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.
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.
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.