Juneau brewery defends federal grant criticized by Okla. senator

Republican Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn's annual "Wastebook" released Tuesday purports to document cases of wasteful federal spending.

No. 59 in the 100-item list is a $450,000 federal grant awarded to Juneau's Alaskan Brewing Co. The Wastebook says the grant gives the already successful company "a big profit boost courtesy of the federal government."

The money covered a quarter of the cost of the brewing company's first-of-its-kind boiler that generates heat from the spent grains used to make beer.

"So that was a significant risk to be the first, you know, brewery in the world to try this system, and the USDA's grant helped us mitigate a portion of that risk," said Andy Kline, spokesman for Alaskan Brewing.

The company is taking the listing in stride, he said.

"I think it gives us an opportunity to talk about a project that we're incredibly proud of," Kline said with a chuckle. "I think this guy has his opinion, but, in fact, it's barely negative."

Kline says the environment and federal government also benefit from the boiler and grant.

"Part of the point of what the senator said is that we're a successful brand and we're enjoyed in 15 states. We're happy with that success, and that success lets us pay about $2 million annually in federal excise taxes. So on a dollar figure alone, the federal government's getting a pretty good return on that investment."

Kline says no one from the senator's office contacted the company about the listing.

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