Brewery Review of St. Elias Brewing Co. in Soldotna, AK.
Part #6 of the Alaska: The Last Beer Frontier Series.
After hitting up 5 breweries, Anchorage is finally in our rear-view mirror and we’re heading south into the Kenai Peninsula. Our first stop is St. Elias Brewing Co. in Soldotna. I’m excited to be moving out of the city, because Anchorage is my least favorite part of Alaska. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it lacks many of the things that make Alaska so great. Alaska shines in its backcountry and small towns, where you get exposed to amazing nature and you rub elbows with the locals. That’s where you’ll fall in love with the place.
I don’t know what to expect when I roll up on St. Elias, but it turns out it’s actually a pretty big restaurant as well as a brewery. When you get inside you’re immediately stuck by its eccentric quirky charm, which comes from both the decor and the architecture. It’s unique and that’s good. Let’s find out if the beer menu is as unique as the atmosphere.
They have 10 of their own beers on draught, with 5 “year round” beers and 5 “seasonal” beers. What really impressed me were the seasonal beers because of the creativity and use of less popular styles. I understand that the year-round selections are meant to be staples that locals can count on to be there, which is fine, as were those beers. However, the thing that tells me the most about this brewery was that they have a barleywine aged for over 2 years in bourbon and rye whiskey barrels, a traditional MaiBock and a lambic that was aged in Hungarian oak with apples and raspberries. Those are serious beers made by people who know how to make beer and understand the history of beer. The MaiBock was decent, the barleywine was really good, but the lambic was truly awesome and a great homage to the style. It is also worth noting that the restaurant is quite good as well, making St. Elias a great place to stop if you’re driving through the area. Not to mention, it’s good to see a brewery restaurant put as much effort into their beer as they do their food.
If you weren’t convinced of St. Elias Brewing’s eccentricity (and sense-of-humor for that matter), the photo above is the actual handle on the urinal in the Men’s restroom. It’s flat-out brilliant. I’m not sure if it’s a commentary on the quality of Genesee Beer or if that was just an old tap handle they had lying around, but it made my day when I saw it. They say it’s the little things in life… like when a child that’s eating an ice cream cone way too slow has the whole scoop fall onto the ground, or when you see a bird poop on a co-worker you don’t like, or when you use the restroom at a brewery and find out you get to flush with a Genesee tap handle.