Every year I take a trip out west to a different area, primarily to hike and secondarily to explore the local beer scene. In the past, my travels have taken me to Washington, California (Yosemite area), Oregon, Wyoming (Yellowstone area), Alberta (Banff and Jasper area), and Montana. This past September, I decided to tackle the mother of all states, Alaska. Since Alaska is so enormous, I decided to focus on one region, the Kenai Peninsula, which in itself is about the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined.
Alaskans seem to take their beer pretty seriously. I knew I was in the right place while waiting for my luggage after my flight from Atlanta, I overheard a young lady decked out in an <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=4>Alaskan Brewery
t-shirt complaining about the lack of quality beer wherever she came from. "The best thing they had on tap was Samuel Adams" she bemoaned. I was pretty tired so did not engage her in conversation, but being from Florida, I could sympathize.
The next morning I stocked up for the week at Yukon Spirits. They had a great selection of west coast and Alaskan micros and a solid selection of imports. I was able to pick up a <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/Beer-Ratings.asp?BeerID=5400>Rochefort 8 and about two dozen singles of various west coast micros that I had not tried yet. All were available as singles and priced quite reasonably - some as low as $1.59 per. The manager on duty was very friendly and accommodating when he saw me pull out my beer list and was familiar with Ratebeer.com.
After an afternoon hike to the top of Flattop Mountain in Chugach State Park overlooking Anchorage, I headed back into Anchorage to check out a few local breweries. My first stop was <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=424>Midnight Sun Brewing Company and I luckily caught them while they were open, as they have limited hours of operation in their tasting room and gift shop - so call ahead! They have about eight of their high quality beers available for sampling and growler filling as well as a few bombers. My favorite was the <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/Beer-Ratings.asp?BeerID=22240>Midnight Sun Epluche-Culotte. The General Manager, Gary, was very friendly and we chatted about the local beer scene. He even remembered me as PorterPounder when I made a return visit later in the week! Both times I was there, there was a line of thirsty Alaskans with empty growlers in hand - one pilot from the bush even had about 16 apple juice gallon jugs.
Inspired by the moose I saw while hiking earlier in the day, I stopped at <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=3399>Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria for dinner and a few pints.
They have about 16 on tap and at least two dozen varieties of pizza. The place was packed for a Thursday night and sitting at the bar, I was in constant conversation with several friendly locals. Later that evening there was going to be a tasting of one of their Anniversary Ales, which is a Thursday night tradition during the warmer months on their patio. I had to venture further to Soldotna, so sadly could not partake in the festivities. My favorite on my two visits was their <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/Beer-Ratings.asp?BeerID=29400>Barley Wine, but all that I tried were above average for a brewpub.
After spending the night in Soldotna, I ventured to the quaint little town of Homer, home of <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=3424>Homer Brewing Company. The brewery itself overlooks a small lake full of seaplanes and offers a Room with a Brew; above the brewery - a room to rent out for vacationers that includes a free growler of their choice. The small, open-air warehouse-like brewery was packed both times I went there with locals and vacationers filling up their growlers for the Labor Day weekend. They have at least four on tap - all pretty decent quality and they can be sampled there at the brewery or taken home in growlers, 20 oz bottles (actually Sobe bottles with a Homer label!) or kegs. Most restaurants around town also have their beers on tap, which is great to see the local support - in fact two restaurants I went to Homer was the only beer available on tap! My favorite was the <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/Beer-Ratings.asp?BeerID=21434>China Poot Porter.
On my last day in Alaska, I made a stop at one of several Brown Jug Warehouse Liquors found throughout the city. They had a decent selection, but do not rival Yukon Sprits and they do not appear to have a lot of their micros available in singles. My last brewpub visit was to <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=3128>Sleeping Lady. It was a very nice downtown brewpub and restaurant (the restaurant is actually called Snow Goose). The upstairs bar has a view to die for of the Cook Inlet and mountains. They have a mainstay of seven beers and a few rotating seasonals and specialties. All were above average. Full menu including seafood - I just had a cheeseburger which was very good. They have growlers to go for those inclined and the staff is friendly, young and energetic.
All in all, Alaska was a great place to visit, even without the great beer opportunities - that just made it that much better. I highly recommend a visit to everyone at least once in their lifetime - it is not all snow and igloos! At least not in early September.