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New Girdwood brewery could boost year-round business for ski town

By Eric Ruble Photojournalist: Rachel McPherron - 10:28 AM March 19, 2017
GIRDWOOD –

Alaska’s newest craft brewery opened its doors Friday. The Girdwood Brewing Company fills a new building off the Alyeska Highway.

Its taproom is filled with natural light and has an airy feel thanks to high ceilings supported by Sitka spruce beams.

“We’re trying to have a real local vibe to it,” said Josh Hegna, one of the brewery’s co-founders.

Hegna said people in the town have wanted a brewery for some time.

“We’re really stoked on just having the ability to provide craft beer to our community that’s been in need of it for a long time,” Hegna said.

On Saturday, the brewery was offering three beers. However, the founders plan to add several more. Rory Marenco and his twin brother, Brett, are co-founders and brew engineers. Rory Marenco said there will likely always be a Kolsch and stout beer available, along with a number of seasonal varieties.

Rory Marenco said the brewery required an investment of roughly $500,000. Half of that money went into equipment, which was largely sourced from a manufacturer in California.

“We’re really impressed with our first three brews – how they turned out – so I think that’s testament to the quality of the system,” he said.

Plans for the brewery were conceived about three years ago. Hegna said one of the biggest challenges in making the brewery a reality was going through the permitting process.

“We had to have nine different community meetings down here in Girdwood and a whole mess of them in Anchorage, too,”Hegna said, adding that finding a suitable piece of land where they could build their brewery was also difficult.

Rory Marenco said the Girdwood community supported them through the challenging times.

“We got the community behind us and they were super passionate about it and really wanted to see us succeed,” he said. “That helped a lot.”

The Girdwood Brewing Company is part of a slowly changing town that hopes to attract more visitors during the fall and spring shoulder seasons, while also giving locals more options.

“We’re a family friendly atmosphere,” Hegna said. “We’re going to start making some root beer. We’ve got kombucha on tap. So it’s not just about beer, too. It’s about bringing everybody together and meeting.”

The brewery is currently open Thursday through Sunday. However, Hegna said they hope to expand hours to be open seven days a week by the summertime.

KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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