PUBLISHED: 3:27 PM on Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Special bottling run commemorates 20th anniversary of Alaskan Amber
Alaskan Brewing Co-founders and Co-owners Geoff and Marcy Larson and seven of the 10 original volunteers packaged 253 cases of Alaskan Amber to commemorate the first packaging of the flagship brew 20 years ago.

"20th YEAR / 1986-2006" is printed on all the bottle labels in the limited-edition cases, and each case offers a free memento to the lucky person who buys it.

"We can't believe our good fortune that we're still here after 20 years," Geoff Larson said. "We had a five-year plan when we started. We couldn't fathom thinking ahead 20 years, but here we are."

The Larsons said they came up with the idea of a special anniversary packaging of Alaskan Amber as a way to honor Alaskan Brewing's 20-year history, their loyal volunteers and dedicated Brew Crew.

"The giveaway in the special cases is a way to include our fans in our anniversary celebration," Larson said.

The commemorative packaging run ran far smoother than the original one, according to Marcy Larson.

"That first run took 12 people packaging by hand for 12 hours. Between the 1960s soda bottling machine and our inexperience, half the bottles were unusable," she said. "Thanks to newer equipment and a well-trained crew, we now have a capacity of 300 bottles a minute."

The last 10 of the 253 special anniversary cases were packed by hand like they were 20 years ago.

"I'm sure glad we didn't have to pack and stack all of them by hand this time," Win Germain said. "Packing the entire run by hand would feel really different now than it did when I was 20 years younger."

The nine members of the original packaging crew who attended the commemorative bottling run were: Win and Maggie Germain, Dayton Canaday, George Reifenstein, Larry Bussone, Marc Scholten, Vickie McMillan and Geoff and Marcy Larson.

When Alaskan Brewing Co. opened in 1986 it was the only operating brewery in Alaska and only the 67th in the nation.

"When the brewery started up we all wanted it to be a success," McMillan said. "We just never imagined how successful it would become."

Alaskan Brewing Co. is in the Top 10 out of 1,378 craft breweries nationwide, and it is the most award-winning craft brewery in the history of the Great American Beer Festival.

In 1986 Reifenstein was a homebrewer who loved great beer. He said he volunteered in the early days of Alaskan Brewing, because he wanted to help make the first brewery in Alaska since Prohibition successful. Now the General Manager of Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway, Reifenstein said all of the Alaskan beers are sold at the Tramway and are very popular with guests.

"It's wonderful to see how the brewery has grown," he said.

The day's event was capped off with the original volunteer packagers and the current Brew Crew toasting 20 years of Alaskan Amber with none other than a bottle of the celebrated ale. "Cheers to 20 years!"