This St. Patrick’s Day, people can drink Alaskan Brewing Company’s beers in 18 states, as far east as Ohio and as far south as Texas.
There’s only one place, however, where beer drinkers can sample Alaskan’s newest experimental brews — the tasting room in Juneau.
From 4-6 p.m. today, Alaskan welcomes locals to take part in its Stout Celebration, where it will tap three limited-release beers for the occasion. The headliner is its Bourbon Barrel Aged Oatmeal Stout, but a 30-Year Perseverance Imperial Stout and the Mint Infused Oatmeal Stout round out the festive beverages.
The barrel-aged stout is much more for those in Juneau rather than for distribution, Communications Manager Andy Kline said.
“We’re not thinking scale right now,” Kline said. “We’re just thinking tasting room, and then it’s fun, especially for folks here in Juneau who’ve supported the brewery for 30 years. We kind of want to do special things for our local audience.”
The event, which costs $5 per ticket and takes place at Alaskan’s tasting room on Shaune Drive, had already sold 40 tickets by Thursday morning. If visitors wear green, they’ll get 10 percent off merchandise, and there will be an Irish toast at 5 p.m.
Alaskan has been brewing for 30 years now, becoming one of the most widely-distributed craft breweries in the country. In the Brewers Association’s list of the top 50 craft breweries list — released just this Wednesday — Alaskan ranks 19th in terms of beer sales volume, up from 22nd a year ago.
Despite the large size of the production, Kline and others at Alaskan want to maintain a relationship with the community. Micro-breweries have been popping up in clusters throughout the country, bringing experimental and adventurous malt concoctions to beer drinkers, and Alaskan wanted to show that it can do that as well as distribute on a massive scale.
“We wanted to sort of acknowledge the fun that’s behind those as well,” Kline said. “People have an expectation now of, ‘Hey, I’m local. I should be able to get something local that’s cool and weird and that no one else can get.’ I think that’s fun, and we’re excited about that.”
In fact, Kline pointed out, the idea of having and sharing fun is in Alaskan’s mission statement. Those behind the scenes at Alaskan are greatly looking forward to the chance to share the barrel-aged stout. Clad in an Alaskan zip-up hoodie Thursday, Marketing Specialist Darin Jensen explained the brewery’s experiments with the idea in the past, aging beer in Jack Daniels barrels in the late 1990s, but then taking a long time off from the technique until recently.
The oatmeal stout seemed like a perfect fit for this endeavor, Kline said, and is aged in barrels from Bull Run Distillery in Portland, Oregon, for at least five months. The production for this batch is small, merely taking up a small portion of the brewery’s smokehouse.
After spending time in those barrels, the beer comes out black with a tan-colored head. There’s a clear bourbon taste to it, mixing smoothly with the coffee and caramel flavors usually present in the stout. Aging in a bourbon barrel usually raises the alcohol level, and this beer’s alcohol by volume level is at 8.1 percent.
The holiday event today will allow locals to come try it out, and those at Alaskan hope to have a monthly event for those in town to come try out a new beer. The few they’ve put on so far — such as a Valentine’s Day event pairing beer with chocolate — have garnered positive feedback so far, and Jensen hopes it’s just the beginning.
“The locals have already spoken,” Jensen said. “Every (event) we’ve done, it’s been really successful. It’s just been really fun. They learn, they get to take home some knowledge and they get to taste great beers.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org