I grew up with a strong love for beer and breweriana, collecting cans, bottles, caps, signs, posters, etc. At 13 I went out and drank a quart of Old English 800. That put me off beer till college when I began to develop a taste for Sierra Nevada and Anchor Steam (circa 1985). My first batch of beer was in Crested Butte, Colorado where I was a ski bum for a couple winters. I began brewing in earnest a couple years later living in Homer, Alaska in a small log cabin a couple miles off the road; hauling water, bottles, propane, extract, and everything else. There I hooked up with The Q & Q Brewer’s Guild (for “quality and quaffability”) where I learned the art and craft of all grain brewing from some fanatical and driven brewers.
Meanwhile back in Crested Butte my friend C.S. Derrick, with whom I did that first fateful batch, opened the Crested Butte Brewery. I got to watch that happen and help bottle now and then. I later visited him in Isla de Margarita, Venezuela, where he was setting up another brewery.
I met the love of my life, Karen Kincheloe (now Millstein), and moved to Kodiak while the boys of “the Q” went on to start their own breweries. Laurence Livingston started Cusak’s and went on to start The Great Bear. Lasse Holmes, Steve McCasland, and Karen Berger went on to start the Homer Brewing Company. Having these inside connections gave me the resources to figure out how to approach the industry myself.
I bought a computer and went to a 5 day course on how to start a business. I read all the magazines and industry journals. I kept brewing at home, out in the yard in all kinds of weather. I went to a 5 day intensive at UC Davis on brewing science. After a few years and a few plans that didn’t look to promising, I hit on one we thought had a pretty realistic chance of working. I gathered a pawfull of investment from family and friends (mostly) and got to work (some more...)
Coming in after the peak in the frenzy of growth seen in the ‘80s, and early ‘90s, I had more options than my predecessors. I took advantage of the used market for breweries without homes and got a good deal on a nice system. I got Laurence to help me and we went to St. Louis to pack up the old system from Hop Cats in Chicago. This had been purchased by an entrepreneur who decided to buy an existing brewpub instead and left the brewery in storage in the old Falstaff Brewery.
After a few days of receiving grain and kegs, and gathering tools and equipment, and forklifting and tying down, and munching bagels, and quaffing the local fresh ones, we came back to Alaska to await it’s arrival after a long journey by truck, train, and boat. I phased out of my carpentry job and phased into brewery construction.
We sell our fresh, unfiltered, and (mostly) organic beer in growlers, party pigs, and kegs just here on the island, both retail and wholesale. We have a great business in our logo clothes, and glasses too, which this web site may help! And that’s it, in a beer glass!