Let me begin by saying we have had many really bad summers lately in Alaska. REALLY bad. Think sun on two days, and then zero sun. On the day I tried Session Tangerine Twist, we were having a 70 degree, sunny day. I am 100% sure this affected my judgement. Be warned.
Derek and I were arguing over whose music would play through the speakers as we sunned on the deck. He wanted classic rock, and I wanted my eclectic music mix. Sun makes married couples crazy! Derek caved and went to go add lavender to the hefeweizen we’ve been brewing. (More on that to come.) I took a winner’s sip of the Twist.
It was so freakin’ good. It was a smooth beer with an equally smooth citrus kick. I’m not sure how kicks can be smooth, but this one was. The smell, to me, was beer. The taste was a refreshing ale with a yummy tangerine finish. I’m not sure about the head as I was sipping directly from the bottle.
When Derek got back to the deck, I asked him to try it. He said there was a notable scent of citrus, and we figured my allergies were keeping me from smelling things properly. He also said it was “tangy”. He wasn’t as crazy about it as I was, but he has never been a lover of citrus beer. (He had a bad experience with a grapefruit once.)
On the whole, we both enjoy Full Sail’s session offerings a lot. I hope they keep giving us more delicious 11oz bottles to try.
Back with the boys at Bleeding Heart. Well, one of the boys- Stefan. The “place with the cows” welcomed us in the usual fashion providing kids playing in the front, people smiling, and a food truck setting up shop. Once inside the brewery, we were met with sarcasm, laughter, and an eclectic menu- also quite normal. Round One
Ojo Rojo: ABV 9.8
There was no head, only a terra cotta color. It had a good, pepper smell and the first sip was flavorful and delivered heat. It’s an extremely drinkable pepper beer.
*I disagree. I think Maui has heat without the pepper flavor.
(Derek’s) Kold Shoulder: ABV 5.5
A nice mild Kolsch, very drinkable. He thinks it would be best on a hot day with hard work just finished or in the near future. In other words, whenever you want a beer. Also, it had a low ABV for the DD.
Mixed Nuts: ABV 5.5
Stefan said they used kidney and ew. He really did list ingredients, but he lost me at “kidney”. Next time he says they will use testicles! I was concerned, but I took the risk. The things I do for you dear readers… It was unassuming in appearance with a normal light-brown color. The smell was good, but not necessarily a beer smell. The taste? Well, beer. Ha. Nothing stood out, but I haven’t eaten kidney before, and I had just drank a pepper beer.
I asked, “Who would brew with meat” and the answer I got from Stefan was, “This guy.” That was a good enough reason for me.
During our stay we met Squish, an employee’s dog. He was more than happy to greet everyone, get pet, and be fed pretzels by children. I was amazed he wasn’t 300 pounds. Maybe it’s because another employee was entertaining some of the kids with a game of hangman on the brewery’s inspiration board.
Days like the one had at BHB make me never want to leave Alaska. Where else could I have a beer with a cow, mountains in the background, and families enjoying time together? Everyone was kind and simply enjoying a beautiful Alaskan day.
Not to get political, but BHB is also a shining example of why legislation to control breweries should be scrutinized. They adhere to the current laws and provide an experience which is very non-bar. It’s what the community needs, and what so many of us are looking for.
I received this beer as part of Derek and my beer of the month subscription at La Bodega. Derek immediately assigned it to me. It was fair really as I make him take all of the barleywine type beers when we get them. Touted as a sour-gose, it started off as a “nope”, poor beer, but it needed to get a fair shake.
The smell was crisp and nice. There wasn’t a sweetness or off-putting aroma. The gose was a beautiful golden color with plenty of bubbles, but it wasn’t what I’d call clear. It was cloudy with a chance of pucker-face. The first sip was actually refreshing, but the second sip brought the sour in full force. The side of my tongue felt a tingle, my cheeks got all the peach, and my throat got the sour. If it was a little sweeter, it would be like drinking Sour Patch Kids.
