Alaska’s largest brewery is also one of its oldest. In 1986, the Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau became the 67th operating brewery in the United States and the only brewery in Alaska at that time. Since then, its beers have earned more than 33 major medals and awards, including "Best Beer in the Nation" in the 1988 Great American Beer Festival Consumer Preference Poll. The homegrown brewery just celebrated its 25th anniversary and features five year-round beers, a rotating collection of limited-quantity bottled beers, limited runs of keg-only brews and more. Alaskan Brewing Co. is the most widely distributed of all Alaska beers and is available in 10 Western states. Alaskan Brewing Co. has a keen sense of how Alaska’s history contributes to its current success: Its best-known brew, Alaskan Amber, was created using a gold rush-era recipe from a Juneau brewer.
Juneau, Alaska’s capital city is a major port of call on most Inside Passage cruise itineraries. Disembarking cruise passengers will find the Alaskan Brewing Depot, an outpost of Alaskan Brewing Co., just steps away in downtown Juneau. The depot features clothing, outerwear, barware gifts and gourmet items for sale and highlights the brewery’s unique brewing processes in a virtual tour. While no beer is served here, visitors can take a direct shuttle to the brewery and its tasting room ($6 each way) or drive, if traveling independently. Complimentary tours are offered year-round. Juneau is also home to one of three international airports in Alaska.
Other popular brewery stops along Alaska’s Inside Passage include Baranof Island Brewing Company and Skagway Brewing Company. The Baranof Island Brewing Company is new in 2010 and one of Alaska’s smallest breweries, while Skagway Brewing Company first opened its doors in 1897 to thirsty prospectors of the impending gold rush. Operations ceased in 1904 when the gold rush ended, but the brewery reopened in 2007 using hydroelectricity in its brewing practices. Sitka and Skagway are ports of call on many cruise ship itineraries in the Inside Passage and are also accessible via the state ferry system, the Alaska Marine Highway.
Beer enthusiasts in Southcentral Alaska should make a point to visit Midnight Sun Brewing Company, Anchorage’s oldest microbrewery. Since opening in 1995, Midnight Sun has become a creative force to be reckoned with in Alaska’s most populated city. The brewery imparts an “art marries science” approach to crafting its 10 year-round beers, four seasonal beers and five specialty beers. Mixing traditional brewing techniques with cutting-edge design, Midnight Sun provides bold, distinctive beers in Alaska, including the Arctic Devil Barley Wine (with an impressive 13.2 percent alcohol content) and the hop-centric “Obliteration” beer series. The brewery recently expanded and relocated its facilities and now serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in addition to weekly brewery tours.
Anchorage offers visitors a plethora of other beer-tasting opportunities in notable brewpubs such as Moose’s Tooth Brewing Company, Glacier BrewHouse and the Snow Goose Restaurant & Sleeping Lady Brewing Company.