Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The First of November

So, in spite of my best efforts, it's been over three weeks since my last blog. Oh well, what can I say?Part of the reason is the other Drinking on the Last Frontier, my monthly radio show. If you missed my broadcast on last Saturday, October 28th, you can listen to a recording of it on the KDLL website. Just click on this link.

By the way, my radio show received an Honorable Mention in the Broadcast/Podcast Category of the 2017 North American Guild of Beer Writers Awards. Winners were announced on Friday, October 6th, at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. You can see a complete list of this year's awards here. So if you haven't listened to it yet, you might want to check it out.

There's been a fair amount of beer news since my last blog. Let's hit some highlights.

Denali Brewing Company received a Small Business of the Year Award from the Alaska Chamber of Commerce. Here's its press release:

"Denali Brewing is proud to announce that we have won the 2017 Bill Bivin Small Business Award from the Alaska Chamber of Commerce!  This award pays tribute to businesses that exemplify leadership, ethics and organization.  Our brewery’s achievements are directly related to the dedication and passion of our employees. We’d like to express our gratitude to our community, customers, and the Chamber for their constant support, enthusiasm, and love of locally made craft beer."

Owner/Founder Sassan Mossanen has also been busy. In July he traveled to Beijing, China to brew with Jing-A Brewing. Their joint effort was released this month. It's called Mead Me in the Middle (Kingdom), a 9% braggot brewed with chasteberry honey from a nature reserve in the hills west of Beijing. Then in September brewers from Nogne O Brewery in Norway visited Talkeetna and helped brew a Sea Truffle Gose. Sea truffles are a rare delicacy harvested on the southern coast of Norway. Other ingredients included Himalayan sea salt and coriander.

Photo courtesy of Denali Brewing Company

As part of my radio show, I drove over to Cooper Landing to interview Nelz Barnett of Cooper Landing Brewing Company. You can listen to the interview using the link above, but here are some photos that I took.

The exterior of Cooper Landing Brewing Co.

The interior of Cooper Landing Brewing Co.
Nelz Barnett and Assitant Brewer Charlie next to his brewing system.
Cooper Landing's beers are on sale in crowlers at Wildman's Liquors in Cooper Landing and should be on tap soon at the Sunrise Inn.

HooDoo Brewing Company in Fairbanks celebrated its 5th Anniversary on Halloween. Congratulation to Bobby Wilken and the rest of the crew, and best wishes for the next five years!

Anchorage Brewing Company's Deal With the Devil Day was apparently a big success. It even received covered from KTUU Channel 2. The brewery sold 443 boxed sets at $300 each. People began lining up the evening before, camping out in the brewery's parking lot in 30-degree weather. Gabe Fletcher estimated that over 120 people flew into town just to purchase the six-bottle box set.

Photos courtesy of Anchorage Brewing Co.

QUAKE! Brewing Company has announced that it will be closing for the season Saturday, November 4th. During QUAKE!’s off-season founder Danyelle will travel abroad; honing his skills, studying with various brewmasters, and continuing his education in the fine art of making beer. The Season Closing Party will run from 3 to 8 PM.

Photo courtesy of QUAKE! brewing.

La Bodega's annual Bodega-Fest will be taking place on Saturday, November 11th, from 5 to 9 PM, at the Alaska Aviation Museum. This year, it will feature brews from Kodiak Island Brewing Company; these beers seldom make it off The Rock, so this is a wonderful opportunity to taste them without having to fly to Kodiak! Tickets are available online for $35 each, $45 at the door.

Also on November 11th, Kenai River Brewing Company will be hosting its first Fall Beer Dinner. Tickets cost $70, which includes the gratuity, but if you don't have yours already, you're out of luck, as the event sold out in less than an hour! Menu for it includes Braised Pork Belly over a crispy rice cake, Maple Bacon Salad, Butternut Squash Bisque, 8 oz. Beef Fillet topped with crab compound butter, along with roasted red & purple potatoes and asparagus with a bearnaise sauce, plus dessert. I've got my ticket, so I'll be sure to paste some photos for people to drool over...