I know people like sour beers. Some people also like watching “how to decoupage” videos and doing math. For what it’s worth, I did finish it. As established earlier, Derek doesn’t like sour beers but I made him try this one. Know how you drop garlic on the floor and your dog gobbles it up and then spits it out, and then continues smacking his tongue around like he can’t quite get it all out? Ya. Derek did that and then said, “No” with various inflection until the entire house knew his quote for this particular beer was “No” and would always be “No”.
This is a familiar story- girl hears about new, amazing beer. Girl misses the first release. Girl’s best friend tries to bring her a growler of said beer. New, amazing beer isn’t put into growlers. Girl begins mourning process because she didn’t ever get to try beer. Brewery brings beer back on tap. Girl rushes over. Girl and new, amazing beer are united…finally. The world is a better place.
Touching isn’t it?
The Girdwood Reserve is a bourbon barrel aged stout. It’s pitch-brown in color, has very little head, and a smooth mouthfeel. Upon first approach it smells of barrel chips, and delivers a lot of flavor. There are layers for your palate’s enjoyment, including a bit of sweetness. I am happy to report it’s not even a little “barleywine-y” and is instead a very drinkable (well, sippable) barrel aged beer. Derek mentioned notes of cherry, but I enjoy cherry Lambic, so my meter is set pretty high. I was happy to let the bourbon notes shine.
This is where the story gets embarrassing- girl drinks stout. Girl hadn’t eaten much. Girl tries to have conversation with kind brewery owner. Girl realizes she’s a bit tipsy…
Even so, Josh Hegna discussed expansion with me. The team at GBC is ready to grow and moving forward with very exciting plans. It would seem they can’t make poor decisions. It does help that their backgrounds are varied- everything from law to education. It’s also a true family establishment.
Josh and I were discussing education too. Well, we were trying. Derek was enjoying his own story- the one where boy has brewery owner’s attention. Boy loses the attention and conversation strays from beer.
Boy interrupts current conversation to return to topic of beer…three times. I don’t know why I bring him. Oh ya, I love him and he loves beer as much as I do…maybe more.
The day started out pretty rough. I had to take my Audi TT into the shop to have her poor brakes looked at. The up-side was Cynosure happens to be right next to Mike, our wonderful car genius at Professional Automotive. So, once my baby’s keys were in his safe hands, Derek and I scooted over to the brewery.
There were many familiar drafts, but we both went for something a bit different for round one. (Round two was filled by delicious repeats.) Cyndi, one of the owners, was there to greet us and offer us some friendly information regarding our choices.
But Then There Was Beer
Saison ABV 7.1 IBU 21
The brew was golden-honey yellow, and contained numerous tiny bubbles. (The song was quickly stuck in my head.) It had very little head and was light and refreshing. The flavor was a bit peppery and it was quite Delerium-ish. It was very, very good.
Potter’s ABV 4.5 IBU 33
Derek’s Assessment: Very light and crisp. It tasted somewhat nutty and had a subtle dark-roasted taste/feel at the end without being heavy at all. It was very drinkable. This patersbier was “Father’s beer” or based on the beers made at monasteries.
Black ABV 5.1 IBU 26
There was no head to speak of on this dark and inviting beer. There was a clean, warm smell and a good mouthfeel. It was chocolate-y, coffee-y, black goodness. Do I enjoy dark beers too much? Is there such a thing?
Clouds ABV 5.1 IBU 35
Derek’s Assessment: This one was hard to describe, therefore he’d use the word “complex”. No specific flavors jump out. It was just good beer that makes your middle taste buds snap to attention. Just a nice easy drinking beer to be enjoyed at an easygoing brewery.
And Brew Porn
Cynosure has been busy since our last visit. They have painted their picnic tables and have stunning growlers created by an AK artist for sale. We spied their shiny kegs the last time we were in and discovered they were ordered from China. They are actually embossed with Cynosure. Rad.
