Category Archives: The Nectar

Southland Whiskey Kitchen

This post is guest-posted on Dave Knows Portland as well.

When Dave asks, it is imperative that you do the right thing. Especially when it’s “Hey, Rick, would you like to checkout this new restaurant that serves tasty BBQ and delicious grown-up beverages?” So, I did the right thing: show up to Southland for a preview of their tasty menu.

Southland is a new project by the folks who brought the Casa del Matador to Portland located just a couple doors down at 1422 NW 23rd. Not that other (awesome but totally different) Matador. The first thing you notice is the decor. As you may have noticed at their Matadors with the intricate ironwork, these guys are chronically attentive to detail, with a simple but elegant wood decor and some awesome light fixtures that I won’t endeavor to describe, as my effort will fall short so you should probably go check them out (but props to Hippo Hardware for providing the moody bulbs). The space has a large open air section facing NW 23rd, openings that were not there when it was the Clear Creek Distillery.

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The menu is heavily southern without many concessions to vegetarians, most of which live in the sides and salads. Vegans need not apply, unless you’re just looking to quench your thirst. Everything I ate was pleasing. There were two standout items: the collard greens, and the spicy shrimp with grits. The biscuit was a thing of beauty, and went nicely slathered with honey butter and brisket.

Eric (my date) and I disagreed on the fried chicken. There was consensus that the meat (we both had thigh) was juicy and tender, but butted heads on the fry. It comes down to a matter of preference, I like mine a bit crispier and spiced, and Eric likes it the wrong way. Don’t tell anyone but the fried chicken may become available in ‘n waffles format with the advent of a brunch menu.

They were nice enough to bring us key lime pie for dessert but I was so stuffed on main course items I only shoveled a couple quick bites into my mouth on my way to tour the kitchen. Please remember folks, we’re professionals, excelling at planning, pacing, and execution.

Okay. Now on to the bar. The wonderful, wonderful bar. The bar is wide. With whiskey. The only place in town I can think of with a comparable list is the Brooklyn Park Pub. Southland specializes in American bourbons, ryes, and whiskeys. A rough count or their list shows about 120 American selections. They appear to be well curated as well, a trait that reaches into the Canadian, Irish, and Scotch varieties as well.

We were served a variety of hard and soft mixed drinks throughout the evening. I was presented a Mint Julep just for walking in YMMV. The julep was great. I was parched from the long drive to NW 23rd from the office, and the crushed ice worked wonders with the classic refresher. It had a sweetness, but over the top for me, unlike the Southern Punch. My date Eric loved them both, but I tend to shy away from beverages with “punch” in the description. For the kiddies and DDs (can’t think of anyone else) they have their scratch lemonade. They make it from lemon juice and sugar. Again, super-sweet, but I think that’s how it’s done in the South.

Meal service closed with an Old Fashioned. Ah, back to my kind of drink. This was the most avante-garde of the bunch, with a big ice cube and a suspended cherry (next to the ice, not in it). The effect was of a somewhat deconstructed Old Fashioned, which you could drink from different sides of the ice for slightly different effects.

Happily, we got to checkout the kitchen, which was pretty classy with its mesquite grill and big ‘ole black smoker. It smelled wonderful in the back with the local apple wood smoking the meats, but I can see why they do their best to vent out and up, since some customers may object to a smoky meaty sauna.

I’m expecting Southland to pack a pretty lively happy hour, which runs daily 3:30-6pm.

They’re opening Thursday 10/11 at 11am.

 

Lompoc and their wonderful holiday fun

From Lompoc Holiday Beer Event 2011

I’ve always enjoyed Lompoc beers.  Many sunny afternoons have been misspent sitting on the porch at New Old Lompoc, and I’ve had quite a few pleasant cool-downs from soccer and riding at Hedge House and the brilliantly named 5th Quadrant.  Tuesday the good people of Lompoc held a tasting event for their holiday beers, and it did not disappoint.

Eric and I arrived early and snagged seats at the bar.  From there I was able to snag good glassware and chat up the bartenders (who also happened to be brewers, owners, or Dave).  And it was pole position for grabbing the freshly poured samples.  Which were ample.

