The Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s brought an estimated hundred thousand men out to the Yukon–most of them passed through Skagway on their way to the gold fields. Breweries sprang up out of necessity. The original Skagway Brewing Company was founded in 1898. It’s latest iteration serves locals and the cruise ship rush alike. There are so many thirsty customers that Skagway Brew Co has outgrown its location. The main street staple will close its doors on December 21st and reopen down the street in February. Reporter Claire Stremple took a tour of the new facility for KHNS.
Rebecca Hilton ducks under the plastic sheet that shrouds the brew room. Huge chrome tanks stretch from floor to ceiling. We’re standing in the construction site of the Skagway Brewing Company’s new building. Hilton is the marketing and tours director: where I see exposed wiring, drywall, and equipment, she sees a bustling restaurant and brewpub. When the Brewing Company reopens in February, it will be the 2nd biggest restaurant in Alaska.
Hilton points out where things will be: “On the main floor we’re going to have the bar area here. Here’s the gift store and all the brewing in the back.”
The doors open in 2019 and tours will begin in 2020. The brewing process is only part of what guests will see. Skagway brewing may trace its roots back to the 1890s, but this building uses new technology for efficiency and sustainability. The kitchen’s spent vegetable oil will power the boiler that heats the building and fuels the brewing, a year round staff gardener will produce leafy greens and herbs for the kitchen on-site in an aeroponic garden, and pipes will capture carbon dioxide released in the brewing process and use it to boost the harvest–plants thrive on CO2. But back to the beer.
“I started in 2007 and I finally get a brand new brewery,” said head brewer Trevor Clifford.
Clifford will be able to brew over twice the beer in the same amount of time once his new equipment is up and running. The brewery usually offers four beers on tap–now they’ll have ten. They’ll have 400% more brewing capacity and the option to get even bigger. AMOUNT? When crowds pour off of cruise ships and inundate the brewing company the Brew Co will need those extra gallons. In previous summers they’ve had to augment their own brews with other beers. No longer.
“It’s a lot of beer! I might be able to have Saturdays off this year!” Clifford laughs. He will be able to produce twice the beer, but the number of seats in the house is increasing significantly.
Skagway in the summertime is very busy and we are a very busy restaurant,” said brewery President Mike Healy. “Monday through Friday we have a line out the door for six hours to the point where locals don’t eat lunch at our establishment anymore which is a really big shame because we appreciate our locals.”
The new location is over three times larger than the current one. They’re doubling the seating. Healy’s not just expanding the capacity of one eatery. By next year he’ll have three. The current brewery building will become a Mexican restaurant and he recently acquired another space by the docks. The former Stowaway restaurant will become a barbeque joint he’s calling the Smokehouse.
“We’ve got a lot going on . We’re essentially opening up three restaurants next year… It’ll be interesting,” he says with a smile.
All three locations will serve Skagway Brewing Company beer. There are more tourists than miners these days, but Healy and the brewery crew are the latest bearers of the hundred year legacy.