By Lee Salawitch for The Brew Club
Earlier this year, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Alaska. One of the highlights of the trip was the Alaskan Brewing Company Brewery Tour…
I was shopping at the Alaskan Brewing Depot in downtown Juneau and saw a guy with a Fat Heads Saloon Pittsburgh t-shirt. “Are you from the ‘Burgh?” I asked him. “From nearby, originally,” he replied. “I’m not, but I almost moved there last summer. And I’m a huge Steelers fan.”
We talked about the Steelers, about Pittsburgh, about our travels in Alaska, and I asked if he planned on taking the brewery tour. He said he was unaware there was a tour. After we purchased a few t-shirts, John, his wife, and I shared a cab and rode to the brewery, which is around 15 minutes from the Juneau waterfront.
Upon entering, we were handed glasses and the beer started to flow like, well, beer. Most were quite good — I sampled six of the nine styles on tap. The guide, Tony, was hysterical. My first thought was that Tony was an aging hippy who must have hitch-hiked to Alaska in the 60s and never left. I’ve been on several brewery tours (Sprecher, Heavy Seas, and “Mecca” Boston Beer Company) since then, and none of the guides was as lively or as funny as Tony.
Tony filled us in on the history, how founders Geoff and Marcy Larkin raised money for the brewery, that the original production was hand packed with hand written labels, and that Alaskan is one of the most award winning craft breweries at the Great American Beer Festival. Tony also stopped and posed for photos when any of the guests interrupted his shpiel by snapping pictures.
Alaskan’s wood paneled tour gallery and sampling bar is lined with beer cans, bottles, and other memorabilia from breweries representing all 50 states and various foreign countries. So besides having a great visual effec, the brewery has a very homey feel — as if it were the ultimate home brewing club cellar.
About the beers…
I didn’t love the Barley wine, way too sweet for my palette. The White had a very strange aftertaste, almost like bleu cheese dressing. The Baltic Porter and Smoked Porter were both quite good, though I could not distinguish a difference between the two. Both poured very dark with light caramel colored, rapidly disappearing heads, and hints of vanilla and cherry.
The Oatmeal Stout was “money,” one of the favorite beers I’ve ever enjoyed. With a thicker tan head than the porters and a rich aroma of chocolate and coffee, this almost black beverage has a great flavor with a very slight fruity aftertaste. The IPA has more carbonation than the other beers, a strong smell of hops, and is the lightest beer of the ones sampled. This is quite an enjoyable version of the IPA.
I had the flagship Amber with lunch — this pours a darker amber (duh!) color, white head which also dissipated quickly, I can’t remember too much about it since I had previously had six tastings! The rest of the trip, any time the Stout was available, that’s the beer I ordered.
With the exception of the Barley Wine and White, I’d drink any of the other Alaskan products.
As one might expect, Alaskan is one of the most popular breweries in the 49th state, and is also available throughout the western region of the mainland. When in Seattle and Denver, I saw Alaskan beers on tap at various establishments. Definitely sample some of Alaskan’s beers, the judges at the Great American Beer Festival are right on this one!
John, Minnie and I made fast friends as a love of beer and Pittsburgh Pride will do.