Did I mention they only released 10 different holiday beers this year?  Ranging from the mellow Blitzen to the potent C-sons Greetings, from Jolly Bock to Barrel Aged Old Tavern Rat (thanks Don!), and a few outliers like the Brewdolph and Cherry Christman.  And to make Mr. Sandler happy, the 8 Malty Nights was offered for the Chanukah consumers.

Blitzen – very light for an xmas ale, some nice holiday infusions of cinnamon, clove, lemon, and ginger.  Cinnamon aromatics.  Really not much more than a wheaty pale with a light citrus  ginger, but for my taste it’ll sit nicely between heavier holiday ales.

Zach wanted to have a lighter holiday beer so he concocted fool’s golden w/ spices.  Infused by xferring through corny this year.

Nose: light clove and citrus.  A session holiday ale.  The food really brings it out.

 

Cherry Christmas 

messing around with wine barrels, bourbon barrel for the last several years.

base: golden, fermented in steel w/ sour cherries + sour willie.  released 11/29.  This will be the holiday ale beer.  light, fruity, maybe a little sour.

Brewdolph

Brian’s favorite.  belgian red, balanced, Ardennes yeast.  spicy, clove flavor.  Heavy clove nose. No adjuncts, amazing amount of clove.  Slightly sharp finish.  Lets you know you’re alive.

Holiday Cheer

Milder holiday ale with big body and full spice, based on the vanilla porter.  Sits on vanilla beans.  Use whole beans for real flavor.

Jolly Bock

holiday lager.  huge 7.3% malty.  caramel, a bit sweet, super drinkable 7.3 beer.

I really enjoyed this.  It had that nice crispness of a lager, and was really not overpowering despite the 7.3%.  I don’t know what the final gravity was but it finished nice and clean.

C-sons Greetings

Based on C-note, C-sons greetings basically upped the ante in every way.  100 IBUs.  Every 7 hops in the kettle, and every 7 in the fermenter for a dry hop in the C-sons.

Hearing Jerry talk about the original C-note was pretty fun.  It was too strong back in the day.  “If I can’t have 3 beers without lunch, it’s too much for your clienteele”  Based on c-note.   The name is based on 7 C-hops like centennial, cascade, and chinook used to make C-note (what there were of C-names  at the time).

Bourbon Barrel Aged C-sons Greetings

nose gives the bourbon barrel.  This was a fine beer, but I didn’t find the barrel did a whole lot to the flavor, since it tempered the hops quite a bit.

Old Tavern Rat

named after Don Younger, but “he would F***ing hate this beer”.  cellared for a year prior to release.  collaboration of Brian and Zach.   English style barley wine, not overhopped.  Sweet, but nicely balanced.

Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Tavern Rat 

great beer.  sweetcake barley wine, super nice bourbon vanilla, creamy body, lingers just enough to know it cares.  I’m not typically a fan of barley wines, but I took three bottles of this home with me.

8 malty nights

chocolate rye porter. This one was still pretty green, having just been pulled out of the fermenter to offer us all a taste and a preview.  That’s the kind of event this was…sorta, hey, check out the fun stuff we’re working on now!  Which is awesome.

Overall, it was a really nice evening.  Jerry, Dave, and the brewers shared tons of stories and secrets.  Everyone laughed a bunch.  Good times were had, along with plenty of beer.

Organic City Sounds on Beer

Nice little audio blog piece on beer in Portland, OR. Go ahead and take a listen. It covers the whole gamut from enjoying to making in our little beer mecca.

Heads up! North American Organic Brewers Festival

Just a reminder that the NAOBF is happening this weekend, starts at noon Fri-Sunday at Overlook Park.  This is my favorite brewfest of the year.  It doesn’t get crazy crowded, there are tons of fun beers to try, and it’s always an all-around good time.  I’m helping Dave Knows with his story about it this year, so double-stoked.  See you there.

