Brewing with history
Alaska has a rich history of brewing. From the explorers of the 1700s through the Gold Rush, many a thirsty Alaskan has been able to enjoy locally made beers.
In 1986, 28-year-olds Marcy and Geoff Larson reignited that tradition when they opened the Alaskan Brewing Company, the 67th independent brewery in the country and the first brewery in Juneau since Prohibition. Alaskan beers reflect many of the same characteristics of beers that were brewed here during the gold rush era. From the historically based Alaskan Amber recipe to alder-smoked malts and Sitka spruce tips, Alaskan beers reflect Juneau’s local brewing history and innovation.
A daring solution
Marcy and Geoff were drawn to the beauty and adventure of Alaska, but finding a livelihood that would allow them to stay was a challenge. “Why not start a brewery?” a friend suggested. Other than the extreme financial and logistical challenges of brewing beer in the Last Frontier, they couldn’t think of why not. Maybe the idea wasn’t so far-fetched. After all, Geoff was a chemical engineer and a homebrewer and was married to Marcy, an adventure-seeking accountant and aspiring bush pilot. Together they brought a unique skill set to the task of opening a brewery in Alaska.
While researching brewing in Alaska, Marcy unearthed shipping records from Douglas City Brewing Co. (1899-1907) that listed ingredients for its popular beers and a newspaper article that described the way it was brewed. Geoff homebrewed a batch of the Gold Rush-era brew and they could see what made it so popular. That beer is now known as Alaskan Amber.
In December 1986, Alaskan Brewing Co. officially began operations when Geoff, Marcy and 10 volunteers spent 12 hours hand packaging the first 253 cases of Alaskan Amber for distribution in Juneau, Alaska. From that very humble beginning, Alaskan Brewing Co. has grown to become one of the most award-winning craft breweries in the history of the Great American Beer Festival and expanded distribution to 20 states.
Care for a liquid history lesson?
Geoff and Marcy Larson and the Alaskan Brew Crew talk about how Alaskan Brewing started with an idea of putting a bit of the history of our state in every bottle.
Southeast Alaska is not only home to our brewery; it is also the source of inspiration for many of our brews. We draw from the area’s rich history and ingredients.
Pure Glacial Water
With 1,500 square miles of ice and glaciers, the Juneau Icefield is larger than the state of Rhode Island. It is the source of water for all our brews. And as every brewer knows, water is one of the most important ingredients in beer.
The Tongass National Forest is the largest temperate rainforest in the world and is filled with Sitka spruce trees. The tender new growth of Sitka spruce tips, hand harvested in Gustavus, Alaska, infuses Alaskan Winter Ale with its subtly sweet floral flavor.
Another common flavor of Southeast Alaska is salmon smoked over alder, an indigenous hardwood tree. A local fish smokehouse sparked Brewmaster Geoff Larson’s imagination. Smoking malt provided a unique flavor and a preservative that allows the beer to be aged like a fine wine.
Mining for Great Taste
Alaskan Amber and Alaskan Barley Wine both draw from Juneau’s history as a gold mining town. As homage to the brewing practices of the gold rush, early vintages of Alaskan Barley Wine were cellared in the cool tunnels of the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine.