Written by Nick Jurkowski
Filed Under: Beer Tasting
I've recently come back for a visit to my hometown, Eagle River, Alaska (just north of Alaska's largest and least Alaskan city, Anchorage) Anchorage is an odd place, and though it will always be home, there is a lot about it that makes me glad that I've gone on walkabout, so to speak It has a few things going for it, however, and one of those things is beer There are some fantastic breweries in the Anchorage area, and I'm going to run down a few of my favorites
Sleeping Lady Brewing
This brewery serves their beer and food at their brewpub, the Snowgoose, in downtown Anchorage It doesn't have great food, and the service isn't fantastic, but the beer is quite good They offer a wide variety of beers My favorite is their Urban Wilderness Pale, which they claim is an English-style pale ale However, unless my taste buds failed me, there were some high-alpha acid American hops used in this one, and the hop bitterness overpowered the malt-balance in a big way, which made me think it was more of an American pale Even so, this is an excellent beer, and well worth a pint (or four) They have quite a few quality beers, but to my knowledge they are only served on tap in Anchorage, so you'll have to come for a visit.
The beers of the Glacier Brewhouse can be found throughout Alaska on tap, and with good reason In addition to their standard brace of beers, the Brewhouse releases a near-constant stream of seasonal offerings and specials, most of which are quite delicious
The amber ale is one of their standards, and it is quite good, with a deep brown color and a malt to hop balance that pushes it towards the brown-ale side of things It is certainly worth a try
When I was at the restaurant last, they had their IPA in its cask-conditioned state While the IPA is not my favorite of their beers (it suffers from insufficient hop bitterness, in my opinion), the dry-hopping that takes place during the cask-conditioning process gives the beer an amazing floral aroma
Last, I tried their oatmeal stout - a deep, velvety brew served on nitro The flavors were somewhat subdued, but there was a nice oatyness that complimented the coffee and roasted flavors nicely This beer really comes into its own when it is aged in oak barrels formerly used to hold Jim Beam (before he escaped) The depth of flavor increases ten-fold, and there are notes of both the whiskey and a cherry-like fruitiness For best results, try the standard stout first, then the oak-agedIt should also be noted that the Brewhouse fare, while a bit expensive, is quite delicious, especially if you enjoy fresh seafood, and the service is excellent
Midnight Sun Brewery
I should make it clear from the beginning that I really, really like Midnight Sun beers They are certainly one of my favorite breweries, and they produce beers that run the gamut of styles, from American Pilsners to Belgian-style Tripels to Stout They are also available outside of Alaska, albeit in somewhat limited quantities Here are some of the ones that I've sampled
The Belgian Tripel is an interesting, high alcohol tripel that lives up to its name (I took my underwear off mere moments after I first tried this beer) It has a complex flavor, dominated by spice (notably coriander) as well as yeastiness and fruity esters I taste a little banana and pineapple, but mostly apple and pear This is quite a good tripel
Midnight Sun generally makes excellent Belgian-style beers, and their Season of the Sun Saison is no exception This is a very good, pale gold-colored saison, with flavors dominated by citrus and chamomile and a nice peppery undertone This is a great summer beer, and I find the tartness to be most refreshing
If you're in the mood for something dark, try the Arctic Rhino Coffee Porter This exceedingly dark porter has a distinct coffee flavor in addition to the slightly spicy chocolate of the malt There is a restrained hop bitterness, and a faint alcohol taste to it Not my favorite of their brews, but I'll never turn one down.
The Kodiak Brown Ale is probably my least favorite of the Midnight Sun beers that I've tried, but it's still a solid beer that I routinely order in bars The flavors are a little too subtle, but they are still quite good Caramel flavors dominate, and there is a nuttiness with a sweet finish You won't find a lot of hop bitterness, and that is appropriate for the style
Here ends my whirlwind tour of Anchorage-area beers I know I didn't get to the offerings from the Moose's Tooth, but sadly, I didn't try a large enough sample to warrant writing about them As you can see, there is ample brewing talent in the Last Frontier, and anyone heading to Anchorage would do well to sample