Blue Point Toxic Sludge Black IPA

My brother and his sweet gf showed up at my place today.  Wisely, they came bearing gifts.  Wiser, they came in the form of tasty and interesting beer.  His lady is from Long Island, NY, home of Blue Point Brewing Company.  And a town called Blue Point.  Anyways, I’m quite impressed with the first beer I’ve tasted from them.

Personally, I prefer calling it Cascadian Dark.  But we know what they’re talking about.  This tasty treat out of Long Island has a chocolate malt aroma and a full body.  A deep caramel brown color, the appealingly-named Toxic Sludge carries a nice head.  The dark roasted malts are clean, but the roast lingers with a hint of coffee until my next taste.  There’s a nice balance of bitterness, I wouldn’t mind a bit more overt hoppiness, but really this is a delicious blend of bitter and sweet, perhaps lacking just a bit of crispness for the sweet body.  But sacrifices must be made.

Blue Point Toxic Sludge
Toxic Sludge in a glass

Impressively, Blue Point is donating a significant amount of the proceeds to a bird rescue for a wildlife response rescue.  Which is awesome.  And in doing so, they’re producing a delicious Cascadian Dark for people like me to enjoy.  Seeing as I’ll be on Long Island this summer, I have something to look forward to.

A nice selection

This is the second New York non-city brewery to impress me.  Southern Tier has some amazing brews, and I’m looking forward to trying more from Blue Point.

Thanks Joanne and bro (and family of Joanne).  cheers.

rick

GQ’s best brews

Lisa the beer goddess has called my attention to an article in which GQ calls out the 50 best beers. These things are such a matter of opinion and experience it doesn’t make sense to argue much, but I think they hit a lot of good ones.

I’ve previously mentioned the Duchesse as a favorite. I’m also a fan of Southern Tier who didn’t make the list. Que sera.

Barrel Projects

Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some outstanding homebrewers on some barrel projects. Basically, we get 10 or so people to each brew a batch(es) of a particular beer, then we get together to siphon it into a bourbon barrel. The beer then ages over a month to many months, changing in character and gaining oak and bourbon flavors.

So far I’ve reaped the benefits of a baltic porter and an imperial IPA. The porter was outstanding, creamy and rich. The IPA was good. It came out with a deep citrus bite that opened to a summery floral taste.

I got to same the Oud Bruin last night, it’s been aging for 8 months or so, and has begun souring nicely. Basically, each contributor brewed a strong brown ale of their choice with little regard for consistency. When we transferred to the barrel, wild yeast and bacteria were added with the intention of souring the beer. Last night it was smooth and delicious at about halfway. It has a bizarre white layer of rot floating on top of it. This is by design for this beer. The barrel we used had already turned, souring beers that were not intended for that.

Last night we filled a barrel with an imperial alt, it’ll probably be pulled in a month or two after picking up the oak from a freshly charred barrel.

Currently, I’m looking for about 5 gallons to go into a dubbel barrel very soon. If you are interested, drop me a line via email or in the comments, and I’ll send you a recipe. cheers!

Brewing for the impatient: The process

The process of turning raw ingredients into delicious beer is an extremely complicated one. It involves chemistry, biology, physics, and magic, plus a potentially infinite budget for copper, stainless, and rubber whizbangs. I have only scratched the surface of the possibilities. That is by design.

Alchemy thanks to Princeton.  I owe a beer.

So, completely neglecting the science involved, and getting to the sequence of events that need to take place to make beer, here is the brewing process in a nutshell.

  1. Extract sugars from grains, producing wort.
  2. Boil wort, adding ingredients at appropriate times
  3. cool wort and transfer to fermenter
  4. add (pitch) yeast
  5. let yeast work magic
  6. transfer beer to delivery vessel

That’s it. Extract, boil, cool, wait, drink. You can say “Every boy can wear dresses” to help you remember. In upcoming articles, I’ll go into some details around what happens in these phases, and how to git’er done.

Brewing for the Impatient: your mash tun

I cannot believe how long it took me to build my mash tun. In then end I think I was a bit intimidated, partly because I didn’t really understand what a mash tun was. Whenever I set down to research it, I’d end up on some long-winded analysis of manifold efficiency and sparge mechanics. What I’ve since learned is that a mash tun is a container that keeps water and grain at a stable temperature. That’s it.

