Belgians and Lagers – What’s Not to Like at Cynosure?
By Sue Todd
Step into Cynosure Brewing in south midtown Anchorage, and you will find an immaculately clean, welcoming establishment, ready to serve up craft beer. Brewer Clarke Pelz, along with his wife Cindy Drinkwater, opened the doors to Cynosure in September 2016.
With help from five of their friends, Clarke has finally realized a dream that has been “brewing” for 25 years. He said, “It took a long time to see this as a possibility.”
I asked if his wife Cindy was also passionate about brewing, and his answer was that she was really an innocent bystander. After working as an attorney for the State of Alaska, she is now embracing the challenge of making the brewery successful.
Like many beer aficionados, Clarke has been home brewing for more than 25 years. He is well versed in the various styles of beer. When he looked at the Alaska brewery scene, he found that there were varieties of beer that were underserved. Lagers and Belgians were scarce, so Clarke focused his attention on crafting elegant, drinkable beers in those styles.
Clarke spoke with fondness of many other local breweries that are boldly providing double IPAs, stouts, porters and other popular ales. With a smile, he described the beer atmosphere in Alaska as noisy, by which he meant daring, creative and pushing the envelope. He quickly stated that this development is not bad. By contrast, Cynosure’s brews are classic depictions of their style. He described himself as having an understated attitude about brewing and the tap room.
We sat down to sample his brews. Drinkability and elegance, Clarke’s goals in crafting his beer, were definitely met. The Double was my favorite. It was a smooth, delicious example of Belgian dark ale. Definitely drinkable, but beware of the 7.5% ABV. Do not be deceived by the pale color and mild flavor of the Triple either. A whopping 8.0% ABV will sneak up on you as this, too, was a smooth beer that one could sip without noticing the effects….until one stands.
It was refreshing change to sample some lagers. As summer approaches, Clouds, a dry hopped pale lager, or Wit, a Belgian-style wheat beer, would be wonderful quaffs on a hot day. The Black, surprisingly, was also quite light and refreshing, in spite of its dark color. For those with a taste for malt, the Fest will fill the bill. A little sweeter than the others, it is a good option for those who are hops averse.
To make these seven brews, Clarke uses only two strains of yeast. He plans to always have available at least three styles of beer using each of the two strains.
Cynosure‘s brews are currently available in the tap room for consumption of up to 36 ounces, as dictated by law. Fill a growler or get a keg for takeaway. Future plans are to increase the tap room hours and distribute kegs to establishments in Anchorage and nearby areas. In the meantime, the tap room, with its use of reclaimed cedar paneling from Kenai Landing and tables constructed of reclaimed Douglas Fir, is a pleasant place to sip these fine beers.
Equipment from Railway Brewing Company, which went out of business in the late 90’s, has been put back into use at Cynosure. Clarke told me the pieces were sold and scattered after Railway’s closing, but he has reclaimed as much of the copper-banded equipment as possible and put it into his operation.
Cynosure, a most unusual name, was not their first choice. After encountering trademark issues with other choices, which involved the term “North Star,” they chose the name “Cynosure,” which translates to North Star. “Cyno” means “dog” and “sure” means “tail,” the nickname the North Star was given by those who used it for navigation. Now it makes sense.
Cynosure is located at 144 E. Potter, Anchorage. The tap room is open Wednesday through Saturday from 3-8 p.m. You will find the following “fewd trux” on location: Bear Mace on Wednesday, Wicked Wahine on Thursday, Main Event on Friday, and Yeti Dogs on Saturday. For those who cannot or who choose not to drink alcohol, Kombucha by ZIP, San Pellegrino or Izze are available. Or try the Lemon-Lime Shrub, a soda brewed on site.
I asked Clarke what message he would like to deliver to the public. He said, “Come by with your friends. Enjoy the beer and their company.” See you there!
On tap at Cynosure:
Belgian-style wheat beer
Belgian-style dark ale
Dry hopped pale lager
Spicy, fruity Belgian-style ale
Malty, amber lager
Pale, strong, spicy Belgian-style ale