Tag Archives: brewing beer

Brewing Beer with Alaskan Ingredients

Brewing beer with Alaskan ingredients

I am a home-brewer, and I live in Alaska. The majority of beer ingredients are not found in Alaska. Although barley does grow in Alaska, no one malts it here on a large commercial scale. Hops do not really grow well in Alaska, they don’t seem to flower before they wilt, due to our extreme daylight in summer and cold fall season. Yeast is totally available in Alaska.  I have harvested yeast in my backyard successfully. It is a wild ingredient and the outcome can vary wildly. We have a lot of water in Alaska, and that is probably the most important ingredient in beer. You can substitute all kinds of other things, but if you don’t have water, you can’t make beer. We have plentiful soft water in Alaska, that is similar to the water found in the southern part of Germany. It is easy to work with, and can be manipulated to produce water chemistry similar to anywhere in the world. This is probably why beer from Alaska is some of the best to be found anywhere. 

The most classic Alaskan ingredient is spruce tips — you can find this in commercial examples like Alaskan Winter Ale, and Sprucesplosion by 49th State Brewing.  Spruce tips have been used since Captain Cook sailed to Alaska in 1778. His crew made malt extract beer and used spruce tips as a flavoring and enriching ingredient. Spruce tips are high in vitamin C, so the beer prevented Cook’s crew from getting scurvy.  Another interesting ingredient used by Alaskan commercial breweries is rhubarb.  Turnagain Brewing’s, Rhu Framb, and Girdwood Brewing’s, Rhu Hefner, are both excellent examples. There are a lot of commercial blueberry beers made in Alaska: Turnagain uses it frequently, Glacier BrewHouse makes a blueberry IPA, and Matanuska Brewing makes a blueberry beer. My favorite blueberry beer is Anchorage Brewing’s Experiment, a sour blueberry beer. Raspberry is often used to make a delicious fruity beer, not just in Alaska, but it has traditionally been used in Belgium to make Framboise.  Glacier Brewhouse makes a raspberry wheat, and Turnagain makes a beer called Framb Was.  Basically, you can put anything you want into a beer to create unique and interesting flavors. 

This year I made a 10 gallon batch of pale ale, around 5.5% ABV, and pretty basic. It is lightly hopped with Mosaic and Citrus hops, and the base recipe is a fairly sweet ale. I took five gallons and dry-hopped it with Azacca hops and put it on draft in my kegerator. The other five gallons I racked into five one-gallon jugs, and then flavored each one differently.  I put blueberries in one, lingonberries in another, gooseberries in a third, raspberry in the fourth, and to the last one I added a lot of dried yarrow flowers. I pureed all the fruit, which was frozen first, with an immersion blender.  I let them age another week before I bottled all five batches.  I’m waiting two weeks to try them, and I hope they are as delicious as the beers I brewed last year. Maybe next year I will use wild Alaskan yeast, but this year I used American ale yeast, which is a go-to in our home-brewery.

Cheers to Alaska! Cheers to Alaskan ingredients! Cheers to Alaskan beers!


Cultivating a New Yeast Culture for My Cherry Beer

A couple weeks ago my mother-in-law gave us a bag of organic cherries from Costco that she said were too sweet for her.  I thought, “Great! I will make a beer with them using some of the yeast I have been cultivating from a project I started well over three years ago.”  I have been a little too busy to brew on the regular schedule that I normally follow.  When I went to look at my yeast, I saw mold in it, and it smelled like old socks.  Three years of use is a very good run for a yeast culture. I think it might have happened because I had started using a smaller malt-extract-to-water ratio for feeding it. So, I started over again, making a new yeast culture, and I got to play with my yeast science equipment.  

After I collected the yeast in a baking pan from the air next to an open window in my condo in West Fairview in Anchorage, I put the starter into an Erlenmeyer flask.  Before, I had used a growler.  I brewed up a batch with the cherries after feeding the yeast for about two weeks.  It was frothing in the flask when I pitched it into the cherry beer wort I made.  When the flask was open, I also took a small sample out and viewed it with Maria’s new microscope (I gave it to her for her birthday, she requested it). It is now happily fermenting away in the corner of my second bedroom.  I only brewed a gallon, and used one pound of cherries.  The wort tasted great, so I have high hopes for the final product, but you never know when utilizing wild yeast.  There will only be 8, or 9 bottles total as the cherry puree and trub will absorb some liquid. I intend to brew another gallon batch this weekend but I will use lingonberries instead of cherries.  

