Story last updated at 3/19/2014 - 1:36 pm
At least up here in Southcentral Alaska, we reached 11 hours of daylight on March 7. Two days after that, Daylight Saving Time returned across the state. I'm totally down with the 11 hours of daylight (and there's more to come), but Daylight Saving Time never made any sense to me. I guess I can just chalk it up to more beer drinking in the daylight as we slowly transition from winter into what's bound to be a long, sloppy spring.
This is the time of year when we also transition from winter's darker, heavier beers to the lighter, more quenching beers that have appeal as we shake off the winter blues and start to get more active. And, like the pussy willow buds I've been seeing popping out here and there, new and returning seasonally inspired, locally produced beers abound to tempt the palate.
In commemoration of National Brew Day for the Pink Boots Society, a bunch of ladies got together at Midnight Sun Brewing Company to brew a hibiscus-infused strong pale ale that was later aged with cherries.
According to the organization, the Pink Boots Society "was created to empower women beer professionals to advance their careers in the beer industry through education."
I wouldn't necessarily call the Midnight Sun beer a "girlie beer." To me, it sounds like a perfectly wonderful kickoff beer for spring. I'm not sure when the release will be, but stay tuned for an announcement.
Anchorage's Broken Tooth Brewery, which serves the midtown Moose's Tooth Pub and Pizzeria as well as Spenard's Bear Tooth Theaterpub and Bear Tooth Grill, is kicking out some delightful spring offerings. March's First Tap offering is Better off Red, which features Amarillo, Challenger and Crystal hops on a firm malt foundation including pale and Munich malts.
Another light offering to seek out is Broken Tooth's C'est Chic, a "Belgo-Amero" IPA that combines the bold hoppiness of an American-style IPA with the unique rumba of Belgian funk in a stronger beer weighing in at 8.4 percent alcohol by volume.
Lighter but bigger yet is the brewery's delightful Wheatwine '14. Wheatwine is the odd-ish brother of the bigger and generally heavier and darker barleywine, and as the name implies, it's made with wheat. That lends a distinct tart edge on a lighter body. Be careful with this one on a warm spring afternoon; the 10.1 percent alcohol by volume could do you in.
Sleeping Lady Brewing Company just released a new American Wheat Beer, which is a bit of a departure for me since I'm a huge fan of their traditional Bavarian-style Susitna Hefeweizen. A spring tradition for me is to wait for the release of Susitna, head to the upstairs pub at the Snow Goose Restaurant and enjoy a tall glass of this heady stuff on the deck with sweeping views of Cook Inlet and Mt. Susitna (the Sleeping Lady). I guess I'll double fist and enjoy the tamer American wheat at the same time.
Where the yeast used in the Bavarian version adds a distinct clove/banana essence in an unfiltered, cloudier version, an American wheat uses a strain of yeast that doesn't impart these characters, is clearer and features the wheat's flavor and tartness instead. I guess I'll double fist and enjoy the tamer American wheat at the same time when facing the sun on the Goose deck.
Glacier Brewhouse is keeping pace with its fellow brewers. Released March 6, Big American White is a "smooth drinking, white wheat beer spiced with orange peel, lemon peel, juniper and coriander."
This will aptly compliment Glacier's authentically produced Bavarian Hefeweizen, which features German pilsner malt and is spiced with German Tettnang hops. Other seasonally appropriate beers at the Brewhouse include the Blonde and the Imperial Blonde - when they're on tap. Now would be a good time to chase these down before the tourists descend on the Brewhouse and make getting to the bar a challenge indeed.
There are three beers on tap at King Street Brewing Company that fit the lighter, spring-like profile. King Street Blonde Ale, at 4.9 percent alcohol by volume, is a slighter, duskier version of the style but delivers a yummy biscuit flavor and restrained hops. King Street's Hefeweizen uses organic wheat, German pilsner malt and a Bavarian strain of yeast to deliver my favorite clove/banana nose and flavor profile in an unfiltered, cloudy presentation. Finally, King Street's Pilsner is one of the more authentic Czech-style pilsners in town featuring a soft malt/hop balance and a dry finish in the beautiful, crystal-clear sparkling beer.
South of Anchorage, if you're on the Kenai Peninsula or headed that way, duck into St. Elias Brewing Company in Soldotna and check out the new version of Czech Point Pilsner. This version uses Sterling hops as an accent rather then the Sazz hops used in former versions.
At Kassik's Brewery in Nikiski, Whaler's Wheat, an American style wheat beer, is a good spring pick, and you can find it both in bottles and on tap in Anchorage when it's available. The same goes for the brewery's uber-delicious Spiced Cream Ale.
In Kenai, Peninsula Brewer's Reserve and Honeymoon Hefe are good picks. Peninsula Brewer's Reserve is a clean, straw-colored, quenching light ale with a reserved hop presence and dry finish, and Honeymoon Hefe is a very light, very refreshing American-style wheat beer that comes across as pilsner-like and is indeed sessionable, meaning more than one is always appropriate.
In Southeast Alaska, spring typically happens a little sooner, and brewers are prepared to offer seasonally appropriate renditions of our favorite styles.
They're not out yet, but two annual favorites include spruce tip beers from both Haines Brewing Company and Baranof Island Brewing Company in Sitka.
These Juicyfruit-like beers are rich, gummy and packed with local flavor from hand-harvested spruce tips. These beers are a bit heavier than might seen appropriate for spring, but the flavor is so local and so reminiscent of the return of spring and the aromas for the forest that they're not to be missed. Sadly, we rarely see these coveted suds up here in Anchorage.
If it seems a bit cool to think spring, warm up with a 22-ounce bomber bottle of Alaskan Brewing Company's Jalapeno Imperial IPA. No, this one won't blow out your palate, so there's no need to fear it. The fresh jalapenos used in both the brewing process and during conditioning and add more zest than heat in a big-hop, fresh IPA. The citrusy combination of Centennial, Sterling, Magnum and Apollo hops temper the heat and the combination is a warming, rewarding brew.
You can also latch on to Alaskan's newest brew, Icy Bay IPA. This slightly bigger, slightly bolder hophead delight is destined to replace Alaskan's original IPA and features an explosion of hop aroma and flavor that's attributed to five different hop varieties used to spice the beer. I got a sneak preview of this stuff, and it's earned a solid "YUM" in my lineup of beers.
It's early yet, and there's more to spring than meets the glass at this point. Keep your mug to the wall for our local craft brewers' salute to the changing of seasons.