The Beer Scene in Alaska
Greater Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula
October 21, 2004
Written by PorterPounder
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.
Getting to my cheap motel at about 11:00 PM Alaska time, (3:00 AM Florida time), I was restless and in need of a nightcap. So I ventured to the closest liquor store I could find - "Spirits of Alaska" and it was one of those joints that has a pawn shop connected to it - what the hell, I thought - I’ll just pick up a 40 of some west coast malt liquor and add another rating! To my surprise they had a full contingent of Alaskan’s lineup, plus various other west coast micro standards such as <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=233>Deschutes
, <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=15>Avery
and <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=154>Pyramid
, even bombers of <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=76>Stone
. I settled for a bomber of <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/Beer-Ratings.asp?BeerID=8972>Avery The Reverend, which served as a superb nightcap and jet lag adjuster.
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.
The next stop on my Alaskan adventure was across the peninsula in Seward, a bustling scenic town nestled between the glaciated mountains on Resurrection Bay. While it does not have its own brewery (anyone want to go into business with me?) it does have the Resurrection Roadhouse which boasts 16 different taps from Alaska and the Northwest. When I was there the lineup included a few from <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=2750>Glacier Brewhouse, <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=3128>Sleeping Lady, <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=870>Fish Brewery, Deschutes, Alaskan, and Pyramid. The most mainstream thing they had was Redhook and Guinness. When asked, the bartender showed me a few bottles of Heineken and Corona under the counter for those who just could not make the leap! They also have Moose’s Tooth Root beer for the kids. The food is excellent - I recommend the Alaskan King Crab.
The final leg of my journey brought me back to the Anchorage area and my first stop was in Wasilla, a congested mass of suburbia that looks no different than parts of southern California. The <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=2962>Great Bear Brewing Company was my destination and I enjoyed several samples of their wide selection. Some have humorous names such as the <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/Beer-Ratings.asp?BeerID=38672>Valley Trash Blonde Ale which is in reference to the name given to the locals by a state senator. All the beers were decent and refreshing and the place was hopping with locals even on a Tuesday afternoon. Back to the more sedate downtown Anchorage, the <a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/Ratings/Beer/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=2750>Glacier Brewhouse is a fine establishment with its polished decor and gourmet cuisine. They always have a rotating selection of something unique.
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.
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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.
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