St. Elias’s “Moose Juice” named #1 in Alaska
Posted: Wednesday, February 09, 2011 Article By: The Peninsula Clarion
Things really do get better with age, just ask Zack Henry the owner of the Soldotna-based St. Elias Brewing Company. Last year Henry crafted a barley wine he called “Moose Juice” and entered it into the Great Alaskan Beer & Barley Wine Festival in Anchorage. Now in its 16th year, the annual competition drew over 200 brews from 50 regional brewers. This level of competition makes the 2nd Place overall placement and “Best Alaskan Entry” recognition even more rewarding according to Henry. “Our entry was a barley wine we made about two years ago and put in some oak bourbon barrels that we had obtained. We aged it for a year in those barrels and then entered it in last year’s competition, and it didn’t even make it into the second round of judging. We decided to hold off five gallons and re-enter it in this year’s festival and ended up taking 2nd overall and #1 in Alaska.” Henry said.
When asked about the difference between wine and ale as it pertained to the contest, Henry noted “A barley wine is basically ale brewed to a wine strength.” According to Henry, there are also distinctions in the process used when aging ale compared to aging wine. “The heavier the beer, the more it will benefit from age. There are some positive things that come from oxidation in an oak barrel that tends to smooth out a beer like our Moose Juice. It’s what we anticipated happening and it worked,” he said. Unfortunately the five gallons of Moose Juice were quickly consumed at the festival, but Henry says he’ll be brewing up a new batch soon. “We’ll use the same process and see if we can duplicate it. Usually a big beer like the Moose Juice is going to be fairly harsh at the start, or what is called in brewing world as ‘hot’ – with some flavors that aren’t that pleasant to the palate, but with age all those flavors smooth out and you obtain that award-winning flavor,” explained Zach.
So while you may have to wait a few years to taste the next batch of this award winning Moose Juice, at any given time Zach says there are ten different hand crafted beers on tap at St. Elias in Soldotna. “One of the most popular things we feature here is the sampler. Basically that’s a 3oz pour of each of the beers we have on tap at only a dollar a pour so you can pick the one you like best before ordering a pint,” says Henry. Zach and his wife started the St. Elias Brewing Co. only a few years ago but says that business is good and has more than met his expectations. “The local folks have been really good to us and having a small business in Soldotna you have to rely on the local clientele and not just the tourists. The community has treated us very well and we sure appreciate them,” he said.
St. Elias also offers a full menu of rustic, traditional Neapolitan style pizzas and an assortment of unique gourmet salads, sandwiches and hand made desserts. “It’s our emphasis on quality and fresh ingredients that sets us apart,” added Henry. To discover more about St. Elias Brewing Co. log on to www.steliasbrewingco.com, call 260-7837 or stop by the restaurant just past Fred Meyers on the Sterling Highway.
Posted: August 24, 2011 – 8:00am | Updated: August 29, 2011 – 3:54pm
Event director Matt Pyhala presents owners Zach Henry & Jessie Kolesar and manager John Bennett with the People’s Choice Award at the 1st Peninsula Beer Fest competition.
August 30, 2011 10:33 AM AKDT
The origins of the award winning local micro-breweries are said to have begun as home brew kits lovingly given as presents from their spouses. Last week over 1,000 people from 20 different states turned out for the Peninsula’s first Rotary Beer Festival to sample the crafts of the three local micro-breweries along side the best of the best from the other breweries in Alaska. “Alaska is making beers that compete with and top any beers in the world,” said event director Soldotna Rotarian Dr. Matt Pyhala, “And the turn out for our 1st Beer Festival on the Peninsula underscores that fact,” he added.
Event organizers transformed the former Hutchings GMC dealership on the Spur Highway in Ridgeway for the venue with indoor and outdoor booths for the breweries and food vendors with two stages for live music. “It was an extremely well organized event with 30 some Rotarians volunteering for everything from set up to clean up, traffic control, and driver’s license verification. Everyone was orderly and enjoyed meeting new people from out of town and tasting the wide variety of different beers available. It was a new event that again added to our local economy and is an example of what we can do in the future to extend the shoulder of our tourist season. With all the proceeds going to the Soldotna Rotary Club all of us will benefit from that service organizations local programs and projects,” said Soldotna Mayor and Rotarian Peter Micciche.
When the voting closed and the ballots were counted the 1st Annual People’s Choice Award with only a two vote advantage went to St. Elias Brewing Co. for their “Farmer’s Friend” Rye Beer. “It was a great experience to have all these breweries here and we were proud to be part of this event and share our produce with so many folks from out of state. We Alaskans are brewing some of the cutting edge stuff and craft beer has such a small market share that it makes us happy to see it growing,” said Zach Henry receiving the inaugural award with his partners Jessie Kolesar and John Bennett. “We brought six different beers here tonight but it was no surprise that Framer’s Friend took home the trophy, it’s our flagship brew at St. Elias and gets its name from the variety of grains we use in brewing it,” added Henry.
Everyone who purchased a ticket to the festival received an 8oz commemorative tasting glass and tickets to taste three beers. A variety of local food vendors were also on hand with delectable’s such as homemade pretzels by Odie’s Deli, and Brats from Echo Lake Meats and AK Custom Meats/Hot Diggity Dog, “We really appreciate the breweries stepping up and donating the beer for the festival and making the event such a success for our local Rotary Club and above and beyond that without all their participation it wouldn’t have been a festival but merely a beer garden. We hear there were no DUI arrests that night and many folks took advantage of free cab rides provided by Brent Hibbert of Alaska Cab,” said Pyhala.
2009 Small Business of the Year award by the “Soldotna Chamber of Commerce”
2010 The People’s Choice Award at the “Mighty Matanuska Beer Festival”
2011 2nd Place at “The Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival
for our Moose Juice Barley Wine
2011 People’s Choice Award at the “Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival”
2011 2nd place award for our Williwaw IPA at the “Alaska State Fair”
2012 People’s Choice Award for Best Micro-brew at “The Taste Of The Kenai”