Alaska Visitors Guide

While in Alaska, drink like Alaskans do

In exchange for living in what is perhaps the country’s most beautiful state, Alaskans sometimes have to do without: professional sports teams, Trader Joe’s and, well, sunlight for half the year. But we make up for it with the Iditarod, reindeer sausages and chasing the aurora borealis. In other words, we often have to make our own fun. And by “fun” I mean “beer.” Those words are interchangeable, right?

Beer is a big part of life for Alaskans. We hike with it, camp with it, boat with it, cook with it, and pair it with foods like the stuffiest of sommeliers. We throw it parties like the First Tap events at Broken Tooth Brewing Co. (otherwise known as Bear Tooth Theatrepub and Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria), complete with national musical acts. We even occasionally do yoga with it (at downtown bar and eatery Williwaw Social). In other words, we take it everywhere and we take it seriously.

Beers from the state’s biggest brewery, Juneau-based Alaskan Brewing Co., might already be in your refrigerator if you live in one of the 26 states where it’s available. Alaskan Brewing has a steady line of signature brews and seasonal specialties that incorporate ingredients like cranberries, raspberries, locally roasted coffee, locally grown white wheat from the Mat-Su area and even Alaska spruce tips. Ubiquitous around Alaska, this long-running brewery is our Papa Beer, if you will (I’ll show myself out).

But Alaskan Brewing is just one of over 50 breweries, distilleries, meaderies and cideries in the state (for an excellent list, visit While almost half of them are in Anchorage or within a short drive of the city, some of Alaska’s most remote and tiny towns are also emphatically in on the brewing action (I’m looking at you, Gakona Brewery in Gakona, population 218).

The ever-expanding Denali Brewing Co. in Talkeetna (population 876) may be a small-town hero, but it’s anything but small. Their four signature beers — Mother Ale, Chuli Stout, Single Engine Red and the ever-popular Twister Creek IPA — as well as seasonal brews like Slow Down Brown and Flag Stop Milepost #3 are mainstays of summer barbecues and winter bonfires around the state.

This brewery is also home to the more recently established Alaska Cider Works, Alaska Meadery (featuring “Razzery,” a mead made with raspberries, sour cherries and apples) and Denali Spirits (featuring vodka, gin, whiskey and “smoke” whiskey), because when you’ve fermented one, why not ferment them all?

Denali Spirits’ canned cocktails, especially their blueberry mojito, are so popular in Anchorage that at one time there was a Facebook page largely dedicated to tracking them down. Luckily, supply has since caught up with demand.


Some breweries are even more remote. Ports of call and island hopping can be one way to get your fill of hops. Breweries can be found in Ketchikan (Bawden Street Brewing Co.), Kodiak (Kodiak Island Brewing Company, Double Shovel Kodiak Cidery, and Olds River Inn), Sitka (Harbor Mountain Brewing), Seward (Seward Brewing Co. and Stoney Creek Brewhouse), Valdez (Valdez Brewing and Growler Bay Brewing), and Skagway (Klondike Brewing Co. and Skagway Brewing Co.). In Homer, there’s Homer Brewing Co. and Grace Ridge Brewing Co. for beer, and you can also check out Sweetgale Meadworks for hard cider and locally sourced meads.

Of course, many trips to Alaska begin and end in Anchorage. And if, during your travels, you’ve foolishly left some beers untasted, you can make up for lost time in our state’s biggest city, which boasts — let’s face it — a ridiculous number of exceptional craft breweries.

Downtown’s Glacier Brewhouse specializes in oak-aged English and American West-Coast style beers, 13 of them, from blondes to stouts. Beneath the floor of the Brewhouse is a “Wall of Wood,” composed of casks of special-release beers that are conditioned in oak barrels once used to age wine and bourbon. The history of the oak imparts “mother tongue” flavor characteristics, like vanilla and coconut, into these limited-edition brews. Opt for one of these unique beers or choose from their flagship choices like raspberry wheat, oatmeal stout, imperial blonde, Bavarian hefeweizen or a flight that includes them all.

