Anchorage Distillery: From The Farm To The Glass
When you think of spirits distilleries in the United States, states such as Kentucky, New Jersey, and Tennessee will typically be the first to pop into mind, followed by a handful other states based on spirits knowledge and preference. The one state you might not think to include is Alaska; after all, it has a much stronger reputation for its wildlife than it does for its alcohol production. However, leaving Alaska out of your state distillery lineup means excluding Anchorage Distillery, an award-winning distillery that strives to support and uplift the local community. Here, Tales Global Attache member and Alaskan Carissa Pearce writes about the relationship between Anchorage Distillery and her home state.
Anchorage Distillery got its start in 2015, and has a staff of four amazing individuals: Bob Klein (CEO), Travis Lee (Distiller), Jacindra Franks (Head Mixologist/Manager), and Ashley Prange (Graphic Designer, and Recipe Developer). “There are four of us, we are family, and the product we produce is so exciting,” says CEO Bob Klein. What sets Anchorage Distillery apart? It is the first distillery in Alaska to source all of the grain in their distilling process from local farmers in the state. In contrast, most Alaskan distilleries have their grains shipped up because there are no malting facilities up here. To overcome the lack of malting facilities, head distiller Travis Lee explains, Anchorage Distillery adjusts the mash by adding raw grains, then simulates the malting process by adding the enzymes found in the malt. Apart from supporting local farmers, Anchorage Distillery also gives back to their its community by donating a portion of the proceeds from their Benefactor Vodka to breast cancer awareness charities.
Anchorage Distillery’s dedication to using local resources has served them well. The distillery took gold in the Tastings.com competition, and scored 95 points out of 100 for their Aurora Gin. The same gin also took gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and silver for the Contemporary Grain to Glass Gin award by the American Distilling Institute. The Aurora Gin is special: not only is it distilled from Alaskan grain, it has a 49 % ABV–90 proof–to represent the fact that Alaska is the 49th state. “We don't want to lose sight of the fact that we are Alaskan and this is our home,” states Bob Klein.
Klein was eager to discuss some of the future projects that the distillery is currently focusing on. Within the next few months, they are going to be releasing their whiskeys made with Alaskan grains, and are proud to say that they have kept these spirits 100% local; however, Klein mentioned that they obtained their barrels for aging the whiskey from Maker’s Mark and Jim Bean. Anchorage Distillery is also excited to start working on a small batch series that will focus on fruits, herbs, and other regional Alaskan plants to add to their essence line. While most people use the tea bag method to infuse and just remove the bag of ingredients when they get the flavor and color they are looking for, essence uses a vapor process to extract the flavor, not the color, of the ingredient. Right now, the most popular product in Anchorage Distillery’s essence line is their ghost pepper vodka, which has people flocking to the distillery to get their hands on a ghost pepper Bloody Mary (the recipe is a secret, so you’ll have to visit and try it for yourselves). Anchorage Distillery’s entire line of products is to be applauded, and everyone in Alaska is anticipating the release of their whiskey and other new products.
In the distillery’s tap room, Head Mixologist Jacindra Franks and Recipe Developer Ashley Prange create some amazing craft cocktails. The two constantly experiment with making their own syrups and infusions to keep the locals coming in for a flavor their taste buds will never forget (including the famous ghost-pepper Bloody Mary)! I want to thank each person at the distillery for welcoming me into their circle by letting me teach mixology classes at their distillery, and donating their products for the charitable fundraisers I am active in. I am forever grateful for all that they’ve done. Supporting the local community in Alaska is always something to raise a glass to. Cheers!
- The Fermented Alaskan