I was in a bit of a mood despite the beer. (My car was broken!) Derek used his amazing powers of deduction to realize this and proceed to call me “kind of an itch.” Then, perhaps out of guilt or wanting to live a bit longer, explained I wasn’t an “itch” I was just being “itchy”. Oh, and just so we’re clear, he really did say “itch”, not the other thing.
Due to my mood, I was a little bit judgmental. When the third group of men came in, I thought it pointed to a unique demographic. Five men in a gaggle (is it a gaggle?) all at Cynosure on a Saturday together. No women with them at all. Seriously, zero boobs. Hmmmmm. I wondered aloud if maybe they had just left work. Derek pointed out their shoes didn’t scream “work”. Sure enough they were wearing nice loafers and clean tennis shoes. Gosh I love being married to a LEO sometimes.
Next I noticed one of them wearing fancy embroidered jeans. What is with this trend? Seriously, when did grown men start wearing these? Thank goodness my eyes then fell on the “beard guy”. I love beards. Beards I can get behind.
Despite my mood, we had another lovely visit to a brewery that doesn’t disappoint. If you’re familiar, keep going. If you haven’t been, get yourself some sequined jeans, ditch your lady, and head on over.*
*Derek says I should clarify here. I’m kidding! Cynosure welcomes everyone. All of our past visits have included men, women, and families. It truly is a wonderful addition to the community. (I love you honey.)
I was super excited to go to this brewery. One because I had never been, two because it was a considerable deviation from the formality of previous work related gatherings, and three I would be hanging out with about 100 co-workers from all over the United States.
I caught some crap as I left the bar with a flight of beer while my other much less sophisticated, knuckle-dragging colleagues chose pints to start their evening. Below is my review of what Republic Bierwerks had to offer on May 3, 2017.
Abide Blonde might be my favorite. A light refreshing, non-liver killing blond ale.Great on a warm spring/summer day. 5.2 ABV.
Mothership Amber Ale was hoppy up front and in the middle, medium malt, and mouth feel is smooth with a light grip on the finish. 6.1 ABV
Thirdly, Firefly Maibock was quite Germanic and light hoppy. 6.3 ABV
Inaugur Ale Spiced Ale was a “NO SHIT” moment for me. This brewery was tapped to make two beers for Donald Trump’s inauguration. I only tried this one, but wow! It might be one of my favorite ginger beers ever. It’s a ginger ale with a light bitter hop finish. 6.5 ABV. Call me a stereotypist, but like all Gingers I know, this one is trouble. The beer was light and lovely on the palette but sure to kick you in the soft parts if you have too much.
Nightmare Stout was next. I was a worthy stout with chocolate notes. Gnarly and delicious. If you like stouts, you will love this one.
Finally, Vanguard Irish Red Ale was very smooth, light, and barely malty with virtually no hops. Awesome!!! I loved this beer. I described it over the phone to my lovely wife in Alaska and she provided the following quote:
“Sounds like a real red-head: deliciously coy and appealing until they murder you in your sleep. Damned gingers.” (She’s Irish and occasionally colors her locks red.)
Brew Republic Bierwerks is run by a husband and wife team. He controls the beer propaganda (my words) and she comes up with all of the awesome beer. The staff were so friendly and took a lot of time to explain their brewing process, their history, and just hang out a little. They even let my bud, Steve, into the brewing room to gaze longingly at the brewing apparatuses.
I cannot appropriately describe how cool the staff was and how much time they spent with me. Even though I am just a sub-blogger on my wife’s coat-tails they provided me with some cool merchandise. A special thanks to Ryan Heisey, Minister of Operations.
I was the designated driver so I was only able to sample a small amount of what this place has to offer. What I had was very good beer. Anyone can find a beer they like at this Brewery. I HIGHLY recommend it.
