FAIRFIELD, Ohio -- Ohio beer enthusiasts can get their first taste of Alaska on Friday.
Alaskan Brewing Co. is making Ohio the 18th state in which it will distribute its beer, and Jungle Jim’s will welcome the brewer with a tap takeover at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Alaskan Brewing has won hundreds of awards at beer festivals and competitions since Marcy and Geoff Larson founded it in 1986. It is the most decorated brewery in the history of the Great American Beer Festival, having won medals for its smoked porter 21 times.
“To have someone as revered as Alaskan Brewing Co. have us be their first pour is incredible,” said Jared Bowers, content coordinator for Jungle Jim’s. He actively promotes craft beer and related events on his Twitter account, @JunglesBeerGuy. “We were instrumental in popularizing craft beer in this area. Our pint nights are pretty crazy, and I don’t expect this one to be any less exciting.”
The Juneau, Alaska-based brewer will launch in Ohio with four beers: Alaskan Amber (Alt Style Ale), Kicker (Session IPA), Icy Bay IPA (India Pale Ale) and Hopothermia (American Double/Imperial IPA). In the fall, Heritage Coffee Brown Ale will be released in Ohio as well.
“I’m looking forward to trying the Amber, because I’ve heard nothing but good things about it,” said Bowers. “I’m excited to be among the first people to try it in the state.”
“Alaskan Amber is so popular people think that’s the name of the brewery,” said Andy Kline, the communications manager at Alaskan Brewing. “It’s 50 percent of our sales. The recipe is a pre-Prohibition recipe, which uses ale yeast fermented at lager temperatures. Ambers are traditionally lagers, so this creates a unique taste.”
The beer styles will be closer to Pacific Northwest styles than East Coast beers but will reflect their birthplace.
“We express our place with ingredients but also with our imagery,” Kline said. “No matter where you order our beer, it’s a local (Alaskan beer).”
Alaskan Brewing has been slowly increasing its distribution across the country, last expanding in 2014 into Michigan.
“We’ve been looking at Ohio for a long time,” said Kline. “It’s a drinking public that is sophisticated and understands good beer. We had hoped to be here sooner, but we had to get our supply lines in place.”
The company's challenge in increasing distribution is geographical. Juneau is reachable only by sea or air, despite being on the mainland. The Juneau Icefield prevents the Alaskan capital from being reached by road.
“The challenge as we move eastward is, can we keep those supply lines moving? We brew and bottle every single thing in Juneau, and there’s an icefield the size of Connecticut behind us,” Kline said.
With all ingredients having to be shipped into Juneau, the company had to be creative with them and its brewing processes, Kline said.
“We have a really interesting co-founder, Geoff Larson. He’s a chemical engineer by training and one of these very innovative people. To stay competitive, we have had to innovate by reusing things. It’s led to us being ‘accidentally green.’”
One way Alaskan Brewing has done this is by reclaiming its carbon dioxide, which it began doing in 1998. The company takes the carbon dioxide released in the fermentation process and reuses it in its refrigeration tank. The company also developed a mash filter press, which makes the grain used in brewing really fine and dries it. The end result of that process is then used as fuel in a boiler fired solely by the spent grain.
“We make beer-powered beer,” Kline said. “The more beer we make, the more beer we can make.”
He estimated the company had replaced diesel fuel usage by 60 percent and said Alaskan is interested in spreading this system to other breweries. Alaskan Brewing produced 161,000 barrels of beer last year, and Kline said the mash filter press makes sense for other breweries at the average 100,000-barrel production level.
“It’s a considerable investment, but it has a significant impact on our bottom line,” he said. “Plus, a fuel spill in our brewery is just spent grain. It ended up being good for business, but it also makes total sense for us to be good stewards of the land.”
Pint Night: Alaskan Brewing Co.
5-9 p.m. Friday, July 15
Jungle Jim's -- Fairfield, 5440 Dixie Highway
For details, visit the event's Facebook page.