To build an effective mash tun, you need to consider only a few simple things:

  1. Stable temperature
  2. extract water from mash tun (aka spigot/valve)
  3. filter grain from water
  4. capacity

Don’t get me wrong, you can derive path lengths, surface to volume, gravity and pump feeds, and whatever else you feel like. Later. But if you want to git’er done today, that’s the meat of it.

Here’s a look at the mash tun I built. You can probably do it simpler, since I managed to lose the spigot fittings. In fact, a conversation with Michel Brown inspired much of this, and his suggestion was to take a simple rectangular ice chest and fix a piece of steel wool in front of the spigot as a filter. That’s not what I did, but it sounds like a solidly impatient way to go.

I started with a typical 10-gallon orange round igloo-style cooler. I removed the spigot and lost the pieces after two moves.

Here’s a photo of the pieces I used:

From Brewing

The parts are all 1/2″. The tubing is a piece of braided stainless steel 40″ washer tubing with the rubber piece removed. I used a hacksaw to cut the ends off and then pushed the braided steel over the rubber hose (rather than pulling) while holding the hose with needle nose pliers. Note that many of the washing machine hoses are actually a polymer, and I’m not entirely sure if it matters a bunch. They look almost identical, though the polymers appeared to have two thicker threads per braid whereas steel had four.

And here’s how they fit together:

From Brewing

The washer indicates where the cooler wall goes. The parts are all 1/2″. I used two o-rings per side and compressed the heck out of them to get a good seal.

From Brewing

The final pieces screwed into the T-joint and I collared the braid onto them.

When everything is assembled, test it. Fill it with water and let it sit for 45 mniutes. Then do it again with hot (170 deg F) water. Close it up and let it sit. There should be no leakage.

PS. Why no equipment list? Invariably something is unavailable or hard to find, and that always mucks up the works for me. But you can find detailed instructions here or here.

Specialty beer prices

Like Jeff, I recently followed a thread at the OBC about the price of beer. It was surprisingly heated, considering that nobody was forcing people to drink specialty beers, and these are people who spend a lot of time making beers of their own and promoting the craft. Jeff’s article is very thoughtful and reasonable (as usual) , and we both draw similar conclusions.

But I wanted to toss in a few more pieces. Beer is experiencing an evolution. Craft brewing is growing beyond the classics. New styles are popping up. Brewers are experimenting. And frankly, beer is getting better.

To produce specialty beers, there are often unique processes involved. These can increase expense in several ways. First, the process itself can be expensive. Equipment of the quality and magnitude required by a brewery can cost a lot, education to apply the techniques can be costly. Second, the experiments leading to the process can be expensive. Third, the time involved is expensive. Additional steps take time. With specialty beers, that can be a lot of time. Barrel aging requires that the beer stay in a location for an extended period of time. This not only takes up space with stock not rotating, but can be a financial burden by extending beyond net-30 by definition.

Then there is the risk. Brewing is a combination of art and science, of chemistry, biology, and physics. In those realms, things get complicated fast as more variables are introduced. Putting beer into a barrel greatly increases the risk of spoilage. Roasting/smoking/whatever grains can introduce off flavors. If a batch goes bad, that can be extremely costly to a brewery. This risk needs to be accounted for in the cost of the beers unless you’d see the producer of your favorites disappear suddenly after a batch goes wrong.

So those are some of the more tangibles contributors to higher cost. Jeff makes an interesting observation regarding scarcity as well. By pricing these beers higher, it makes it possible for a greater number of consumers to enjoy the products, rather than a smaller number of entities rapidly depleting the market. Seems like a supply and demand curve for people who like beer.