Apologies to Republic Bierwerks for the tardy blog. May has been pretty busy with travel. I’ve been all over Alaska and am currently enjoying Belgian inspired beer in Talkeetna, Alaska. Another blog to follow.
The hubs and I decided to head out to Palmer to see what kind of fat bike trouble we could get into. The answer? A lot. A lot of actual trouble. We tried one area near a lake and I fell four times, had to get off and walk twice, and screamed on 3,000,000 occasions. So, due to my husband’s deep affection for me, he decided we’d visit Arkose and drink a couple beers instead of continuing the excursion.
It was werewolf kind of weather. Beautiful fog hung low and it was very cold. Derek and I had a bit of fun chanting “beware the Moors” in various cottage-living-British-people voices on the drive to Arkose.
Upon arrival, we were happy to find a lovely list of options on the brewery menu. First up, Pumpkin Spice Porter. (I’m so suburban!) The dark auburn brew was thick and spicy for only a 5% ABV. I would actually describe it as heavy, and while I enjoyed it, one was enough. This seasonal treat was plenty of pie without any of the whip.
Next up, Illuminate Black IPA at 5.6% ABV. So flippin’ good! It came to the table black as night (duh) and had little head. The sweet, almost spicy flavor was hop heavy but not tongue burning. The mouthfeel was fizzy and light. I could have enjoyed more, but Derek had already done me a solid by calling off the bike trip. It seemed wrong to punish him with an hour-long drive home with drunk Traci.
While the lobby is small, it is quite cozy. There is a lot to do while you try out their delicious offerings. This day I partook in drawing (you can see that I am extremely talented) and poetry. I am a bit better at poetry I think. If you’re looking to shop gear, you won’t be disappointed. They offer T-shirts, sweatshirts, etc. and I’m happy to say they are well made and soft. I may own one…
Our final tasting was Soul Stout. It was a stronger 7% AVB. This was a kicker for me. I’ve mentioned before, but I do not love barleywine. It’s just too thick and syrupy. Soul Stout was pretty- almost black and had a creamy nitro topper- yet it was also heavy and sweet.
When we got to the brewery, we had asked why there wasn’t music playing. We were informed there is one channel that comes in clearly and he had grown tired of it. Trying to be accommodating, he turned it on for us. We were not ready. The channel is very much like the one that comes in around Beluga Point, right before one gets to Girdwood. It’s not quite as eclectic, but it gives good effort. We were quick to sympathize and switch back to silence. I truly hope the brewery opts for a CD player or Pandora channel soon.
We decided to go visit the new family in town: Girdwood Brewing Company. It’s got a great location, and a large parking lot. Views, of course, consist of Alaskan mountains, ski equipment, and dogs. Girdwood can always be counted on for a relaxed, welcoming vibe. The town has been a favorite destination for my family since the 90s. I really hadn’t thought about how it could improve until GBC opened its doors. In truth, the husband and I have been there three times now, but I’ll focus on our first visit within this blog.
I’m a sucker for extras. I’m someone who can spend hours on the internet reading about Easter eggs in movies. So, when a business takes the time to add unique elements to their space, I appreciate it. GBC has a mileage post in front with locations from Queenstown to Moab. It also took care to showcase the beautiful beer equipment with gigantic windows. Derek and I both took a moment to stare at the shiny metal, heaven-liquid producing, mashers and fermenters.
The entry is small, but the walls are lined with skis. Once through the main door the brewery space itself is quite open and comfortable. On this day, sun streamed through the windows and made us want to stay forever. Seats vary. Options run from high-tops with stools, to chairs at tables. It is also perfectly acceptable to meander about with your beer in hand.
Because of its open plan, it’s a bit loud and echoing. That said, the care taken with pops of color and ski-town detail makes it quite beautiful and the noise doesn’t bother. The other fabulous addition were all the locals- duh. Girdwoodians knows how to support new endeavors.
