the brett elements. Bottom line: a workman-like but not an exceptional sour. 7.3% ABV, 20 IBUs.


New Belgium Brewing's Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA: New Belgium's effort to re-imagine one of its classic flagship beers. It poured a deep, slightly red, gold color; very clear. Nice white head. The nose was primarily citrus and piney American hop notes. Good carbonation, light mouthfeel. The initial bitter attack was moderate, followed by lots of American hop flavor and aroma, before falling away to a nice finish. 9% ABV


Unibroue's Tout Le Monde Saison: Since I'm not into heavy metal, the Megadeath imagery on the label doesn't mean anything to me, but I'm always interested in trying a new saison.This one poured a clear gold with a nice white head. The aroma had the classic peppery, earthy Belgian yeast notes. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. On the palate, the classic saison flavors were very nice, but the dry hops claimed on the label were nowhere noticeable. The finish on the beer was also a bit thin. Not a bad beer, but nothing that any of the better saisons out there (Dupont, Tank 7, Hennepin) have anything to worry about. 4.5% ABV, 22 IBUs.


Founders Brewing's Porter: I found this at Country Liquors in Kenai when I stopped in to pick up some Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale from the same brewery. It poured opaque with a big tan head. The nose had lots of delicious roasty notes. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was medium. The flavor profile was as advertised on the label: rich, dark, and sexy! I'm always a fan of a good, robust porter, and this one certainly qualifies. 6.5% ABV, 45 IBUs.


That's it for this time around. I'll do my best not to make you wait another month for the next one. In the meantime, get out and enjoy the summer sun, attend some beer festivals, and have a good time. After all, it won't be very long before fall is upon us again.

Until Next Time, Cheers!