Story last updated at 8/13/2014 - 7:29 pm
A couple of weeks ago, I found out that the legendary BrewDogs of Brewdog Ltd. of Scotland were up here filming for their Esquire Network show called (not surprisingly) "Brew Dogs." The show is in its second season and enjoying an excellent following among beer lovers and even non-beer lovers because of the antics of these brewers when they tromp the globe to immerse themselves in local beer culture. They produce a beer wherever they end up.
My exposure to BrewDogs goes way back. I was smitten by the brewery years ago when I found out that Alaska was getting some coveted bottles of Brewdog Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismarck. These two beers garnered some international fame as part of an ongoing alcohol by volume "war" between BrewDog and a brewery in Germany.
Without going into all of the gory detail, just note I paid about $181 for the two bottles.
Tactical Nuclear Penguin weighs in at 32 percent alcohol, and Sink the Bismarck is 41 percent alcohol by volume. You might also note that I drank both 12-ounce bottles in one sitting and had to be assisted home. Don't rush to the liquor store, boys and girls; only one batch of each of these brews was made, and full bottles are now collector's items.
The "war" went on, resulting in a couple of more big beers, but it eventually culminated with a beer called The End of History (by BrewDog) which was brewed with Scottish highland nettles and juniper berries. It weighs in at an astounding 55 percent alcohol by volume. Even the formidable Fermento couldn't score a bottle of this stuff: only 12 bottles were made, each came packaged inside a taxidermist-stuffed stoat or a grey squirrel with a certificate of authenticity.
Back in 2007, Scotland's brewing scene was dominated by big, mass-produced beers, much like our own beer scene was here in America before craft beer's explosion in the mid-1980's. BrewDog owners/founders James Watt and Martin Dickie were bored with that insipid crap and decided to venture out on their own. They launched BrewDog, stating that they "were bored of the industrial brewed lagers and stuffy ales that dominated the UK market."
The brewery enjoyed immediate success and simultaneous scorn from the neoprohibitionists in Scotland who were abhorred by some of the bigger beers the brewery started to produce.
In 2008, BrewDog released Tokyo, then the UK's strongest beer at 18.2 percent alcohol by volume. This raised the hackles of the Portman Group, which was set up in 1989 to raise awareness of alcohol-related issues, promote responsible drinking and generally become an industry watchdog. Although the rest of the world was blown away by Tokyo, the Portman Group openly disdained the beer. I instantly liked BrewDog even more.
The brewery started expanding. By 2009, the brewery was so full of tanks, its new tanks had to be put outside the brewery. In 2010, the brewery opened its first pub and started getting noticed by earning a gold medal at the World Beer Cup that year.
In 2011, BrewDog opened bars in Edinburg, Glasgow and London. More and more eclectic beers emerged, including Sunk Punk IPA, a beer literally brewed (conditioned) on the bottom of the ocean. We got that beer in Alaska, too. By 2012, the brewery finally moved into a world-class facility while opening six more beer bars across the UK.
It was 2013 that BrewDogs launched BrewDogs TV and started touring the United States with the goal of brewing eclectic beers with some of America's best craft breweries. Somehow, both Alaskan Brewing Company of Juneau and Midnight Sun Brewing Company of Anchorage ended up on their radar, and Martin and Dickie ultimately brewed with both outfits.
For those of you in Southeast who happen to be in Juneau on Wednesday, Aug. 13, plan on attending the film debut of the BrewDogs experience with Alaskan Brewing. The debut will be at 8 p.m. in The Hangar. Attendance is free at this pay-as-you-go event. I'll be watching the same debut in Anchorage at the midtown Cafe Amsterdam.
I'm thinking the episode will be particularly rich. According to an Alaskan press release, "after cutting themselves off from civilization in the Alaskan wilderness, James and Martin team up with the Alaskan Brewing Company to create a survivalist beer. Using only local ingredients with some simple camping supplies, and a few scavenged float plane parts, they work with Alaskan Brewer Steve Sano to create a beer based on the ancient style of a Kvass. They collected glacial ice from an ice cave that has since collapsed, and worked with a local naturalist to find other unique ingredients." I've seen the trailer, and it's baiting to say the least.
The episode will also feature snippets from the rest of the BrewDogs Alaska tour. The best part of Wednesday's events is that a version of the Survival Beer will be served.
Kvass is traditionally a concoction made from grains such as wheat, rye and barley, or black or rye bread and local berries and fruits, sugars, birch sap and anything else that might ferment. It's been a staple in Russia for at least 1,000 years. Basically, you could consider Kvass a survivalist beer since in the simplest terms, it's brewed with whatever's around at the time. Rather than using pure, specialized strains of brewer's yeast, simple bread yeast ferments the beer, and this can come from yeast inherent in the bread used in the brew. It's typically darkish, cloudy and light in alcohol.
I have to admit that I don't much know what to expect from this beer, but I'm no less excited about it because it's unique, somewhat historical, and coming from Alaskan Brewing Company and BrewDogs, I'm expecting some quirky greatness.
Plan on heading over to the Hangar before 8 o'clock to get a seat and enjoy some of this light but heady beer. Give me some feedback, and I'll do the same.