Beer by James
‘Dr. Fermento’ Roberts
I’d say it’s deck weather, but that would be a lie. This unusually long, cool spring gives me the doldrums. My palate is ready for lighter, livelier light, blonde and pale beers that typically punctuate weather that includes abundant sunshine. Instead, the rich browns, robust porters and even bocks are more sustaining when I’m relaxing and reading next to the wood stove.
Summer isn’t here yet by my definition of it, but I’ve been practicing for its eventual arrival. It all got started the other day with a trip to Resolution Brewing Company in Mountain View. I live on the east side of Anchorage and this little neighborhood brewery is the closest craft brewery to my house. I work from home in a little cave of an office where I’ve been ensconced since a year ago March 17, and it’s easy for me to ditch these dark digs on late afternoons, mid-week or later, and duck in for a beer.
The beer menu that day afforded ample choice, but I didn’t want the darker stuff, although Resolution’s Black Cup Coffee Stout and Oat-Iss, an imperial smoked stout – both on tap at the time – remain two of my personal favorites I needed something lighter. A new dark beer was featured, Black Magic Woman, a Pink Boots Society Collaboration Beer, and although I ultimately finished up with that brew, when I asked Managing Member/Owner Grant Yutrzenka who was serving in the tasting room that night for something light and more summery, the suggested Easy Days in the View, a 5.1 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) blonde ale with pineapple, guava and passionfruit.
I’m not entirely wild about heavily fruited beers, but Easy Days is a spring sipper that I’m going back for. It comes across as very light, very crisp and clean, and I would say delicately, not heavily fruited on the palate, and for the lack of a better overall description, alive. I think it was just what I needed.
I worked through some of the other beers on the menu including another light beer – Feels Like Summer – but ultimately landed on Pineapple Express, a sour fruit IPA that I quickly fell in love with.
In all, it felt so good to get out, it got me to thinking that sunshine or not, there are so many locally produced light beers on the market right now, I’d better start enjoying them because – spoiler alert – fall, if you consider the September 22 official northern hemisphere date for it, is only 132 days from now. Start drinking summer beers today.
I did a little poking around to see what I could find to continue through the current local lighter beer spectrum.
There are two beers to chase down at Glacier Brewhouse. I figured that Glacier’s Blonde would be what brewer Drew Weber would point to as what people are chasing now, but he was quick to cut me off.
“This first came out last summer, but the best seller is our Key Lime Wheat. Yup, the whole point is that it’s like a key lime pie. It’s got a wheat beer base, real key lime fruit, and there’s just enough of it in there that people think it’s a sour beer. Last year it was our number one selling beer. It’s so popular, I’m going to try to keep it on all summer,” says weber.
Next week at Glacier, look for the release of one of the 11 Pink Boots Society Collaboration Beers that are being made all over the state right now. This one’s another wheat based spring sipper, a passionfruit and butterfly pea flower brew that was tough to name in a brewery that steadfastly relies on soft nomenclature for their fermented goods. “Ummm, we’ll call it the Pink Fruit Brew,” says Weber.
Oh, and this is no indictment on Weber’s part for the flagship Blonde, and a personal favorite of mine – the Bavarian Hefeweizen; both are stellar beers and make the trip into the downtown corridor even more palatable if Glacier’s your only destination.
Other easy spring sippin’ picks in town for me include 49th State Brewing Company’s 907 Lager, Baked Blonde, and right now, chase down some Blonde Eagle Ale, with “hints of money, malt and fruit, light bodied, smooth and insanely easy drinking,”
The real treat for me this week is 49th States Ode to Agave, a seeming toss back to clear bottled south of the border swill that I picked up at La Bodega. This incredibly light, but at the same time complex 5.4% ABV smooth sipper blends agave, hand harvested Alaska sea salt from Prince William Sound Salt Company, and the contribution that snoozing for five months in freshly drained tequila barres provides for a lightly sour, superbly refreshing summer drink that’s best served ice cold. I want to gather friends for a deck party, and feature this beer in bottles, in a large pail with chunks of ice. Forget the lime, this beer carries itself all the way through, all on its own.
If I describe Resolution’s Easy Days in the View as “alive,” Ode to Agave is all of that, but I’d add the adjective “fun” to the description.
Other rock solid light beers that are easy to find at the more discerning grog shops, or at the source at the brewery, include Broken Tooth Brewing Company’s Chugach Session Ale and Priblof Pounder, one of my favorite light lagers, Midnight Sun Wolf Pack Pilsner, and King Street’s American Pale Ale, Blonde and Hefeweizen to name all but a few of the more common easy sippers around town.
If you’re out in the valley in the next couple of weeks, I bantered around with Sarah Perez of Bleeding Heart Brewing Company in Palmer, and she says to watch for Black Borow Saison, brewed with French and Flemish yeast and weighing in at 7% ABW, Class V, a white current braggot with carameliozed honey, weighing in at 6% ABV, Mama Tribe, a sweet/sour mash stout on the heavier side at 8% ABV, and CU Tomorrow, a collaboration beer with the nearby Palmer Alehouse, a Hazy IPA with raspberriews, that she says is “really light on the hops, it’s a crowd pleaser. And, it really drinks like a hefeweizen; Honestly, that’s how I see it.”
Perez also referenced Gringo Bandito, a 4.3% ABV cream ale. All she could say about it was “it’s a taco beer. It’s a cream ale that tastes just like drinking a taco.” Okay, I’m in; I’ll see you in Palmer for that one for sure.
When I called the brewery, the staff was in the midst of getting the brewery’s outdoor area ready for the sun. This area’s comprised of a 500-600 square foot space with a concrete pad, covered awnings, benches and tables for outdoor sport drinking. The views of the surrounding mountains are fabulous. According to Perez, “it’ll be ready to rock by the end of the week.”
Literally “around the corner” in Palmer - at least as the Valley measures things - according to Arkose Brewery brewer/owner Stephen Gerteisen, “I’m brewing Brush Blueberry Blonde, but Beauty Blonde is on tap right now. This is your real summertime outdoor lawnmower drinking beer. For the IPA fans, we have Deep Dive Double IPA on tap that’s dry hopped with Simco hops, and weighs in at 7.2 % ABV. But what’s really cool is we have the Fruit Flight. On Saturday we put four taster basket together including a Baked Coconut beer, a Golden Tropical Amber, a Vanilla Cream Ale and a Banana Splilt Stout.
That’s what people have been enjoying outside on our deck these days,” he says. Spring will come along; give it time,” he recommended.
Elsewhere out there, on the Palmer/Wasilla Highway, Bearpaw River Brewing Company’s Railroad Golden Ale is a go-to spring beer for me, and although you’ll have to find their beers at liquor stores since the brewery doesn’t have a tap room, Lazy Mountain Brewing Company – also in Palmer – makes an interesting blonde ale too.
Anchorage and the Valley aren’t the only places in this wide state that serve seasonally appropriate beers, all of our state’s breweries celebrate the changing of seasons, just like we do.
The nice thing about Alaska is that we don’t even need a fancy deck to drink beer beers on, and I guess we don’t really need sunshine, either. After 40 years of drinking beer up here, I’ve learned that the hard way and the easy way, the wet and the dry way, and of course the cloudy and sunshine way too. Weather and lifestyle up here are always diverse, but with consistently good locally produced craft beer, life is always good, isn’t it?