In addition, there is the perception of beer. The far more established wine market is a good one to consider. The economics tends to work itself out. Cheap wines are typically mass produced and lack character. There are occasional gems, but those typically climb the scale or are a bit more lucky catches. There are plateaus as you move up the price scale, to inexpensive wines, moderate, expensive, and so on, with each level improving in quality. Typically you’ll find diminishing returns as you climb up in price, so the goal is to find the right wine for you at the time. Now, the same can be applied to beer. The mountain doesn’t climb as high, but the plateaus are there. Keystone, Natural Light, and others form the foundation, supporting Budweiser, Coors, Miller, Corona, Heineken, Fosters, and many others sit here at the sweet spot of the American pallet. On top of that we go to the Bridgeport IPAs, Hefeweizen, Mirror Ponds, Terminal Gravity, and other distributed microbrews. Some of these breweries make craft beers as well, and those being to fill the next tiers, along with Rogue, Dogfish Head, Stone, and many others.

The great thing about the larger microbreweries pushing up the plateaus is that it really opens the door for smaller breweries to do the same. At those price points, breweries like Upright Brewing and Captured by Porches can release their specialty runs without needing to compete at the 6-pack level. So even if Abyss is overpriced, it is a great thing for beer in general. Buy a bottle and share it with some friends. Or just drink it yourself.

Brewing for the Impatient

I’ve been thinking long and hard about writing a series on homebrewing. By no means am I a great homebrewer…in fact I am only beginning to dabble in brewing all-grain beers. However, after surveying the various writings on the internets about the subject, I have found that most have one flaw in common: they go too deep.

To make good (often very good) beer, it doesn’t take a deep understanding of flocculation curves or the dynamics of viscous fluids. It takes a cursory understanding of a number of interrelated phenomena, the ability to execute on simple instructions, some gear, and a lot of water.

This series will not prepare you to enter competitions. It will not even scratch on the esoteric knowledge that is possessed by a number of brewers I admire. It will show you some places where you can cut corners.

If you read this, and it makes your brewing better (or worse) please, let me know. Also, many areas have clubs where homebrewers gather to share their experiences and learn or bitch about stuff. The people are typically friendly (often in a curmudgeonly way), and are happy to help.

cheers
rick

Maritime Pacific Brewing Co. Jolly Roger Christmas Ale

My old college buddy Tiffer brought me a few bottles of this choice ale. It serves along the lines of of hoppy amber. It is hazy, and despite the head fading quickly, it maintains its carbonation nicely. Not particularly balanced, it remains unoffensive, and is quite nice for fans of the western style IPA.

Jolly Roger does open up during the course of consumption, sweetening a little, and smoothing out from the earlier faceoff. There is a hint of caramel, and a light fruit flavor. And its made me start thinking about skiing so I’ve totally lost my train of thought, so anyway, it’s pretty good, fairly potent (maybe that’s what derailed that train…), and has some interesting twists. cheers.

Beer zen

This is brilliant!

props chris h from the OBC

Oregon HB2641

Rob L of the Oregon Brew Crew posted this to our listserv in a conversation about a new beer tax proposed in Oregon. He makes a number of lucid points. And doesn’t just complain but proposes action.

Oregon HB2461 surprised me. Actually, at first it was shock, then
disbelief and anger. Now I’m ready to do something about it.

Jim P wrote:
> Cost of producing each keg (tax is production cost) would go up $25.
> Average distributor markup is 20-30 percent. Average pub markup is
> 300-350 percent. You get 100-120 pints per keg. You can do the math.

Not everyone finds it easy to do the math, so here goes:
$100 keg today, about $1/pint
$1.30/pint from wholesalers
$4.00/pint at a pub

After the punitive “death to local beer” tax (using same markups):
$125/keg, or $1.25/pint
$1.63/pint from wholesalers
$5.00/pint at a pub

All of a sudden, that “15 cents a bottle” sounds downright misleading, when realistically it is an extra $1 for your pint!

Yes, raising taxes will reduce access to beer for kids; in fact, that 25% price hike will reduce access to beer for many adults, as well. In fact, this is already an extremely challenging time for the brewing industry, and it would likely drive a significant number of local breweries and pubs out of business.

If the problem is insufficient money for particular services, instead of proposing these punitive taxes that would throw more people out of work during the 2nd biggest recession in 200 years, then from the $140 million in “alcohol taxes” already being levied, why is less than 6 percent going to substance abuse treatment and prevention? Why not simply amend the bill to fund those services from the taxes already collected for that purpose?

