North to Alaska   

About a year ago my lovely wife fired the first few
salvos in her battle to convince me that an Alaskan
cruise would be an excellent choice for our 2004
summer vacation. As usual, my response was
noncommittal. Never having been on a cruise, I
secretly hoped the subject would just "go away",
since I had no desire to be sailing around far from
land and the nearest brewpub. The idea did not go
away ,however, and I eventually acquiesced and began
to mentally prepare for a week of seasickness, Bud
and Coor's Light. Also as usual, when imagining my
bride's vacation proposals, I was dead wrong. Some
of her previous suggestions such as  houseboating in
the Thousand Islands, railroading around the entire
country, and motor home camping on the Eastern
Shore were also met with some hesitation by me and
turned out to be memorable trips that also offered a
wide variety of newly discovered brews. While I admit
to having had flawed vision on those jouneys, the
degree of myopia for the Alaskan adventure was not
to be surpassed.

As the moment for the trip drew nearer I began to
think that, purely from a beer fan's point of view, this
trip had possibilities since the cruise was to depart
from Vancouver.  A brief visit to Pubcrawler.com
revealed the presence of several locations to slake
one's thirst in that fair city. This time I was right!
Little did I know that in the next ten days fifty
different previously untried beers would tickle my
palate!

On the night before departure from Vancouver we
opted for dinner in the Steamworks Brewery, an
excellent brewpub in the Gastown section of the city,
featuring great pub grub and upholstered loveseats
and chairs in which to have a pint.  Their sampler
included LION'S GATE LAGER, SIGNATURE PALE
ALE,CASCADIA CREAM ALE(love that name!),
EMPRESS IPA, NIRVANA NUT BROWN ALE, COAL
PORTER(hate that name!), HEFEWEIZEN(no name),
and FRAMBOZEN RASPBERRY BABY( hate that
name...hate that beer!). In the words of Arnold
Schwartzeneggar, if ever there was a"girly man's"
beer, this one is it.

But the food and service were excellent and the first
eight brews on my half-hundred were tallied. This
brewery also brews various other seasonal beers. Any
beer fan finding himself in Vancouver would do well to
visit Steamworks.

Later that evening I took a walk, popped into a couple
of pubs and managed to find GRANVILLE ISLAND
ENGLISH BAY PALE ALE and GRANVILLE ISLAND
HONEY LAGER on tap. This brewery is located in the
Granville Island part of the town and bottles its beers
as well. The next morning we obtained some
GRANVILLE ISLAND ROBSON STREET HEFEWEIZEN
to take aboard ship and upped the total to eleven.

It is often said that the ambiance, service, activities
and especially the food aboard a cruise ship are
unmatched. But nobody ever mentions the beer. My
suspicions were that ,beer wise, this might be a rather
boring week. Wrong again!. The bon voyage party on
the promenade deck enabled me to try ALASKAN
ESB, the twelfth and ultimately my favorite of the trip.
Dinner that evening offered ALASKAN PALE ALE,
number 13, followed later that night by number14,
ALASKAN AMBER, an alt style, enjoyed while listening
to a trio in the ship's main lobby.

Our first port of call was Juneau, where we were to
take a helicopter trip to the Mendehall Glacier.
Fortunately for me, the copter adventure was not
scheduled to start until 4:00pm, allowing me the
opportunity to tour the Alaskan Brewery beforehand.
The tour, of course, included unlimited samplings of
six styles of their beers and thus was I able to try
ALASKAN SUMMER BEER, OATMEAL STOUT, and the
widely acclaimed SMOKED PORTER, numbers 15, 16
and 17. This small brewery was founded in 1986,
brewing about 1800 barrels a year and now has
expanded to 89,000. Our guide, Tanana Peters,
allowed us to make trips back to bartender Tony
Hand, to refill our glasses.  No one was going to get
overly thirsty during her tour.

She informed us that the smoked porter has won
more awards than any other single beer in North
America and that the company's seasonal barleywine
is brewed in abondoned mineshafts, instead of using
artificial refrigeration. Everything made by this
company is outstanding. I wish the beers were
available on the east coast.

Skagway, the next stop, included a canoe trip to the
Davidson Glacier, where our guide told us that a
group of Indians in Haines Alaska makes a local beer,
brewed with spruce tips.  These tips are collected for
them by the guides when they trim back the trees on
the road to their cabins. The Indians show their
appreciation by supplying them with beer for their keg
parties, which apparently are frequent, as there is
very little else to do on their remote island. She added
that this unique beer was available in the Red Onion
Saloon, back in town.

The Red Onion Saloon is a great old place.  And even
if it's a bit touristy, it still offers some great local
beers. I tied the SILVER GULCH DARK LAGER, from
Silver Gulch Brewing of Fairbanks, BOOGIE BITTER
which according to the bartender is a house brand
brewed by Alaskan Brewing, and the SPRUCE BEER
from Haines, numbers 18, 19, and 20.

