25,000 people gathered outside the Anheuser-Busch Co. brewery waiting for the clock to strike midnight.
Happy (late by the time I stop being lazy and finish this) Session Beer Day! Seventy-nine years ago the Cullen–Harrison Act went into effect; the first step towards completely ending Prohibition with the allowance of beer containing alcohol in strength of 3.2% ABW (4.0% ABV) or less. Hundreds of thousands stood in line for the stroke of midnight when the first legal bottles and barrels were tapped. Pick up some session strength beer and celebrate!
A mix of news and commentary this entry… A week ago I was in sunny Pomona, California to watch a few metal bands I’ve wanted to see for a long time perform (YOB, Loss and Pallbearer for those that care) and went out for drinks with a friend afterwards. She recommended we go to dba256, an art gallery/wine bar with an extensive beer list (apparently 40). I ordered a pint of Alesmith IPA from the handful of beers they had on draft and a classic I felt needed revisiting; while my friend ordered a $16 bottle of Russian River‘s 100% Brett beer, Sanctification.
The barkeep places my pint in front of me, uncorks the Sanctification for my friend and then utters, “Would you like a glass for the beer?”
My eyes opened wide as I turned to look at the both of them in shock that it was even asked. Drink a $16 beer… out of the bottle? Of course my friend isn’t (that) crazy and asked for the glass and then looked at me confused, wondering if there’s some strange reason she wouldn’t. Sadly, of all the glasses it could have been poured into, the bartender grabbed the bottle, quickly grabbed and proceeded to fill half of a shaker pint glass when any of the nearby wine glasses would have been a better choice.
I became a Certified Beer Server in February through the Cicerone Certification Program. The Cicerone Certification Program seeks to certify those who have proven an expertise in beer styles, flavors, serving and the many other variables encompassing the drinking experience; much like a sommelier and wine. It’s gaining traction within the beer industry as many breweries, bars and restaurants are requiring their servers to at least take the first level exam to become a Certified Beer Server. Apparently there are 15 other Certified Beer Servers locally, the names I recognize work at Alaskan Brewing. Like my experience shows above, it’s a much needed thing in the beer world. Proper (and clean) glassware can make a world of a difference in the sensory experience, enough that a poorly served beer might result in someone not buying that beer again or visiting your establishment for drinks next time. It’s amazing how much of a difference pouring into a glass makes, you lose so much flavor drinking from the bottle/can. The first time I visited Russian River’s brewpub I was shocked to see how many people were drinking Pliny the Elder from the bottle… such beautiful hop flavors and aromas muted. It was kind of like the cringing experience of scratching nails on a chalkboard (though the nails/chalkboard thing never actually bothered me). Drinking Pliny from the bottle is the kind of thing Hammurabi would have drowned people over.
Some local news… I walked to the brewery a couple weeks ago (I must’ve felt spry since each way is 5.5 miles) and sampled some beer. First I tried the new Birch Bock since I hadn’t had it yet. It was an interesting take on the doppelbock style with the addition of birch syrup from two different Alaska syrup makers. It went down ridiculously smooth for an 8.5% ABV beer and I enjoyed the clean, lager-like character as well as the toasty, caramelly malt character, brown sugar, mapley/birch syrup flavors and the lingering citrusy and earthy hop presence, but it was just a little too sweet tasting to me despite not being cloying. I don’t think I could finish a bomber by myself but split two or three ways it would make a nice night cap.
I overheard the bartender talking about the batch of IPA they were serving was a one off, having different hops in it than normal so I gave it a shot. He said the brewers didn’t really like it so it the change wouldn’t stick but they replaced the Willamette hops that they use with Summit. Summit is fairly aggressive and has a very distinct character. It can be oniony/garlicy sometimes which turns a lot of people off but I get an intense spicy character reminiscent of some kind of cooking spice I still can’t put my finger on. It’s pretty resiny and dank as well with lots of bitter orange and tangerine flavor. Often used for bittering but it’s making it way into flavor and dry hop additions like in Heretic Brewing’s great Evil Cousin Double IPA. I actually really enjoyed the way Summit played with the other hops in Alaskan’s IPA. I’m not sure I liked it better, but it really changed the character and deciding would be a coin toss.
The barkeep pulled out a bottle of the yet to be released Summer Ale and offered me some. It’s tasting really nice fresh so be sure to pick up a case. I spotted a strange looking tap handle on the table and asked about. I would have had the scoop a few weeks ago if I wasn’t so lazy in writing this as Alaskan officially announced the release of the their new Rough Draft Export Series while in the middle of writing the entry. Generally the Rough Drafts have only been available in Alaska but they’re ramping up production of some of them to share with those in the Lower 48. The first is Freeride, an American Pale Ale. When their Anniversary Beer, Perseverance, came out last year they had this on draft at the brewery and I thought it was very nice. Lots of Citra flavor which is a hop they hadn’t played with before. The bartender notified me that Freeride was first but said they still weren’t sure what was coming after it. The next non-export Rough Drafts are an Imperial Apricot Ale, which is out now in time for Folk Fest, and then a Ginger Shandy. He said the Apricot is a little lower than alcohol than last year making it easier to drink and a much better beer. I didn’t get a chance to try it last year but will be sure to this week!
And the big Juneau news…
Picture Stolen From Facebook.
Growlers at Percy’s!
Going even further back, say end of February(?), I ran into my friend Will while drinking at The Alaskan Bar (no relation to the brewery). Reading about my travels on Facebook he asked me, “what do you think of the beer scene in Juneau?” I semi-jokingly responded with a blunt, “shit.” We proceeded to talk about the lack of a beer scene in Juneau, as the brewing scene pretty much is just Alaskan Brewing as we have no brewpubs or other breweries locally, the lack of true beer diversity at bars (despite being far better than many places), and the fact nobody does growlers. I’ve always found it strange that Alaskan Brewing doesn’t do what pretty much every other brewery I’ve ever been to does, even brewery chains, refillable growlers of their beers. Especially since they advertise the environmental/sustainable angle on their website (though the owner has said on occasions it’s more about efficiency and problem solving when facing the unique challenges of producing beer in Juneau, it just happens to generally be a nice bonus) this one is one of the most common and easiest things to implement among other breweries. You’re also more likely to be getting fresher beer than the six pack on the shelf at the corner store. A reusable gallon jug? It doesn’t get more environmentally friendly than that! They just started filling growlers (another picture) over the weekend so swing by and support Percy’s!
I’m in Portland now for a few days… If you’re in the area and want to meetup for a drink somewhere give me a shout.