Craft beer drinkers in the Valley have a new option for local flavors.

Neil Gotschall opened Lazy Mountain Brewing Company over the summer. It’s the fourth brewery in the small town of Palmer. Arkose Brewery opened in 2011, followed by Bleeding Heart Brewery in 2016 and Matanuska Brewing Company in 2017.

Gotschall is an Army veteran and bush pilot who’s always has a passion for home brew.

“I retired and played a little golf, did a little boating. If I didn’t work, I was just going to melt away so, man, let’s start a brewery. So here we are,” Gotschall said.

He’s got five flavors going in his fermenters right now. The big steel vessels take up every inch of his less-than-700-square-foot building near his home on Lazy Mountain.

Each of his recipes has been honed over decades of trial and error.

“Gee, I’ve been brewing a long time, you know, and made a lot of bad beer,” he laughed. “But when you’re young and out of money, even that tastes good.”

Gotschall's building is too small for a tasting room so right now Lazy Mountain beers can be found on taps in restaurants like Pizza Ria Delphi in Palmer. Owner John Christensen said he makes it a priority to support his neighbors.

“The little, small breweries they have a local feel and it brings the community together because these are people who are born and raised here who are contributing to our economy and drawing their friends in to eat,” Christensen said.

Customers Linda Johnson and her husband Dave Grove are self-described “beer snobs” who were drinking the Lazy Mountain Ale with their lunch on Tuesday afternoon.

“Malty, smooth, flavorful,” Grove said, describing the taste.

“It kind of reminds me of an IPA without the bitterness. Yeah, it’s really good,” Johnson added.

Lazy Mountain is the latest to tap Alaska’s growing craft beer scene.

Statistics from the Department of Labor show breweries had a $12.5 million payroll in 2017 and employed 340 people.

“Every small business contributes to our economy whether it’s through doing a holiday bazaar or having a booth at the Friday Fling or Colony Christmas,” said Julie Nolen, the assistant state director of the Alaska Small Business Development Center. “All of those small mom and pop [shops], they all make a difference.”

For Gotschall, being a part of the beer industry is a lifelong dream come true.

“It’s so much fun. You make beer people that like and it takes a lot of effort,” he said.

Lazy Mountain Brewing does mostly wholesale orders but people can swing by the brewery to pick up a growler or five-gallon keg.

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