Midnight Sun Brewing Company in Anchorage has announced that it has a new head brewer. Sean Jackson has been an assistant brewer at Midnight Sun for several years and is now heading up the brewing team. Former head brewer Lee Ellis has become Midnight Sun’s Chief of Brewing Operations. Ellis became head brewer in 2012, after being an assistant brewer for several years. Midnight Sun has also begun selling its newest flagship beer, Wolf Pack Pilsner, in 6- and 12-packs of 12 oz. cans. It's available here on the Peninsula at Country Liquors; see below for my review.

Photo courtesy of Midnight Sun Brewing Company

Alaska Brewing Company’s Heritage Coffee Brown Ale was awarded a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. There were 89 entrants in the Coffee Beer category this year. Alaskan has also released its 2017 Smoked Porter; just weeks after the 2016 vintage received a Gold Award for Strong Smoke Beer at the European Beer Star Awards. First brewed by Alaskan in 1988, Smoked Porter is a pioneer of the American smoked beer movement and has won more medals at the Great American Beer Festival than any other beer in history.

Photo courtesy of Alaskan Brewing Co.

So that's it for news, let's do some reviews.

Kenai River Brewing's 2017 Winter Warlock Old Ale: Released on October 1st of each year, this is Kenai River's renowned old ale. It's brewed each October and then cold-conditioned for a year before being released the following 1 October. This year's version poured a slightly cloudy honey color with a nice, cream-colored head. The aroma has lots of clean malt flavor. Carbonation was good, and the mouthfeel was medium. The flavor profile is definitely malt forward and clean, with enough bitterness to balance. It's another excellent batch of the Winter Warlock. 9% ABV.

St. Elias Brewing's 2017 Oktoberfest Lager: This year's version of this traditional lager poured a lovely clear red/copper color with a nice, cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The nose had plenty clean malt & caramel notes. Carbonation was good, and mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile was classic marzen - clean malt, caramel notes, and a balanced hoppiness. Another excellent lager from St. Elias Brewing. 6% ABV, 20 IBUs.

Broken Tooth Brewing's Hive Mind Tripel: This limited release poured a clear copper color with a dense, off-white head. The aroma had the spicy, peppery notes you'd expect from a Belgian yeast. Mouthfeel was light thanks to the use of honey, and the carbonation was excellent. On the palate there were nice fruity notes; overall, the flavor was excellent. A delicious tripel from Broken Tooth! 9.5% ABV, 21 IBUs.

Midnight Sun Brewing's Wolf Pack Pilsner: This is the newest flagship beer from Midnight Sun. It pours a clear gold with a small white head that dissipated to a collar. The nose was mainly clean malt notes, with little hop presence. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile was maltier than a typical Czech or Bohemian pilsner. It's hopped with Galaxy and Hersbrocker hops, but just enough for balance. 5% ABV, 34 IBUs.

Well, that's it for this time around. Winter is definitely on its way, which means everyone will be releasing their big winter beers, so keep an eye out for them on the shelves. Soon it will be time to start drinking all those imperial stouts and barley wines!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Back in the Saddle Again

Hello! It's been quite some time since I got one of these blog posts up; more than a month, in fact, which is a long time, even for me. For those of you who have been wondering, let me tell you what happened. In early September, I had some minor surgery on my right hand. After several months of going back and forth with the Veterans Administration, I finally got in to see a hand surgeon, who did an MRI and then told me I had a tumor on a tendon in my right forefinger. It was benign (fortunately), but it had to come out. After the surgery, here's what my finger looked like:

As you might imagine, I haven't able to use my right hand very well for several weeks. Since I'm right-handed, this has made it very hard to hold a pen or even type very much. What little typing I was able to do, I had to dedicate to my college courses, as I've gone back to school and am taking 12 credits. Something had to give, and it was this blog. So there, that's my excuse.

The good news is that my finger is pretty close to 100% now, and I'm more or less caught up with everything, so it's time to get this blog out again! Lots of stuff has happened while I was out of action, and I can't begin to cover it all in detail, so let me do my best to hit the high points. Then I'm going to move to beer reviews. While I couldn't use my hand much for anything else, it was still capable of holding a beer glass, so I've got thirteen beer reviews to pass along. But first, let's do some news:

2nd Annual Alaska Day Beer Festival in Sitka: It's on October 18, as part of the Alaska Day celebrations. It will be held in historic Totem Square in Sitka.  All proceeds from this up and coming event will go to support the new Sitka History Museum which plans to open soon.

Quake Brewing Company has finally opened. The Grand Opening at its Wasilla location was on September 8th.

