Story last updated at 7/2/2014 - 2:56 pm
I'm a beer writer, but I'm kind of a foodie too. Anyone who's been on my Facebook page realizes that most of what I post besides scenery pictures from around the state that I love so much is pictures of beer, food and at the best of times beer and food.
I don't know if I could ever write a food column. I took a stab at it once when I did a review of the Asian fusion Silk Restaurant on Benson Boulevard in Anchorage. I tinkered with it quite a bit and actually liked the way it turned out. On a whim, I sent it off to the Anchorage Press just for fun, but I think it fell on blind eyes because I didn't get a word of feedback on it. I wasn't at all disappointed.
I have an epicurean friend in Juneau that dissects every menu that I send her. I have great fun sending her menus for upcoming beer and food events where venues create special dishes that aren't on the menu to pair the beer with. She goes over these pieces with a fine tuned fork and returns with all manner of kudos and criticism citing the beauty in synergy that some of the dishes suggest and a whole bunch of disdain for those she finds clunky or out of sorts for one reason or another.
She's an aspiring, but fledgling craft beer lover and never takes into account the beer half of the equation. When I attend the gigs I'm typically delighted with the gastrointestinal result, even though I can't pronounce half of the ingredients and sometimes even the names of the dishes. So, we feed off each other admirably and poke at each other's shortcomings.
I haven't been to very many eateries in Southeast Alaska, but there are a lot of venues around Anchorage that I find classic, even though they don't serve beer. I'm sure it's the same down there. I shy away from the big chain joints and instead focus on Alaska's unique restaurants, big and small. So, then, how come Lucky Wishbone on 5th Avenue doesn't serve beer with their legendary chicken, burgers and home-spun food that have been served since November of 1955? What about Tommy's Burger Stop in Spenard? The classic place has been there forever and I eat there often. How come I can't get a beer with one of Alaska's best burgers? Same goes for Arctic Roadrunner.
You get my drift.
I was stoked a week or so ago when I got the news that The White Spot Café in downtown Anchorage was getting a tap line. The White Spot is one of my favorite eateries in all of Alaska and I'm in there at least once a month alternating between a cheeseburger and the world famous Halibut Sandwich. Oddly enough, I'd been in Alaska fully 30 years or so before I wandered in, but I was instantly smitten.
It's not just the food. The atmosphere brings me back years to sitting in little joints like this with my father in Northern California. The place is not particularly well appointed. Both military and Alaska memorabilia splatter the walls along with pictures of folks that have been part of the establishment since it opened in 1959. But it's cozy and feels familiar. Simply, it's one of the remnants of the rough and tumble days of Anchorage's once seedy downtown 4th Avenue corridor and I feel right at home inside.
The addition of draft beer at the White Spot is at least partially tied to a recent restaurant expansion into some unused space in the building next door. I'd heard about this well before I heard about the tap line and mentally pictured a huge place. In reality, the venue remains small, only having picked up a couple of more feet of width. Still, it was obviously enough to stuff in a brand new, shiny four tower draft system that features all locally produced craft beer.
Darcy Kniefel, of Midnight Sun Brewing Company, was partially instrumental in bringing good beer to one of my favorite restaurants. "Larry Asher of Specialty Imports and I were doing sales calls. We'd heard that the White Spot was getting a beer and wine license so we followed up," she said.
"They are amazing to work with," said Kniefel of her part in getting beer on board.
Ultimately, Kniefel was just as excited with the news as I was.
"It was a huge special treat for me to go there with my dad when I was a kid," she said. "When I got the news that beer was a go there, I was like 'Oh wow, this is totally awesome.'"
Right now, according to the White Spot Cafe menu on Facebook, featured beers include Midnight Sun Brewing Company's Fallen Angel Belgian Style Golden Strong Ale, the brewery's Snowshoe White Belgian Style Wit Beer, Pleasure Town IPA and Alaskan Brewing Company's Amber. Of course, the selections will rotate and I hope the cafe continues to feature all local beer. Oh, and I'm here to tell you that the classic Halibut Sandwich pairs flawlessly with the Fallen Angel.
I wondered if there were other beer plans in the works for the White Spot.
"I did talk to them about the annual AK Beer Week," Kneifel said. "I mentioned a burger and beer event and they were warm to the idea. I can't imagine how totally cool that would be."
The fact that the iconic White Spot Cafe now has a limited selection of beer on tap is testimony for the rising popularity of local craft beer with less and less likely establishments. Who knows, maybe I'll be enjoying a pint of Midnight Sun, King Street, Broken Tooth beer, or something from any of Alaska's 23 craft brewing establishments at Arctic Roadrunner, Tommy's or Lucky Wishbone soon. I'm already dreaming of awesome beer and food pairings at these establishments if only my sudsy, gastronomic dreams would come true.