I guess if we’re all subject to this local distancing thing – which is 100 percent appropriate – and we can’t mosey into our favorite local watering holes and enjoy a pint or two with our friends, maybe we should go hang out in an alley and get some beer and stand at least six feet apart and enjoy it.
In fact, I think I’ll do just that. Glacier Brewhouse just made the whole concept a whole lot easier, and we’re not talking brown baggin’ with the bums, either.
Recall that Glacier Brewhouse as an “early responder” to the call to do its part to stop the spread of the virus. At 3 p.m., Monday, March 16, Glacier and Orso closed down in response not only to our own response up here, but to what was going on at sister locations in Washington State.
“This actually started in Washington,” says Glacier Brewhouse Head Brewer Drew Weber. “Our owners went on lockdown and up here we wanted to make sure people were just as safe. We closed down and shut the doors.”
Like every other establishment affected by either mandated closures or proactive measures, this was a big hit for Glacier. Between the two restaurants and the brewery, “we had to let 180 people go,” said Weber. Weber’s been reduced to more or less maintaining the brewery until things turn around. “Yeah, I’m in here working to keep the yeast alive,” he says.
Weber had three people working with him in the brewery and he had to let them all go. From the every growing sad story library, “my new assistant brewer Jen just got up here from Colorado. I had to turn her around. So, she went home with the idea that she hopes to drive back up here with things turn around. Hopefully her and her boyfriend will come back up; he was going to work for Moose’s Tooth. Hopefully, they’ll come back up and be ready for the summer, whatever that turns out to be,” says Weber of a very uncertain couple of months ahead.
Weber’s notion that he’s just in the brewery to keep the yeast alive is a bit of an overstatement. Weber’s actually busy managing the beer that’s left from before the March 16 shut down and actually cranking out some exciting new suds. But where will he sell the beer if the brewpub remains closed and outside accounts aren’t ordering his beer for their own venues?
“I’m going to roll up the brewery door in the alley behind the restaurant, between 4th and 5th Avenues, set up a little brewery station there, keep a six foot or more social distance and sell pre-filled kegs and growlers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.,” says Weber of his new Alley Ales program that’s grown in response not only to calls about where to get Glacier beer, but an overwhelming Facebook response from thirsty Glacier loyalists that miss their suds.
“I’ll have the core lineup available for this service and although we’re out of our hugely popular Raspberry Wheat right now, I’m going to pre-package our IPA, Blonde, Amber, Oatmeal Stout, Hefeweizen, Black Rye Bock and Coconut Porter, to name a few beers that I’ll have as part of the program,” says Weber.
Need a bonus? “Get a growler of the core beers for $6 dollars — that’s a steal,” says Weber. On top of that, “I’m giving away a pint glass to everyone that comes and gets beer.”
There are other Glacier beers on the cusp of release that we can look forward to as the program matures and fully rolls out.
“Yes, I’m brewing new beers,” says Weber. “Our Blackberry IPA is finally going into cans. This one was brewed with Matanuska Brewing Company in Palmer. This is a pilot brew that K&L Distributors came up with and suggested to us. We brewed it and it was a huge hit at the Brewhouse. We worked with Matanuska and 500 cases are going out and should be available at Brown Jug and a few other liquor stores.”
Weber also alludes to a pilsner coming out next week, the movement of a barleywine into tanks for dispensing, a steel-aged eisbock and a raspberry tripel that are probably going to be available through special order, but just as easy to get with a quick call ahead to the brewery at (907) 792-3772.
In these lean times, our breweries have to do what they have to do, even if they’re tied to a bigger restaurant operation; a situation that all of our brewpubs face.
“Yeah, it’s a little bit of survival,” admits Weber. “We want to move the beer we already have and I want to brew beers that people want; virus or no, people still enjoy good beer even if they have to social distance to get it and drink it from afar. Much of this is based on demand from beer lovers out there that still want my beer.”
Here are the basic rules. Don’t bring a container. Leave your growlers and five gallon kegs at home; Glacier’s got you covered with meticulously sanitized packaging that’s ready for pickup if you want the core beer. Enter the alley from the west, turning right off of 5th Avenue, then right again into the alley behind Glacier Brewhouse. Respect the social distancing requirement and order prepackaged beer from the core lineup or whatever’s available. You can call ahead for keg fills and for any of the specialty beers Weber might be featuring, probably on a weekly basis. Oh, and the Monday, Wednesday Friday thing? For special needs, Weber hints at making some exceptions, so call with questions on how this new service can work best for you.
I can’t recommend where to pull over and quaff your suds; I don’t get the sense that open container laws or drinking and driving laws have relaxed any, so home remains your best option, although I do relish the idea of “socially distanced, responsible communal local craft beer drinking,” if such a thing can be brokered. Gimme a growler and a pint glass and send me packing? It doesn’t get any more tempting than this.
Drive through beer has been a dream of mine since the days in the late 70’s and early 80’s when I was able to leave ‘Koots at 3 a.m., drive across the street to the former gas-station-turned-liquor-store and drive through one side and pick it up on the other.
Maybe it’s back. Can Glacier commandeer the parking lot behind the brewery, mark the parking spots for social distancing so people and step out of their vehicles and enjoy a pint at a distance? How about a burn barrel for maximum effect?
I’m totally stepping up to this idea. I’m an Alaskan, after all.