Thursday, July 31, 2014

A chat with Geoff Larson co-owner of Alaskan Brewing Co.

Written by  Aimee West
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Geoff Larson from Alaskan Brewing Co. took time out of his busy schedule to talk to I'm a Beer Hound today over the phone. I was also able to connect with Andy Kline from Alaskan Brewing when he attended the tap takeover at REO Town pub in Lansing.
Alaskan Brewing Co. is excited to add Michigan as a state where their beer is available. They feel a kindred spirit with the state of Michigan and the fact that many people from Michigan visit Alaska and the brewery. That due to our Northern geographical location we share a love of nature, community and outdoor activities with them such as hiking, fishing, camping, boating, snowboarding, etc.

We talked a bit about the fact that Michigan is such a great beer state and that we have many options of excellent local craft beer. That did not deter Geoff at all, he is excited about the fact that “Michigan people understand and love beer”. That Michigan is the perfect market to appreciate the type of beer that he is creating. We understand hops and the flavor pallet that Alaskan Brewing has created. They also have history tied to their beers and I think that we also share a love of history as well.

The challenge of historical beer is taking an old recipe that is not always complete or that the types of hops available then are different than the ones available now. Employees and friends sifted through old hand written invoices and purchase orders from the turn of the century to find out what were in certain beers and where they obtained the ingredients from so that they were able to find similar items. For example the term “crystal malt” from 1907 is not very descriptive of what color the malt actually needed, which leads to interpretation from the brewer to create a flavor that works.

That creative thinking lead to Alaskan Amber, their flagship beer based on a turn­-of­-the­-century recipe that was drank by miners during the Klondike Gold Rush. I love the idea that I am drinking something that people enjoyed over a 100 years ago, sitting around the campfire talking about that day’s haul.

Alaskan Brewing is not just about giving old recipes new life, they also have original recipes such as the Hopothermia. This is a Double IPA style with a robust malt body and pairs best “with large wild game that you have caught with your bare hands.” I am not sure about eating anything that I have caught with my bare hands, but I can't wait to try Hopothermia.

Speaking of recipes, not only are they fabulous at creating beer (they have the medals to prove it) they are also master chefs. With 86 people as the original investors, they started a tradition of once a year sitting down and talking about the business. From this, a yearly pot luck grew. As with any good pot luck, recipes were traded and gauntlets were thrown as to who could make the best this or that. Eventually, they brought in professional chefs to taste the items and award prizes. Which lead to them creating a book of excellent recipes. I was looking through the recipes online and can't wait to try the Alaskan King Crab dip that was created during one of these events.

Alaskan Brewing prides themselves on being from Juneau, Alaska and creating a brewery that is incredibly self-sufficient. Partly, this is due to the location. No roads lead to Juneau, everything is delivered by ship or plane. Which leads to a perfect example of 'necessity is the mother of invention'. Due to the remote location, they wanted to be as self-sufficient as possible, they have installed systems to do just that. One that is unique to Alaskan Brewing exclusively is reusing all the CO2 (carbon dioxide) that is given off as a natural byproduct of the brewing process, they use the CO2 to run equipment and purge oxygen from holding tanks.

Alaskan Brewing still has so much of that pioneer can do attitude and you can taste that in the beers that they produce. That they care about the quality of the water they are using, that the flavors are balanced and just roll on the tongue when you take a drink are a testament to this. After talking to both Geoff and Andy it was clear that they are concerned not only about how they are making beer now, but how they will continue to make beer a hundred years from now. They have a wonderful and majestic view of Juneau and the surrounding area and they want to make sure their brewery is around for many years to come to enjoy that view. They are not only constantly reinventing themselves by the types of beer they are making but in also how they make it.

A few of the local places to enjoy Alaskan Brewing Co. is Horracks Farm Market, MEAT, Lansing Lugnuts and REO Town Pub or check online to see if your favorite place is now offering Alaskan Brewing either on tap or in bottles, you will not be disappointed.

Aimee West

Aimee West

Is new to the craft beer scene but always willing and wanting to learn more.