Every year since starting to write this weekly beer column, I pause on my anniversary day and go back and re-read my first column. I always like to get a feel for how my writing's changed since then. This year I'm doing something different. This is my last regular column for this beloved newspaper.
Let me explain. I love the Press. I love the people, and I still deeply love beer, and I always will. No, I didn't get a DUI. I'm not moving away. And for sure, I haven't quit drinking beer. Beer is always a great ride. But, with this being my 25th year of consecutive weekly columns – my 3,000th this week – it's time to pass the mug along to someone better to represent our amazing beer world up here. But don't fear, I'll still contribute when the beer and writing bug hits me.
The Press has been an incredible pulpit for spreading the gospel of good local beer, and it's been an honor to feature, celebrate, and heap the accolades on the craft beer artisans that keep me wonderfully watered with an ever-changing tapestry of local beer that represents Alaskans and their eternal quest for adventure and boldness. This will never change.
Beer's never been boom or bust up here, although I've seen eleven breweries start up and then dissolve – with varying lifespans – in my tenure. Add to that the over fifty licensed, operating breweries in our state, four of which opened during and post-pandemic, during the most challenging time for any kind of start-up.
With the ebb and flow of breweries up here, we are far from high tide. I know of at least two breweries that are in development, and there are probably some I don't know about yet. Of the over 50 breweries up here, I've only been to thirty-three of them. So, there is still plenty for an intrepid new writer to explore.
Beer's presence is telling. Beer up here has incredible staying power. The industry's changed, the support systems around it have changed, laws, regulations, and taxes have changed. Brewers and breweries have come and gone. But what hasn't changed is the consistent flow of some of the world's best and most critically acclaimed suds. Alaskans should be proud to be a part of that. We should be bragging about it because it will never stop. It truly is something to write home about!
Part of my reason for stepping away from featuring Alaska's great beer is simply because I can't keep up with it. To internalize something to the point of accuracy and credibility and properly represent it, I must be immersed in it. That's a considerable calling when over half of our breweries are geographically dispersed across this exceptionally expansive state.
You beer-lovin' Press readers deserve more!
I can't point to any noteworthy accomplishments that make any real difference to anyone else. Still, beer's taken me to some far-flung reaches of this state that I would never have visited if not to chase local beer. And I've had some amazing adventures – like the time I got to swim in 500 gallons of beer! I also went to the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills because of beer. Look in the display cabinet at the 6th Avenue entrance to Humpy's, and you'll see a framed dollar bill. That's mine; the first one spent there when the iconic alehouse opened almost three decades ago.
Beer's a great ride, and I'm not dismounting yet.
I learned in school that any good piece of writing – in a format like the Press has to have a writing objective. This answers the question: "what do you want the reader to come away with?" This keeps my writing focused. With very little deviation, my writing objective has been "make people thirsty for good beer." And most writing needs a purpose: to inform, persuade, or entertain, often in combination.
At least with the writing objective part, I've very rarely deviated. That's why, within the 3,000 columns, you won't find me having featured beer politics, the fettering and restricting beer laws and taxes, or pointing out shitty local beer, or some of the infighting and gossip that plagues brewing industries everywhere. That stuff leaves a bad taste, not a good one.
But this isn't about me. It's really about an incredible beer culture up here, the breweries that support it, and beer lovers like you that chase the goods and keep the demand supportive. My job was easy; all of you and our brewing friends kept me in a very target-rich environment for subject matter.
At the same time, I was proud to feature Alaska beer in a national publication, Celebrator Beer News, on a bi-monthly basis, had a radio show called Dr. Fermento's Growler Hour, and did weekly beer snippets on KBEAR for a while. I love good, local beer, and I'll continue to use every available media format to tell people about it. The format will probably just be more word of mouth going forward. Everyone needs to know about our good beer up here, so drink it and spread the word.
I tip my wig to the people that make beer, the places that proudly feature it and push it across the counter, and the Press for believing in it enough to publish my incantations about the science, alchemy, magic, and positive social effect of beer. And, of course, I salute you, the beer aficionados that drink it and keep this industry undeniably lively. I love you all.
Do I have a replacement? Nah. That's up to the Press. But that being said, if you're a writer and a beer lover, chase down the opportunity. I'm sure the paper would love to hear from you.
I'll be around. You'll find me wherever good beer is a feature, be it a bar, restaurant, brewery, liquor store, and for sure at beer events. So when we cross paths, let's hoist one together and celebrate everything good about the Elixir of the Gods.