I received a real surprise in my beer club selection from La Bodega– Agrarian Hop Farm Ales Cherry Bomb Chile Porter. The “cherry” part concerned me a bit. I’ve had other cherry offerings that were very tart. I was, however, intrigued by the “chile” part. I was further encouraged when I read the bottle and learned the chiles were from the brewery’s neighbor. It’s nice to be able to get fresh chiles right next door!
The label gave a very accurate pitch. There was only a slight head once poured, and the color was a deep ebony. There were smells of dark coffee and pepper. I will concede that I love pepper beers, and the scent may only have been detectable to me due to that. The mouthfeel was thick and almost syrupy, but without any sense of barleywine. Although it coated my mouth well, I did wish it was a bit lighter. A low carbonation made the chile heat slightly more interactive on the palate.
They’ve done it. They captured all the heat of the chile without the taste. Damn. Derek and I have been trying for over a year to accomplish that. I give them serious kudos.
Derek found the porter to be a bit sour with a pleasant heat after swallowing.
“Deb Perelman, award-winning blogger and New York Times best-selling author of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, understands that a happy discovery in the kitchen has the ability to completely change the course of your day. Whether we’re cooking for ourselves, for a date night in, for a Sunday supper with friends, or for family on a busy weeknight, we all want recipes that are unfussy to make with triumphant results.”
I love unfussy meals and triumphant results, so I readily flipped through the pages immediately after receiving the book. There were so many meals that sounded delicious and flavor packed. More than one recipe called for lemon to stand out as the star flavor. I love dishes with lemon highlighted. I began to ponder how I could make a lemon-centered meal even more lemon-y without the pucker.
Lemon preserves! Yes, the intense yet smooth taste of a preserve. The problem? I had no idea where to get them. The solution? Make them. How did I make them? Pinterest! I found a recipe on Serious Eats that seemed simple enough. I would just need three ingredients and a canning jar. (I will let you travel to their site for the recipe as I didn’t change it at all.)
The lemons were prepared quickly, needing only minor trimming and cutting. I then added sugar and salt and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight. The next day they looked so pretty! It was almost like they had been coated in a sweet glaze. The step that followed was to simply jam them into a jar with their liquid. Done, and done.
Finally, I had to wait two weeks. This was the hardest part as I am not patient in any way. Seriously, Derek can back me up on this.
Star of the Show
Those who are loyal readers will know I have problems with commiting to food and drink. I love experimenting. So, when I received a new cookbook days before my lemon preserves would be ready, and there was a delicious sounding recipe which included them, I had to run with it. It was a sign! (“The Smitten Kitchen” did provide other tasty meals over the two-week waiting period though.) The meal I picked was Pasta with Summer Squash, Sardines and Lemon Preserve. My new cookbook was “Back Pocket Pasta” by Colu Henry. Here’s Amazon’s description:
“As much a mindset as it is a cookbook, Back Pocket Pasta shows how a well-stocked kitchen and a few seasonal ingredients can be the driving force behind delicious, simply prepared meals. Pantry staples—a handful of items to help you up your dinner game—give you a head start come 6pm, so you can start cooking in your head on the way home from work.”
The recipe included a few simple ingredients that would, I hoped, highlight the extra pleasant flavor of lemon. My only holdup were the sardines. I remembered eating them from the tin when I was little. (My dad and I would try to gross out my mom with those and spray-can cheese…I know…ick.) At the time, the shock was way more important than whether I actually liked them. At 39, I couldn’t remember the actual flavor at all, so I was letting the tiny little fish creep me out a smidge.
Remembering adventure is worth it, even if it results in failure, I jumped into preparation with gusto. I also hid the tin from my family. They aren’t as adventurous as me all the time. I figured surprising them would be more than ok.
The lemon preserves themselves had turned into glossy lemons with a bit of a gelatinous texture. The peel and meat had melded into a yellow slice that could still be diced with a knife. I tasted a piece and it was lemon, salt, and sweet- a perfect balance on my palate with lemon that really lingered. I felt the first feelings of success.
The meal came together easily. The finished product was a light pasta dish perfect for springtime. The sardines added a saltiness, and the squash and lemon preserves were the stars of the show. I would make it again, and my family even encouraged it. (And this was after they were in on the “surprise”.)
