7 Alaska-Brewed Beers to Get You in the Holiday Spirit
The holiday season is upon us, and local craft brewers are getting in the spirit. Alaskan beer drinkers enjoy a thriving — and often underrated — craft beer scene, and we have more reason than most to brew and drink delicious beers designed to warm us through a long winter. This list of festive and seasonal brews will give you just a taste of local offerings to pair with all your holiday plans.
One of the best things about the holidays are the indulgent meals with friends and family — and with good food we must have good drink. A fine drink pairing can elevate a meal to another level, often cutting through the rich flavors of a holiday feast. A beer that does that with style is Cynosure Brewing’s Cherry Sour, a tangy and delicious kettle sour that brings bright acidity and tart cherry flavor ready for even the most decadent of holiday meals. Husband and wife team Clarke Pelz and Cindy Drinkwater recently celebrated the first anniversary of their brewery in Anchorage, its name (pronounced “SIN-uh-shoor”) a reference to the North Star, so important to the Alaskan identity. They are open Wednesday through Sunday in south-midtown Anchorage, and are a new bright spot in the constellation of Alaska breweries.
Denali Brewing Company
Slow Down Brown
It only took two years for Denali Brewing Company to outgrow their original location on Main Street in Talkeetna, Alaska. Since 2011 their 30-barrel microbrewery has operated out of a wooded spot on Mile 2 of Talkeetna Spur Road. Their expanded operation has allowed them to package and distribute their consistently delicious beers across the state of Alaska, while still staying open year-round for the 800+ population of Talkeetna. Few Alaskan beers represent the holidays as well as the Slow Down Brown, a spiced brown ale that combines chocolate malt and a nutty palate with added spices of coriander, fennel, cumin, cardamom and fenugreek. The finish is rounded out by a subtle addition of cinnamon, cloves and just a touch of cayenne. This beer truly tastes like Thanksgiving in a glass.
Silver Gulch Brewing
Timmy’s Little Helper
Human Swiss Army knife Glenn Brady owns, operates, and brews from his own recipes at Silver Gulch Brewery in Fairbanks. He is used to wearing lots of hats, an important skill for someone running a brewery that has been around for nearly two decades. Their seasonal holiday beer Timmy’s Little Helper is named after the de facto head of their bottling crew, and is guaranteed to “put you in the party mood.” This Belgian-style strong ale is a deep amber color fermented with the same Belgian yeast strain as their potent Osculum Infame, and it combines the bubblegum and clove notes of that beer with cinnamon, cocoa, and orange peel for added flavor and complexity. This sneaky strong ale clocks in at just under 10% ABV, and is sure to warm you up during the holidays.
Bleeding Heart Brewery
Not Your Grandma’s Fruitcake
Bleeding Heart Brewery is one of Alaska’s smallest and youngest breweries and operates on a functioning farm in Palmer. This one-barrel operation has quickly made a name for itself as an exciting player in Alaska’s beer scene, and they are not afraid of brewing “outside the box,” often with experimental or local ingredients. This December, Alaskan beer drinkers can get a taste of Not Your Grandma’s Fruitcake, a brown ale brewed to an actual fruitcake recipe, complete with mango, cranberry, orange zest, and honey. Midnight wheat and chocolate malts give the beer a rich dark color, while nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice are added at the end to round out the holiday-in-a-glass flavor. It’s just like an actual fruitcake, except no need to pawn it off on your in-laws.
Alaskan Brewing Company
Mocha Milk Stout
Alaska’s most widely recognizable brewery is also its oldest: Alaskan Brewing Company was founded in 1986, and now their beer can be found across the country. Their Pilot Series is a rotating collection of limited edition beers that allow the brewers to push the boundaries of their ambitions. The Mocha Milk Stout was created in anticipation of the cold months ahead, when many people reflexively seek out big, flavorful dark beers that offset the chill of winter. Milk stouts get their name from the lactose (or milk sugar) added for sweetness. This particular beer was also brewed with cacao nibs, vanilla, and Guatemala Huehuetenango coffee from Heritage Coffee Roasting Co. The result is a beer that perfectly blends the flavors of silky vanilla with roasty coffee and a touch of rich chocolate.
Kenai River Brewing Company
From humble beginnings in a 1960s-era shop in Soldotna in 2006, the Kenai River Brewing Company has become a destination for travelers and beer lovers on the Kenai Peninsula, complete with a spacious new location that opened last May. By now, the release of their seasonal Winter Warlock has become a tradition marking the beginning of the holiday season. This beer is unique because it is a single malt, single hop English strong ale, made with traditional English Maris Otter 2-row barley malt and English Fuggle hops. A year of stainless steel and oak aging adds depth and complexity to the aroma and flavor of this malty winter classic, a dangerous brew whose smooth, easy-drinking nature belies an ABV that hovers around 9.5%. Stop in at the Soldotna location to fill up a glass or growler of this seasonal gem.
Girdwood Brewing Company
Gourdwood Imperial Pumpkin Porter
After getting up and running earlier this year, Girdwood Brewing Company has made an instant impact in their community, and in Alaska craft brewing in general. Their tasting room in Girdwood features outdoor seating and a sweeping view of the Chugach Mountains — and the beer manages to live up to the scenery. Their Gourdwood Imperial Pumpkin Porter is brewed with chilly weather and dark nights in mind, and features a malt bill of 2-row Crystal 60, Victory, and Chocolate malts. Brown sugar, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger and 50 pounds of pumpkin give this nearly 8% ABV seasonal beer loads of flavor and complexity, without overloading your palate. Try it on nitro to get a delicious velvety beer that drinks like a pumpkin spice latte.