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What’s brewing in Alaska

By Emily Carlson 10:33 PM January 1, 2014

Alaskan beer lovers can use technology to keep track of what's on tap around them

ANCHORAGE – “We don’t make wine, we’re not on the Mediterranean, we make beer in these kinds of places,” said Alaskan beer lover JJ Tranquilla.

But if you’re not a beer head, and faced with an endless list of beers to choose from, how in the world do you know what to order?

That’s where Tranquilla’s brainchild comes in. He’s worn nearly every hat in the beer-making industry. Tranquilla is a beer expert, but he knows it’s impossible for everyone else to be one, too.

“You overhear a conversation or a waiter will be talking to a customer and describing a beer completely incorrectly,” he said. “This app, it kinda solves the problem.”

That app is called “The Beer Up Here.” It lists all of Alaska’s 22 breweries and all of their beer. You can see the alcohol content, the style, the color, even how much hops.

“We make world-class beer up here,” he said. “Our beer is as good as anywhere else in world and we’ve got the awards to prove it.”

Tranquilla’s app will only get bigger and better. Alaska is in the middle of a beer renaissance, he said. Small, craft breweries are popping up all over the state, breweries that cater to the mature, sophisticated palate, made in small batches for local restaurants.

“There’s a lot of these breweries that are just simply serving their community,” he said. “They’re like the local corner store serving the people who just live there.”

It begins each day at Broken Tooth Brewery in the hops room. Brewers load the barley and spice the beer with a variety of ingredients like orange, juniper berries, and of course, hops.

Head brewer Tyler Jones is constantly scouring for new recipes. Broken Tooth releases a new craft beer about once a week. Before it can be sipped at local restaurants, it’s on Tranquilla’s app for all beer lovers to see.

“There’s competition to put out high-quality, interesting beers. And they’ll tell you when you’ve done something wrong. They are not bashful about letting you know,” Jones said of customers.

While the market for sub-premium beer like Busch is decreasing, the demand for craft beer is drastically increasing, by 13 percent in 2012, according to the Brewer’s Association.

When you consider Alaska is the least-densely populated state, with just a half million people old enough to be legal beer drinkers, there’s only one conclusion: Alaskans not only like beer, they like good beer.

“It’s kind of like indie beer, craft beer is always coming up with different styles, different ways to push the envelope on already established styles,” Tranquilla said.

Now, with the flick of a finger, anyone can be a beer aficionado. You don’t have to be an expert to drink Alaskan beer. The only requirement “up here” is that you never put a cap on your love for beer and always demand your pint is fresh, foamy and overflowing with taste.

You can download the “Beer Up Here” at the app store for your iPhone or iPad. The app will cost you about $5.

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