Alaska Barleywine Festival 2015 Winners

Here are the winners from this weekend’s Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival in Anchorage, Alaska.

  1. St. Elias Brewing’s Moose Juice, Soldotna, Alaska
  2. Midnight Sun Brewing’s Termination Dust Belgian-Style Barley Wine, Anchorage, Alaska
  3. Lagunitas Brewing’s Olde Gnarlywine Barley Wine, Petaluma, California

And the Best Winter Beer:

Congratulations to all the winners. Thanks again to Tom Dalldorf from the Celebrator Beer News, for sending me the winners.


Alaska Barleywine Festival 2013 Winners

Here are the winners from this weekend’s Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival in Anchorage, Alaska.

  1. Anchorage Brewing Barley Wine, Anchorage, Alaska
  2. Firestone Walker Sucaba, Paso Robles, California
  3. Black Raven Old Bird Brain Barley Wine, Redmond, Washington

And the Best Winter Beer:

Congratulations to all the winners. Thanks again to Tom Dalldorf from the Celebrator Beer News, for sending me the winners.


Beer Birthday: Ben Johnson

Today is also the 35th birthday of Ben Johnson, who until recently was the head brewer at Midnight Sun Brewing in Anchorage, Alaska. I met Ben during SF Beer Week a few years ago at a beer dinner at Oliveto, and have run into him a few times since then. He makes some awesome beer and is great fun to share a few pints with. These days, he’s actually brewing in Mumbai, India at Seven Islands Brewing. Join me in wishing Ben a very happy birthday.

Chaz Lakip, Gabe Fletcher and Ben at the Celebrator’s Best of the West Fest in 2009.

In a hop field.

With Growler and Ferdinand, Russian River Brewing’s brewery cats.

NOTE: Last two photos purloined from Facebook.

Beer In Ads #590: Lucky In Alaska

Friday’s ad is the fourth, and final, in our series of ads for Lucky Lager, brewed in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. This ad shows the “age-dated beer” being enjoyed in Alaska. You can tell because he’s wearing a parka and there’s a toem pole in the background. Actually, it says so on the copy, it could have been anywhere in the west, really.


Alaska Barleywine Festival 2012 Winners

Here are the winners from this weekend’s Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival in Anchorage, Alaska.

  1. Black Raven Brewing, Redmond, Washington
  2. Firestone Walker Brewing, Paso Robles, California
  3. Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling, Fairbanks, Alaska

And the Best Winter Beer:

  • Kodiak Island Brewing, Kodiak, Alaska

Congratulations to all the winners. Thanks to Tom Dalldorf from the Celebrator Beer News, for sending me the winners.

Beer In Art #126: Timothy Jones’ Blue Cheese and Beer

This week’s work of art is by contemporary artist Timothy Jones, but it certainly looks like it could have been painted centuries ago. The still life, entitled Blue Cheese and Beer, was painted last year, and makes me hungry for yet more cheese and beer, despite having been swimming in both the last week.


He’s also done one more beer-themed painting, entitled Mug of Beer, which was painted earlier this year.


Timothy Jones was born in Alaska, but now makes his home in Arkansas. You can see more of Jones’ work at his FineArt America gallery and his Daily Painting Blog.

Old Enough To Fight, Old Enough For Beer

You probably already saw that Alaska Republican state representative Bob Lynn, a Vietnam vet from Anchorage, is proposing changing his state’s law to allow active duty servicemen to drink as well as die for their country. Seems reasonable enough, but it puts at risk millions of dollars in federal highway funding, because the national minimum drinking age statute mandates that in order to receive federal highway money, a state has to keep its minimum drinking age at 21. The federal law, strong-armed into existence by MADD in the 1980s, effectively bullied states into towing the neo-prohibitionist line. The minimum age is supposed to be a state decision, but no state could afford to leave money on the table so reason and common sense never had a chance, not when the decision was between money and screwing over the rights of young adults who probably weren’t going to vote anyway.

