“Do you know a Michelle or Don?”
Our waitress’s eyes lit up for a second and then her right eyebrow slanted downward, processing.
“I know a Michelle, but she’s not working today. I don’t know a Don.”
I pouted my lips in fake disappointment, pretending to be disheartened by not being able to see people I had never met before. “Well tell them Kristina says hi!”
Our waitress sort of nodded, eyebrow still furrowed. She probably wasn’t going to pass along a message from strangers that another stranger said hello. Understandable.
“Do you guys know what you want to order?”
Megan and I went slack-jawed, indicating our uncertainty. Our waitress, whose name I forget so I will call her Marissa, offered us a smile and retreated to give us a few minutes to think.
We were at 49th State Brewing Co., with a table by the window overlooking the marina we had seen while visiting Captain Cook’s deck. It had cleared up a little and you could see the mountains, faded slightly, in the distance. I turned my attention to the beer selection.
They had about fifteen beers on tap to choose from, and all of them sounded interesting. A majority of beers on tap were IPAs, and I was having trouble narrowing down my choices to the five allotted in the flight. One specifically caught my eye and I stifled a smirk, opening my mouth to comment just as Marissa returned.
“Just the Tip?” I asked, partially to Megan, partially to Marissa, partially to myself.
“Oh that’s one of our most popular beers,” Marissa answered. “You can probably see why.”
Well that was definitely spot one on the flight. Now for the remaining four.
“How’s the Denali Centennial?”
“That one’s limited edition,” Marissa nodded. “As you can see, they brewed it for Denali’s Centennial this year.”
National Parks and beer? Count me in. I opted for three other IPAs: Guiding Light IPA, Rudy Session IPA, and Solstice IPA. Megan chose a list of predominantly lighter beers and ciders. Marissa nodded and returned with our flights, arranged on an arched wooden tray. We dug in.
Surprisingly, Just the Tip ended up being my favorite. I guess the popularity factor wasn’t just all in the name. It was creamy and slightly sweet, blended with honey and holding a faint fruity zing.
Just the Tip
5% Alc./Vol 12 IBUs
This light bodied cream ale has a distinctive raspberry aroma from hand-harvested Sitka Spruce tips. Great for novice drinkers and beer nerds alike! Just try it… just to see how it tastes.
Ingredients: Pilsner and Honey Malts, Flaked Corn, Brewers Gold Hops, Sitka Spruce Tips
The official description indicated both the honey notes, and the raspberry, which was probably producing it’s slightly fruity taste. I put it aside to save it for last.
Next, I moved onto the Denali IPA, which was also phenomenal. It had a variety of flavors in it that stayed strong from sip to swallow, rather than fading after the initial taste. As I’ve stated before, I don’t know very much about beer, but it was delicious.
Denali Centennial IPA
8.2% Alc./Vol. 79 IBUs
Brewed for the centennial of Denali National Park, Denali, a new strain of bittering hops gives this IPA an assertive tropical fruit and piney character, balanced by a strong malt backbone from Vienna and Munich malts, Denali hops, Centennial hops, Citra hops, Simcoe hops, Warrior hops, and Columbus hops.
The array of hops must have been contributing to the popping flavors. I moved that one to the side as well.
Next I tried the Guiding Light IPA. I’ve had a beer with galaxy hops before and that flavor seemed to rise to the forefront of the taste, but I could be wrong. It was pretty good, but not quite as tasty to me as the first two. I also noticed this beer seemed to be more strongly carbonated than the two before it as well.
Guiding Light IPA
8.6% Alc./Vol. 78 IBUs
This brew is deeply symbolic here at the 49th. Our brewer, Vince, brewed this IPA with Galaxy and Polaris hops. Polaris hops that he had been eyeing in our hop storage as it shares its name with his beloved childhood Husky. The North Star, as Polaris is commonly called, is featured on our great state’s flag. North to the Future! And onward to a fruity, herbal, even slightly minty and creamy IPA.
Ingredients: Bohemian Pilsner, Wheat, Oats malt, Polaris, Galaxy, Centennial, and Simcoe hops.
Pretty sweet backstory, though.
Next, I moved over to the lightest beer from my selection, the Ruby Session IPA. It was good. It definitely had the tropical taste to it that makes sessions so refreshing. And the nice thing about the flavor in this one, like the Denali, is that it didn’t fade throughout the tasting.
Rudy Session IPA
4.4% Alc./Vol. 40 IBUs
Our session IPA may be small (in ABV) but don’t underestimate it, it packs a freight train of tropical flavor. Vienna, crystal malts and a high mash temp provide a backbone for the loads of cryo hops providing juicy, citrusy flavors and aromas.
Ingredients: Crisp Marris Otter, Carafoam, Vienna and Crystal malts, Centennial, Nelson Sauvin, Mosaic and Citra cyro hops.
Some of these ingredients definitely sounded made up, but I was just going to go with it. I went ahead and drained the session before moving onto my final beer.
The Solstice IPA was mainly mild. I couldn’t really grab onto one distinctive flavor or feel, but it wasn’t offensive either.
7% Alc./Vol 72 IBUs
Big, juicy, citrus and pine flavors highlight this well-balanced India Pale Ale featuring Columbus and Citra Hops.
Ingredients: Bohemian Pilsner and Crystal Malts, Columbus, Citra, and Cascade Hops.
I went ahead and finished that one as well, before returning to the Guiding Light to drain, then took my time on the remainder of the Denali and Just the Tip.
“Can I get you anything else?” Marissa came back by and asked.
“Just the check, I think.” We had a plane to catch and our last leg of the trip left before our final destination in Cordova. Plus we were still pretty stuffed from Snow City Cafe.
Marissa pointed at my tasting notes that I had written on the sheet of paper they had used to label the order of my flight. “Oh you do that too?” She asked, grinning. “I always take tasting notes when I order beers.”
I grinned back, but slightly obscured my paper, nervous she would read my amateur analysis. Then I realized I would be posting my amateur analysis online later and realized I was an idiot. I eased and moved my hand.
We paid our tab, I bought a small tasting glass, and we each got a free sticker for following their Instagrams, then headed to our rental car and back to the airport.
Just the Tip is their most popular beer for a reason, and if you can get there before the end of 2017, Denali is a must have. Overall, cool atmosphere for a brewery and a wide variety of beers on tap. Would go back.