Session #28 — Think/Drink Globally 

Session Logo -- High-ResWelcome to The Session, a monthly event for beer and brewing bloggers! This is Session #28, for which our friend and beer odyssey writer at Red, White, and Brew Brian Yaeger has chosen the topic, “Think/Drink Globally.” Brian writes: … “in honor of Global Craft Beer Forever, I pose everyone writes about the farthest brewery (including brewpubs) you have visited and specifically the best beer you had there.”

For me, the farthest brewpub I’ve been to is Gordon Biersch in Las Vegas. As you may remember, last October I was out there on business, amid a sea of Miller Lites and rum and Diet Coke. It was a sad, sad situation.

But on the last night out there we had our group dinner at Gordon Biersch. I remember that I started my evening with Gordon Biersch’s seasonal, which was a festbier. This style is not normally my thing, but this brew was nice and malty, as well as crisp. I ordered the goat cheese ravioli in brown butter sauce with spinach, mushrooms and pine nuts, and the festbier was a nice complement.

Now, we don’t have any festbiers lurking around the house, though Brian did instruct us to either drink some of the same beer, whether it be the exact beer, or a similar style. Because I rarely drink festbiers, the only brew I can think of to compare with GB’s would be Victory’s Festbier. I’ll go even farther to say that I think I may have preferred GB’s fall seasonal, but overall and pound for pound of malt, I have to say I prefer Victory’s beers.

RayI think I’ve had a Heineken in Amsterdam, back when I was a kid. Technically, I guess I should be writing about that, but, yeah, no.

The place I’d like to talk about is Glacier Brewhouse, way up in Anchorage, Alaska, where the sun goes down for months at a time, sidewalks are in the middle of the street, and local ordinances prohibit male babysitters, toilets that require the user to jiggle the handle when flushed, and rhyming. Anchorage is very very weird and you should never let anyone tell you that it’s actually perfectly normal and resembles a less populated Philadelphia with wider streets. These are falsehoods.

(Now that I think of it, Anchorage is probably farther away from South Jersey than Amsterdam is, actually, so this works out.)

Glacier Brewhouse was a welcome and surprising discovery during my trip to Alaska with my sister and my parents a few years ago. Days of cruising and bussing with nothing to drink but salmon had left us aching for some Good Beer, so we were thrilled when the tour guide made a passing mention of the place when we asked about nearby restaurants.

The interior is immensely spacious, with enough dining area for probably 100-150 people spread out amongst tables, a capacious bar, and a long high top that could probably seat 10-15 people on either side. The building has a feel that blends rustic and plush styling. A big fireplace sits in the middle of the dining room.

Glacier has an exhaustive line of beers aged in oak barrels from Jim Beam distillery in Kentucky. The only one available when we were there was the Beam Scottish Ale, which is the beer that stands out in my memory above all others from the brewery.

Unfortunately, I believe their beer is unavailable outside of the brewhouse (or at the very least isn’t available here), and strong Scottish ales are just now coming out of season for me and my habits, so I don’t have anything comparable on hand, but I can easily describe this beauty from memory: Big, slick body with lots of caramel notes that swirl around a dark orange pint of delight with delicious (and pungent!) bourbon and vanilla flavors. Very malty and sweet, it was an unusually long-term sipper for a beer that was only around 6-7% alcohol.

We hit the place twice on our trip, and remarkably, the beer tasted noticeably different between the two visits. On the first dinner there, the beer was much heavier on the vanilla, but on the second night several days later, the bourbon was much more aggressive. We must have gotten a fresher barrel the second time.

3 Responses to “Session #28 — Think/Drink Globally”

  1. I second the Gordon Biersch. I used to live in Vegas and enjoyed the GB out there quite a bit. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot in the way of local breweries out in Vegas, or at least there wasn’t when I lived there in ’04.

    Like you, I’ve noticed that a crisp wheat beer tends to be a hit with most of my friends who have said they “don’t like beer” It’s worth brewing up 10gals to keep a couple of kegs on tap for random potential converts.

    If you’re ever in Vegas again looking for breweries, I suggest checking out Ellis Island (on Koval which is a street just a block from the strip). They brew a great Oktoberfest and a very decent Stout, and I think it was about a dollar for a 12 oz glass.

  2. While a bourbon aged Scotch Ale sounds mighty delightful to me, so does ravioli in a brown butter sauce! FYI, for both Mel and Eric above, I’ve read about half a dozen brewpubs that have opened in Vegas. What kills me is that my last 2 trips passing through, I went with a group to the Hofbrauhaus, but didn’t get to hit a Vegas-themed brewpub.

  3. Gotta say I agree that Anchorage is quite a unique place and can’t be said to resemble any other place in the US. Been to the Glacier Brewhouse several times and every time has been a real pleasure (aside from spending too much money on souvenirs for the family). Hope things are going well for you guys! Say hi sometime Mel!

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