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!