If the authors of this bill actually have the well-being of high school youths as their primary concern, then they should recognize that most of the industrialized world allows drinking at age 16 (or so), and those countries have lower incidences of alcohol and drug abuse. They should provide sources for their outlandish claims such as “half of the students in every 11th grade classroom in Oregon drink” (really–in the classroom? Heck, not even half my adult co-workers drink!). And where is the causality — the connection between “having a beer” and having a “chronic, relapsing brain disease”? Beer is the healthy alcohol beverage of moderation. It just doesn’t make sense.

It also doesn’t add up economically.

Breweries and wineries in Oregon are locally-managed, world-class, family-owned, high-employment, tourist-attracting businesses. If we want to cripple our local economy because some businesses make products which might be mis-used, why are we only taxing beer? Should we also be taxing the local wineries and micro-distilleries? Isn’t obesity a leading health concern — should we be taxing our cheese, fruit, and filbert industries out of existence, too?

No! Oregon is famous for these specialty products, often hand-crafted or grown by businesses which often operate on thin margins; yet these historic mainstays of our economy could too easily be closed by sudden, thoughtless, extreme government over-taxation like this. I want Oregon to be a place that we’re proud of, and when tourists from all over the world come to the “Oregon Brewers Festival” — drawing over 70,000 people — it seems like our internationally renown breweries must be doing something right; something to be encouraged, not penalized.

Forcing draconian economic neo-Prohibitionism on our local world-class breweries, with built-in yearly escalating penalties, is short-sighted and misguided for our kids, our economy, and the standing of Oregon in the eyes of the world.

I love good beer, I love to share good beer with friends, and I believe responsibly enjoying good beer should have a greater role in our society.

I love Portland in part because of great (amazingly delicious!) beer, good biking and hiking, good coffee, wonderful food, nice wineries, beautiful rivers, the mountain and ocean nearby. We have great public spaces like museums, music, theatre, lovely parks, bookstores, brewpubs, and coffee shops. The casual wonders of our city are reflected in the people — we are generally the most polite, friendly, nice bunch of folks you could find.

I want to keep and cherish these things. If this bill was about creating a 2000% coffee tax, or taxing bike and parks usage, or driving local bookstores out of business, I think a huge number of us would be angry about those things, too, because they are special to us.

So what are we going to do about it? Well, I’m going to:

1) Write my state senator and state representative.

http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/

2) Encourage my friends to “speak up, if you don’t want beer taxes
to increase 2000 percent, about $1/pint, if HB2461 passes”.
I’ll offer to let them join me in taking action, too.

3) Volunteer for Zwickelmania on Saturday Feb 14th, to help
publicize this misguided government attempt to destroy
our local “good brewery” culture, and those good jobs.

4) Keep homebrewing, stay active in the Oregon Brew Crew, and keep
my ears open about other ways we can help prevent this disaster.

And finally, I’m going to relax and have a beer. A delicious local beer. Like none other in the world, brewed just a few miles from my house; at a brewery open for all to visit. And I’m going to smile, because I firmly believe that by working together, we are going to find a way to prevent a catastrophe like Oregon HB2461 from happening this year. And if we’re really, really smart we might even find a way to introduce legislation to prevent this ridiculousness from happening in the future, as well. And all that time, my friends and family, you and I, will have the pleasure of living in one of the best places on earth.

>> To Oregon’s fresh, local, delicious, healthy BEER! <<

Cheers and Prosit,
Robert L

Note to self: organic brewfest

The North American Organic Brewers Festival is this weekend, beginning tomorrow at 3pm. I had a great time last year, but I generally go to these events early and leave early. This is one of my favorites.

I’m surprised that they picked this weekend since at least one of the organizers is a huge soccer fan and the Euro cup final is Sunday. His boys aren’t in it this time around, though Spain vs Germany should be a pretty awesome match. Both teams play to win.

I know where I’m going to be tomorrow…

At the HUB grand opening. Sounds like it’s going to be hopping. While their beers have been pouring at better local pubs for awhile now, they haven’t had a place to sit down and enjoy the full spectrum of their goodness.

