Tourist season is upon us, and Glacier BrewHouse was packed when we walked in to look for Kevin Burton to get some beer pictures done. The brewers were expecting a roomful of brewing supplies, too, but Kevin made time for us and we got our photos done. I got a few sips of beer, but I’d really like to return to Glacier for a full glass of IPA and some food soon. Kevin took us down to the basement after the photos were done to show us beer being aged in wood barrels. The basement also houses all the tanks of beer that are directly hooked up to the taps upstairs so there is no need to change out kegs. Thanks to Kevin for all your help – and your insistence on a photo with Led Zeppelin – we look forward to working with you in the future.
49th State Brewing Company in Denali Park, 10 miles north of the entrance to the park, was our last Fairbanks trip stop. The place was crazy busy with tourist season, but we were still able to get our beer photos. 49th has a big yard out in front of the restaurant, and dogs were running around, music was playing, fire was burning and mosquitos were biting. The bus used in the movie “Into the Wild” (not the real bus) sits on one side of the yard with flat tires and broken windows, and we utilized that for a few shots. Master brewer Jason Bullen poured us beer (enjoyed all the sips I had) and David McCarthy helped us out with information. I wish this brewery was closer – the food looked great and the atmosphere was fun. Definitely a good place to stop on the way up north.
On the way back to Eagle River, we stopped to get a couple photos of the Igloo building, which apparently is an unfinished hotel and someone’s bizarre idea of architectural design…
After hanging out with the HooDoo guys, JJ, Brian and I headed north of Fairbanks to Fox, where Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling Company lies in a big silver barn-like building. We were met by head brewer Levi Hansen and his BMW motorcycle and he got us started with a brewery tour and a couple beers before manager Matt Tonnies arrived to pour the rest of the beers. Silver Gulch has a huge brewery and huge restaurant, upstairs, downstairs, room for receptions and an outdoor patio. Everyone was very pleasant to work with, as I am realizing is the norm for all Alaska beer people. At every brewery we visit, I see more and more what a wonderful craft beer community we have in Alaska. Everyone knows each other and speaks highly of each other, there isn’t much competition. I remember the HooDoo guys being shocked that Fairbanks didn’t have a microbrewery before they opened, and welcome other brewers to their city. So, a good time was had by all, and Levi even modeled the Weird Beard barley wine for me!
Apparently, a hoodoo is “a tall, thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland,” according to Wikipedia. However, the awesome name of this awesome brewery in Fairbanks comes from yet another mountain and mountainous area, this time in Canada. Bobby Wilken and Paul Johnson, a couple of cool, bicycle-riding, mustache-sporting guys, are keeping it simple in interior Alaska with four delicious beers in the tasting room at the moment and plans for more in the future. On tap at HooDoo: Kolsch, Stout, American IPA, Maibock and a nude Freddy Mercury doll. The guys were super helpful, including brewer Erick Heimbigner, who stop working for a quick photo, and we really enjoyed hanging out for awhile, especially because it was almost 90 and a clear and sunny day. We were invited to come back for vinyl Tuesday, and I wish we’d had time, but alas, we still had two other breweries to get to and get back to Eagle River.
Oh, and the HooDoo firetruck came from a volunteer station in Austria.
Nestled in the woods off the main road on the Kenai, almost to Nikiski, is the Kassik’s brewery, tasting room and the house where owners Debara and Frank Kassik live with their black lab, Molly. This was our last stop of the trip and it was raining. That didn’t stop us, though, and Debara was more than helpful in suggesting creative places for beer photos, going so far as to build a little bonfire for a few shots. Debara and Frank opened several bottled beers for us, too – beers not on tap. Brewers Luke and Dreaux helped in not letting that beer go to waste. Standup guys! Kassik’s probably has some of the more interesting beer names – Orion’s Quest Red Ale, Roughneck Stout, Pretty Fly for a White IPA, Your Mom Abbey Ale…
St. Elias Brewing Company, named after the 18,000 foot peak on the Alaska-Candian border, pops up on the left side of the road as you roll into Soldotna. JJ, Brian and I had some lunch in the restaurant before talking with head brewer Zach Henry in the red brick and stainless steel brewery. Zach was hard at work in the warm and humid part of the building, saying one of the reasons he hasn’t pursued offsite distribution is that he can barely keep up production out of the brewpub right now, particularly because summer just started. St. Elias had 11 beers on tap to offer, and I really enjoyed finding some unique places to take photos. This is definitely a great place to get food and a pint on the Kenai.
First brewery of a trip down to the peninsula. Drove out to Kenai River Brewing Company in Soldotna and met up with owner and head brewer Doug Hogue, who helped us out with our photo session. Kenai River has 7 beers on tap and two in cans at the moment, Sunken Island IPA, named after a fishing spot on the Kenai River itself, and Skilak Scottish, after Skilak Lake in the area. Doug was awesome and gave us some cans to take home. Thanks! The Peninsula Brewer’s Reserve is also set to be canned soon. Warmer weather had the brewery pretty toasty, but there were plenty of great beer photos spots in the tasting room. Great names for the tanks and canning system, too…Doug was welcoming and gave us everything we needed and even got to meet miss Foxy Brown, who joined us for the adventure.