Charlou

Charlou Sign

Soft Opening & Beyond

May 11, 2019

Welcome to Charlou‘s soft opening! As a La Bodega club member, I was invited to enjoy the evening of discounted food in return for reviewing my experience afterward. Being me, I jumped at the chance to bring Derek on a different kind of date night.

Same Place, Different Place

The location will be familiar to Alaskans as it has housed many restaurants in the past. Most recently, La Potato. Most memorable, The Fly by Night Club. Parking was a breeze due to the large parking lot on site. After a quick walk, we were greeted by the hostess warmly and pointed to the bar because the kitchen was running behind schedule. We took our seats on the bright red leather stools and took in the comfortable, bright atmosphere. The remodel was welcome as it wasn’t too loud or a bit dark and sketchy as in previous incarnations. Children would definitely be welcome and some were already there. A quick glance at customers behind us revealed familiar La Bodega faces, and two open tables. Due to this observation, I made the assumption the owners wanted some feedback from the bar and therefore recommended our seating as such.

Charlou Decor
Charlou Decor
Charlou Wine
Charlou Wine

A Bit Behind…

Our bartender greeted us with a friendly introduction and we were told a second time the kitchen was running behind, but she was quick to offer wine tastings. I always find this to be a nice, upscale touch. After making a wine decision, I took the time to peruse the menu. Even though it was limited, everything available had delicious descriptions. Derek ordered the AK Bacon Burger, and I ordered the Hot AK Halibut Sandwich.

As time passed without food we were checked on not just by our bartender, but by owners and servers alike, and there was genuine concern in everyone’s voices. At one point, about an hour into our wait, the bartender apologetically said, “I have no idea when your food is coming.” I saw this as a plus because at least it was honest. Although I have to admit an offer of a free appetizer would have gone a long way. It’s important to note we weren’t upset in the least. We knew what to expect from a soft opening and the staff was excellent. A snack just would have been a nice gesture.

Wonderful Staff

During our wait, it was clear the staff was very concerned about getting things right despite the struggles they were facing in the kitchen. Derek and I had reservations at 7:30 and we received food at 9:47. That taken into account, I’d still call the team on deck that night superheroes.

Hot AK Halibut
Hot AK Halibut

Wonderful Food

The star of the show was the Hot AK Halibut. It was the perfect amount of sweet and spicy, and the portion of halibut was almost too large for the sandwich. Most Alaskans get perturbed if their serving of fish is too small- it was not the case here. The bread struggled to keep things together, but it was so delicious I didn’t mind the “fork to face” situation.

Derek left satisfied with his burger, and though he was a bit worried about the beet ketchup, he ended up enjoying it a lot. Sadly, he didn’t have any over-the-top review for this burger. To be forthcoming, he happens to have a favorite burger in town that nothing has surpassed so far… tough standard.

Review Time
Review Time

Final Thoughts

Final service lacked a bit as all hands were not “on deck” for water and plate clean up. We saw employees look at plates which were clearly “finished” and walk away without picking them up. Although I think this could be easily remedied.

We will be back- it’s hard to beat and Alaskan Chef is using locally sourced food.

Second Visit
Second Try

July 18, 2019

We’re back for dinner with friends! Our group of four opted to sit outside this time, and there was no trouble due to the lack of customers. (Pause for “uh oh”.) We were greeted with a smile and quickly visited by our server, Ty. The group was offered samples of drink choices before commitment was required- a welcome carry-over from the soft opening. Also, it should be noted that Ty wasn’t afraid to say he needed to check with “smarter” people about possible drink pairings. I considered this a major positive at a restaurant owned by a very formidable local liquor store.

Wine/Sake
Wine/Sake
Beer
Beer

All of the menus had increased in variety of options as expected. I opted for a Rose’ as Derek was going to order beer. Ty was attentive and both selections were enjoyed and refilled promptly.

Small Plates

Halibut Ceviche
Halibut Ceviche

I want to take time to discuss Charlou’s small plate selection. It’s quite varied and enticed two of us to order only those for dinner. We each ordered two small plates. I will focus on my choices, the Halibut Ceviche and the dressed Oysters in vodka with watermelon.

First, the negative. For small plates, that were actually small, the price was a bit high: $7-$12. Second, the positive. The presentation was beautiful and the flavors were awesome! My ceviche was light and fresh with a little kick of heat, and my oysters (which I usually enjoy plain and raw) were a delight in my mouth as the watermelon snapped crispy and juicy between my teeth. It was a hot day and both of my plates satisfied.

