Drinking craft beer in Alaska

Craft Beer in Alaska

Doing what I do best…

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:

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What you’ll find at the end of the road in Kodiak, Alaska

You can actually drive to the end of several roads in Kodiak, Alaska

You can actually drive to the end of several roads in Kodiak, Alaska

In college there was a moment when I turned to a few of my friends and asked if they wanted to go out the road that weekend. I was met with blank stares and utter confusion.

That’s when I realized “going out the road” was phrase only understood in certain places. For me, that place was my hometown, Kodiak, Alaska. Going out the road is the equivalent of going for a drive but the difference is how limited your drive is. We only have so much road in Kodiak so “going out the road” is fairly specific.

If you start in downtown, you can drive about 20 minutes north toward Ft. Abercrombie and then on to the end of that road to Monashka Beach, which is about another 15 minutes away. Monashka, or White Sands as we locals call it, was a favorite place for pallet parties when I was in high school. Ah, Alaska.

One super cool thing about this drive is you can see the “John Wayne.” I didn’t get a picture of it on this trip as the brush has grown over it, but usually you can spot this local treasure which has been painted on the rock wall as you drive out to Monashka. I think the drawing has been there for around 20 years, maybe longer.

You can also go the other direction “out the road” which after about 20 minutes or so will lead you to an intersection, or the Kodiak crossroads as I like to think of it.

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An iconic sight: Kodiak’s Russian Orthodox Church

Kodiak, AK Russian Orthodox Church

Just like Ft. Abercrombie and Pillar Mountain, there are a few other places on Kodiak that cling in my mind from childhood. Anything I knew about the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Cathedral — or the Russian Church as I’ve always known it — I’ve long since forgotten. I’m terrible about those kinds of details. But I can tell you it was originally built in 1794 by a mission of Russian Orthodox monks and is supposed to be the oldest Orthodox parish in North America.

If you’re interested you can click here for a bit more information on the church and St. Herman of Alaska. This seminary is in his name:

St. Herman Seminary

St. Herman Seminary

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My favorite place in the world: Ft. Abercrombie State Park

This trail leads to an overlook that is my favorite part of the park

This trail leads to an overlook that is my favorite part of the park

While I’ve traveled quite a bit around the world, there is one place that will always have my heart — Ft. Abercrombie State Park on Kodiak Island, Alaska. I remember hiking the trails as a Girl Scout, hanging out on top of the bunkers as a teenager, spending hours partying (and legitimately exploring!) as a young adult and even now, all grown up, I can feel its pull.

The park is where I spent an incredible amount of time between the ages of 13 and 21. My friends and I had several favorite campsites that we would spend weekends at — when we were younger, we’d all pile into a tent to gossip the night away. As we got older, the group grew and the nights often ended with a mix of couples huddled around a campfire, drinking beer and talking about life after high school. Most of my best memories of my friends involve Ft. Abercrombie.

But besides the fact that it was a great places to escape, the park is also crazy beautiful and loaded with history.
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Headed to higher ground: Seeing Kodiak from above

View of St. Paul Harbor, Pillar Mt., Kodiak, AK

The best view of the city of Kodiak isn’t much of a secret, anyone will tell you — just drive up Pillar Mountain. The problem is it’s usually just too foggy to see anything. In fact the fog in Kodiak is legendary, it once saved the island from an air attack in WWII. It’s hard to bomb a place if you can’t find it!

But last weekend, I lucked out and had two gorgeous days on the island before the rain and fog came in. After 18 years of living on Kodiak, I can tell you this is an incredibly rare thing so I didn’t waste much time driving up to see the town from the top of Pillar.

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Returning home…

St. Paul Boat Habor

St. Paul Boat Harbor, Kodiak, Alaska

I have been offline for a while but it’s for a very good reason. I flew to my hometown, Kodiak, Alaska, for the first time in nearly a decade. I’ve been busy visiting with my family, teaching my just-21-year-old younger brother how to appreciate beer and taking a whole lot of pictures. So excuse the absence…I’ll be back soon!