When I used to wait tables at my dad’s restaurant in Kodiak, AK I remember serving a lot of beer. Sure, steaks, burgers and fried halibut were popular too but when half of the dining room was full of fishermen, most of my time was spent carrying pitchers of beer.
Fortunately, while work could be hectic, it was fun and, as most of the customers were just happy to be off the boat and had just gotten paid, tips were good. Unfortunately, the beer I was serving was all Coors, Budwiser and MGD — the closest thing to a microbrew I could offer was a pint of Alaskan Amber.
To be fair, almost everyone was happy with anything cold and alcoholic and I doubt anyone in the bar had even heard the term “craft beer” before. It was a different time.
Now, years later, craft beer has not only hit the mainland of Alaska, it’s made its way to Kodiak.
When I was there last month, I was shocked to see how much the beer scene had changed in my old hometown. Bars had more beers — and much better beers! — on tap than I had expected. When I saw Ninkasi’s Total Domination on draft at the bar by the Kodiak airport, I was ecstatic.
Doing his part to encourage this trend, my dad recently decided to add eight more taps to his restaurant’s line-up — bringing the total to 20, which is the most in town. He wanted the new handles to only carry revolving microbrews, mostly seasonal or specialty, or — at the very least — from Alaska. Since neither he nor my little brother are big beer drinkers, they thought they would utilize my (ahem) beer expertise to help gauge quality.
And so began a bit of a craft beer bender, which to me is the best way to spend a vacation.
Here are some pictures of our adventures, starting with Kodiak Island Brewing Company:
Kodiak’s only brewery has been around since 2003 and a few years ago opened a spacious tasting room. Liquid Sunshine is probably their most popular beer though a few elections ago the Sarah Pale Ale was all the rage. Branching out from the basics, I was happy to see some fun flavors on tap while we were there including a sour beer, an apple cider ale and a coffee infused imperial stout.
Once we left Kodiak and flew to Anchorage, there were many more brewery options. We started with the Midnight Sun Brewing Company, founded in 1995, where the head brewer was nice enough to pour us almost everything they had on tap before taking us on a tour of the brewery (yay!). I really liked the Kodiak Brown Ale, the Pleasure Town IPA and the XXX (which was actually named to celebrate a 30th birthday not an adult film).
While checking out the brewery, we got to try a delicious new honey beer that had yet to be released. The best part of this secret tasting was that it was poured straight from a mounted salmon. Yes, you read that right. A mounted salmon. You can’t make this stuff up.
The next day we went to King Street Brewing Company, whose beers I liked the best of the entire trip. They have only been open since 2011 but their line-up was solid. Everything from the amber to the lager to the IPA was spot-on tasty. They also had a menu posted for blending their beers which I thought was an interesting idea. They will even do blended kegs upon request. So long black and tan, hello dunkelweizen!
The last brew pub I went to was at the Anchorage airport. My flight was delayed and my gate was right next to the Silver Gulch Brewing Company (which is an off-shoot of their Fairbanks location). Sitting at a bar with three glasses of beer in front of you is definitely the way to make your flight home better!
Sadly, I wasn’t a big fan of any of the Silver Gulch beers I tried. I was contemplating buying a growler to take home but instead I got a bottle of Alaska Distillery’s Fireweed Vodka from the gift shop. I am all about boozy souvenirs!
And I’m a big fan of seeing better beers in the Last Frontier — this is a trend I can fully support!