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The taste of success

Juneau-based brewery wins four medals at annual beer festival

Posted: Friday, October 17, 2008

The Alaskan Brewing Co. continues to enjoy the taste of success.

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David Sheakley / Juneau Empire
David Sheakley / Juneau Empire

The Juneau-based business won four medals at the 27th annual Great American Beer Festival held in Denver last weekend. It is the most awards the brewery has won in a single year at the festival, which industry insiders call the most prestigious craft beer festival in the country.

"For us it just shows that we're continuing to do a good job making our beers," plant manager Curtis Holmes said. "It's kind of a validation from your peers, kind of like the Oscar is for the movie industry."

More than 2,900 beers from 472 breweries across the country competed this year in more than 75 categories. Festival organizers claim the three-day event was the "largest collection of U.S. beers ever assembled."

The brewery won a gold medal in the "Aged" beer category for the 2006 Smoked Porter, a silver in the "Smoke-Flavor" beer category for the 2007 Smoked Porter, a silver in the "Golden or Blonde" style ale category for the Alaskan Summer Ale, and a silver in the "Fruit or Vegetable" category for the Alaskan Raspberry Wheat.

"Four is a lot of medals. For a small brewery to get one medal is awesome," said Bobby Wilken, a quality assurance production assistant for the brewery. "And it makes us realize that that's what we're working for all the time, is the quality of the beer. And we really do make quality beer. It's kind of official."

The two medals for the Smoked Porter adds to the legacy of the beer, which has won more medals at the GABF than any other beer in the festival's history with 18 since 1988.

"We're definitely pretty happy about that," Wilken said. "There's the pride of it, that we're the most award-winning brewery, basically."

Production assistant Tracy Bird said it is validating for the brewery to earn the respect of its peers and be recognized with the awards. The Smoked Porter has become synonymous with quality even in areas where Alaskan beer isn't sold, he said.

"Even people that can't normally get our beers, they know about Smoked Porter," Bird said. "They seek it out."

It is pretty special to be acknowledged by the judges, who are brewers themselves and industry insiders, Holmes said. Some of the categories have as many as 100 entries, he said.

"They're very demanding on the specifications, so when you get acknowledged for that it's great," Holmes said. "You can say out of all your peers you did a great job."

Wilken said the success and accolades is brewed out of a passion for beer.

"Really everybody here that makes beer, and everybody in the company really, we all love beer and we all love our product, and we're really putting our hearts behind it and trying to do the best that we can," he said. "I don't know if people see it as a factory that's just pumping out product, but it's really a craft-made product, and we all put our hearts into it."

Bird concurs, adding that people at the brewery enjoy their jobs.

"I have been here to see a lot of stages of growth and see a lot of good people come in," he said. "I think people are passionate about what they do. ... We're in a special place and we get to do a special thing, like make good beer."

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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