Chasing the Beer Scene in Alaska

Midnight Sun Brewing Company // Anchorage

Anchorage isn’t quite on the Arctic Circle, so the sun “sets” here on even the longest summer day. But the few hours of not-quite-darkness that passes for a summer night in this part of the world is enough to absolve Midnight Sun Brewing Company of any false advertising allegations. Tucked into a neighborhood in southern Anchorage, Midnight Sun cans brews for distribution across the state and entertains diners, revelers, and passers-by alike in its on-site taproom. For a solid IPA experience reminiscent of Saga, go to Pleasure Town (seriously, that’s what their single IPA is called). If you’re feeling more ambitious, try the dense, woody Gluttony Triple IPA. And for the best bourbon stout this side of Founders’ KBC, you can’t beat BarFly Imperial Smoked Stout.

Midnight Sun also boasts a food menu that rotates daily, often in alliterative fashion: Taco Tuesdays need no explanation, Worldly Wednesdays incorporate exotic flavors into traditional bar food, and so on. The brewery is a huge patron of local charities and arts organizations, so chances are good that your Midnight Sun food-and-beer pairing will benefit a cancer survivor, farming collective, or aspiring installation artist. And, like every brewery on this list, Midnight Sun is just steps from some of the world’s most stunning sights. For maximum efficiency drive down the mountain-lined inlet to nearby Seward where you can check out the Alaska Sea Life Aquarium, view the terminus of the Exit Glacier, and walk the first mile of the Iditarod Trail.

Alaskan Brewing Company // Juneau

The granddaddy of Alaskan craft brewers needs no introduction, but that’s all the more reason to visit its out-of-the-way taproom in the country’s most geographically isolated state capital. Alaskan is the only brewery on this list that distributes to Minnesota—though hopefully that will change soon. But if you think its story begins and ends with inoffensive, straight-ahead Alaskan Amber, you’re dead wrong. Visit its taproom to try hoppier offerings like the Icy Bay IPA and the HopThermia Double IPA. And, if you visit during Juneau’s relatively mild (by Alaska and Minnesota standards) winters, try the spruce tip-flavored Winter Ale. For a heavier—understatement—experience, Barley Wine is the way to go.

Before you leave the brewery grounds, see if you can attach yourself to one of the public tours that Alaskan offers. It’s an experience to rival the Summit Brewery tour, and the view of the area’s towering mountains is hard to beat. Elsewhere in Juneau, admire the utilitarian Alaska State Capitol building or drive along the scenic Lynn Canal. If the weather is right, gear up for a heli-skiing experience in the interior or a glacier cruise around the area’s countless islands and inlets.

Related Post: Chasing the Beer Scene in Canada

Skagway Brewing Company // Skagway

Last up: Skagway Brewing Company. The original incarnation opened in 1897 during the Klondike Gold Rush and the current taproom-restaurant iteration started serving in time for Skagway’s 110th anniversary. The frontier spirit is alive and well here, with Prospector Pale (a sessionable, judiciously hopped copper ale) and Chilkoot Trail IPA (an aggressively hoppy ale that’s informed by citrus and sturdy malt) evoking historical places and figures. If you visit during the winter, give the Blue Top Porter a try, too: Its chocolaty and warm aftertaste will set you right in any weather.

Skagway also boasts a full-service restaurant that’s affectionately known as “the best bar in Skagway.” A word of caution: Skagway is a small, isolated town that also happens to be a port of call for glacier cruises, so it can overflow with visitors on summer days. The smoked salmon plate paired with the Boom Town Brown is good enough to warrant an off-hours trip to the pub. You can also get salmon—or Alaskan halibut, which is just as fresh and tasty—in sandwich form. Once you’ve tucked in, and knocked back a brew or two, set off on the famous boardwalk streets of Skagway in search of locally crafted kitsch. For an unforgettable experience in any season (well, except for the area’s six-month winter, when it’s safe to assume that the road will be closed due to inclement weather), drive along Alaska Highway 98/Klondike Highway into the rugged, glacier-strewn mountains that separate Alaska and the northwestern fringe of British Columbia.

These aren’t the only five breweries in Alaska. If you’re serious about making it up to the Last Frontier, squeeze every last drop out of your visit (and tastebuds) by planning your trip around this complete list of breweries from the Alaska Brewers’ Guild

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