I probably don’t have to tell you a whole lot about Alaska’s LGBTQ community and Pride Month. It’s a big deal up here. I’m a beer guy, and tying the entirely of Pride and beer together is really out of my league unless I can point to specific examples where one element supports the other. This year during Pride Month, that’s easy to do.
What I learned is that supporting the LGBTQ community – whether one fits in it or not – is really about supporting inclusivity, or at least a live-and-let-live stance towards all people from all walks of life including you, me — and yes — beer drinkers. It doesn’t matter what discernable “group” you fit into.
“Supporting the movement has really grown in the last couple of years,” says Midnight Sun Beer Ambassador Darcy Kniefel. Midnight Sun Brewing Company is a big supporter of Pride and Pride month.
“Midnight Sun’s been a Rainbow Run supporter for the last four or five years. We’ve helped raise funds for Identity Anchorage as part of this,” says Kniefel. Midnight Sun’s been donating different beers to the Run ever since.
When you and I want to support something, we generally do so with our dollars or our time. Breweries most often do it with beer. Even if proceeds of beer donated or sold don’t directly contribute to a cause in a dollars-and-cents way, adding beer to any event adds attraction and when breweries like Midnight Sun kick in their suds, the nature of their high-end craft beer makes a statement, too. At least this is the way I feel in my beer drinking “community,” so I feel safe being liberal with my opinion on this.
Things changed last year when the brew gurus at Midnight Sun finished tweaking their small batch canning line. They started out with some one-offs, and when the system was ready for it, Midnight Sun could start to brew with targeted initiatives.
“Now with the system fully up and running, we asked, what kind of beer can we do and where do we want it to go,” says Kniefel. “I thought, how cool would it be for the LGBT community if we made them their own beer?”
Last year, Midnight Sun brewed and canned Proud Mary, an American IPA to help commemorate the Rainbow Run and the movement as a whole. Midnight Sun wasn’t alone in its support. Broken Tooth Brewing Company brewed Fabrewlous, an American Hefeweizen that was featured along with their film festival during Pride Month.
In all, last year, seven of our local breweries made beers in support of the national and international movement.
“Resolution Brewing Company called me early this year. Cole over there said they wanted to do a Pride beer but knew that we were doing one,” explains Kniefel. “I’m like, hey, it’s all about inclusivity, right? Every brewery should brew a Pride beer.”
Although Kniefel isn’t an official organizer for the production of Pride beers across our community, she did reach out to the Brewers Guild of Alaska (BGA) and threw it out there that individual breweries should support the movement and brew something for it. “I helped coordinate it, yes,” she says. “Any brewery that wants to make a beer for Pride should; the good part is now we can spread out the donations. It all goes to a good cause for the community.”
“We started with seven breweries last year and this year, 10 Alaska breweries are cranking something out, and so is Zip Kombucha,” says Kniefel of the increasing support.
“This year, we are brewing Stonewall Riot,” says Kniefel. “We thought we had to pay a little homage to the famous 1969 uprising in New York.”
Stonewall Riot is a tangerine wheat ale, a light, delicately spiced citrusy brew that’s designed to be quenching and quaffable; a perfect beer for the Rainbow Run and other events associated with Pride Month. This light beer weighs in at 6.5 percent alcohol by volume that pushes it a little beyond the sessionable range, but the mild 17 international bittering units makes this one easy on the palate and plenty drinkable despite the punch.
Midnight Sun made only one 15-barrel batch, so it’s going to move fast and Kniefel expects it to sell out quickly. “We’ll be releasing the cans at the brewery and it will be on draft at the release party at Humpy’s on the 20th,” Kniefel says. “After that, it will be out in the market and I’m sure you can find it at the Rainbow Run, Pride on the Park Strip and Drag Queen Bingo, to name a few places and events.”
Most of our locally produced Pride beers will be featured at Humpy’s during the kickoff. If you happen to be elsewhere in the state, look for what other local breweries are doing. “Seward Brewing Company is doing a pink peppercorn beer, but due to their licensing, we can’t get it up here,” says Kniefel.
Seward’s brewing Pride, an imperial gold saison is infused with peppercorns and even some gold glitter, so it will sparkle in the glass as well as across your palate. The beer will be released in Seward at the brewery on June 14. The brewery is donating a dollar from the proceeds of each glass sold to the Seward Pride Alliance.
If you’re up north, on June 20 – simultaneous with the Humpy’s gig — a big kickoff is happening in Fairbanks. “This is Black Spruce’s first year in this; they’re a new brewery up there,” says Kinefel.
Black Spruce is making Queer Eye-PA, a New England style IPA (think low hop bitterness and hazy). The beer will release at the brewery, but will also be on tap at Friar Tuck’s
The launch of events up there will take Place at Friar Tuck’s Hoagie House. Expect most of the Pride beers we’re getting down here to be on tap up there on the 20th. “It’s really a lot of fun. Everyone’s weighing in with beer from all over the place,” says Kniefel.
Last year, our participating breweries got a little crazy with beer naming conventions. Kenai River Brewing did La Cockaracha, a lemon beer with Lime. Bleeding Heart Brewery in Palmer brewed Power Bottom, a fruit lambic.
“This year is a little more toned down,” explains Kniefel. It’s not quite as crazy as last year, but there’s still so much creativity going into this, who really cares?”
Like our local breweries, it’s time to get your Pride on. Get out there and explore the community, support it and see what beer with pride is all about.