Oysters
Oysters

I don’t want to spend much time on what the boys ordered because they matched what our order was at the soft opening. Derek had the AK Bacon Burger, and our guest had the Hot AK Halibut. Both stood out as meals they would reorder. The only difference I noted this visit was the addition of homemade chips. Very tasty.

Good Luck & Cheers!

It’s easy to say that Charlou has more than potential, but it’s a hard market in Alaska. I highly recommend going for after work drinks and small plates. Hungry for more? Stop in for one of their main courses. You’ll love the staff and the food, and please ask them about their wine, sake, and beer offerings. They are one heck of a knowledgeable crew.

Cheers!
Cheers!

*Apologies for the odd formatting. I had to switch back to the classic editor and, well, it didn’t like that. 
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Sunday Beer Blog: Outta Line

Rogue has provided us with a very cute can and that was all this girl needed. Seriously, a penguin in a jet pack?

Beer Can

Outta Line is a West Coast IPA. It poured a beautiful gold and displayed ample head. The initial scent was hop forward as expected.

“Wow. That’s delicious.”

Frothy Head

I audibly liked this beer from first sip. It was a sweet hop flavor finished with a tart balance. Second sip smoothed out even more and the effervescence showed through.

I may have purchased for the can, but I’ll repurchase for the beer.

Rogue

Brewer: Rogue Ales

ABV: 6.9%

Style: West Coast IPA

Purchased: La Bodega

Sunday Beer Blog: Must Kuld Porter

La Bodega gifted us with a beer from Estonia this month. Estonia! If you’re like me, here’s a map to paint a clear picture.

Map
Estonia

What I found more interesting was Chris Pilkington of Scotland’s Brewdog joined the Põhjala team. The creative collaborations are going to be endless.

Black Gold
“Black Gold”

The beer itself was dark brown and opaque. The scent was fruit and molasses. The mouthfeel was surprisingly light and the first taste was also surprisingly syrupy. The second tasting gave me a more complete picture. The malt comes in and balances the sweet. Cocoa and coffee flavors abound, but lean toward a bitter finish.

Black Gold

I think this was a beer which would have been better after a sturdy meal. Even the bottle says to enjoy “as a dessert at the end of a decadent meal”. I feel that if given enough food flavor, this porter would cut through and finish the evening quite nicely.

Brewer: Põhjala

Style: Porter

ABV: 7.8%

Purchase Location: La Bodega

Sunday Beer Blog: Tastes Like Space

Belching Beaver has been impressing me for a while now so I was excited to try Tastes Like Space when Derek brought it home. (Gifts like this keep a marriage happy.)

Tastes Like Space

TLS is a stout with caramel flavor and cocoa nibs added. The pour provided a rich dark color and decent head that dissipated quickly, and it had a delicious chocolate scent. The first sip was sweet at the front and a bit bitter at the finish. Not bitter in a bad way, just in a well-rounded way. I’d venture to say the initial taste is caramel and the finish is nib.

Tastes Like Space

The can reads “store cold drink fresh”, but we enjoyed this brew at room temperature. I think it really let the caramel and chocolate notes shine through.

We are big fans of Sam Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout. This one is very similar. I can’t wait to try mixing it with a Cherry Lambic. (If you haven’t tried this, do so now. Thank me later.)

Sláinte!

Brewer: Belching Beaver Brewery

Style: Stout

ABV: 5.3%

Purchase Location: La Bodega

Sunday Beer Blog: Arcadium Gruit

Arcadium Gruit

This beer is out of Tennessee. It’s by VonSeitz TheoreticAles. It’s a gruit with rosemary, savory, and marjoram. It’s actually a very complicated beer. I recommend you check out the brewers website. (See below.)

According to our friends at La Bodega, this was supposedly not too sour. After the first pour, the smell said sour patch kids had an accidental baby with those cheap sour rings you get at gas stations. I persevered.

Yellow Brown Ale

Syrup-yellow brown color, not auburn, is how I’d describe it. It was very distinctive. The mouthfeel was really nice and effervescent. I prepared for the worst, but the initial sip was not bad. It was actually pleasantly lambic in nature.

I grew braver on the second sip and let things swish. Tart but sweet. Maybe sour patch kids were in a committed relationship with gummy bears.

Thank goodness for the bubbles. They really took the flavors and rushed them around. It gave this brew the lightness it needed. Otherwise I think this would be close to barley wine. I don’t think I’ll repurchase, but I recommend this highly, especially to those sour beer lovers out there.