A Family’s Dream
We were greeted warmly and quickly offered a tour by Bret Marinco (an owner). He gave a brief, although pleasantly familiar backstory. He and his brother had worked for Conoco-Phillips and dreamt of opening a brewery together. They finally decided to take a very well planned jump. 29 meetings later (Girdwood had very interesting red tape) they were able to move forward to a dream realized. I love this. I could hear stories like this for the rest of my life and smile every time. Passion leads to wealth and happiness.
They have wisely considered the future, and there is room for expansion and a beer garden. The rest of the family was there, a little boy ran around the back, and a baby had arrived into the world not too long before. GBC will be around for generations, I’m sure.
Derek and I picked up a flight of everything. The beer list was limited, but it was another precise decision made by the brewers. They wanted to launch small and build up to making enough beer for the actual amount of visitors. The choices were very well done.
First we sipped the IP-AK, the house IPA. It was very foggy, had little to no head, and a smooth mouthfeel with a hoppy punch- sweet up front, bitter (not too) toward back of palate. Derek and I argued a bit about hops. In the end he said it was “Essence of Seattle IPA with Girdwood flair.”
“What’s Girdwood flair?” I asked.
Shrug “They just put some Girdwood in it.”
Fair enough. A lot of things in Girdwood can’t be explained.
Second up was the Down the Chute Kolsch. This brew was very clear and golden. It had a good milky head, sweet oat smell, and clean flavor. The smooth mouthfeel lead to very easy drinking.
Derek said “Clean, crisp and heavenly. One of my new favorites.” (Dare I say “high praise”? Can there be too much Nick Cage?)
Finally, the Hippy Speed Ball Stout had a lovely smell of coffee, and was the color of a sexy brunette. (I’d date her or at least have hair envy.) There was no head and there was a surprisingly light mouthfeel. It was a bit bitter on the tail end. For this one, Derek offered up a “random Legend quote”:
“Black as midnight, black as pitch, blacker than the foulest witch.” -Blix
We had our girls with us on this visit. They partook in the Kombucha and helped prove the brewery was family friendly. It was so nice of them to take that hit for us. Research is hard sometimes. Getting a teenage smile is a big “win” though, and I was glad we dragged them along.
We love it. We will be regulars. We will be adding more posts! This place shows what a perfect dream looks like. Congratulations to the family!
I have a treat for you today. My Mother’s Day gift, and my mother’s Mother’s Day gift, was a trip to Bleeding Heart Brewery in Palmer, AK. I was lured their way on this special day, not because of my mother’s love of beer (she doesn’t have one), but because of the owners’ fabulous commercial.
All of my readers know by now it doesn’t take much to get me to a new brewery, but I can’t think of a time I’ve been more eager. These owners had just the personality I was looking for- approachable, thoughtful, and smart-assy.
But would these desirable traits translate into everything I was looking for in a beer?
Before I answer, let’s look into the joint a bit more. The location is perfectly Palmer. It’s in an unassuming industrial area and there is a picnic table out front for when the weather cooperates. Inside, there is limited seating, but it’s quite welcoming. It’s a lot like my grandmother’s house actually, and I mean that as a compliment. I love my grandmother and her house. There’s a distinct feeling of comfort. And, much like my grandmother’s house, there’s also plenty of banter between guests to disrupt the comfort with a laugh.
The owners, Zack Lanphier and Stefan Marty, were at the bar when we arrived, and I quickly asked for my free “mom” beer. Their first response?
“Wow. You even brought your kids to prove it. That’s going above and beyond! I mean, we would have trusted your word.”
After this boisterous greeting, my husband and I chatted them up about their brewery vision and I complimented them on the commercial. Lanphier laughed and pointed to the wall. What I saw only reinforced the owners’ and bar’s persona- a hand written script jotted down on yellow notepad paper. Marty laughed and the two began discussing how they want to make consistently delicious beer, creative beer, and beer the patrons ask for. There’s a chalkboard available to all who visit. Ideas go up, and the best, sometimes riskiest, are chosen and brought to life.
