GABF Chat: Alaskan Brewing’s Andy Kline on Husky IPA, the History of Alaskan Amber
At a pre-party before the Great American Beer Festival, Alaskan Brewing Company put drinkers on notice: Husky IPA, originally released in February as a spring seasonal, had getting bumped up to year-round production. Now, Husky will be coming down on the barges for enjoyment regardless of season – and yes, that is still how Alaskan’s beer is brought to the lower 48 states.
Alaskan Brewing Communication Manager Andy Kline pointed at two sources of inspiration for this beer, the first of which was the brewers’ desire to spotlight mosaic hops.
“To me, this beer is an expression of what this hop variety is all about,” said Kline. “It’s very lightly-malted. It’s not a sweet beer. It’s not an overly astringent or dry beer. It’s not a hop-aggressive or hop-forward beer.”
That much is absolutely true. Husky IPA provides an unobstructed view of mosaic’s potential, but not in a way that obliterates the palate. It’s got the bright, tropical notes everyone comes for without the facial muscle-contortion that can often accompany a … shall we say, over-ambitious? … IPA. It’s a beer you can easily drink a few of without exhausting your senses. It’s a sneaky 7% ABV, though, so plan accordingly.
The second source of inspiration is right there on the label. In addition to Alaskan Brewing’s annual sponsorship of the Iditarod sled dog race, the release of Husky IPA was accompanied by support for animal programs through the Ales for Tails program. Through this, Alaskan supported animal organizations through donations and hosting events. Among the programs recognized was Minnesota-based Project Delta, which connects veterans with rescue dogs.
“You never thought that would happen because of a beer,” says Kline, “but it’s been a lot of fun.”
Husky IPA is on-brand for Alaskan Brewing, for whom Kline says hip-hopopatomus beers have never been the main draw. After all, their most prolific offering – and the beer that counts for 60 percent of Alaskan’s production – is
an amber the amber, Alaskan Amber.
“It’s been around for 31 years,” he says. “The history of Alaskan Brewing is the history of Alaskan Amber.”
Legend has it, Marcy and Geoff Larsen became Alaskan Brewing Co-Founders Marcy and Geoff Larsen after a friend suggested the couple open a brewery back in the 1980s. The Larsens had recently moved to Alaska, and were struggling to find livelihoods at the time. Marcy was researching Alaska’s brewing history when she made a life-changing discovery.
“[The Larsens] found an interview with a Czechoslovakian guy who was a brewer,” says Kline, “and he kind of revealed what the beer tasted like. Then, they discovered a bill of lading from the brewery he worked on from 1907 and it listed the malt variety and the hops.”
Geoff, a chemical engineer by day and home-brewer by night, brewed a batch using that information. That batch started a story, a story still being written over 30 years later.
In December of 1986, Alaskan Brewing Co. became the first Juneau-based brewery operating since Prohibition. Though their distribution footprint has grown to cover 20 states since, Kline says Alaska – all 700,000 people of it – still represents about 40 percent of Alaskan’s sales. Kline calls it “a really exciting ace in the hole” to have such a loyal base in their backyard.
Alaska’s brewing community has grown, too, with almost 40 other breweries now open. As of last year, Alaskan Brewing is no longer alone in the capitol: Barnaby Brewing Company opened last year, and made their Great American Beer Festival debut earlier this month.
“It’s really been fun to see this burgeoning craft beer scene happen,” says Kline, “and a lot of people will point to Alaskan Brewing as the people who helped them foster that dream.”
Current Alaskan Brewing beer offerings for Minnesota can be found on their website.