Weird Alaska Alcohol laws and great beer too!

Sorry for the delay in blogs, I have been taking a tour of the 49th state known as Alaska. I knew the place was big, but not that big, you could make two states out of Alaska and it would still be bigger than Texas. Moral of the story, don’t mess with Alaska. I didn’t quite know what to expect from the breweries in Alaska, but assumed the scene would be similar to it’s closest U.S. neighbors Washington and Oregon, but boy was I wrong. My first and favorite stop was to Devil’s Club Brewing in Juneau. I'd never been to Alaska before, so I thought Devil’s Club would be a reference to some sort of prohibition drinking “club” or underground alcohol group, but I was completely off the mark. Devil’s Club is a native plant that grows throughout the state, is covered in thorns and can cause severe burns or rashes. It is very similar to poison oak or poison ivy, for us in the lower 48.
Tangerine Dream

The dreaded Devil's Club plant

Now a little bit about their history. The brewery was founded by 3 friends Evan, Jake, and Ryan. All self-taught home brewers with each one has a unique skillset that contributes to the brewery. They officially opened on April 20, 2017, 420 day for any Sweetwater fans out there, with a 4 BBL system. In 2018, they brewed 300 BBL, and in 2019 they are hoping for 500. The best part about this brewery is their concentration in brewing Brett and sour beers. #MeThinksMeLikes. Currently they are brewing twice the volume of barrel aged beers versus beer aged in stainless steel vessels. They even had 2 foeders made right here in the Show-Me State!
The List of Beers and they also had a printed menu!
They had 11 beers on tap, and one thing you will notice is a propensity of lactose, sour, and fruit. Of course my eyes gravitated towards the Tangerine Dream Brett Golden Ale and it didn’t disappoint. It was so good, I ordered a second. My next beer was the Pie Face Cherry Pie Ale on a recommendation and it hit the spot too. I went back for a fourth beer, I was walking home after all, but was promptly turned down. I turned around to make sure I didn’t stumble over anything, and I asked again. That’s when I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign.

In Alaska, a brewery can only pour 36 ounces of beer per person per day, and there are no games, dancing, or music allowed too. It’s true, it’s damn true!! This law is asinine, I can only have 3 beers at the locally owned brewery, but I can go across the street to the bar and have 30 beers. This is the type of law I expect to see in Kansas or Arkansas, but not Alaska. On the bright side, you can still by beer for take-away.
The infamous 36 oz sign
So, I tracked down Evan, to ask about this law, and make sure it wasn’t a cruel joke on the tourists, but and it is in fact a real law. He explained upon the repeal of prohibition, the state limited the number of alcohol licenses, based on the population of a region. Here is the exact wording from the state

"Licenses are issued based on population quota. Restaurant or eating place licenses are issued on the formula of one license for each 1500 of population within a political subdivision of the state. All other licenses are issued on a formula of one license for each 3000 of population. Generally speaking, the quota for most license types has been exhausted and no new licenses can be issued, you can check Here. Most licenses, however, are transferable. If you want to open your own business, you may need to find someone that would be willing to transfer an existing license to you. "

So if you want to obtain a liquor license, get in line, buy one from a friend, play the lottery, or find a rich uncle, because they don’t come cheap.

When they wrote this legislation, small time breweries didn’t really exist, so they were an afterthought. Evan said a current liquor license transfer will run about $250,000, even if you have enough money you still have to find an establishment willing to transfer theirs. As breweries started opening, the state had to come up with some sort of compromise. Creating new liquor licenses, would hurt the people that shelled out big bucks for a transfer or people counting on the transfer money as a retirement plan. So a compromise was reached and the 36 oz rule was created.

Now the plot thickens further. What if you just want to open a “brewpub” and not a “brewery?” In Alsaka, you must purchase both a “brewpub” license and the aforementioned “liquor” license. This allows you to operate like a normal bar with entertainment, no pour restrictions, hours, etc. The tradeoff being your distribution volume is severely limited to approximately 1000 BBL’s.

Devil’s Club, is hoping to one day mature into a full distribution brewery, so they are going to stick to selling beer 36 ounces at a time. Hopefully with enough lobbying from their loyal beer drinkers, they can convince the legislation to change the laws. Or better yet, they will just move to Manhattan, Kansas, I happen to an empty brewing space located on Dry Hop Circle, and ship their beer North.

With my new wealth of Alaskan beer knowledge, I promptly marched straight to the Capitol to explain my displeasure, but realized they probably had bigger problems to worry about than a tourist wanting to drink more beer, so I just took a Capitol tour instead. Rest assured, I made sure to visit Devil’s Club every day to get my 3 beers and taste as much as possible. After-all I was on vacation. When visiting Juneau this place is a must visit. If anyone from Alaska is reading this and wants to voice their displeasure, these links will give you contact information for your state Senators and Representatives.

You can find them on facebook, trip advisor, and yelp.

Brett A. Myces
A picture from the bar

The fermenters

The Brew Kettle

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One of 2 good Ole' Missouri Foeders

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