Alaska breweries are a particular pleasure to visit, because many offer top-notch beers that can only be found in the Last Frontier.
The sheer variety of beer available is impressive, as is the ingenuity and appreciation for the finer technical aspects of the brewing process. Travelers hoping to explore breweries in Alaska will find everything from bourbon barrel-aged imperial stouts and potent barleywines to refreshing kettle-sours and big, juicy hazy IPAs.
Best of all, many of the taprooms are terrific places to spend an afternoon sampling flights of beers, and often excellent food, on one of the state’s famously long, sun-drenched summer afternoons.
Alaskan Brewing Company
Chances are high that if you visit a pub just about anywhere in the state, it will have at least one or more options from Alaskan Brewing Company. Nevertheless, it’s worth paying a visit to the original taproom in downtown Juneau.
Opened in 1986, it’s one of the oldest craft breweries in the state, not to mention the first brewery to open in Juneau since Prohibition was repealed.
On the whole, the brewery tends to stick to relatively classical styles; don’t expect to find any lactose-loaded milkshake IPAs with Fruity Pebbles in this lineup. Their signature staples include their Alaskan White Ale, a Belgian-style witbier, their Alaskan Amber Ale, an alt-style ale, and their Alaskan Kölsch Ale, an easy-drinking homage to Cologne’s beloved beer.
What sets them all apart is both the brewery’s technical prowess and use of superior ingredients. Alaskan Brewing Co. is particularly proud of their pristine glacial water, which hails from the sprawling Juneau Ice Field, and makes for an impeccable base for all of their beers.
Anchorage Brewing Company
Easily one of the best-known craft breweries in Alaska, Anchorage Brewing Company has a particularly handsome taproom. Customers can sample beers like Darkest Hour, a heady imperial stout aged in whiskey barrels, White Out, a traditional witbier, or Crazy Ray’s IPA, all with a view of large wooden barrels.
This brewery in Anchorage makes a range of styles, but some of its most sought-after numbers are rare, aged, boozy affairs like Suffer, a triple-barrel-aged barleywine with a faintly tropical note from a toasted coconut finish, or A Deal with the Devil, another high-proof barleywine aged for 11 months in cognac barrels.
Kenai River Brewing Company
In 2001, three couples came together, united by their shared love of craft beer, to open this friendly microbrewery not far from Seward. In addition to the usual ales and IPAs, the draft list here regularly includes a few non-alcoholic options, including a fizzy kombucha and a full-flavored root beer. Expect to see a few hard seltzers on top at any given time as well.
The decidedly family-friendly taproom is a solid spot for a casual bite, with a range of comfort classics including patty melts, poutine, and hot wings. Don’t miss the mac n’ cheese, which comes with a gooey sauce infused with Peninsula Brewer’s Reserve beer.
Skagway Brewing Company
Located in Alaska’s far north, the town of Skagway only has around 1,000 year-round residents, but somehow still boasts an incredible craft brewery. It’s hard to go wrong with any of their beers, but the real star of the show is the Spruce Tip Blonde, brewed with fragrant, locally foraged spruce tips.
Out of respect for the surrounding natural splendor, Skagway Brewing Company is an industry leader when it comes to sustainability. Carbon dioxide from the brewing process is recaptured and directed into an aeroponic indoor farm, which produces everything from ingredients used in beer to fresh vegetables served at the on-site restaurant.
Meanwhile, the brewery converts its own leftover frying oil into biodiesel, which heats and powers much of the place.
Virtually everything on the restaurant menu is made from scratch, using as many local ingredients as possible. Wild Alaskan salmon, halibut, king crab, and greenling are all sustainable seafood staples here. As one of the few—and certainly one of the best—eateries in Skagway, the restaurant is definitely a local hang.
Haines Brewing Company
Located a relatively short distance from Skagway, Haines Brewing Company is a labor of love by two avid homebrewers. Paul Wheeler and Jeanne Kitayama first founded the brewery back in 1999 and have been making stellar beers ever since.
Highlights include the Captain Cook’s Spruce Tip Ale, a seasonal ale that gets its piney, resinous notes from local, wild spruce tips, and Big Hammer, a shockingly smooth, 11.5% ABV barleywine. Note that the brewery is cash-only and that there is an ATM onsite.
Not only is the Glacier Brewhouse taproom one of the best places to drink in Anchorage, but it also happens to be one of the city’s best restaurants. The wood-fired oven lends a slightly smoky char to the pizzas, all of which are made using the restaurant’s signature, slow-risen dough.
Other pub grub staples are in fine form here, including the burgers and the excellent Bavarian-style pretzels served with “ale fondue,” made with the brewery’s own IPA. Less expected, but equally delicious, are the extensive seafood dishes, which range from herb-crusted local halibut to plank-grilled wild Alaskan salmon with a lemon-dill sauce.
As for the beer itself, it’s terrific. With more than a dozen taps, the brewery’s rotating draft list always encompasses a range of styles, meaning that there’s something for everyone here. With its central location and family-friendly vibe, this is a great place for a leisurely lunch or brunch.
Midnight Sun Brewing Company
The oldest craft brewery in downtown Anchorage should be an essential stop for just about any beer-lover passing through. Midnight Sun Brewing Company, so named for Alaska’s famously near-endless summer nights, specializes in the kind of beers ideal for the frigid northern clime.
