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It was three years ago this weekend when I drove out to Palmer to check out a new brewery. I was excited about it but had some misgivings. I was worried about a new brewery in a somewhat beer-forlorn place having any longevity, especially after talking to the owners who, at that time, didn't seem ready for what they were doing.
Doctor Fermento: Arkose Brewery celebrates 3rd anniversary 100814 AE 1 For the CCW It was three years ago this weekend when I drove out to Palmer to check out a new brewery. I was excited about it but had some misgivings. I was worried about a new brewery in a somewhat beer-forlorn place having any longevity, especially after talking to the owners who, at that time, didn't seem ready for what they were doing.
Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Story last updated at 10/8/2014 - 8:38 pm

Doctor Fermento: Arkose Brewery celebrates 3rd anniversary

It was three years ago this weekend when I drove out to Palmer to check out a new brewery. I was excited about it but had some misgivings. I was worried about a new brewery in a somewhat beer-forlorn place having any longevity, especially after talking to the owners who, at that time, didn't seem ready for what they were doing.

Stephen and June Gerteisen of the new Arkose Brewery were well-studied in the craft. Stephen started out as a bio-analytical chemist, having studied biology in college. That background alone is a pretty good fit for a brewer, but his time in Berlin exposed him to some of the best beer on the planet.

After being back and forth in Alaska a couple of times, Stephen and June settled down, and the homebrew bug bit Stephen. "Honey, can I get a homebrew kit? I want to brew beer. I want to know where this comes from," he told June.

He started tinkering with the alchemy and science of brewing. Inspired, Stephen got a job at Glacier Brewhouse, refining his knowledge of beer. He eventually applied for and was accepted into the Master Brewer's Program at U.C. Davis in California. After school, he came back to Alaska and went back to work for Glacier as an assistant brewer.

"In June of '08, I decided that I wanted my own brewery," Stephen said. "June and I sat down and came up with our business proposal, or the 'brewposal,' as we liked to call it. We flashed it at every bank in town. We got turned down, we reworked it and eventually we found a lender."

Why the Valley? I wondered. "We were trying to take care of a geographical gap out there. Through our research we discovered that the Mat-Su was the largest growing region in the state. 'Wow,' we thought: Palmer does not have a brewery. We started shopping around for locations. We visited dozens and dozens of places and drove around on the weekend. We poked around in the industrial covenants in Palmer," Stephen said.

When Stephen and June stumbled upon their current location, they decided it was perfect. "It says it's zoned for brewing. Many places were perfect for brewing, but it wasn't allowed there, or the wording was gone, but this area was ideal; zoned for brewing. The warehouse was perfect for brewing," Stephen said.

A lease was signed, and the Gerteizens moved in.

Arkose is tucked into an industrial area behind the Alaska State Fairgrounds (650 E. Steel Loop: 907-746-BEER) and was Palmer's first brewery ever. Even three years ago, a brewery in Palmer was long overdue and added yet another establishment to the long corridor between Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Back in 2011, Arkose was at least three years in the making, but it seemed a lot longer for the couple who were inspired by the mountain range and mountain that the brewery faces and is named after. Rather than look at their setbacks as daunting, Steven and June relished the challenge of putting it all together. "It's not about solving a problem," mused Steven. "It's about getting to the next one."

The couple learned to derive satisfaction out of finding and fixing problems and moving on to many more.

I was wrong. It's all about heart and passion, and that's what Arkose has been over the years. My fears that they didn't have the infrastructure - or even kegs - to service growing accounts were unfounded.

Focused on a solid base, Stephen and June prevailed and grew accounts in the sleepy town of Palmer, the Mat-Su and in Anchorage. Stellar, clean and mostly organic beer flows from the brewery, which quickly became part of the community that's the brewery's home.

Partnering with community entities and bringing the love of both beer and the local area to the brewery has made Arkose a fixture not only in Palmer but across Alaska. Arkose hooked up with another local entity, JB Chocolatier, to offer periodic beer and chocolate pairings called "Beer Meets Chocolate."

They've done the same with local artists in a series called "Beer Meets Canvas."

Another opportunity to enhance the local community came last year. "We were contacted by Patrick J. Durand, president of the Engine 557 Restoration Company, who asked us if we wanted to brew a beer to help them raise awareness of the restoration efforts of this WWII-era steam engine," June said. "Of course, we said yes. Patrick was one of the folks who helped us in the beginning when we were researching the train at the Palmer Depot that inspired our name 'Boxcar Porter.' Stephen loves trains, so it was a perfect fit."

Stephen brewed a blonde ale, sold it, and the proceeds went toward the restoration project.

If you're up this way over the weekend, head out to Palmer this Saturday to celebrate three years of success at Arkose and help launch the crew into more successful years ahead. Enjoy the release of the anniversary beer, Blue Skies Pale Ale, which is the beer Arkose first poured in 2011 and obviously was the first Arkose beer I ever had.

The anniversary version is described as "crisp and clear, savor our ale with optimism and delight. Inspired by the jazz standard 'Blue Skies' that June was often caught singing in the morning shortly before opening day.'"

I'm here to tell you that Blue Skies (the beer) is crisp and refreshing, as is June's voice (probably), since I've never been lucky enough to hear it.

Look for Arkose beer on tap at your favorite watering hole, and if you don't see it, ask for it. Hoist a pint to the success of a powerful brewing entity in our state and a great contributor to a local community.