Geoff Larson got a traditional Michigan welcome when he flew in this weekend – huge thunderstorms delayed his plane. But a little bad weather is the last thing that worries Larson, co-founder of Alaskan Brewing Co.
Larson is in town to introduce the state’s craft-beer lovers to his unique brand and to get to know the Michigan market. Alaskan Brewing is already on tap at Green Dot Stables in Corktown, but now dozens of locations are adding its brews as well.
“We’re growing the business itself physically and then geographically,” said Larson, who will be in Rochester and all parts in between over the next 48 hours. “We’re excited about this new distribution – Michigan is a pretty big deal for us.”
In April, Alaskan Brewing announced the start of a facility expansion, the installation of a new beer canning line and the beginning of distribution into South Dakota and Michigan. The facility expansion will allow for Alaskan to join its two existing buildings together, in order to make more room for packaging and warehousing. Larson said it will also bring greater efficiency to operations, as forklifts will be used to move supplies and product instead of the current system of trucking beer between the two buildings.
With South Dakota and Michigan, making a total of 17 states where Alaskan is now available. Michigan is the first state the company works with on East Coast time, and they appreciate the knowledgeable beer drinkers here, Larson said.
Gary Thompson of Powers Distributing in Detroit – part of the M1 Network of 11 distributors covering the entire state of Michigan – agreed. “Alaskan is a brand that already has great name recognition, so we know there is a pent-up demand for their beer. This network is really excited to open the ‘Alaskan Pipeline!’ Alaskan is a highly regarded brewer and supplier and we look forward to a long and successful relationship.”
Some background on Alaskan: In 1986, 28-year-olds Marcy and Geoff Larson reignited the tradition of Alaskan-brewed beer when they opened the 67th brewery in the country and the first brewery in Juneau since Prohibition. Alaskan beers reflect many of the same characteristics of beers that were brewed here during the gold rush era, Larson said.
From the historically based Alaskan Amber recipe to alder-smoked malts and Sitka spruce tips, Alaskan beers reflect Juneau’s local brewing history and innovation, he added.
“When (my wife and I) started in 1986, there were less than 100 breweries in the United States. There are close to 3,000 now. … Being one of those first generation craft brewers means a lot to us. We wanted to create a great-tasting, full-bodied product,” Larson said.
The historical aspects of its brews and its sustainability pledge make it different thanth e competition, Larson noted.
“When we started the brewery, my wife did the research to find that many hardworking people in the 1800s in Alaska, when it was just getting started, liked beer. We ended up finding a lot of historical references. Our Alaskan Amber is based on a recipe from 1907. When people got off of work, they wanted something with substance in the glass,” he added.
In 1986, 28-year-olds Marcy and Geoff Larson reignited that tradition when they opened the Alaskan Brewing Company, the 67th brewery in the country and the first brewery in Juneau since Prohibition. Alaskan beers reflect many of the same characteristics of beers that were brewed here during the gold rush era. From the historically based Alaskan Amber recipe to alder-smoked malts and Sitka spruce tips, Alaskan beers reflect Juneau’s local brewing history and innovation.
Michigan feels like a good match because of the weather, the love of outdoors, the atmosphere of playing and enjoying sports and the love of good beer, Larson said.
“We’re both located in regions that forced us to be a bit innovative. At Alaskan Brewing, we’ve had to do some interesting things in terms of brewing beer. We talk about our beer being made with beer” because of the company’s special processes, such as its carbon-dioxide recovery plant and use of spent grain to power its equipment.
In 1998, Alaskan Brewing became the first craft brewery in the United States to install and operate a carbon dioxide (CO2) reclamation system. The system captures and cleans carbon dioxide, a natural byproduct of the brewing process, and uses it to package the beer and purge oxygen from holding tanks, saving money and the environment. This system prevents more than one million pounds of CO2, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, from being released into the atmosphere each year. That is equivalent to preventing the emissions from using more than 45,000 gallons of gasoline annually.
All of the beer has great names as well – our favorite is Hopothermia. Larson describes it as a “full-flavored representation of the Double IPA style with a robust malt body resting in easy harmony, like a massive grizzly bear in winter, with the big and drinkable American hop character.” According to the website, it “pairs best with large wild game that you have caught with your bare hands.” Well, then!
In addition to Hopothermia, there are currently three Alaskan Brewing Co. beers available on draft only in Michigan with bottles to follow in August:
Alaskan Amber – This flagship beer is based on a turn-of-the-century recipe that quenched the thirst of miners during the Klondike Gold Rush. Smooth and richly malty, this altbier goes well with any meal.
Summer Ale – This ale balances a softly malted palate with the clean freshness of hops. In the tradition of the style, neither overpowers the other. Both hops and malt come together to refresh and renew the palate. The straw-gold color and easy drinkability are an enjoyable way to celebrate summer.
Alaskan Icy Bay IPA – The very intense, complex aromatic character with a refreshing, crisp finish is achieved by dry hopping. The fruity, citrusy aroma is a nice complement with grilled prawns and spicy foods.
If you want to try Alaskan, check out its Brew Finder on its website. We found it on tap and for sale across the area, including grocery stores, pubs and great restaurants around the state.