As recently as yesterday, MADD was still crowing that they’re responsible for reducing drunk driving deaths despite the fact that every unbiased economist believe the two are essentially unrelated. The truth is that drunk driving was already in decline in the 1980s, as evidenced by the fact that all age groups saw declines, not just 18-21 year olds.

The Wall Street Journal today has an interesting op-ed piece by Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, entitled Old Enough To Fight, Old Enough To Drink.

He starts with the obvious argument that an adult who can fight to defend our country (and potentially die in that effort) should at the very least have all the rights and privileges of adulthood. But as a nation we are virtually unique in the world at denying our soldiers between the ages of 18-20 the right to drink alcohol. When I was in the military, we had a soda machine in our day room filled with cans of beer (I think they cost 50 cents) and we were allowed to drink at the bar on base, both at the base I was stationed at in Virginia and then later at my permanent duty station in New York City. Not one person at either location ever abused that privilege. A few got drunk from time to time, but never in a way that affected their responsibilities and their duty.

Which is why I’m so surprised by the military reaction. According to an NPR report, state military commanders have stated they believe it “would encourage unhealthy behavior.” I’m starting to think the military just can’t stand change of any kind, and will complain about any and every proposed change. I recall quite vividly that when I was in the Army, they made a big deal out of us working for civilians, that they were in charge and it was our duty to serve and follow orders. Yet every time some change is proposed to the military, the higher military ranks ignore their own rule and whine to high heaven. But their job is the same as the lowliest private: to shut up and follow orders.

Other complaints include that “[t]he law could set a precedent, said Rep. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, where any young person whose profession puts them at risk of losing their life, such as police or firefighters, could be allowed to drink.” Yes, and it’s a valid argument. Adulthood should include all the rights and privileges, not all but one. I don’t really understand how these people can look someone in the face and say, ‘sure you can risk your life, but you’re still not quite an adult yet, we still can’t trust you with alcohol.’ That’s deeply disturbing.

Other protestations include that it “could further increase drunken driving arrests of young soldiers who would drive back from off-base bars” and “[a]lcohol is involved in a third of misconduct incidents on Alaska’s military installation, three generals said in a letter to Rep. Dan Saddler, co-chairman of the House Special Committee on Military & Veterans’ Affairs.” But those are both absurd defenses. Soldiers would still be subject to the same laws as before, and suggesting that they might start breaking the law shows very little faith in them, doesn’t it? Essentially, I think it comes back to our unhealthy perception of alcohol, that people can’t be trusted with it, and therefore it has to be heavily regulated.

My own experience is that as a soldier at 18, my peers who either got jobs or went to college stayed more immature than the people I served with in the military, despite being the same age. As a result, for a while I was in favor of mandatory one-year conscription after high school because the discipline I believe was good for me and I could see how it might have benefited others, too. A few other nations do this, and I haven’t heard any arguments against it. I doubt that’s changed much, so it seems doubly troubling to me that the military is so set against this that they’d accuse their own men and women of being unable to handle alcohol, while expecting them to handle guns, grenades and other weapons. And doesn’t the statement that alcohol is already involved on military bases suggest that it’s the same problem that’s on college campuses, that having it be illegal is what’s causing the problems because it drives it underground?

One of the most telling statements in Reynold’s article is the following:

Research by economist Jeffrey A. Miron and lawyer Elina Tetelbaum indicates that a drinking age of 21 doesn’t save lives but does promote binge drinking and contempt for the law.

Safety is the excuse, but what is really going on here is something more like prohibition. A nation that cares about freedom—and that has already learned that prohibition was a failure—should know better. As Atlantic Monthly columnist Megan McArdle writes, “A drinking age of 21 is an embarrassment to a supposedly liberty-loving nation. If you are old enough to enlist, and old enough to vote, you are old enough to swill cheap beer in the company of your peers.”

And I love his political analysis at the end:

Democrats traditionally do well with the youth vote, and one reason is that they have been successful in portraying Republicans as fuddy-duddies who want to hold young people down. This may be unfair—college speech codes and the like don’t tend to come from Republicans—but the evidence suggests that it works. What’s more, the first few elections people vote in tend to set a long-term pattern. A move to repeal the federal drinking-age mandate might help Republicans turn this around.

