Sunday, February 7, 2016

Alaskan Amber enjoyed on the dock of our family cabin in the Northern Michigan backcountry (Eric Strader)

Alaskan Barley Wine (Eric Strader)

Alaskan Smoked Porter (Eric Strader)

Alaskan Birch Bock - from their Pilot Series (Eric Strader)

Alaskan Perseverance Ale, 25th anniversary ale named after one of Juneau's favorite hiking trails, one that I hiked numerous times when living there. (Eric Strader)
Alaskan Brewing Company beer to arrive in Michigan in mid-July

Posted on July 4, 2014 at 9:18 a.m.

During the late 1980s, when I lived in Juneau, Ala., for a short time, Alaskan Brewing Company’s Alaskan Amber was the beer of choice for locals and a rare treat for tourists.  At that time, the brewery name was Chinook Brewing, and many hikes up Mt. Roberts or the Perseverance Trail were finished out with a cold bottle of Amber. One time, a buddy of mine caught a 50 pound King Salmon off the shore in Douglas, across the channel. Since he was a chef at the Fiddlehead restaurant, he knew how to grill it up right -– he got a keg of Alaskan Amber and had a big party.

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to bring back Alaskan Brewing Company’s beer when visiting family in Minneapolis, especially a couple of my favorites, Alaskan Smoked Porter and Alaskan Barley Wine. Beginning in just a couple of weeks, we will be able to purchase Alaskan beer in Michigan. I have known for a while that distribution was definitely going to happen, but it has only been within the last few days I’ve been able to confirm several dates and brands with both Alaskan Brewing Company and I.H.S. Distributing, which will be getting this beer to Michigan retailers.

Two launch events will take place at some of my favorite Kalamazoo beer venues – an event will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. July 16 at the Centre Street Tap House in Portage, Mich., and another will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. July 17 at the Central City Tap House in downtown Kalamazoo, Mich. Brandon Banicki, general manager of the Taphouse, does a great job of offering excellent craft beer on his taps, and I know we will continue to see Alaskan beer choices even after the launch events. Several other tap takeovers, beer dinners and events are in the works at other locations starting on July 19. I will try to pass these dates and locations along when I get further information.


Here are the Alaskan beers on draft, which will be available after the July 16 and 17 parties:

Amber (German Alt , 5.3 percent  ABV, IBUs 18) – This is the flagship we all know and love. It’s an Alt-style Amber based on a Gold Rush era recipe from a long lost Juneau brewery. Winner of a multitude of awards including three GABF Gold Medals (Alt Beer) and most recently a Silver at the World Beer Cup (Irish-Style Red Ale).

Icy Bay IPA (6.2 percent ABV, IBUs 66) – This is a reformulated recipe that replaced a previous IPA. This 6.2 percent brew comes in at 65 IBUs and features five different hop varieties. Named after the bay in which surfers – yes surfers – shred the frigid waves, 1 percent of all proceeds from this beer go to support cleanup and preservation of ocean coastlines and waterways.

Hop-o-Thermia Double IPA (8.5 percent ABV, IBUs 70) – With probably the most brilliant name for an Alaskan beer possible, this Double IPA is bold enough to keep away the wild wolves at night. Its 8.5 percent ABV, 70 IBUs and huge malty backbone help fight the cold on those long winter nights.

Summer Kolsch (very limited time, 5.3 percent ABV, IBUs 18) – Winner of a World Beer Cup Gold Medal (Golden of Blonde Ale), this brew is light and flavorful – perfect for a summer day. Look for the Orca tap handle jumping out of the bar to identify this crisp, refreshing beer.

Pumpkin Porter (coming after Summer Ale, 7 percent ABV, IBUs 25)) – Part of the Alaskan Pilot Series, this full-bodied porter packs over 11 pounds of pumpkin into every barrel! This beer is being released outside of Alaska for the first time due to its incredible reception. Look for it this fall!


Beginning around August 3, bottles of the following beers will hit Michigan shelves:

Freeride American Pale Ale (5.3 percent ABV, IBUs 40) – A recent addition to the brewery’s year-round beers, this pale ale utilizes Cascade, Citra and Centennial hops, two-row and specialty malts, and Juneau’s glacier-fed water for a beer that blurs the lines of categorization.

Amber, Icy Bay and Hop-O-Thermia will also be carried in packages alongside Freeride starting in early August. These are just the launch beers, and Alaskan Brewing has many other award winning beers to offer.  It is my hope that after the brewery gets itself established we will start to see bottles from its Pilot Series (as in sea planes that are always in the sky over Juneau). Earlier this year, the brewery added a canning line as well, so hopefully we will see cans at some point, but probably not in the near future.  When you get your first sip of Alaskan’s beer, I know you will enjoy it as much as I have over the years.