Down the street is 49th State Brewing Co. If you were unable to visit their flagship location in Healy, at the edge of Denali National Park and Preserve, you can catch up with them here. There are unique year-round choices like Smok, their smoked lager, as well as seasonal offerings like the Oktoberfest lager described as a “majestically malty marzen” or the creamy, slightly briny Thundershuck Alaska Oyster Stout, brewed with over two bushels of oysters from Naukati Bay. This location also boasts some of the best views in town and an expansive outdoor rooftop patio.

Just about all of the full-service restaurants in downtown Anchorage proudly feature some variety of Alaska beers. In the heart of downtown, Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse prides itself on a huge selection, both international and local. Tent City Taphouse offers a diverse and carefully curated list of rotating local brews including their house beer, Tent City Tangerine IPA, brewed by Glacier Brewhouse. Tent City regularly hosts “Taste of the North” beer dinners featuring Alaska brewers. One, in collaboration with 49th State Brewing, featured rare beer pairings like Neon Antler DIPA served with a truffle honey beet salad and the Cabin Fever spiced imperial brown ale served with creme brulee cheesecake.

If you have transportation around the city, treat yourself to a brewery tasting-room tour. Found in unassuming little side streets in the more industrial areas of Anchorage, some of our best beers can be sipped and savored at the source. Finding these funky little spots can feel like being invited to a secret party. And it’s a glimpse into Anchorage’s most authentic beer culture.

In Midtown, Onsite Brewing Co. has unique, small-batch brews in a funky, relaxed environment. And while not an actual brewery, the quaint Cafe Amsterdam offers an interesting range of local and international beers in a European-style tasting room adjacent to their dining room. (A further plug for this spot is that it shares strip-mall space with La Bodega, an excellent liquor store with a wide range of local offerings, as well as Wild Scoops, a fantastic ice cream shop — truly one-stop shopping.)

Further south, King Street Brewing Co., Turnagain Brewing, Cynosure Brewing, Magnetic North Brewing Company, Brewerks and one of our newest, Ship Creek Brewing Co., are all within a stone’s throw of one another. If you’re lucky, you might run into one of Anchorage’s popular food trucks parked outside, so you’ll have something to wash down with your flights. Depending on the day, you might find reindeer sausages, pad Thai, cheesesteaks or pupusas. On the weekends, Anchorage Brewing Co. features a top-notch in-house pop-up restaurant, called Familia, with a rotating menu featuring local ingredients.

Nearby, Midnight Sun Brewing Co. is part tasting room and part community center, with First Friday art openings, a rotating menu of creative comfort food, and an all-around cool, local vibe. My next-door neighbors frequent the brewery for their great beers (favorites include the Panty Peeler Belgian-style tripel and the Pleasure Town IPA) and also to pick up free spent grain to feed to their chickens.

One of the newest and farthest south, while still in the Anchorage Bowl, is Raven’s Ring Brewing Co., which is a brewery/winery and meadery. From a traditional IPA to a Concorde grape wine called Grape Juice to a rotating Vintner’s pour like Sweet Peach Jalapeno mead, this ambitious operation is challenging the notion that you can’t please everyone.

Other Anchorage points of interest for non-hoppy but still home-grown adult beverages include Alaskan Spirits Distillery, Anchorage Distillery, Zip Kombucha, Double Shovel Cidery, Hive Mind Meadery and Two Seasons Meadery.

South of Anchorage in the ski town of Girdwood, home to Alyeska Resort, Girdwood Brewing Co. is a worthwhile stop, with local art on the walls and a rotating food truck lineup.

If your travels are over and you still haven’t had your fill, check out the Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling Co. inside Terminal C at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on your way out of town. An offshoot of the flagship Silver Gulch brewery in Fox, Alaska (about 10 miles north of Fairbanks), this location has a bar and restaurant and a retail shop carrying growlers of their own brews, as well as those of other Alaska brewers and distillers. Last-minute souvenir shopping never tasted so good.

Before you start your great northern beer safari, bear in mind that tasting rooms often have limited and varying hours, so always double-check before planning a visit.

Whether your travels take you to fine-dining restaurants, low-key alehouses or even rustic cabins in the woods, make like an Alaskan and fuel your adventures with one of our beloved, home-grown brews. When in Alaska, drink as the Alaskans do.