Behind the scenes at Kenai River Brewing Company / Photo by Doug Hogue
Although Alaska has the eighth-most breweries per capita nationwide, beer here is a precarious business. Brewers must cough up major capital to overcome manufacturing and shipping hurdles.
On the other hand, Alaska brewers get to boast the cleanest pours in the country with abundant access to glacial water. What some might view as setbacks have only fueled brewers in the “last frontier” to blaze sustainability trails for craft beer.
“You Got to Be Prepared”
Brewing in Alaska presents a set of challenges that breweries in the lower 48 will most likely not encounter.
“We’re at the end of the supply chain up here,” says Joe Gilman, brewing manager of the Kenai River Brewing Company. “So, with the shortage of stainless and aluminum we end up sourcing all our cans from the Philippines. They’re European size, which means changing all of the labels. And we can’t just get stuff overnighted. If I can get something here in four days I’m proud of myself—‘Yay, I did it,’” he says with a laugh.
Barges handle most of the shipping to and from Alaska, and the brewing industry is no exception. So, it’s an undertaking to bring goods from the country’s East Coast.