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.
Live Life Alaskan
. . . or at least talk like one! When we say “the dogs are running” in Juneau, we’re not talking about the Iditarod. We’re not even talking about dogs. Running means spawning, and these dogs are dog salmon. If you’re in town for more than an hour, you’ll hear expressions that may seem even stranger than dogs in running shoes. If you want to follow directions, or even follow a conversation, here’s a guide to some of the common colloquialisms that will help you pass for a Juneau local.
Simultaneously a person, place and thing, depending on the context. This is a bar and hotel in downtown Juneau, a malt beverage brewed by the Alaskan brewery here, and a state resident. You could have an Alaskan with an Alaskan at the Alaskan.
There are lots of bridges, but "The Bridge" is the one downtown that crosses the channel to Douglas. Technically, it's called the Douglas Bridge, oddly enough.
Not a television network, but Gastineau Channel, that body of water between Juneau and Douglas. Doubles as a floatplane runway and cruise ship parking lot in summer.
A place, not a person. Refers to both the town and the island across the channel from downtown. When people say North Douglas, they mean west Douglas, where the North Douglas Highway goes.
Dolly Varden trout, otherwise an old term for a hand truck.
The daily newspaper in Juneau. Not like in "Star Wars."
Knee-high slip-on rubber boots. XtraTufs is a brand name, but this is a generic term for all Juneau Sneakers. They go with everything.
Out the Road
The area north of Auke Bay, but still on the 40 miles of road in Juneau.
Not an insult, but a type of fish -- also known as an Irish Lord or a Sculpin.
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.
In addition to our year-round lineup of beers, we release seasonal beers and limited edition and Pilot Series Beers. Our Smoked Porter comes out every year on Nov. 1.
Our seasonal lineup includes a beer for each season, and while release dates can vary slightly, expect to see our Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring seasonals in the season they are named for.
Pilot Series releases vary, but usually come out 3 to 4 times a year.
Alaskan Brewing Co.:
- Donates beer and/or merchandise only; no cash donations are made, except to our locally selected charity (mentioned above).
- Keeps it local. We give back to the communities that support us. The states that are eligible for donations are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
- Does not donate to organizations or events where the focus is children and youths under the age of 21. As responsible craft brewers, we do not want our name associated with those not of legal drinking age.
- Requires that the individual or organization requesting the donation accepts full responsibility for complying with local, state and federal regulations, especially those governing the management of alcohol.
- Does not fund individuals or teams.
- Does not support specific candidates, political organizations or legislation.
- Requires that the organization or individual submit an official donation request to us at least 30 days in advance. Due to the volume of donation requests we receive, we are not able to honor requests made within 30 days of an event. Applicants should email firstname.lastname@example.org request a link to our official donation request webpage.
Alaskan Brewing Co. reserves the right to refuse to donate to any organization for any reason at our discretion.
Alaskan Brewing Co. is not available where I live. How can I distribute or represent your beer in my area?
All Alaskan Brewing Co. distribution and/or representative inquiries should be mailed to:
Marcy Larson, Co-founder
Alaskan Brewing Co.
5429 Shaune Drive
Juneau, AK 99801
Please include a distributor profile and network, specific marketing area, chain activity, competitive pricing and freight channels.
We love collectors! Please send requests for current labels, coasters or bottle caps with a self-addressed stamped envelope to:
Alaskan Brewing Co.
Attn: Label/coaster/cap request
5429 Shaune Drive
Juneau, AK 99801
International requests must be accompanied by an international postage coupon to cover the mailing.
We will do the best we can to fill your request. However, please note that we don’t always have coasters in stock and we have run out of many of our old seasonal labels. Collectors seeking our out-of-print labels should consider contacting American Breweriana Association regarding membership and available programs.
Unfortunately we don’t ship our merchandise internationally.
We are always exploring new markets. We’ve recently expanded to Iowa and Illinois, but we have not yet decided where we will go next.
Alaskan uses no ingredients like corn syrup or food coloring, and does not use GMO’s.
To date we haven’t brewed any gluten-free beers, but may experiment with it in the future. Stay tuned.