TALKEETNA — We know less about craft beer than we know about Kraft cheese, and most of what we know about it is that it goes well with crackers, grilled bread and macaroni. Yesterday in this funky Alaskan town — and funky is the only word to describe it — that changed at least a little.
This is the home of the Denali Brewing Company, now the second-largest craft beer supplier in Alaska. Because Princess Cruises was looking to make a stronger connection with the locals it visits each year from May to September, and because timing is everything, the two are linked professionally. Denali beer will be served on Princess ships around the world, thereby ensuring its status as the most popular beer this side of the Alaskan Brewing Company.
Seven years ago, the place on Main Street Talkeetna where the Denali Brewing Company was founded by two men selling beer out of their trunks was the hub of a town so small it can’t be incorporated. Translation: among the amenities on this lot was the town showers where people…showered.
Talkeetna is used to being the little engine that could.
Most, or many, of its residents still have “dry houses” (as in no running water), yet it has an airport. Its winter population is dwarfed by how many tourists descend on it each summer. Anybody who wants to climb here has to register at the Ranger Station in Talkeetna, and now beer from this Alaskan hamlet is going to be known around the world.
But that’s what craft beer is all about…right?
Being the second-largest craft brewery meant selling 7,300 barrels (about 225,000 gallons) last year. Denali has no illusions about being number one: Alaskan sells 160,000 barrels (close to 5 million gallons).
Princess is about 10 per cent of Denali’s business, and one brand — Denali Gold — is sold only at Princess Wilderness lodges in the summer, of which there are five.
“Princess knew how much people appreciated a local experience when they came to Alaska,” says Denali’s Shawn Standley. “We had to make sure we could produce the high quality and the volume that Princess needed. This year, we sold more Denali Gold in May than in the whole year last year.
At least two of our children, and maybe all three, would love to have on their business cards what Standley has on his.
He is the spokesperson, the front man for founders Sassan Mossanen and Boe Barnette, the later of whom now retains only an equity interest in the company, having re-located to the lower 48, as Alaskans call the states to the south. He can tell you all you want to know about the hops and and grain and yeast and water used to make it, and all the different “flights” of beer so popular at tastings…and that the beer equivalent of a wine sommelier is a cicerone, and there aren’t many of them in the world.
Not many years ago, that was all pretty much foreign to him.
Which means…there’s hope for us.
In the news…
• Three free shore excursions on Windstar this summer
• Fires still dangerous but Alaska highways stay open
Today at portsandbows.com: AmaWaterways and Disney ship philosophy
November 5, 2015
Barcelona, Funchal, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Port Canaveral
Cost per day: $45