Monday, June 30, 2014

Juneau in June

Juneau, AK

Don't worry: he has rain gear in his pack.

With several bars residing inside the tiny downtown area, there are any number of pub crawl routes in Alaska's State Capital City. As for a beer hike, it took a little creativity, but I managed to piece one together for a recent visit. It's a long one without very many stops, but the scenery is absolutely striking and you won't be bored. Bring rain gear! It rains a lot in SE Alaska - even in summer. Packing a sandwich isn't a bad idea either.

Juneau in June
Alaskan Brewing / Hangar on the Wharf / Island Pub; about 9 miles

View Juneau in June in a larger map

Full disclosure: due to timing and weather, my buddy Malcolm and I actually went the opposite direction to how I have this mapped, but the route is the same. We began at the boat we were staying on near the Island Pub and hiked out to the brewery. As for the downtown stops, we hit those on the other days of our visit (as well as The Red Dog Saloon and the Lucky Lady.) But you could definitely do all of this in one long day.

http://www.alaskanbeer.com/home.html

Alaskan Brewing probably needs no introduction. Even though just about every bar in town carries a selection of their beer, it's still worth a trip out to the brewery. I didn't see them doing any brewery tours, but they gave guided tastings in a little taproom, I think. I preferred to just hang out and chat with the locals at the tasting bar, where you get 6 free samples (donations encouraged). There's plenty of schwag for sale, along with a cooler of beer you can take back to your boat or whatever. There wasn't much on tap that I hadn't tasted before, but you might get luckier. I have good info that they often do samples of stuff not that's not readily available.

From the brewery, it's about 6 miles to the next stop, so be sure to evacuate your bladder and maybe grab some beer for the hike, if you dare. (If you also packed a sandwich, good thinking, champ. There's no food at the brewery.)

http://hangar.hangaronthewharf.com/

Up until I made it here, I was complaining to anyone who would listen about how little Alaskan beer I was seeing in town - meaning, beer brewed at other breweries in Alaska, as opposed to beer made at Alaskan Brewing, which is everywhere. (Sorry if that's poorly worded. I worked on that sentence for an hour and I still hate it.)

The Hangar was great and we arrived at the perfect time: the cruise ships were about to depart so most of the boat people had paid up and left (around 6pm). There was plenty of seats at the bar and the view was quite nice:

Not too shabby.

For the first time that weekend, I was able to sample some beer from other Alaskan breweries, including Midnight Sun, Kenai River Brewing, and Denali Brewing. They also had other goodies in the bottle cooler that I didn't get to try. The bartender was kind enough to chat a little about the Alaskan beer scene and even showed us a most unusual tap handle, for Midnight Sun's Oosik Amber Ale:

Baculum tap handle

If you don't know what oosik means, don't worry. I didn't either. Turns out that it's the penile bone of a whale. Look it up.

http://theislandpub.com/

Things are a lot quieter across the Gastineau Channel on Douglas Island, where we were staying for the weekend. There isn't much over there besides boats, houses, and a post office, but there is a pub. We had actually visited the night before the hike and had a good time. The beer selection wasn't anything to rave about, but the pizza was delicious and it's mostly people from the neighborhood that hang out here. It didn't feel like there was a lot of tourist traffic here (except us, of course).

Honorable mention: Two other places I visited on this trip that I enjoyed were McGivney's Pub (near the airport) and The Rookery Cafe. McGivney's isn't close to downtown, so you probably won't walk there. As such, it doesn't get a lot of tourist traffic so it is mostly locals. The beer selection isn't anything to get excited about, but it's a great place to watch a game and the food I had was very good -- especially the chicken wings. The Rookery is downtown and has more of a cafe atmosphere. The beer selection is small, but thoughtful and the halibut sandwich I had was delicious. If you have the time on a long, summer's beer hike, I recommend adding it to your route.

Lastly, I haven't said much about the scenery, because I think the pictures tell a better story. In Southeast Alaska, the mountains shoot right up out of the sea. It's huge and right in your face. Not much more I can say about that. Just a beautiful place to beer hike.



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