Kodiak, Alaska

At this end of the Earth, there’s still beer!


Chicago Tribune

On a cool evening before the onset of winter last year, beer drinkers met to toast to the latest installation of the Kodiak Island Brewing Co. With Xtratuf boots and windbreakers still on, these craft-brew lovers sampled the likes of Liquid Sunshine, NightWatch Porter and the ever-cheeky Sarah Pale Ale — all beers that can’t be found anywhere else.

Launched in 2003, the newly located and expanded brewery is the first and only in the remote fishing town of Kodiak. The overwhelming community response was what prompted its recent move to a larger locale.

Ben Millstein is the man behind the mission. Having started home-brewing while ski-bumming in Crested Butte, Mont., he moved to Kodiak and has set up shop with a very green approach.

“I never had a thought about the business; it was about the beer and community first,” he said, sipping on his own brew.

Though Millstein orders yeast, hops and other ingredients from the Pacific Northwest — part of doing business in Kodiak, he said — all water comes directly from the island. The brewmaster also specializes in making his brews organic and unfiltered.

For the brewery decor he recycled metal siding from an old cannery, reclaimed wood for the bar and a copper door to serve as a backsplash to the wooden taps.

But what makes this brewery unique? Well, it isn’t cheap. If you’re in the Lower 48, a taste test will cost you about $1,000 — the price of a round-trip ticket to Kodiak. In other words, the brewery doesn’t bottle or ship its beer off the island. This limited distribution allows Millstein to better serve the local community while minimizing his carbon footprint, he said.

“If every local brewery tried to ship their beer,” he explained, “we would have beer stores as big as WalMart. That can be fun, but that’s not what I do.”

The brewer hopes his brewery will become a destination: Visiting Kodiak is part of the deal. “There’s something wonderful about going to a place and knowing that you can’t buy this beer in the next town,” he said. “That’s what makes it special.”

•  Kodiak Island Brewing Co., 907-486-2537, kodiakbrewery.com

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