Brewer: VonSeitz TheoreticAles

Beer Type: Gruit

AVB: 6.1%

Purchase Location: La Bodega

Sunday Beer Blog: Zwart Black Star

Yes, it’s January. Yes, there’s snow on the ground. No, this was not a timely post. BUT I still think it’s worth mentioning this one. Surly Brewing Co.’s Zwart Black Star 8 is a Brewmaster’s collaboration between Ben Smith, Jerrod Johnson, and Dirk Naudis of De Proef Brouwerij.

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Minnesota
Belgium

 

 

 

 

 

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie

 

I received this ale as part of my monthly beer club from La Bodega. While I’m not always a fan of what I get as a member of this program, I can always rest assured the beers are unique. This collaboration was not a disappointment in that arena.

The ale was bright amber in color. The note of star anise was nice, but the Brett was not. I’m just not a fan. I’ve tried so many Brett beers and my tastebuds are still very much against them. After pour, there was a really nice head, and a pleasant aroma. The first taste was sour and sweet. More than one sip proved this a complicated beer. I actually really liked the first notes. I dared to swish it around in my mouth and I got sweet, sour, and decent effervescence. Overall it was pleasant if not for the Brett. Brett fan? Run and grab this beer.

Little tidbit: this was named after Bowie’s final album “Blackstar”. My mother had a major thing for Bowie. She’s a very proper person, but when I was growing up she’d drop hints. I think the most scaring moment for me was when, after watching the movie Labyrinth, she announced that David Bowie should always wear tights as pants. Wowza. The only thing I could do to cope with the blow was wait until I had children, let them watch Labyrinth, and then let them know about Nana’s desires. Done and done. You’re welcome S and L.

To prove how much I love my mamma, and how I really did recover from too much information, here are some gratuitous shots of the man. Although, please note the Labyrinth photos have been omitted. I can only handle so much.

Brewer: Surly Brewing Co

Style: Old Ale

ABV: 8%

Purchased: La Bodega

Sunday Beer Blog: Grapefruit IPA

Arkose Brewery is a favorite of Derek’s and mine. It’s located in Palmer and has been open since 2011. It was nice to see them get a shout-out in my beer club selections from La Bodega. Included was Mandarina Moose Grapefruit IPA.

“Austin and I proceeded to knock back a couple of Ketel One and grapefruit juices, which happened to be my drink of the moment. Someone told me that grapefruit was a great detoxifier and I decided I wanted to start cleaning out my liver WHILE I was having a cocktail.”  -Chelsea Handler

My husband, Derek, doesn’t care for citrus beers, so I knew I’d get the lion’s share of this one. On this particular occasion, he was out of town, so I left all beer-drinking guilt behind and popped the top of what I hoped would be a citrus treasure.

ArkoseEdit

When poured, there was a lot of white, fluffy head that quickly diminished. It was such a lovely burnt orange color I had to hold it up to the sun and take the picture you’ll see below. There was a strong grapefruit smell, but the taste was not overwhelming. A bitter zing hits the back of the throat, and is balanced by a sweetness which hits the tongue and cheeks. The mouthfeel consisted of a light coating and medium carbonation. I didn’t love the finish, but it was a really solid IPA…with a twist.

Arkose2Edit

(See what I did there? Snicker. Snort.)

 

 

 

 

Brewer: Arkose Brewery

Stlye: IPA

ABV: 6.2%

IBU: 72

Purchased: La Bodega (beer club)

Sunday Beer Blog: Cherry Bomb

I received a real surprise in my beer club selection from La BodegaAgrarian 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!

Fortitude

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.

Fort2edit
Pretty Beer. Pretty Beer.

 

Brewer: Agrarian Ales

Style: Porter

ABV: 9.3%

Purchased: La Bodega (beer club)

Matanuska Brewing Company

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.

Palmer Ale House
It began at Palmer Ale House

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.

MatColl
So much fun in one area

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.

MatsuBeer
Long Track IPA & Pack Raft Red IPA

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.

IMG_0956IMG_0954Matanuska 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.

IMG_0952

Matanuska Brewing Company

21st Amendment: Tales from the Kettle

Tea + Beer = ?

flat lay photography of tea in white teacup with saucer
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

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.

KettleCol
21st Amendment Brewery

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.

Kettle3
Homebrew Competition Fun

 

Brewer: 21st Amendment Brewery

Style: Scottish Style Ale

ABV: 9%

Purchased: La Bodega