After the ship visited the Hubbard Glacier, I stopped
in the Schooner Bar on board and tried number 21,
LAZY DAYS, Grant Brewing's offering in the summer
beer category. Later that evening KODIAK BROWN
ALE from Midnight Sun Brewing in Anchorage was my
choice. Both were excellent.

During a long walk around Ketchikan, while my wife
and kids were shopping ,I found numbers 23, 24 and
25: MOOSEDROOL BROWN ALE from Big Sky Brewing
in Missoula, Montana, SILVER GULCH FAIRBANKS
LAGER and a bottled beer, SILVER GULCH COLDFEET
PILSENER.  All three were good but not outstanding
beers.

Halfway to fifty, the cruise ended in Victoria, BC,
arguably the most beautiful city in North America, and
the brewpub capital of Canada.  Our stay here  
offered the opportunity to add to my total. An early
dinner at Hugo's Brewpub in downtown Victoria
included a sampler of six excellent beers(numbers 26
through 31) which boasted of really eclectic
ingredients. HUGO'S PILSNER features yeast from the
Czech Republic, BULLET BLONDE BELGIAN ALE
includes four types of hops, PALE MOON PALE ALE
uses Cascade hops, HOTEL PORTER is brewed with
six different malts, SUPER GINSENG ALE speaks for
itself and the unnamed HEFEWEIZEN was simply the
best I've ever tasted. Brewer Benjamin Schottel
should be rightfully proud of that one.

A late evening walk brought me to Swan's Brewpub,
physically the most beautiful brewpub I've ever seen.
The city of Victoria proudly displays 25,000 huge
hanging baskets of flowers around the city and it
seemed like half of them were at Swan's.  

Swan's is actually a four story hotel, restaurant,
brewpub and brewery converted from an old factory
located on a railroad spur. It was such a beautiful
building that I returned on Sunday morning just to
take a few pictures.

Their sampler allows one to pick seven out of the
thirteen beers they had available.  I went with
SWAN"S EXTRA IPA, ARCTIC ALE (a Canadian
style),OLDETOWNE BAVARIAN LAGER, PANDORA
PALE, BUCKERFIELD'S BITTER, RILEY'S SCOTCH ALE(
I thought Riley was an IRISH name ), and APPLETON
BROWN ALE. All were excellent, though the barmaid
incorrectly identified the styles as she set them in
front of me.  The only downside was the
"entertainment" - it was deafening. The group that
was performing was playing louder than Al Sharpton
preaching at a revival meeting. I returned to the hotel
and had number 39, a nondescript Nova Scotia beer,
ALEXANDER KIETH'S IPA for a nightcap.

My family and I took a walking tour of Victoria on a
beautiful Sunday and stopped for lunch in
Spinnaker's, Canada's first brewpub. The lovely
outdoor deck made their eight beer sampler taste
even better. Numbers 40 through 47 included
JAMESON'S SCOTTISH, IPA, HONEY PALE, and NUT
BROWN.  These were all oustanding. I also tried their
KING TUT ALE, a solid brew.  It was a one time brew
concocted in honor of a display of Egyptian artifacts
at the Victoria Museum.  The only one I didn't care at
all for was the RASPBERRY ALE.

The wildest place on this mini pub crawl vacation was
Big Bad John's, an ancient barroom with peanut shells
all over the floor and brassieres hanging all over the
ceiling. While I was enjoying a pint of PIPER'S PALE
from Victoria Brewing and tolerating a BIG ROCK
GENUINE DRAFT from Calgary, the bartender
explained that peanuts are served in the bras which
are generously donated by the female patrons. The
peanuts are on the house, but I assume if Big Bad
John's ever experiences a cash flow problem, it would
be a simple matter to begin charging for them
according to cup size. I've always loved such novel
promotions, but I'm certainly glad some came up with
the peanuts/bra idea before someone else thought of
serving beer nuts in jockstraps.

We left Victoria with only 49 different under my belt,
but upon boarding the Clipper back to Seattle, I was
happy to find KOKOMAN GLACIAL ALE available to
have with the sandwiches served on board, making a
nice round 50!

Fifty beers notwithstanding, my family agreed it was
the best vacation we've ever had and were very sad
to see it end. For me, howver, the scheduling worked
out just right, because as soon as my suitcase was
unpacked, I looked at my watch and realized that it
was exactly time for my regular Monday night stop at
the Gaslight, my local brewpub!  All's well that ends
well.
Someone
has to say
these things
and it could
only be
Dan!
Beer My Way.........
Beernexus.com proudly presents....DAN HODGE, beer reviewer, historian and raconteur
    anything and everything about beer
by   Dan Hodge