The brewpub and restaurant sounds like a monsterous undertaking. It’s a huge space, and they are going green. Very bike friendly. Lots of organics. Recycled this and that. Hopworks brews are big, bold, and tasty, and I’m excited to see them taking on this ambitious task. Plus they’re right across the street from my team’s home field.

28 hours in Juneau. (part three: the Alaskan Brewing Co.)

After leaving the Mendenhall Glacier, we drove immediately to a beerdrinker’s mecca, the Alaskan Brewing Company, home of the delicious Alaskan Amber and a number of other tasty beers. I was surprised that the Alaskan brewery had no brewpub. From the sound of conversations (though nothing explicit or even really implied), they’ve chosen to respect local pubs who supported them as they grew. It’s a sensible division of labor.

A simple storefront, if it weren’t for the huge vats in back, you’d never guess that this was the home of a producer of excellent beers. Inside, they have a number of taps for sampling the wares, a gift shop, and a windowed room to observe some parts of the brewing process.

Tony (Willie) Hand was good enough to give us a tour of the facility. Well, a limited tour. Upon entering, we were warmly welcomed and prompted to choose one of the ales on tap. I chose the smoked porter, which was a bonus for me, because they had the 2006 and 2007 on tap, so I of course needed both to compare and witness the aging.


Tony “Willie” Hand

The tour was more of a presentation on beermaking and a brief history of the brewery at hand, mostly in the form of entertaining anecdotes related by Tony (Willie). Occasionally, he would stop midsentence announcing in an alarmed voice, “Your beers are empty! Follow me!” and we’d do just that, winding back to the taps to pick another beer to drink.


Possibly the only look at Alaskan’s Baltic Porter you’ll ever get.

I tried three porters (2006 and 2007 smoked porters, and the baltic), the barley wine, the winter, and the ESB. They were all excellent. I was particularly fond of the 9.9% Baltic Porter, as easy-drinking as a mirror pond, so very dangerous on those cold Alaskan nights. Sadly, it is a “secret” locals-only brew for now. I suppose that’s as good a reason as any to go back up to Alaska.

So here are some takeaways. The people who founded the Alaskan Brewing Company couldn’t get financed (because brewing beer in Alaska is kind of crazy…pretty much the only ingredient you don’t have to import is water) so went door-to-door selling interests in the idea, got enough to start, and have kicked some ass. Yay! Their winter ale is brewed with spruce tips collected by area children, a cycle which helps to inject a small amount of capital into some depressed communities. And the Alaskan winter ale is really really tasty, totally lacking that sticky sweetness of so many overstrong winters.

My only regret is that I didn’t pickup the belt buckle while we were there. Thanks Tony and Nancy!

Winter beerfest

Off to the winter beerfest. Personally, I find it too crowded and the beer too strong to stay long, so I try to get in early before it’s completely packed. But gotta get a few tastes in.

Alaskan Amber

Alaskan Amber is an easy-drinking amber that tastes good. Light on hops, and full of sweet malt without being sticky or thin, this gorgeous amber-hued nectar is a pleasure. The head pours thin but full and dissipates quickly, but the body remains consistent.

I wouldn’t call Alaskan Amber spectacular, it isn’t riddled with layers of flavor or surprising subtlety, but it is a fantastic go-to beer. Which is nice because I often find it at pubs and pizza joints as the only non-Bud, non-Hef offering on draught. And it does go well with pizza.

The bottle and the website refer to Alaskan Amber as an alt. As an example of an alt, it seems to diverge fairly significantly from the classic alts, but doesn’t defy the mold. I suppose that why they call it an amber, of the alt style. Alaskan Amber is well-balance, drinks well, and doesn’t linger on the tongue with bitterness.

Delirum tremens

Blonde and a bit cloudy, with a resilient head, Delirium tremens is a very tasty Belgian. It drinks smooth and crisp. Well, it’s smooth, trails slightly yeasty but not in an offensive way, and I like it. Other than that I’ve been totally distracted during this so that’s all I’ve got. I’ll update with a photo when I get a chance to upload it.

rick