Cooper Landing Brewing is also open. See reviews of two of its beers below. Crowlers are on sale periodically at Wildman's Liquor in Cooper Landing.

HooDoo Brewing opened its new outdoor beer garden on September 16th with a ribbon-cutting by the mayor of Fairbanks.

Photo courtesy of HooDoo Brewing

Kodiak Island Brewing Company has begun offering its beers in 32 oz. crowler cans. The cans come in both single-use and refillable versions.

Photo courtesy of Kodiak Island Brewing

Midnight Sun Brewing released the second beer in its Wild Adventures series on September 16: Sporter, a sour porter brewed with wild yeast and aged in oak barrels. It weighs in at 7.5% ABV. Any day now should see the release of this year’s version of its Belgian-style barley wine, Termination Dust. The brewery has also received its order of cans for Wolf Pack Pilsner and will be releasing the canned version of that brew next Thursday at a beer dinner at The Lakefront Hotel in Anchorage.

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

Bearpaw River Brewing in Wasilla has purchased a canning line from Cask and has begun canning its Frontiersman IPA and Mat Maid Milk Stout in six packs of 12 oz. cans. The brewery has also released a new beer for draft distribution -- Hatcher Pass Pale Ale, weighing in at 5% ABV and 35 IBU. This is a beer will be released in 12oz 6-packs, most likely next spring.

Photo courtesy of Bearpaw River Brewing
Kevin Burton, the long-time head brewer at Glacier BrewHouse in Anchorage, has left that job. Burton became head brewer there in 2001 and has overseen over 4500 brews since then.  Burton is now the Operating Partner at the new Matanuska Brewing Company in Palmer. The facility build-out is almost complete and plans are to produce the first batch of beer no later than January 2018.

Photo courtesy of Glacier BrewHouse

Alaska Brewing has added last year’s popular seasonal, Husky IPA to its year-round offerings. The beer features Mosaic hops and has an unmistakable tropical and fruity aroma. See my review on 1/27/2017. Alaskan will also be having a beer dinner on October 15th at Fire Tap in Anchorage.

Construction on King Street Brewing's new home seems to be progressing well. Here's photo that was posted on September 29th.

Photo courtesy of King Street Brewing
Kenai River Brewing released this year's version of its Winter Warlock Old Ale on Sunday, October 1st. This beer is brewed each October and then cold-conditioned for almost a year before being released on 1 October. I will have a review of this year's release in my next blog.

Photo courtesy of Kenai River Brewing

That's it for the highlights. I'm sure I missed some great stuff, so if I missed something of yours, please accept my apologies. I plan to go into much more detail in my next blog.

Let's do those promised beer reviews.

Alaskan Brewing's Mocha Milk Stout: It poured opaque with a nice tan head. The aroma had notes of both coffee and sweet malt. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was medium, with lots of body. There were lots of good, roasted notes, but they were balanced by the sweetness from the malt and the lactose. It also well away to a nice finish that invited another sip. Quite delicious. 7% ABV.

Boon's Oude Geuze Black Label (2nd edition): This beer used to only be available in Belgium, and I enjoyed it on my last visit to that country some 17 years ago. Now it is being imported to the US, which is excellent news for lovers of lambics! It poured a clear red-gold in color, with a nice head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma had the tart notes you expect from a proper geuze. Carbonation was good, though not as good as is typical for the style, and the mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile was spot on for the classic traditional geuze: light, tart, bone dry, super complex, and effervescant. This is truly a superb beer. As a bonus, I got to use my lambic basket... 6.4% ABV.

St. Elias Brewing's Black Widow Russian Imperial Stout: This beer was aged for a year in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels. It poured opaque with a small tan head. The aroma had noted of sweet malt, bourbon, and oak. Carbonation was okay, and the mouthfeel was heavy and chewy. Big Russian Imperial stout flavors up front; first the sweet notes, then the roasted elements, with the oak and bourbon coming in at the finish. Another excellent barrel-aged beer from Zach Henry.

Sierra Nevada's 2017 Oktoberfest with Brewhaus Miltenberger: This year's collaboration Oktoberfest brew from Sierra Nevada. It poured a lovely light copper color with a nice white head. The nose had a nice blend of clean malty and German hops notes. Mouthfeel was light and the carbonation was good. On the palate, there were the classic bready notes, balanced with a nice amount of hops. An excellent example of this classic seasonal. 6.1% ABV.

