Out Inn the Wide World
Real Ale in Alaska
This is the briefest of snapshots from a solitary evening spent exploring this northern outpost of cask beer. There may be more real beer, and more good places to find it in, but the short story of this visit is; real beer can be found, but only two hand pumps were found in use. If any locals or visitors can add to this tally, we would be delighted to hear from you....
Operated by the Sleeping Lady Brewery
As you enter, the first thing you'll see is the glass-enclosed
brewery. Walk up two flights of stairs (to what I would call the second
floor but they call the third, and it is their building!) passing by the
restaurant and small theatre on the intermediate floor and you find yourself
in the pub itself. This is homely and relaxing with some touches familiar
to the British pub user, like dartboards and bar towels.
A feature which the management quite rightly make much
of is the rooftop patio. This gives a great view over the Cook Inlet and
Mount Susitna, better known as the "Sleeping Lady," and although
it was dark when we arrived, it must be a fantastic place to watch those
gorgeous northern sunsets.
The central "island" bar boasts a traditional
handpump from which is served the most northerly cask beer that I have
ever tasted, Braveheart Scottish Ale.
Downtown's other brewpub, this is an easy walk from the Snow Goose, making for a rare northern opportunity for a pub crawl.
I was surprised by the scale of the place and how busy it was. I thought I had walked into a popular restaurant, rather than a real ale outlet. Of course, it is both.
ale is a surprisingly low key part of the operation, with the sole beer
engine in use being fixed at the back of the bar. We found it however,
as all good beer hounds will, and enjoyed our pints of IPA. (There
were two pumps as you can see from the picture, but only one was in use
when we were there)
The place was bursting at the seams and I feared that we might not be able to eat, but we perched on bar stools and ate at the bar. This meant that I did not get the chance to have a good look round, but it seemed to be massively popular and I for one would be happy to return. The menu looked impressive, as as you would expect, seafood is something of a speciality.
Great Alaskan Alehouse
This was the disappointment of the evening. Not because
of the pub itself, which was packed to the rafters and rocking to a band,
but because the solitary hand pump was not in use.
We understand that cask ale is available some of the time, but the pub's own website makes no mention of real beer, so we wonder how much commitment there is. Further reports would be most welcome.