Finding a Mix of Serious, Fun & Creative Culture for Decades

Midnight Sun Brewing Company in Anchorage, Alaska is past the legal drinking age now (almost 23 in fact) and continues to find new ways to promote ideas and have a creative culture with integrity.

The brewery began in 1995, making it the second oldest brewery in the state. Its first beer was “Wolf Spirit” Sparkling Ale, a beer inspired by president and founder Mark Staples’ time in Australia. “Kodiak” Brown Ale was up next and now the brewery offers 40 brands during the year.

Midnight Sun says it is well known for barrel-aged Stouts and Barleywines, but IPA “Sockeye Red” is a big seller as well. The brewery touts the very soft glacial-fed waters of the Chugach Mountains as the canvas on which it creates its art.

Barb Miller, the brewery’s Vice President of Sales, Marketing, Business and Brand Development, talked with Brewer about how its culture has developed over the years.

Brewer: What do you pride your brewery’s culture on?

Miller: When we opened in 1995, we used the tagline “Wild Alaska Ales and Lagers” and produced traditional — mostly European — ale and lager styles. We were new to brewing and our audience was local home brewers, many of whom are still in Alaska and have supported us all along the way. Our purpose was always to produce distinctive beers that were/are consistent in quality and character but we began experimenting with hybrid styles and including fruit, spices, herbs, coffee in the late 90’s. We also began oak barrel-aging some beers. While we keep our year-round and recurring beer recipes solid, we allow our brewers to play and learn when an available 15-barrel tank shows up on the schedule. Brewers are also encouraged to observe, research and present ideas and concerns about processes and equipment. We have had much success with listening to our employees and implementing those ideas that  preserve/improve the quality of our beers.

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Brewer: Has your culture developed over time or did you set it from the start and stuck with it?

Miller: We have always focused on the quality and consistency of our beers but we now make 40-plus different beer styles in any given year. With about 20  mainstays, we somehow fit in time and space to brew up many more eclectic beers. In the last six months, two of our brewers and one of our brewery tour guides got married and they each brewed beers with their wives-to-be to serve at their celebrations: Ball and Chain, It’s a Trap and True Love. All very popular beers. All with lovely love stories. This makes us more than a place to work; it makes us family. While our culture began in the brewery, it overflowed into the restaurant, which opened in 2010. Our food philosophy is that we create fresh fabulous fare to pair with our amazing beer. We incorporate beer into some of our menu items but — just as we do with 16 taps, most of which are rotating — we present deliciously flavorful foods that pair well with our beers. Inspiration for food specials comes from the tried-and-true to fusion dishes: street fare, world cuisine, comfort food all make the menu board. And, of course, we rock on Taco Tuesday. To sum it up, we are serious about what we do and we are playful about how we do it.

Brewer: How do you convey that message to a) employees, b) consumers and c) retailers

Miller: We have created a vibe, which is immediately apparent when you walk into our restaurant, the Loft. (It’s on the second floor.) Our employees are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. They want you to enjoy your visit. All of our employees — whether they are brewing the beer or making your food or providing service and information — want you to have a great experience so that you will want to return and tell your friends. Outside of the Loft, we promote our beer at a lot of events every year. We also donate a lot of beer, merchandise and server time to non-profit organization events. We are always having fun so why wouldn’t you want to join us?

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