Arkose Brewery's Ovis Belgian-style Golden Ale: It poured a slightly cloudy gold, with a white head that dissipated to a collar. The aroma had light hop notes. Mouthfeel was light, and the carbonation was good. Nice balance between the maltiness and hop bitterness, with the hops winning through on the finish. 9% ABV, 35 IBUs.

 Cooper Landing Brewing's Pale Ale: It poured a clear honey color with a nice white head. The nose had plenty of American hop notes, plus some malt elements. Good carbonation and a light mouthfeel. Good malt backbone, but plenty of American hop flavors. A very nice American Pale Ale and an excellent piece of work from a brand-new brewery. 5.8% ABV

Black Market Brewing's David's Belgian Golden Blonde Ale: It poured a clear gold color with a big white head. The aroma had the classic spicy, peppery notes of a Belgian yeast. Mouthfeel was light, and carbonation was good. On the palate, there were some phenolic notes from the Belgian yeast, but overall the flavors seemed slightly muddy and indistinct. There are much better Belgian-style golden ales out there, so I can't really recommend this one. 7.7% ABV

St. Elias Brewing's Simple Porter: It poured dark but with some ruby highlights and a nice tan head. The nose had notes of chocolate and roasted malt. Mouthfeel was medium and the carbonation was good. Very nice balance between the malt and hop notes, very clean. Overall, a straight-ahead porter, but delicious none the same. 5.4% ABV, 46 IBUs.

Founder's Brewing's ReDankulous Imperial Red IPA: It poured a clear dark red with a cream-colored head. The nose had lots of piney, resiny hop notes. The mouthfeel was light, and the carbonation was good. There was nice upfront bitterness, followed by good hop flavor. Frankly, it tasted like a slightly amped up version of Midnight Sun Brewing's Sockeye Red IPA. 9.5%, 95 IBUs.

Cooper Landing Brewing's Backroller IPA: It poured the color of honey with a nice, off-white head. The aroma had lots of piney, resiny Northwest hops in it. The initial bitter attack was nice, followed by good clean hop flavor. An excellent American IPA from the newest brewery on the Peninsula. 7% ABV.

Deschutes Brewing's 2016 Abyss Russian Imperial Stout: Last year's version of this reliably excellent beer. It poured opaque with a nice tan head. The aroma had lots of coffee and molassess notes. Mouthfeel was medium and the carbonation was good. Great flavor profile, with tons of big roasted malt flavors. As always, another excellent year for The Abyss! 11.1% ABV, 80 IBUs.

The next two beers, both from Kenai River Brewing, are made using a new hop, Experimental #727. This hop is typically described as having dank or resiny flavors, unlike the tropical fruit notes which have recently become so popular in hops.

Kenai River Brewing's Experimental #727 Single Hop IPA: It poured a clear copper color with a nice cream-colored head. The aroma had lots of piney hops notes, very much to my taste. Carbonation was good, and mouthfeel was light. On the palate, there was nice clean hop bitterness up front followed by lots of dank, resiny hop flavors, just as advertised. Overall, I really liked this new hop and it made a great IPA. 7 % ABV, 70 IBUs.

Kenai River Brewing's Experimental #727 Imperial Rye Pale Ale (IRPA): This version was a deeper honey color and slightly cloudy, with a nice cream-colored head. The aroma had plenty of nice hop notes, again with lots of piney, Pacific Northwest character to them. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light to medium. There was plenty of bitterness, but it was well-balanced by the malt, and there was a touch of alcohol heat on the finish. A bigger version, weighing in at 11% ABV and 100 IBUS. I liked them both, though I think the IPA probably showcases the hop slightly better, as the IRPA has a lot more going on. Still, they are both excellent brews.

That's it for this blog, though hopefully not for this month! I'm going to try to get these out at least every two weeks, if not sooner. Meantime, remember to check out my monthly radio show, also called Drinking on the Last Frontier, on KDLL 91.9 FM Kenai Soldotna, Public Radio for the Central Peninsula. It's broadcast the last Saturday of each month at 11 AM, but if you miss it, recording of all the shows are available at

So get out there an enjoy our fall weather will it lasts. It won't be much longer before we all have to start dealing with Old Man Winter.

Until Next Time. Cheers!

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,

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!