King Street Welcomes Alaskan Spirits Distillery
By Sue Todd
King Street in Anchorage has become craft row. Pop off the Campbell Creek Trail and you land at the top of the road where Turnagain Brewing has recently opened. Cross over Dimond Blvd. and there is the new location for King Street Brewery. Turn right on 91st St. and round out your tour at Anchorage Brewing Company. It’s also a perfect biking tour.
Soon, another operation will be added to craft row – Alaskan Spirits Distillery. The owners/operators are Hilary and Zack Lockhart. At the corner of 76th and King, a taste of Alaska Proof Vodka will be the beginning of your craft tour. With a 25-person capacity, the tasting room is planning several soft openings in September. If the stars align as expected, Alaskan Spirits Distillery will hold a grand opening in early October.
Hilary shared that she had never dreamed of owning a bar, though Zack did. His grandfather had been in the bar business, but the negatives – late hours, drunks, underage drinking, the bar atmosphere – held no appeal to Hilary.
Yet, here they are opening a distillery. Close enough to the bar experience for Zack and far enough away from it for Hilary, the tasting room meets both their requirements. When asked how and why distilling appeared on their radar, Hilary explained that they were on a fly-in trip to Stillpoint Lodge in Halibut Cove with friends.
At the end of the trip, the only booze left was one bottle of vodka. She poured exactly eight shots and found the vodka to be delicious. No one even needed the pineapple backers she had poured. It was Alaska Distillery’s Fireweed Vodka.
Shortly afterward, she was camping in Talkeetna, and a friend pulled out a bottle of Permafrost, another Alaska Distillery offering. It was also delicious.
With just a little research, she was disappointed to discover the distillery was closing. She reached out to the owner to find out why. A series of problems had cost the previous owner substantial money, and he had gone bankrupt. He and Hilary quickly became friendly, and she began to plan the opening of her own distillery. He gave her his contacts and sold her the name, Alaska Proof, which was the name of a reality TV show in 2016.
Unlike the previous owner, Hilary is not a distiller, nor is Zack. She is a realtor and he is a general contractor. Distilleries are typically operated by distillers, which is great for the quality of the product. However, rarely do distillers have the desire or the capacity for business development. Distillers are akin to artists, and their love of the craft is the driver rather than their business acumen.
The Lockharts, on the other hand, are business minded. Their plan is to use a consultant to guide a brewer while teaching the distilling process. It turns out, the process of making vodka is very similar to making beer. Only the distillation sets it apart.
Alaska Proof Vodka will use only dehydrated potatoes. Gluten free and non-GMO, it will be a premium potato vodka. The flavored vodkas will be Alyeska Blueberry and Denali Fireweed. To maintain consistency in taste, a flavor creator using all natural ingredients will replicate the ideal blueberry and fireweed flavors.
In the future, the Lockharts are planning to produce Whisky Batch 907, using new age Squarrel® barrel technology to age the whisky. These square barrels are customizable, reusable, and a sustainable alternative to the traditional barrel. At the core of their business plan is the dedication to proactively protect the environment, use as many local resources as possible and honor Alaska history.
In the next few weeks, a kick-starter campaign will be set in motion. Those who participate will receive products in return. Alaskan Spirits will also be offering club membership. Members will commit to purchasing 12 bottles a year, one a month, and will receive 10% off merchandise, $1 off their drinks in the tasting room, an annual family membership party and first rights to new releases. Should the municipality allow it, they plan to hold craft nights in the future.
The tasting room is not quite finished, but the plan is a very cozy, warm room with art meaningful to the operation – a window decal depicting the glacier that produces Alaska’s incredible water, fireweed that flavored the vodka they first enjoyed at Stillpoint Lodge, a vintage American Flag with only 49 stars and beautiful hanging tables made from recovered Alaskan birch. Tours of the distillery will be themed around Russian Jack, an early moonshiner in Alaska.
Hilary’s passion and enthusiasm around this project are palpable, and you can follow Alaska Proof on Facebook for updates regarding soft and grand openings, the progress of the distillery as it nears completion and to participate in their kick-starter campaigns as they grow the business. Alaskan Spirits Distillery is positioned to be a wonderful addition to King Street’s craft row.