Want to get in on something cool? It’s not quite top secret, but close to it. Have you heard about the new Eagle River Alehouse? It rocks. When owner Matt Tomter came on line, he did so with 30 taps. The restaurant has two floors, no elevator and no dumbwaiter and the thought of his servers and patrons using the staircase together caused concern. It would be okay for food, but with trays of delicious glasses of beer being jostled up and down, the potential for messes was a risk Tomter wasn’t comfortable with.
He came up with a brilliant solution and made history in the process. “I’ll just install another 30 taps upstairs,” he said to me during a visit shortly after the establishment opened. “Oh, and those upstairs beers will all be local,” he beamed. Simultaneously he became the caretaker of the state’s most extensive tap line (pushing Humpy’s out of it’s forever position in first place) and bumping Firetap Southside out of being able to claim the most local beers in tap, if even by a few.
If all of that and the excellent food hasn’t baited you out there yet, here’s your opportunity to really relish in the experience.
I got an email the other day that was pretty plain and simple but caused me to dash out to get tickets to an upcoming event at the Alehouse. Tomter decided to get a little boastful about his trappings in Eagle River. The date for a tasting has been set for Thanksgiving eve, or November 23rd, at 8 pm. Tickets are $35 per person and there are only 90 available. But here’s what got my attention. The email simply read “Each participant gets a 5 oz. glass. We start filling pitchers. We start from light and work our way to stout! It may take a while cuz we have 30 draft craft beers to taste.”
I’m in. And, this isn’t my first blush with Tomter’s antics when it comes to beer tastings. Last spring, I got baited to Nome for the First Annual Bering Sea Beer Festival that took place in conjunction with the end of the Iditarod and was held out on the sea ice west of Nome where the teams make the turn off the ice and on to Front Street. Two breweries participated at the inaugural event: Alaskan Brewing Company and Glacier Brewhouse. The real fun was trying to consume the beer before it froze to the glasses. It was great fun, and so totally embodied the spirit of Nome and the end of the Iditarod.
It was Tomter that ferried the goods out on the sea ice in a sled behind his powerful snowmobile. He also loaned the tables and glassware for the event. And all of this was despite the fact that he was holding his own beer tasting that very evening at Airport Pizza, the most modern, beautifully appointed establishment that he then owned in Nome. Tomter’s 18 tap lines gleam in the light and his food there is legendary. He brought some of the menu items with him to Eagle River for his alehouse. And at 10 pm, the melee began. Twenty-five beers came at the attendees in the packed house in rapid fire succession. I consider myself a seasoned imbiber, but quickly found that, although I could basically keep up, I was out-beered again and again during the evening of high volume fun.
I don’t know what to expect at the November 23rd gig at the Eagle River Alehouse, but somehow I think I’m in for more of the same. If you’re at all interested, based on the Tomter’s reputation and the already huge reputation of his establishment 13 miles north of Anchorage, you’d better get your tickets quick. Oh, and if I haven’t mentioned it, a designated driver is certainly in order. I’ll see you there.