Arizona to get a taste of Alaskan

Southwest distributor picks up local brew

Posted: Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Alaskan Amber is flowing into Arizona this winter, making the Grand Canyon State the ninth to stock Juneau's brew.

Arizona-based Pearce Beverage Co. has signed a contract with the Alaskan Brewing Co. to introduce Alaskan beer to Arizonans.

Four 40-foot-long vans of beer will be shipped to Arizona next week. Alaskan Brewing will ship about 2,000 barrels of beer to Arizona the first year - a small fraction of its yearly production of 91,000 barrels.

"We are hoping to ship about 4,000 to 5,000 barrels the second year," said Ed Cesarone, national sales manager for Alaskan Brewing. "It takes about five years to build a brand."

Harold Sleeman, import brand specialist at Pearce Beverage, said Pearce wants Alaskan Brewing to fill a hole in its portfolio.

"We sell 13.5 million cases of beer every year and represent major brands such as Miller, Heineken, Coors and Corona. But we didn't have craft beer," Sleeman said. "Alaskan beer is the right fit for our company."

Although Alaskan Brewing produces seven styles of beer, Pearce would distribute only Alaskan Amber for now to compete with Flat Tire, an amber made by New Belgium Brewing Co. in Colorado, Sleeman said.

Alaskan Amber is Alaskan Brewing's flagship beer. It was developed from a historical recipe of a beer that was made in Douglas about 100 years ago to quench the thirst of gold miners, company spokeswoman Kristi Monroe said. The Consumer Preference Poll named it the best beer in the nation in 1988.

Besides Alaska and Arizona, Alaskan Brewing's beer is available in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada and California.

Cesarone, national sales manager for Alaskan Brewing, said one of the questions he gets most is whether the beer is really brewed in Alaska.

"We have to get the message across to people that our beer is authentic and handcrafted here in Alaska," Cesarone said. "Once they taste the beer, we get them."

Fred Hees, marketing and sales director of Alaskan Brewing, said his company's beer distinguishes itself from major domestic beers in its flavor and character.

"We use only four ingredients - glacier water, hops, barley and yeast. It has strong character and flavor," Hees said. "Many domestic beers use additives to give the beer form, clarity or shelf time."

Michael Pfeilsticker, marketing manager of Pearce Beverage, said the company might play the extreme weathers between Arizona and Alaska in its commercials.

While the National Weather Service records Barrow, Alaska, as having the nation's lowest average annual temperature, summer daytime temperatures in Arizona can top 110 degrees.

"Our temperature is right for beer year-around," Pfeilsticker said.

June is the state's slowest month for beer sales; March is the biggest because of Major League Baseball spring training games.

Bill Rathbun, marketing manager of Pearce Beverage, said Arizonans will love Alaskan beer because of the similarities of people in both states.

"Both states still have frontier spirits," Rathbun said. "Arizona was founded by people who came across the deserts. Alaska was founded by people who came across the ice."

Pfeilsticker said he wouldn't market Alaskan Amber the way he markets mass-produced beer.

"We want people to discover it on their own," Pfeilsticker said. "Once they taste it, the beer will sell itself."

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