Midnight Sun Brewing – 23 Years Strong
By Sue Todd
The second oldest brewery in Alaska and the oldest brewery in Anchorage, Midnight Sun Brewing Company (MSBC) boasts over 40 different brews a year. Some are one-off, some are seasonal, but many are year-round. It is hard to imagine that an Alaskan has not heard of at least some of their offerings – Sockeye Red, Panty Peeler, Pleasure Town, and Kodiak Brown, to name a few – bold beers with pithy names, created for the hearty Alaskan tastes. MSBC has stood the test of time and continues to grow and expand its reach.
I recently had a long chat with Barb Miller about the brewery’s humble beginnings and its latest direction. This 23-year old operation began when co-owners Miller and Mark Staples started a production brewery back in 1995. They shared a small industrial space on Arctic Boulevard with Knight’s Taxidermy.
As MSBC grew, they developed a good reputation for beer. Thus, when they moved to Dimond Hook Drive in May 2009, patrons followed. Seven months later, food service was introduced at the Loft. Miller laughed when she said they couldn’t give the food away at first.
The industrial design of the Loft is certainly in keeping with its location. Hard surfaces, however, create an echo effect that is only multiplied as the number of people in a room multiplies. According to Miller, people began to complain about the warehouse look and sound quality of the Loft. In response, a few years ago, they installed sound panels. These unique, curvy panels look more like art than function, but the echo has been greatly reduced and the noise in the Loft is no longer deafening. In fact, the Loft has become a gathering place where ladies meet for lunch, dads grab a beer and order a meal with the kids after school, and co-workers and friends meet after work.
The Loft is a tasting room, and MSBC adheres to the 36 oz. per person serving limit, the 8 p.m. closing, and the no entertainment rules. Regardless, the Loft is a fun place to be. Different art exhibits are featured each month, providing wonderful exposure for local artists.
The Beer It Forward board, where you can buy a stranger or a friend a beer, has become an attraction. To beer it forward, purchase a beer, put a note on the Beer it Forward board with a description of the recipient, and when the right person finds the post-it, they collect a free beer. For example, you might purchase a beer for a girl with red hair and a heart tattoo, with the stipulation that she must provide proof.
Miller reports that people have sung the National Anthem and even stripped down a bit to get their free beer. The idea, though, is to beer it forward. It’s an interesting concept, and some folks go straight to the board every time they enter the premises to see if there’s a free beer in store.
Though the food service was slow to take off, with time and a commitment to make dishes that go well with beer, the Loft food service has become well known for its delicious menu and weekday hot dish specials. In fact, during the lunch or dinner hour, simply finding a table can be difficult.
MSBC’s food reputation is so good that in April 2018, MSBC collaborated with Williwaw Social to bring MSBC’s highly popular food and beer offerings to Williwaw’s multi-faceted venue. MSBC has set up shop in the Dining Hall, but the food can be ordered throughout Williwaw – the Social Hall, SteamDot Coffee Company, the Birch Bar, the Speakeasy, and in the summer, the Roof. MSBC is enjoying exposure to tourist and theater traffic, so the collaboration seems to be working.
With 23 years experience in the business, Miller is a bit of an icon in the Alaska brewing community. She promotes the interests of small breweries and distilleries by serving on the ABC board. She is one of over 65 stakeholders involved in the rewriting of the very broad, difficult-to-interpret, 40-year old Title IV (SB76) to make the law clear and cohesive.
To sum it up, Miller is busy. I asked, “What’s next?” Miller claims that she and co-owner Staples have backed away from the daily operations of MSBC. In fact, Staples moved Outside some time back. Miller says she is looking for new creative outlets, perhaps writing. Meanwhile, both MSBC locations are thriving, and the future is bright. Stop by Midnight Sun at Williwaw Social or visit the Loft and see for yourself if there’s a beer on the board for you.
Midnight Sun Brewing Company
8111 Dimond Hook Drive
(907) 344-6653 Loft
(907) 344-6650 Gear Shop (downstairs)
Weekdays 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Weekends 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Midnight Sun Brewing at Williwaw Social
609 F Street
Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sat.-Sunday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.