Alaska’s newest brewery was officially opened in Palmer on October 11th. Welcome Arkose Brewing Company to Alaska’s ever-growing line up of stellar breweries that continue to put our state on the foamy map.
Owners Steven and June Gerteisen worked hard to get the beer flowing. A myriad of licensing, equipment and logistical hurdles delayed what they optimistically thought would be a mid summer opening until just recently. But, open they did, and even though they only featured one beer for the quiet affair, I was on hand to sample it and can testify that it’s worthy indeed.
I’m still doing the research, but this little brewery tucked into an industrial area behind the Alaska State Fairgrounds (650 E. Steel Loop: 907-746-BEER) may well be Palmer’s first brewery ever. It’s long overdue and adds yet another brewery within the long corridor between Anchorage and Fairbanks. If you’re worried about competition, forget about it: there’s plenty of room for another brewery and more fresh, local beer just about anywhere in Alaska, and especially in the Matanuska Valley where Last Frontier Brewing Company is the only other brewery servicing the large, geographically dispersed area.
Arkose was at least three years in the making, but it seemed a lot longer for the couple that was inspired by the mountain range and mountain that the brewery faces and is named after. Rather than look at the setbacks as daunting, Steven and June relished in the challenge of putting it all together. “It’s not about solving a problem,” mused Steven, “it’s about getting to the next one”. The couple actually learned to derive satisfaction out of finding and fixing problems and moving on to many more.
The seven barrel brewery consists of relatively standard, but brand new equipment including a hot liquor tank, mash tun, brewkettle and fermenters and conditioning tanks. What makes the system somewhat unique is the Gerteisen’s commitment to buying all US manufactured equipment despite the temptation of cheaper foreign alternatives. They even went as far as ensuring that their logo T-shirts are made in the US and of organic cotton.
No, the brewery’s not claiming to be organic although Blue Skies Golden Ale, the first of many to come, was made with organic 2-row barley, organic flaked barley and organic Fuggles hops. This one pours tall, clear and golden in the glass under an even white head and wafts off mostly light grain and malt aromas with a little bit of hop essence to spice things up.
I appreciate the fact that this hugely drinkable beer isn’t a hop bomb in aroma, flavor and bitterness, although a good bitterness snap greets the palate first, followed by a somewhat malt-forward center and just enough hop flavor to keep the beer very interesting. The light, crisp and very delicious beer weighs in at 5.7 percent alcohol by volume and features a lighter sixteen international bittering units (IBUs). The finish is squeaky clean and begs the drinker to sample again.
Blue Skies is named after June’s early morning singing habit, and her bursting out in song one day as the brewery was nearing completion and a crisp, clear fall day greeted the brewery. Think of Ella Fitzgerald’s or Willie Nelson’s rendition of the famous song and it will pop into your head and probably stay there for a while, especially if you think of it while enjoying a sample or growler of the beer.
The brewery is off to a modest start and right now the beer is only available at the brewery itself. An investment in kegs will follow shortly, enabling Arkose to get it’s beer on tap handles first in the Valley, and then hopefully here in Anchorage. A yet to be named pale ale and an IPA are snoozing in the conditioning tanks, so things are ramping up quickly at this new brewery.
So, if you want a sample, you’ll have to make the trek out to Palmer and to the brewery itself. The winter hours at Arkose are between 2 pm and 7 pm, Tuesday through Saturday. The brewery’s closed on holidays as well. If you want a peek at the brewery, tours are conducted every Tuesday night at 6 pm. Take E. Inner Springer Loop to S. Eklutna, to E. Steel Loop and look for the pretty blue building facing the northeast.
It’s worth the effort to get out there for a visit and a sample, and if you’re a big beer lover like me, consider it your responsibility to stop by and congratulate the couple and thank them for expanding Alaska’s always beautiful and always expanding beer tapestry.