Taking a taste of Alaska to China

  • From left, Jason Motyka and David McCarthy, owners of 49th State Brewing Co., on the upper deck of their Third Ave. restaurant in downtown Anchorage. The two-time winners of the SBA Small Business Persons of the Year for Alaska were selected to be part of Gov. Walker's current trade trip to China. (Photo/MIchael Dinneen/For the Journal)

When Gov. Bill Walker announced the delegation for Opportunity Alaska: China Trade Mission, it probably wasn’t very surprising to see businesses from the timber, mining, and investment industries included.

A bit more surprising? Our beer company making the list.

We’re Jason Motyka and David McCarthy, co-founders of 49th State Brewing. Since 2005, the ethos of our business has guided its growth: be very good, and be very Alaskan. We jumped at the chance to join the delegation because our business thrives on bringing great beer to good people in unusual places.

It all started at our Denali pub, where visitors could drink fresh brewed beer from the last frontier while listening to live music, eating locally sourced food, and enjoying North America’s tallest peak. It turns out that high-quality beer served with a down-to-earth attitude is just what Alaskans wanted — and also, a great fit in our $2.4 billion visitor industry.

There was enough business for expansion far beyond our initial pub: we now have six locations and more than 600 employees. We partner with international tour and travel companies. We continue to innovate, drawing inspiration from home: our beers rely on tree-tapped birch syrups, fresh spruce tips, summer campfire smokiness, and piney hops, all unique tastes of Alaska.

Our current phase of expansion is built around the idea of sending some of the many visitors to Alaska home with our beer, and making our beer available when they get home. Alaska is stunning, surprising, and overwhelming even for locals, but for people who get to visit just once, the trip is remembered for a lifetime. People want to maintain a connection to their memories made here.

When we started exporting our Alaska brews down south and across the Pacific to Japan, we saw that beer helps maintain that connection. Being able to taste Alaska at home, with memories — or aspirations — of drinking at the foot of Denali helps travelers hold onto the big, fresh, wild feelings that Alaska instills. And they can share those feelings with friends from Kyoto to Shanghai.

That’s why participating in the trade mission is meaningful for us. We want to partner with locals to export Alaska beer to China and open an Alaska tasting room and restaurant abroad, helping grow the Alaska brand and inspire more people to visit the Last Frontier. Our state is becoming more and more popular for our neighbors across the Pacific, and we have something unique to offer: the taste of Alaska.

05/22/2018 - 10:08am