Cheers out there!  I hope you find tasty beers to keep you fortified during the pandemic!  

The science station.
The new yeast culture viewed through the microscope. The big green blog is a hop particle.
The yeast culture in the flask, and a small batch of cherry wort ready to ferment in the green jug.

A Day Off!

Today we decided to take a day off from working in the studio, so we could test out our new home-brewing equipment that we pieced together from Craigslist, friends, and Arctic Brewing Supply.  On Saturday we’re going to brew with fellow brewers at the annual Brew-a-thon, hosted by the Great Northern Brewers Club.  This event takes place on the closest Saturday to National Homebrew Day (May 7th).  If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to brew, show up to this event (you don’t have to be a GNBC member).  Here are the deets: https://www.facebook.com/events/1399498993704539/

Scott started brewing in high school, but took a few years off, and we started seriously brewing again in 2005.  We just finished the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) class, which taught us a lot more about beer and brewing.  So today we’re brewing a pale ale, a nice light beer that will be refreshing this summer while we’re building a cabin in McCarthy.  Work can wait one day, especially since we both worked on Saturday and Sunday.  Just another benefit of being self-employed.

Year of Beer Paintings – Day 84

Today’s beer painting is of Beard Beer by Rogue Ales!  Started in 1988 in Ashland, Oregon by founder Jack Joyce, the brewery moved to Newport, Oregon to start a second facility in response to prompting from restaurant owner Mo Neime.  Mo met John Maier, the current head brewer in Newport, at an airport the year the brewery was to be opened, and he has been working there ever since.  The wild yeast strain used to ferment this beer was found in his beard by White Labs, a premier company in yeast cultivation.  White Labs plucked seven hairs from John’s beard, and propagated what is described as a mix between the proprietary strain of yeast Rogue uses in most of its brews, Pacman yeast, and a wild yeast strain.  Since John has kept the same beard since 1989 and has brewed over 15,000 batches before the beard beer was conceived, no wonder a totally viable yeast variety was alive in John’s beard.  In the background of this painting, I painted a likeness of yeast cells.  How is that for news of the beard!

Alaska has a beard fetish.  Most men either consider sporting a beard, have one already, or are experiencing beard envy.  The ladies… well, they put up with beards.  I am currently growing mine back after shaving it for a rowdy mustache competition at Midnight Sun Brewing Company.  Ironically, I didn’t win, but my wife did (in the faux division).  When my friend Rob, who has a dark, luxurious, full-facial beard brought out a bottle of the Beard Beer, I had to taste it.  I am a long time home-brewer and the thought of cultivating yeast from a beard in a mega batch that Rogue made didn’t bother me at all.  In fact, contrary to what the reviewers of Beer Advocate thought of this particular brew, I thought it was delicious.  To me it tasted like an American pale ale with Belgian ale yeast.  My wife was hesitant to try it, but agreed that it was pretty tasty.  Even the White Labs guys couldn’t believe how viable this yeast is.  After tasting the Beard brew, they thought they may have accidentally switched the petri dish for the regular Pacman yeast, which I will tell you is not quite as funky.  This yeast produces a tartness that is absent from regular ales I have had from Rogue.  I have sampled many of them, as I love Newport and have visited the brewery several times!

To Rogue Ales!  PLEASE keep making a great product, keep trying to integrate with our communities, and keep creating unique thunder!  GO ROGUE!

The original painting sold.  You can purchase a limited-edition print at my Etsy Shop.

View the complete Year of Beer Paintings gallery.

Beer Painting of Beard Beer by Rogue Ales in Newport, Oregon. Year of Beer 3.25 Day 84

Year of Beer 03.25. Beard Beer by Rogue Ales. Oil on panel, 8″x10″.