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!

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!