The state’s 10 coolest breweries worth the trek
If you’ve been to Alaska, you’ve probably seen some of the results of the state’s great beer boom: Almost every town hosts its own brewery (and sometimes quite a few), making this state’s beer quota one of the top 10 per capita in America. With expert recommendations from the Brewers Guild of Alaska and Alaskan culinary expert Kate Consenstein, here are some of the state’s top breweries and most-anticipated new openings to check out during your next trip to America’s 49th state.
Anchorage Brewing Company: Anchorage, AK
One of Alaska’s newest breweries, Anchorage Brewing Co. is steadily gaining acclaim. Founder Gabe Fletcher grew up in the ranks in Alaska’s brewing circles, serving as a head brewer at Midnight Sun Brewing Company and gaining over 20 years of experience producing barley wine. At Anchorage Brewing, Fletcher ferments nearly all his beers in French oak casks, typically used in wine production. During a visit, sample a range of beers, including Saison, Imperial Stout, IPA, and the house favorite, Time Waits for No One, an Imperial Stout aged in Laphroaig whiskey barrels for a year.
Girdwood Brewing Company: Girdwood, AK
Set to open in March, Girdwood Brewing Co. is the most-anticipated new brewery in the state of Alaska. Located on the Alyeska Highway near the popular Alyeska Resort and founded by Josh Hegna, Brett Marenco, Rory Marenco, Amy Shimek, and Karl McLaughlin, the brewery is set to serve its beer directly in its taproom. The brewery’s first beers will include the IP-AK IPA and Down the Chute Kolsch, both of which will be poured on opening day in March.
Homer Brewing Company: Homer, AK
When it opened in the fall of 1996, Homer Brewing Co. instantly became a tried-and-true favorite of Alaska’s breweries. Located on the Kenai Peninsula in Homer, known as the halibut capital of the world, the brewery produces five flagship brews and many specialty varieties throughout the year. Taste the Cascade hops when sampling the Old Inlet Pale Ale, opt for the full-bodied Odyssey Oatmeal Stout, or choose the brewery’s citric session Broken Birch Bitter. The best time to visit is during the summer: Grab a brew and head to the parking lot. Here, Jakolof Bay Oysters Co. serves platters of half-shell oysters at the establishment’s Oyster Shuck Shack-teau.
Alaskan Brewing Company: Juneau, AK
Alaska’s brewery boom is rooted in Alaskan Brewing Co., the Juneau-based brewery launched by Marcy and Geoff Larson in 1986. Alaskan was the 67th independent brewery in the country and the first brewery in Juneau since Prohibition. Some of its traits, such as its Amber Alt-Style Ale recipe and use of alder-smoked malts and Sitka spruce tips, reflect beers produced in the gold rush era. The award-winning brewery is also a champion of sustainable practices: Alaskan has a CO2 recovery system that allows spent grain to power its steam boiler—hence its slogan: “Beer-powered Beer.”
Seward Brewing Company: Seward, AK
Owned by chef Erik Slater and partner Hillary Bean, Seward Brewing Co., located in its namesake town, goes beyond typical brewery protocol. Chef Slater is revered across the state for his unique approaches to classic dishes, which pair well with the company’s brews. Serving tapas-style small plates inspired by traditional pub fare, chef Slater’s salmon poke, chicken-fried rockfish tacos, and reindeer hot dogs complement Seward Brewing Company’s chocolatey Inked-Out Stout, the smooth El Jefeweizen Chile Wheat, and the malty Rockfish Red Ale.
Denali Brewing Company: Talkeetna, AK
Located near Denali National Park, Denali Brewing Co. in Talkeetna produces some of Alaska’s most popular beers, including the Twister Creek IPA, a Pacific Northwest-style IPA made from Columbus and Cascade dry hops, resulting in a highly aromatic finish. The Louisville Sour, on the other hand, is a tart, medium-bodied golden ale with notes of lemon zest and wood. Try Denali Brewing's beers onsite, or find them on tap and bottled across the state.
Skagway Brewing Company: Skagway, AK
With roots dating back to the Klondike gold rush of 1896, the Skagway Brewing Co. in southeast Alaska first opened in 1897, quenching the thirst of many prospectors who headed northwest to strike it rich. The brewery brings life to its small coastal town with 900 residents, producing 30,000 barrels and helping bring nearly 1 million visitors to Skagway each year. Try the brewery’s famous Spruce Tip Blonde Ale, adapted from a recipe originally created in the 1700s to help sailors fight scurvy, then finish by sampling five staple brews always on tap: Prospector Pale Ale, Chilkoot Trail IPA, Boom Town Brown, Blue Top Porter, and Barley Wine.
Haines Brewing Company: Haines, AK
Located on Main Street in Haines, a small northern hamlet in the southeast Alaska Panhandle, Haines Brewing Co. brews all its beers without filtering or pasteurizing, resulting in one of Alaska’s finest craft beer selections. Haines Brewing began when Paul Wheeler and Jeanne Kitayama opened shop at the Southeast Alaska State Fairgrounds nearly 16 years ago, using dairy tanks as fermenters. Demand for their brews quickly skyrocketed, and they bought closed fermenters to begin producing their signature selection of brews, including Bigger Hammer, Black Fang, Captain Cook’s Spruce Tip, and Dalton Trail Ale.
HooDoo Brewing Company: Fairbanks, AK
HooDoo Brewing Co.’s roots go back to the college days of owner Bobby Wilken, when he first began home-brewing beer in Montana. Wilken later attended brewing school in Chicago, then joined the team at Alaskan Brewing Co. in Juneau. After becoming an expert in the trade, Wilken moved to Fairbanks to open HooDoo Brewing, a community-oriented brewery where you can meet your friends at the beer truck or join a beer-themed yoga class. During a visit, try the on-tap selection, including the German Kolsch, Bavarian Weissbier, Mosaic Pale, American IPA, Anniversary Pumpkin Ale, Vanilla Porter, and HooDoo Stout.
Double Shovel Cider Company: Anchorage, AK
Founded in 2015, Double Shovel Cider Co. is Alaska’s first and only micro-cidery. Combining hand-picked Alaskan apples, berries, and syrups with locally sourced apples from the Pacific Northwest, Double Shovel handcrafts semi-dry, naturally gluten-free ciders with no added sugars. Visit the cidery’s tap room to sample top sellers like the Appalanche Semi-Dry and Forget-Me-Hopped Cider.