Marcy and I like to blame each other for starting the brewery, but we are equally culpable. I met Marcy while working at Glacier National Park during the summer of 1979, the same year I started homebrewing. We moved to Juneau, Alaska, a couple years later where I put my chemical engineering degree to work at a gold mine and Marcy worked for the State of Alaska. We talked often about opening a brewery since there weren’t any in Alaska at the time and the only unique beers available were imports typically well past their prime. The mine closed and we took it as a sign to start a microbrewery of our own.
Marcy continued with her full-time job to keep us fed, but we spent nearly every spare moment for two full years planning for the brewery. We researched the history of brewing in Alaska, uncovering gold-rush era recipes and the ingredients used by Captain Cook to brew onboard ship during early explorations.
We had some exciting ideas, but research won’t get you far in a recession. Neither will a proposal for a capital-intensive business in a town without roads leading in or out. However, we soon learned there is no “every man for himself” business mentality in Alaska. Our first bottled batch sold-out in December 1986 thanks to the support of our neighbors including the shippers who taught us to unload vans, the regulators who held our hands through the vast bureaucracies of starting a brewery, the neighbors that sampled our recipes and the 88 Alaskan investors crazy enough to help get our business started.
It is important for us to try to return the favor. We donate well over $100,000 each year in time, products and monies to hundreds of local causes. All of the tips collected at the brewery’s tasting bar are donated to a crew-selected local nonprofit. We designate a percentage of proceeds from Alaskan IPA to the Coastal CODE, a nonprofit grant-funding initiative that supports beach cleanups and other ocean health activities.
Crafting a beverage to appeal to the senses is art. Our job is to discover and express the flavors that appeal and enhance the quality of life. Fulfilling that job in Alaska hasn’t been easy, but is has been inspired. Surrounded by the 1,500 square mile Juneau Ice Field and the icy waters of the Inside Passage and incredible people, we have the honor of handcrafting award-winning beers in one of the most majestic settings on earth.