When we decided to tackle this weighty topic we knew it was going to be difficult. First we had to assemble a crack team who were up to the task. Then dive into the difficult work of sampling a wide variety of Alaskan beers, fishing while sampling, sampling some more, and then actually sitting down and writing something after all that sampling......
Once we did start to write, our first big dilemma was how long to make the list. Some suggested we do a top 10. There are a lot of fine beers being brewed in Alaska these days and finding 10 worthy ones would not be an issue. Others, and we won't mention who, suggested we take the easy road and come up with 2 or 3. But then 2 items together really isn't a list at all. We settled on 5 because we are too lazy to write about more than 5 and it fits nicely in with our limited attention span. Plus, we're willing to bet that when you are reading a list after the first five you start to drift off, too.
When it came to selecting our Top 5 we had two crtieria:
1. We would feature beers brewed in Alaska (with one notable exception.)
2. They had to come in cans. Bottles on the river are a pain, they weigh too much and take up a bunch of room in your pack.
So without further ado or rambling, in no particular order here are our Top 5 Alaskan Fishing Beers:
Alaska Brewing Company Icy Bay IPA (Juneau), our hometown beer tastes ok when bouncing around in the back of your boat on a hot day when you forgot the cooler or when you didn’t get it fully submerged in the cold creek, but even better when you nail the creek placement or remember to get ice for the cooler.
Baranof Brewing Silver Bay IPA (Sitka), like Alaskan's Icy Bay, this one isn’t temperature specific. Plus, Baranof Brewing has mastered the art of getting 12.5 ounces into a can (!), so you always end up with a celebratory foamy mess when you crack the can.
Denali Brewing Company Twister Creek IPA (Talkeetna). Again, IPAs are decent warm, but better cold (apparently most of our fishing trips are spontaneous and short on planning). IPAs are also good for the weight conscious hike-in angler, as you get a good alcohol-content/weight ratio. Bonus here is the groovy fly angler logo.
Kenai River Brewing Company Peninsula Brewer's Reserve (PBR) (Soldotna) - If IPA'S get you a little too hopped up then this staw-colored ale is the ticket. Even cheap beer ain’t cheap in AK, so at a fraction of a cost more, why not get a really good PBR and skip the stuff that comes from Milwaukee or St. Louis or some other midwestern outpost far from salmon and fresh water? One of the better beers out there that tastes fine warm or cold. Throw a few in your pack or ice 'em down in the creek for the end of the day. Just make sure they are well hidden so they don't get poached by some unsavory angler.
Rainer (formerly of Seattle, now we aren't sure and really don't want to know...) for its iconic northwest status, because it tastes like College, and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love those 1980s TV spots?
In case you are under the age of 40 and missed the Rainier ads from the 1980's, here is THE iconic ad. And if you have never seen the running of the Wild Rainiers here is one more. Truly majestic.
There you have it. Go out and buy a 6 pack of each of these, sit on a river bank and drink them and then let us know what you think. And if you have a suggestion for a beer we left off the list let us know!