Republicans are supposed to be against mandates aimed at the states, so this would demonstrate consistency. Second, it’s a pro-freedom move that younger voters—not yet confronted with the impact of, say, the capital-gains tax—can appreciate on a personal level. Third, it puts the Democrats in the position of having either to support the end of a federal mandate—something they tend to reflexively oppose—or to look like a bunch of old fuddy-duddies themselves.

Principle and politics. If the Republicans in Congress don’t pick up on this issue, we’re going to have to wonder what they’ve been drinking.

My guess is propagandist kool-aid. And while I believe that every eighteen-year old should be allowed to consume and purchase alcohol, it seems monumentally wrong that at the very least our brave young men and women who volunteered to serve and defend our peculiar way of life can’t drink a beer.

UPDATE: Shortly after posting this, I received an interesting press release from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an organization in Washington DC that appears to lean toward the right or possibly Libertarian.

From the press release:

In most European countries the drinking age is far lower than 21. Some, like Italy, for example, have no drinking age at all. Yet, the rates of alcoholism and teenage problem drinking are far greater in the United States. The likely reason for the disparity is the way in which American teens are introduced to alcohol versus their European counterparts. While French or Italian children learn to think of alcohol as part of a meal, such as a glass of wine at dinner, American teens learn to drink in the unmonitored environment of a basement or the backwoods with their friends. A 2009 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Health, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concluded that 72 percent of graduating high school seniors already consumed alcohol.

Statement by Michelle Minton, CEI’s Director of Insurance Studies:

The current age limit has created a culture of hidden drinking and disrespect for the law. Regardless of whether a person is in the military or simply an adult civilian, he or she ought to be treated as such. If society believes you are responsible enough to go to war, get married, vote, or sign a contract, then you are responsible enough to buy a bottle of beer and toast to living in a country that respects and protects individual rights. It is long past time the law caught up with that reality.

Alaska Beer

Today in 1959, Alaska became the 49th state.


Alaska Breweries

Alaska Brewery Guides

Guild: Brewers Guild of Alaska

State Agency: Alcoholic Beverage Control Board


  • Capital: Juneau
  • Largest Cities: Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, Sitka, Ketchikan
  • Population: 626,932; 48th
  • Area: 656,425 sq.mi., 1st
  • Nickname: The Last Frontier
  • Statehood: 49th, January 3, 1959


  • Alcohol Legalized: August 24, 1933
  • Number of Breweries: 17
  • Rank: 31st
  • Beer Production: 424,712
  • Production Rank: 50th
  • Beer Per Capita: 865.9 Gallons


Package Mix:

  • Bottles: 39.4%
  • Cans: 52.8%
  • Kegs: 7.5%

Beer Taxes:

  • Per Gallon: $1.07
  • Per Case: $2.41
  • Tax Per Barrel (24/12 Case): $33.17
  • Draught Tax Per Barrel (in Kegs): $33.17

Economic Impact (2010):

  • From Brewing: $52,164,509
  • Direct Impact: $170,869,901
  • Supplier Impact: $65,295,912
  • Induced Economic Impact: $53,629,253
  • Total Impact: $289,795,066

Legal Restrictions:

  • Control State: No
  • Sale Hours: 8 a.m.–5 a.m., except election days (liquor stores may not open until polls close)
  • Grocery Store Sales: No (although many grocery stores have separate areas that sell all forms of alcoholic beverages and many bars sell packaged liquor as well.)
  • Notes: Most communities have more restrictive laws, ranging from restrictions on operating hours to bans on sale and possession. Sellers/servers may not, for any reason, give a person alcohol for free or sell it for less than its cost. Sellers/servers may drink while on duty, but no intoxicated person may remain on the premises, so an impaired server could be arrested.


Data complied, in part, from the Beer Institute’s Brewer’s Almanac 2010, Beer Serves America, the Brewers Association, Wikipedia and my World Factbook. If you see I’m missing a brewery link, please be so kind as to drop me a note or simply comment on this post. Thanks.