We initially got a flight because it’s important to try all of one’s options before picking a free beer. For science! (And of course we always get a flight when visiting a new brewery. Duh.) Some high notes were hit with Grounds for Divorce Coffee Porter and Kold Shoulder Kristallweizen. By now you know I love a good coffee porter, and this one did not disappoint. It was dark, smooth, and carried a distinct coffee flavor that didn’t linger bitterly on the tongue. (Spoiler- this ended up being my mother’s day choice.) Kold Shoulder was fresh, crisp, and golden.
Two other brews, Valley Trash Dirty Blonde and Bleeding Heart IPA, left a bit to be desired. First, I have read nothing but lovely reviews on both since visiting. Second, I’m in a tumultuous relationship with IPAs, and strong hop flavors in general. (We see plenty of other people. Sometimes we fall for each other again, but I find myself betrayed months later…) Third, I’m a girl who loves pink and purple, so a pink or purple beer was bound to be the Best. Beer. Ever. Tragically, the Red Beet IPA was terrible- stunning, but hard to swallow. What does all of this prove? Well, possibly my tastebuds were just not “in love with hops” that day. I could also be the only person in the world who doesn’t like them. Whatever the reason, I plan on doing more research on the subject the next time I’m in Palmer. Again, for science!
Final thoughts? Disliking beer is part of the journey, part of the whimsy, and part of the bit of unpredictability in a world that is all too often predictable. I’m actually hoping these guys make more unique beers for me to dislike because it means they’re doing something right. They’re standing out from the Alaskan brewery crowd and creating their own distinctive taste. I will be back with a big smile, ready tastebuds, and a craving for personality.
*Some of my more particular readers may have noticed it has been a very long time since Mother’s Day. True. I really liked Bleeding Heart and struggled with doing them justice, and being honest about my experience. This was not a quick nor easy write. At last, I am satisfied with my work.
It’s cross country season for our two teens and that means our annual trip to Soldotna, AK for the Skyview Invitational. My husband and I love this race. We put the girls on the bus for “team bonding” and we drive my little, red Audi TT down the highway as fast as the curves call for.
Once there, we cheer for our girls (we’re not monsters) before ditching them to hit up local breweries.
On this year’s trip, we were able to enjoy Kenai River Brewing Company’s new location. Nice digs! Wood tables are found throughout, with the log shape being maintained. Metal accents at the bar and on the chairs continue the swanky yet rustic decor.
We were greeted by two employees behind the bar who were smiling and more than willing to chat about beer. We learned the nitro system is a delicate one, and beer had been lost the day prior because it wasn’t set up right. Derek and I have wanted a system at home, and were thankfully provided with some tips for success.
Excusing ourselves from great company, Derek and I wandered about with our first beers:Resurrection Summer Ale and Breakfast Beer (on nitro) respectively. Derek described the Summer Ale as quite drinkable and a great malt flavor. It is a bit too malty for my taste though.
The Breakfast Beer is a classic I’ve had before, but the nitro was a great addition. It was smooth and had a delicate coffee flavor. It’s color was also quite pretty. I would love a blanket made of this brew so I could wrap myself up in it. (Imagination people!)
Winter Warlock was my second brew. It is high alcohol, 9.2%, and very good. Lighter in color than expected, the deep spice notes are chewy and it warms the bones on the way down. I didn’t want more than a glass of this one, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Kodiak Custom’s art adorns the walls of the brewery. They are Alaskan photographs wrapped on canvas by Kristin Dunn. Kristin is also, conveniently, a brewery employee. Such talent!
As we were on our way out, we stopped to marvel at the shiny beer equipment one last time. Our audible compliments were rewarded with a quick tour of the facility, including its canning machine. Very cool Kenai Brewing. Very cool.