Alaska’s Big Beer Tour—Part 1

The state of Alaska is a misnomer of sorts. Twice the size of Texas, with more coastline than all other states combined; yet it has one of the smallest state populations (only Vermont and Wyoming have less). A majority of its land is close to sea level, but it also has the highest mountain North America. It is a state where liberal Democrats carry handguns when hiking, and conservative Republicans passionately advocate for environmental causes. But there’s one thing they all agree on—a love of good beer.

According to the Brewers Association the twenty-seven craft breweries spread across the state provide each legal age resident with a glorious 12.1 gallons of beer yearly, which is the forth-highest amount in the United States. That’s a lot of suds.

When Marcy and Geoff Larson opened the Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau in 1986 they did not realize they were ushering in a new era in their home state, they just wanted good beer. “We started from scratch and had to create most of our equipment,” said Geoff Larson. “It was tough at first, but the end result was worth it, a beer we wanted to drink” As they began to bottle their flagship beer Alaskan Amber, and ship it throughout the state they allowed their fellow residents of the forty-ninth state to get a jump-start on the upcoming craft beer revolution. Due to the isolated nature of Alaska new craft beers would slowly trickle into the state over the next decade, but more and more residents would proudly ask for their home beer, turning their backs on more mainstream brews.

As only the sixty-seventh microbrewery in the country Alaskan Brewing was the lone outpost of flavorful brews for the next ten years, but their success inspired others to follow in their footsteps. By the dawning of the new millennium there were four more breweries in the state. Anchorage was home to Moose’s Tooth Brewing and the Glacier Brewhouse, Haines had the Haines Brewing Company, and Fairbanks was home to the northernmost brewery in America, Silver Gulch Brewing.

Silver Gulch Brewery the site of a 100-yr old roadhouse and the northernmost brewery in America
Silver Gulch Brewery the site of a 100-yr old roadhouse and the northernmost brewery in America

On top of their locally brewed beers Alaskans benefited from their relatively close proximity to the Pacific Northwest hotbed of craft brewing. Pioneers like Rouge, Full Sail, and Deschutes were shipping their golden goodness to their northern neighbors. As the independent minded residents of Alaska began drinking, and asking for more craft beer, new brewers rushed to fill the void throughout the state.

But in a state as widespread and isolated as Alaska getting to all of that delicious beer can be a daunting task. But don’t fear there is a way to visit sixteen breweries without ever getting behind the wheel of a car. The Alaskan Railroad travels 470 miles through the state from Fairbanks to Seward, and it is one of the best, and most unique beer tours on the planet. Next week I will give details on the perfect trip for any beer aficionados and lovers of all things wild.

HZ12_ShieldLogo-300x190Liquid Gear is proudly sponsored by Hazel’s Beverage World which is the go-to store for outdoor enthusiasts and everyone else on the go.  Featuring Boulder’s largest selection of wine, beer and spirits at everyday low prices, Hazel’s has lots of beverages that are easy to carry along and enjoy no matter what your adventure.  So don’t forget to pack the party—fly by Hazel’s before your next excursion and stock up on your favorite liquid refreshments. Hazel’s – Same Planet, Different World

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