Just a little sip in the air
By DAVE KIFFER
September 26, 2015
Ketchikan, Alaska - Our old family friend Skookum Gregorchuck calls this time of year, the 'eer time. He means it is the time of hunting deer and making beer.
We'll talk about the hunting deer later, but I was reminded about the making of beer recently when I saw a story about Craft Beers and Brew Pubs and all that sort of thing being a big to-do in Alaska these days. Heckfire, there are even books one can buy if one wants to sip their beery way up one side and down the other of Alaska.
It seems that the Last Frontier is even trying to market itself to "beer tourists" who may want to combine a trip to Alaska with the desire to sample the various brews - home and otherwise - of this great state.
Skookum was a friend of my father's for something like 200 years and he shared a love of beer with the old fisherperson.
They also shared a general unhappiness with the cost of the beer.
They were always trying to find the cheapest way of imbibing in their preferred adult beverage. In fact, I remember one time when Dad was getting all cheesed off about the price of beer.
"Crikey," he said (this post has been edited for family consumption). "I can't believe that even that (urination) water Rainier is over a dollar a six pack. It's driving me to the poor (pour?) house!"
Yes, you can tell that was a while back. I'm not sure I even remember any beer being a dollar a six pack here. At least not any beer that anyone really wanted to drink.
But I digress.
Anyway, Dad and Skookum would usually - this time of year - try to alleviate their financial concerns by putting up a couple thousand gallons of homebrew for the winter larder.
I don't remember a lot of the details (they couldn't either), but it did involve several of those big plastic 50 gallon trash barrels and just about every two quart glass bottle they could find on the island. I was dragooned into searching high and low for those bottles. I got a quarter for each one I could come up with.
And some of the places I found them, well, since the bottles were to be repurposed as containers for human beverage consumables, I had to resort to "don't ask, don't tell."
Not that that would have stopped the consumption. Dad and Skookum both believed that good beer (or any beer, for that matter) contained magical qualities and could cure whatever ailed you. At the very least, it had enough potency to kill off any stray bacteria lounging around on those used glass bottles.
I also remember the siphon tube. Apparently during the fermentation process, the liquid had to be siphoned from the barrels into the bottles.
At that point it had already developed a certain potency as I discovered one Sunday afternoon when my mother and I arrived home from church to find Skookum and Dad taking a siesta on the kitchen floor, which was inundated with about two inches of brew flood. It seems that a portion - clearly a fairly large one - had gone into the bottlers rather than the bottles.
Mom, of course, was not amused. And that led to future bottling taking place in the basement rather than the utility room.
Anywhooo, reading about Alaska becoming a beer destination ("You can really 'hop' to it, in Ketchikan!") reminded me that I should check in with Skookum to get his take on this "new Alaska."
I asked him what he thought about the whole "craft beer" industry.
"Crap beer?" He sputtered. "You mean like Old Milwaukee? Geeze, I've drunk a lot of crap beer, but life's too short, Son. I don't drink no crap beer anymore."
I explained I mean Craft Beer.
"Oh, craft, like crochet or something?" he was still a little unclear on the subject. "My wife once crocheted me a beer cozy. But it made the bottle too slippery."
Had he ever been inside a "Brew Pub?"
"A Pub? Geeze, why would I want to drink that warm English (urination) water?"
Well, what about beer "tasting rooms?" Wouldn't Skookum love to be able to sample of a variety of fine ales?
He thought for a minute.
"In my day, Sonny, we called those places bars."
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Dave Kiffer is a freelance
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