Fairbanks Beer Lover Bobby Wilken Hopes to Open Hoo Doo Brewing Company this Summer
Wilken spent more than two years as a brewer at Alaskan, before moving up to a quality-control position. He’d set up a tasting panel each morning at the brewery, where the group would analyze beer for its color, flavor and mouth feel. Any inconsistencies would lead to tiny tweaks in the process or blends with other batches of beer.
Seeing the mundane day-to-day workings of a brewery might diminish the magic for some beer enthusiasts, but Wilken said it had the opposite effect for him.
He said the small details — the flavor of a specific malt, the qualities that different hops offer — added depth to his interest.
“I think I just became so fascinated by it and passionate about it,” he said. “You can never make perfect beer.”
With his experience at Alaskan, Wilken said he finally felt ready to venture off on his own. The result is the Hoo Doo Brewing Company, named after the Hoo Doo Mountains, a popular snowmachining spot he used to frequent.
Wilken and his wife, Jessica, were both raised in Fairbanks — Bobby’s parents are businessman and ex-legislator Gary Wilken and former school board member Sue Wilken — and they decided to return to their hometown to begin the new venture.
During the past year, Wilken has transformed a building in the railroad-industrial area that once contained a children’s play room into a future brewery. Stainless steel vats and vessels fill the building, surrounded by pallets stacked with 50-pound bags of malt.
A small batch of Bavarian Hefeweizen brews in the corner of the building, one of many test recipes Wilken has made before the opening. He notes the subtle characteristics a specific yeast delivers to the brew, including hints of banana and clove.
He’s emulating the German style of brewing at Hoo Doo, which uses three vessels instead of the two-vessel English style. Wilken said that difference should set Hoo Doo apart from other breweries, which virtually all have a two-vessel system.
He plans to start with just two or three styles of beer before finding what works. What those will be still remains uncertain, although an India pale ale and a traditional ale will likely be the top candidates.
“I like everything, but I really like German beers,” he said. “It’s just so delicious, especially when it’s fresh over there. They really know what they’re doing.”
Wilken expects Hoo Doo to begin selling beer by August, with hopes to work up to annual production of about 30,000 gallons of beer within a few years.
Just don’t ask him when the first bottle of Hoo Doo beer will be available. He plans to offer kegs and half-gallon growlers, but there aren’t any bottling plans in his near future. He said the expense and logistics aren’t worth the trouble for a small brewery like the one he’s planning.
“If you want to make a brewer cry, give him a bottling line,” Wilken said. “And brewers are pretty happy people.”