I’ve been trying to be more aware of what I purchase lately. Part of this is shopping local. I happened to find Mat Su Farm Co-Op and ordered a variety meat pack from them. The only hurdle was I couldn’t bop down to the store and pick it up; I had to go out to Palmer which was an hour away. Thankfully, Palmer is also home to two favorite breweries- Bleeding Heart Brewing and Arkose Brewing. Derek and I decided to make it a meat-grabbing brew tour.
We picked up our package seamlessly from a Co-Op representative and drove over to Bleeding Heart. To our dismay, they didn’t open until 3 PM and it was only 2 PM. Before driving over to Arkose, we used our handy tech devices to discover they weren’t open on Sundays.
We were clearly early to the Palmer party.
In what ended up being a very fateful decision, we drove over to the Palmer Alehouse to see what was on tap and waste an hour. It was here we noticed Matanuska Brewing Company on the menu. What?! Again, our tech devices came out and we quickly learned the company had opened with their first beer on Valentine’s Day. They also had a tasting room that was open. As if we didn’t have enough luck, the location was a block away from the Alehouse. Fate my friends. Fate.
While at the Palmer Alehouse we tried the following two Matanuska Brewing Company beers:
Snow Bike White: ABV 4.76% IBU 15
The white came with an orange, was light in color, had no head, and low fizz. It was visually promising. My first sip delivered a very light flavor with a very slight bitter aftertaste. I tasted again. It was dangerously close to water. Not wanting to be a “hater” I asked Derek to try it. He reported back that it was indeed forgettable.
We speculated the brewery was trying to be super commercial, which I can understand. I’m just not interested in commercial. More on this to come…
(Derek’s) Sky Cab Gold Pale Ale: ABV 5% IBU 20
It was golden and clear, and not overwhelmingly hoppy in aroma or taste. The Sky Cab was a no-frills, mellow pale ale. The first taste was the most powerful but then it mellowed out into a refreshing thirst quencher.
Since we knew the tap room was open, we decided to head over to get a better assessment. After all, it was a great thing to have another brewery in the valley. The employee up front was nice and knowledgeable, and she got us pints within minutes of entering. The tap room doesn’t offer flights, but have $4 pours! Their price point can’t be beat.
Long Track IPA: ABV 6.7% IBU 55
The Long Track was a hazy gold with decent head. It had a great hop smell and taste. It was a smooth drink so a growler came home with us.
Pack Raft Red IPA: ABV 7.2% IBU 65
Pack Raft was a beautiful red. It’s easy drinking with malt flavor and notes that hit the front and middle taste buds. This was placed on Derek’s short list for a future 6-pack purchase.
There were more than a couple fun elements inside the tap room. First, there was a beer vending machine. Second, their bathroom decor and sign. (See picture below.) Finally, their merchandise room was full of the usual T-shirts, but also things like Hydoflasks.
Matanuska is local and nostalgic with their artwork and utilization of the old MatMaid building, yet their beers have a commercial taste. I can tell they have a grand vision and they have the space and equipment to pull it off. Derek and I were expecting more creativity from a brewer with over 20 years of experience, but I don’t think we’re their intended audience. I truly believe they are looking to compete with Miller, Coor’s, and Bud. Best of luck to them.
Ahem… My name is Traci and I’m a label whore. I couldn’t help but purchase this beauty once I saw it. The artwork, the name, the story! A big part of me was aware as I grabbed the 2017 Employee Homebrew Competition winner that it might not be quite my taste. Actually, I was pretty sure things would end in tears and I’d never drink tea again. Worry pushed aside by perfection in font, I continued down my path. I hope you enjoy reading about my findings.
This ale was a stunning dark amber with low clarity. I initially took a big sniff because I love the smell of tea, but was met with only beer smell. Sorry tea lovers. My first sip revealed a strong yeast flavor and smoke. I hate smoke. (Crying emoji here.) The drink finished with a bitter coffee-esque aftertaste. It’s heavy like a Monday morning.
Don’t like yeast. Don’t like smoke. Don’t like bitter. Didn’t like this beer.
That said, these guys should be proud of pushing boundaries. This was full of unique flavor. I will drink tea again, and I will purchase more pretty cans in the future. I now have the added mission of finding a tea-beer I actually like.
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.)