Think high-octane barleywines, barrel-aged imperial stouts, and Belgian-style ales, plus the requisite smattering of IPAs and occasional wildcards like a surprisingly impressive Berliner Weisse.
Many of these coveted beers can only be found in Alaska, adding even more incentive to visit their extremely charming taproom. On warm summer afternoons, the outdoor seating area is particularly lovely.
Keep an eye out for the Monk’s Mistress, a cult favorite Belgian dark ale that packs a heady 11.5% ABV punch. A bottle is ideal for sharing among two or three people—or taking home for future cozy evenings by the fire.
Seward Brewing Company
With its harbor perpetually brimming with watercraft, not to mention a view of glittering fjords and snow-capped mountains in the background, Seward is one of the loveliest small towns in Alaska to visit. It’s home to the Alaska SeaLife Center, a popular, educational marine wildlife rehabilitation center, plus a number of eclectic shops and cafés.
For craft beer aficionados, visiting the Seward Brewing Company is one of the best things to do in Seward. A particularly appealing stop, this is the only place in the world where it is possible to try these beers. From the get-go, the brewery has only sold its own beers in-house.
49th State Brewing
Originally founded in an old converted barn on the edge of Denali National Park, 49th State Brewing has gone on to become one of Alaska’s most prominent breweries, with a second location in downtown Anchorage.
A number of their beers have picked up awards at international competitions, spreading the brewery’s name far and wide.
Specialties include Smōk, a smoked lager that picked up gold medals at both the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival, and Golden Dall, a Belgian-style tripel named for Dall sheep, snowy-furred, great-horned creatures that roam the steep hillsides of Denali National Park.
HooDoo Brewing Company
Although often overshadowed by Anchorage, Fairbanks, the second largest city in Alaska, has quite a bit to see and do, including this excellent brewery and taproom. Bobby Wilken, who was born in Fairbanks, studied brewing in Munich and worked at other craft breweries before returning to his hometown to set up shop on his own.
The beers at HooDoo heavily respect his extensive time traveling and drinking around Europe. Expect lots of classic German styles like rauchbier, a smoky specialty of Bamburg; kölsch, Cologne’s favorite beer; and goses, a tart kettle-sour that originally hails from Goslar.
The German influence extends to the taproom itself, which features a large beer garden that’s absolutely lovely in summer. It’s also one of the best places in town for a casual bite, thanks to a rotating fleet of local food trucks.
Standouts include Mein Diner, which serves traditional German fare, The Alaska Cheesesteak Company, which puts a northern spin on the Philly staple, and Arctic Habanero, which serves hearty, hot sandwiches.
Denali Brewing Company
Situated near the entrance to Denali National Park, the small town of Talkeetna is a haven for climbers looking to brave the treacherous slopes of the tallest peak on the North American continent. Expect to see more than a few of these daring mountaineers gathered at Denali Brewing Company for a frosty pint.
While beers like the Chuli Stout, a dry Irish-style stout named for the nearby Chulitna River, are the main draw here, the brewery also happens to have a rather impressive distillery Denali Spirits.
Pick up a bottle of their Spruce Tip Gin, which comes infused with nine botanicals, including fragrant wild Alaskan spruce tips.
Girdwood Brewing Company
Located roughly a 45-minute drive from downtown Anchorage, Girdwood is equally popular with travelers and locals looking to get out of the “big” city. A verdant temperate rainforest blankets much of the surrounding landscape, which features striking snowy mountains. Whether you love mountain biking, hiking, or just about any other sort of outdoor activity, chances are high that you’ll find it here.
At the tail-end of a morning or afternoon spent in the great outdoors, pay a visit to Girdwood Brewing Company, a rustic, timber-frame taproom with a dozen rotating draft lines at any given moment. With the exception of four stalwart anchor beers, all of the brewery’s offerings vary with the seasons and whims of the brewmaster.
The setting couldn’t be better for a leisurely pint of IP-AK, the house IPA, along with lunch from the food trucks outside. Check the website for the daily truck schedule, which features everything from Japanese cuisine by Izakaya to giant sandwiches by The Hungry Deckhand.
Homer Brewing Company
While all of Alaska has long had an allure to individualists looking to live slightly outside of the usual rules of society, nowhere is this more true than Homer. Sometimes known by its nickname, the “Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea,” this starkly beautiful place has a history of luring countercultural types that persists to this day.
In addition to being known for its wild halibut catch, the town that’s been hailed as the “most far-out place in America’s last frontier” is famous for its bohemian flair and small but thriving gallery scene clustered along the Homer Spit, a peninsula jutting into Kachemak Bay.
One of the best things to do in Homer is to visit the Homer Brewing Company, which embodies the slightly funky vibe of the rest of the city. This is largely a production brewery, one where locals regularly side up with growlers to stock up on half-gallons of beer to take home. Visitors can also order a tasting flight and sip assorted ales right near the production facility.
Alaska’s towns and cities are both far apart and largely clustered along the coastal areas, meaning that by far the best way to explore them all is aboard a luxury cruise. Browse our cruises to Alaska, book your next voyage, and be prepared to try incredible craft beer all over the state.