Drinking craft beer in Alaska

Craft Beer in Alaska

Doing what I do best…

When I used to wait tables at my dad’s restaurant in Kodiak, AK I remember serving a lot of beer. Sure, steaks, burgers and fried halibut were popular too but when half of the dining room was full of fishermen, most of my time was spent carrying pitchers of beer.

Fortunately, while work could be hectic, it was fun and, as most of the customers were just happy to be off the boat and had just gotten paid, tips were good. Unfortunately, the beer I was serving was all Coors, Budwiser and MGD — the closest thing to a microbrew I could offer was a pint of Alaskan Amber.

To be fair, almost everyone was happy with anything cold and alcoholic and I doubt anyone in the bar had even heard the term “craft beer” before. It was a different time.

Now, years later, craft beer has not only hit the mainland of Alaska, it’s made its way to Kodiak.

When I was there last month, I was shocked to see how much the beer scene had changed in my old hometown. Bars had more beers — and much better beers! — on tap than I had expected. When I saw Ninkasi’s Total Domination on draft at the bar by the Kodiak airport, I was ecstatic.

Doing his part to encourage this trend, my dad recently decided to add eight more taps to his restaurant’s line-up — bringing the total to 20, which is the most in town. He wanted the new handles to only carry revolving microbrews, mostly seasonal or specialty, or — at the very least — from Alaska. Since neither he nor my little brother are big beer drinkers, they thought they would utilize my (ahem) beer expertise to help gauge quality.

And so began a bit of a craft beer bender, which to me is the best way to spend a vacation.

Here are some pictures of our adventures, starting with Kodiak Island Brewing Company:

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Rainey Street Bar Crawl — how we started our vacation!

Beer Sampler, Craft Pride

Our first day in Austin was a doozy. My husband and I hit up 5 bars, 2 food trucks and had a run in with a very ambitious squirrel before getting back to our hotel around 1am. I was pretty impressed with us considering we had left our house in Portland at 4 am to catch our first flight.

We like to start our vacations with a bang!

We decided to hit up the Rainey Street district, a fairly small but bustling street (think bar after bar after bar). Our first stop was a place I have been dying to go since I first heard about it: Craft Pride. A bar that has 54 beers on tap (most of them local), a big patio and one of the best food trucks in the area, Via 313, makers of Detroit-style pizza.

While many of the options sounded great, we ordered the Rocket. Lots of sopressata, very cheesy and topped with spicy arugula. It was fantastic. Like crazy good. Half of this pie was enough to fill me up.

Rocket pizza, Via 313.

Rocket pizza, Via 313.

I immediately ordered an IPA from one of Austin’s most well-known breweries, 512. It was delicious. I followed that with a tasting tray, figuring it was the easiest way to try many things at once.

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Beer and Beaches: Eating and drinking on the Oregon coast

A beach more suited to beer than a piña colada.

Oregon beaches are more suited to microbrews than piña coladas.

I love little beach towns. While I dream about tropical palm-tree-and-white-sand beach towns, I really love small quaint slightly foggy coastal towns. I guess it has to do with the fact that I grew up on Kodiak Island, a tiny town in the Gulf of Alaska. No matter where you went, you weren’t far from the ocean, salty air and harbors full of fishing boats.

My husband also has an affinity for such places so it was easy to convince him to spend last Sunday at the Oregon coast, despite the overcast weather. We have spent quite a bit of time in Newport and Seaside, but we hadn’t done much in Astoria. We drove through the town a few years ago but our my only purpose was to see the Goonies House (so cool!).

This time we wanted to spend more time poking around the town and being by the water. (I didn’t tell my husband my game plan also included beer, lots of beer! For a rather small town — less than 10,000 people I think — Astoria manages to have several breweries and I was determined to visit at least two of them.)

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Celebrating St. Paddy’s with the Irish Holy Trinity of Booze

Irish Car Bomb Jello Shots

Irish Car Bomb Jello Shots

In culinary school I learned the about the trinity of mire poix: onions, carrots and celery. I also learned the holy trinity used in Cajun or Creole cooking: onion, celery and green bell pepper. If one was to put together a boozy trinity for St. Paddy’s Day, it seems obvious it would include Jameson, Baileys and Guinness.

And in fact, those three boozy friends come together often (probably most often on college campuses all over the country) to form the drink known as the Irish Car Bomb. I’m not really huge on the name of the shot — which is insensitive at best — but it’s what this combination is most known as so I’m going to roll with it for this post.

To help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and to help make my Monday less dreary, I decided to whip a batch of Irish Car Bomb Jello Shots up over the weekend. I found the recipe on Gizmodo and the reviews of it seemed like it was winner so I hightailed it to the liquor store to pick up the necessities:

Irish Car Bomb Jello Shots

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Bittersweet Salted Beer Caramels: The beer-day finale

Salted Beer Caramels

Beer Birthday invitation!

Birthday invitation!

This is the third and final post in my “How to throw an epic beer-themed birthday” series. Having covered the basics, and how to make awesome candied beer nuts, this post will show you the second party favor I handed out — salted caramels made with beer.

After a lot of online digging, I finally settled on this recipe from the Food Network. It had some good reviews and seemed simple enough to fit into my timeline. If I make these again I might do something more adventurous like these, but this time around I went for a straightforward recipe.

It called for only a few ingredients: a bit of butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, heavy cream and, of course, beer. I chose another Oregon brew for this project: Gilgamesh’s Vadar, a black IPA aged with coffee beans. I wasn’t sure of the coffee flavor would come through (it didn’t), but it still sounded like a great beer to use in a dessert.

Salted Beer Caramels

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Hop worship & throwing the best beer-day party ever!

This is how I roll when it's my birthday...

This is how I roll when it’s my birthday…

If you read Wednesday’s post, you’ll know I’m in the middle of series about throwing the best damned B-day party ever — where the B stands for beer, glorious beer! In this post I’m getting down and dirty with the specifics on how I went about this extravaganza.

I spent the month prior to the party relentlessly planning it. Some things I figured out with relative ease, like the beer-infused party favors and the beer shaped cake (thank you Pastrygirl for making my beer-filled dream come true!).

Hell, even finding super fun beer-shaped candles was a surprisingly easy feat (at least for my friend DB who scored them at a local cake decorating place).

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