Alaskan Brewing – A New Release and Brewhouse Innovation
Alaskan Brewing Co. made US craft brewing history this year with the installation of a new piece of brewing equipment, a mash filter press. This new equipment maximizes the use of malt, hops and water— the three main ingredients in beer—while producing a more consistent and high quality craft beer. Alaskan is the first and only craft brewery in the country to utilize this Belgian brewing technology.
“The mash filter press fulfills the same brewing function and process as the lautering equipment it is replacing – to recover the liquid mixture of natural sugars from malt and water,” explains David Wilson brewery operations manager, “but it requires considerably less water and provides a clearer and higher quality wort, the unfermented precursor to beer.”
Before making any changes in the brewhouse, Alaskan made sure that they could maintain their high standards of quality and consistency would be met with the new equipment.
“We had to ensure that our Alaskan Amber still looked, smelled and tasted like the Alaskan Amber we first brewed over 20 years ago,” says Geoff Larson, Alaskan’s co-Founder and President.
In 2000, the brewery conducted a six-month trial period with a MEURA mash press prototype for their original 10-barrel brew system. The Alaskan Brew Crew participated in blind taste panels with all of the brewery’s year-round and seasonal beers and could detect no discernable difference between the two modes of lautering. After seven more years of research, Alaskan installed the mash press in July 2008, but did not completely convert to the new vessel until February of 2009 when additional blind taste panels confirmed that they could create the same award-winning beer.
The mash filter press provides significant efficiencies, a continuation of Alaskan’s tradition of innovation and environmental stewardship. With the new equipment, the brewery will use nearly one million fewer gallons of water and 65,000 fewer gallons of diesel fuel each year – enough for a full-size truck to travel around the world 50 times.
“This new equipment allows us to grow as a company within our community without compromising on quality or increasing our footprint,” says Larson.
Due to the specific demands of brewing in the remote coastal community of Juneau, Larson and the crew at Alaskan Brewing have sought the most lean, efficient and sustainable modes of production.” In April 1998, Alaskan became the first craft brewery in the country to install and operate a Carbon Dioxide (CO2) reclamation system. This technology captures the greenhouse gas naturally produced in the fermentation process, then cleans and deodorizes the CO2 for use in bottling, kegging and other areas where most breweries must purchase and transport the gas from outside sources. The CO2 reclamation system saves approximately 783,000 lbs of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere each year.
“We have the privilege of handcrafting award-winning beer in one of the most majestic locationson earth,” says Larson, “but is also brings special considerations and responsibilities in the way we brew. We find that both challenging and extremely rewarding.”
Alaskan White Ale
Alaskan Brewing released their first new, year-round bottled brew since 2007 with Alaskan White Ale. Based on a Belgian-style Witbier using Alaskan’s own ale yeast, Alaskan White Ale features a clean malt base that highlights the signature spice aroma of coriander and crisp, citrus finish of orange peel. The light body and smooth, wheat palate creates a complex yet delicate beer that is deliciously refreshing in any season.
“There are some new ingredients for us in Alaskan White,” says brewer Tracy Bird, referencing the brewery’s previous bottled line-up featuring malt-based styles. This is the first bottled wheat beer from Alaskan and the first to include fruit and spices.
Bird experimented with the Witbier style as part of Alaskan’s Rough Draft program in 2001. The Brew Crew spent eight years developing the recipe, which is now a local favorite in Juneau.
“The White is a very likeable and approachable beer,” says Bird, “but with a lot of complexity and interesting flavors to balance the effervescent character of the style.”
The new brew is making a splash in the Pacific Northwest.
“We knew we had a really good beer on our hands with Alaskan White,” says Alaskan National Sales Manager Jon Blakley, “but we can hardly brew it fast enough to keep it on shelves here in Alaska.”
The crisp and lightly tart flavor of Alaskan White pairs well with spicy food and lighter fare. Alaskan recommends pairing the White Ale with fresh summer salads and grilled shrimp or halibut.
The label for the new brew features the artwork of renowned Pacific Northwest artist Jon Fehringer. Known for his ability to capture the unique scenes of Southeast Alaska, he applied his technique of airbrush and opaque watercolor to depict a polar bear traversing the icy landscape of the Arctic coast.
“Each of our labels features an authentically Alaskan scene, from the orca breaching in a Southeast Alaska sunset to the surfer riding a wave in the shadow of Mount St. Elias,” explains Alaskan Brand Manager Cindy Burchfield. “Our new brew toasts the polar bear and its extraordinary place at the top of the world.”
Alaskan White Ale is now available throughout Alaska and is making its way to shelves and on tap on in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming in early summer. For those looking for the new “taste of Alaska,” but who live outside of our distribution area, visit www.liquidsolutions.biz.