In his 1988 song “Alaska and Me,” the late John Denver shares how he dreams of living in Alaska. “Here’s to Alaska, here’s to the people / Here’s to the wild and here’s to the free / Here’s to my life in a chosen country / here’s to Alaska and me,” he sings. Throughout the song, Denver describes the aspects of nature that draw him to the state.

Marcy Larson, co-founder of Juneau-based Alaskan Brewing Company, also was drawn to Alaska’s beauty and adventure. With this, she and her husband, Geoff, were inspired to brew beer in the Last Frontier.

Alaskan Brewing was founded out of a passion for beer, the lack of fresh beer in Alaska and an interest in building the state’s economy, Larson explains. Along with her husband, Larson established the brewery in 1986 — making it the 67th independent brewery in the country and the first brewery in Juneau since Prohibition, according to the company’s website says.

Many of Alaskan Brewing’s beers reflect characteristics of those that were brewed there during the Gold Rush era. Larson unearthed records from an old brewing company while researching brewing in the Last Frontier, and her husband homebrewed a batch according to the instructions. The brew turned into what is now Alaskan Amber.

“Our unique Alaskan ingredients allow us to tell a depth of stories about each product,” Larson says.

She shares that the most successful products in the company’s portfolio are Alaskan Amber, Alaskan Smoked Porter, Alaskan White, Alaskan Icy Bay IPA and its rotating seasonal line. The brewing company also offers canned cocktails, seltzers and variety packs — all appropriately named with Final Frontier-inspired names.

“We’re extremely excited about our WILDNESS Alaskan Cold Beer that launched in March,” Larson notes of the brewery’s recently released variety. “We wanted to try something brand new and different.”

Co-founder Marcy Larson says that the company’s latest-released varietal WILDNESS is the perfect companion for the great outdoors. Image courtesy of Alaskan Brewing Co

WILDNESS is a lifestyle-focused beer that joins Alaskan Brewing’s year-round product lineup. The beer is made by working harmoniously with the rugged environment rather than against it, as the brewery harnesses the state’s frigid temperatures for its unique cold fermentation process.

“WILDNESS is for those who want a taste of adventure,” said Maxwell Rule, chief operating officer, in a statement at the time of the release. “This beer is an exciting new release, unlike any other for our brewery, giving seasoned Alaskan Brewing fans and beer lovers across the country a taste of the adventurous lifestyle of the Last Frontier.”

The beer is described as an Alaskan Cold Beer that is invigoratingly crisp and bold with a pioneering spirit.

“WILDNESS embodies a distinct identity that sets it apart from previous Alaskan Brewing releases,” said Mark Lawson, director of craft and specialty brands at Nevada Beverage, in a statement. “Consumers will undoubtedly be drawn to the unapologetic attitude of WILDNESS. It’s not just a beverage; it’s a manifesto of self-expression and authenticity. From its bold flavors to its captivating branding, WILDNESS invites beer drinkers to embrace their true selves and revel in the wildness of life.”

Larson explains that the lifestyle brew embodies the essence of the Alaskan outdoors.

“WILDNESS is a cold-fermented, crushable and crisp ale that harkens back to flavors and aromas found in Alaska,” she notes. “We wanted to create something that complements and inspires exploration and being outside. It’s the perfect companion for hiking, camping and adventuring in the great outdoors.”

The co-founder says that, in terms of marketing programs, the brand continues to invest in efforts for the core brands, limited releases, seasonals and WILDNESS.

“We took a different approach with WILDNESS, which involved a deliberate strategic direction working with partners and promoting a lifestyle that includes Alaskan cold beer,” Larson explains. “As an example, we successfully completed a video and photo production in Juneau, Alaska for WILDNESS and it turned out great.”

She says the campaign for WILDNESS has proven to be very successful.

As for what is next from Alaskan Brewing, Larson shares that there are always plans to expand the portfolio in the future.

“We are answering the consumer desire for more beverage choices by adding distilled products and seltzers,” she adds.

The company launched Alaskan Distilling Co. in 2019, starting with a small-batch process focused on long-standing distilling traditions. The distillery has created products like the Solstice Vodka Lemonade and the Musk Ox Vodka Mule.

“We have always tried to put a little bit of Alaska in the bottle and a little bit of Alaska on the bottle,” said Geoff Larson in a statement on the company’s site. “One thing that we all revel in is the quality of life that this place presents and represents. So for us, we want to make beverages that reflect that sort of feeling and character.”

Our unique Alaskan ingredients allow us to tell a depth of stories about each product.”
— Marcy Larson, co-founder of Alaskan Brewing Co.

Currently, the brewing company’s distribution footprint spans across 25 states, all but four of them west of the Mississippi River. Larson says that transportation costs seem to be stabilizing, and to “stay tuned” for distribution expansion updates.

“Our goal was always to be available nationally, but it has to be penciled out for consumers as well as distribution partners,” she adds.

Larson shares that, while opportunities still exist within the craft beer market, it is no longer the “new thing” for beverage consumption.

“The myriad of beverage choices that have exploded in the market have blurred the lines between beer, cocktails, wines, seltzers, sodas and non-alcoholic spirits and beers,” Larson says. “The store shelves are very crowded and, therefore, somewhat confusing to both consumers and retailers.”

She feels that the other beverages beyond beer are those promoting the exploration of new flavors for consumers to enjoy. Larson again states that opportunities exist in the craft beer market, and Alaskan Brewing has both the distinction and resilience to be a legacy brand in the long-term.

“We will soon be celebrating our 40th anniversary and have seen many changes in the industry,” she says. “We are survivors and innovators. That is what it takes to be an Alaskan. It is our heritage.”