Greek philosopher Plato reportedly said, “He was a wise man who invented beer.” And in South Anchorage are a whole bunch of wise men and women who – lucky us – are inventing new beer all the time.
Just off of Abbot Road, the industrially cool Midnight Sun Brewing Company offers a rotating roster of amazing brews and killer food amid airy and artsy urban decor. A couple miles west sits King Street Brewing Company, a no-frills tasting room boasting beautiful beer for the discerning drinker.
Fans of craft beer have loyally supported Midnight Sun since it launched in 1995. But things went meteoric when the brewery docked at its current location at 8111 Dimond Hook Drive, opening up “The Loft,” its restaurant and deck. On a recent Sunday afternoon, the warm room – with its metal and honey wood décor, and vibrant art – hummed with activity. Young couples sipped red beer and sampler trays, while chatty families passed around foamy pints and heaping plates.
The menu is packed with upscale but comforting options, shareable plates and locally sourced ingredients. It’s food that will support and soak up your beer – crusty sandwiches, bready bruschetta, substantial salads, platters of salty cheeses. Pricing is extremely reasonable.
We started with a mini order of green chili hash. The creamy yolk of the over-medium egg broke smoothly over crisped red potatoes and juicy, chewy chunks of pastrami. The green chili sauce atop the dish delivered perfect slow-simmering heat.
Pleasing cuisine kept coming. The velveteen cheddar-ale soup blends Kodiak Brown Ale with white cheddar; the ancho beef dip has rich meat piled high on a French baguette, with hot au jus. A trio of bruschettas – fresh mozzarella, salmon spread, a goat cheese mousse – completed our Sunday feast.
Food will keep you coming back to Midnight Sun, but so will the beer. For variety, beer samplers are the way to go. As with wine tasting, taste buds open and react to suggestions of flavors to come. Reading descriptions along with the initial sips expands your palette to sense intended aromas and tastes.
The Darkness sampler ($8) sports four darker beers whose descriptors include “a spicy chocolate dark ale” and a “salted caramel chocolate porter.” These brews are indulgent, unexpectedly dessert-like, yet rich and heady. I tried the Light it Up sampler, featuring ale, white beer, IPA, and a “Belgian tripel with orange peel and coriander.” The brews were crisp, bright and refreshing, perfect for a lazy brunch.
For patrons who want a deeper peek at Midnight Sun’s operations, the brewery offers tours weekly, Thursday at 6 p.m. The Loft generally offers 16 beers and two sodas on tap and is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Down the road is the scaled-down King Street Brewing Company. Its beers are on tap at Humpy’s and Spenard Roadhouse. The two-story building on King Street was easy to find, fronted by a single white sandwich-board sign advertising the King Street Tap Room, in place now for about three years.
Inside the tap room, there’s complimentary popcorn and patio-furniture style chairs and tables for lounging. Walls are plainly adorned with black-and-white photos of brewing apparatuses. The crowd was nearly entirely dudes in their 20s and 30s in puffy down vests, jeans and North Face jackets, kicking back with pints and tapping away on iPhones.
King Street’s classic sampler is just $9 and includes six classic brews plus one rotating seasonal selection. For the seasonal brew, I opted for the Winter Warmer, a sweet dark concoction that hinted of cherries.
King Street Brewing Company and Midnight Sun Brewing Company share commonalities: Operating under special licenses that differentiate them from a bar, they may serve each patron only 36 ounces of beer. Their spaces are functional and operational, with on-site brewing. Each offer cans, bottles and growlers to go.
The great comedic columnist Dave Barry wrote, “Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”
Beer does go well with pizza. Then again, it also goes well with brunch, mouth-watering French dips, or salty sides of warm popcorn. Lucky for us, Midnight Sun and King Street have our backs.