I am a home-brewer, and I live in Alaska. The majority of beer ingredients are not found in Alaska. Although barley does grow in Alaska, no one malts it here on a large commercial scale. Hops do not really grow well in Alaska, they don’t seem to flower before they wilt, due to our extreme daylight in summer and cold fall season. Yeast is totally available in Alaska. I have harvested yeast in my backyard successfully. It is a wild ingredient and the outcome can vary wildly. We have a lot of water in Alaska, and that is probably the most important ingredient in beer. You can substitute all kinds of other things, but if you don’t have water, you can’t make beer. We have plentiful soft water in Alaska, that is similar to the water found in the southern part of Germany. It is easy to work with, and can be manipulated to produce water chemistry similar to anywhere in the world. This is probably why beer from Alaska is some of the best to be found anywhere.
The most classic Alaskan ingredient is spruce tips — you can find this in commercial examples like Alaskan Winter Ale, and Sprucesplosion by 49th State Brewing. Spruce tips have been used since Captain Cook sailed to Alaska in 1778. His crew made malt extract beer and used spruce tips as a flavoring and enriching ingredient. Spruce tips are high in vitamin C, so the beer prevented Cook’s crew from getting scurvy. Another interesting ingredient used by Alaskan commercial breweries is rhubarb. Turnagain Brewing’s, Rhu Framb, and Girdwood Brewing’s, Rhu Hefner, are both excellent examples. There are a lot of commercial blueberry beers made in Alaska: Turnagain uses it frequently, Glacier BrewHouse makes a blueberry IPA, and Matanuska Brewing makes a blueberry beer. My favorite blueberry beer is Anchorage Brewing’s Experiment, a sour blueberry beer. Raspberry is often used to make a delicious fruity beer, not just in Alaska, but it has traditionally been used in Belgium to make Framboise. Glacier Brewhouse makes a raspberry wheat, and Turnagain makes a beer called Framb Was. Basically, you can put anything you want into a beer to create unique and interesting flavors.
This year I made a 10 gallon batch of pale ale, around 5.5% ABV, and pretty basic. It is lightly hopped with Mosaic and Citrus hops, and the base recipe is a fairly sweet ale. I took five gallons and dry-hopped it with Azacca hops and put it on draft in my kegerator. The other five gallons I racked into five one-gallon jugs, and then flavored each one differently. I put blueberries in one, lingonberries in another, gooseberries in a third, raspberry in the fourth, and to the last one I added a lot of dried yarrow flowers. I pureed all the fruit, which was frozen first, with an immersion blender. I let them age another week before I bottled all five batches. I’m waiting two weeks to try them, and I hope they are as delicious as the beers I brewed last year. Maybe next year I will use wild Alaskan yeast, but this year I used American ale yeast, which is a go-to in our home-brewery.
Cheers to Alaska! Cheers to Alaskan ingredients! Cheers to Alaskan beers!