Mike Healy is about to be one really busy guy.
Healy is the owner and general manager of Skagway Brewing Company, that decadent little brew pub Yukon’s southern Alaskan neighbors boast about.
“Little” though is not as apt a descriptor for Healy’s business as it once was – Skagway Brewing is opening up a brand new facility, located at Fourth Avenue, between the hardware store and the Starfire Thai restaurant. The new three-story space will allow the company to serve up to 400 guests at a time, effectively doubling seating capacity.
“Basically, I was sick and tired of all my buddies telling me they wouldn’t eat at my restaurant because there was an hour-long wait and a line up out the door,” Healy jokes.
“We just couldn’t feed everyone.”
The new facility will feature a large gift shop and tasting room, a space for private dinners, a deck that overlooks the mountains and – for those of us with Outside roots who miss a good outdoor pint – a 1,500-square-foot beer garden with a retractable awning which should allow them to serve folks “in all weather,” Healy says.
In addition to these creature comforts and expanded seating, the new brewhouse has several highly practical accoutrements, Healy says, including a 1,200-square-foot aeroponic indoor garden. This will allow the company to grow all its fresh greens and around 80 per cent of its herbs instead of having them hauled up from Seattle, drastically increasing the freshness of produce the restaurant can serve, an innovation which came about because Healy was, “sick of crappy produce.”
The company will also be growing some “experimental” ingredients, for both the table and new beers, such as strawberries, he adds.
In terms of production, the brewery itself will be able to increase production by 400 per cent, moving from a four-barrel brewing system to a 10-barrel one.
Healy has “viewed the whole building as a system,” he says, and added in some green options to the space to make it more energy efficient and reduce waste. Excess carbon dioxide – a natural result of beer brewing, as it is what makes beer delightfully bubbly – will be captured and diverted into the greenhouse. Plants need carbon dioxide just like we need oxygen and so enriching the air for them in this way is essentially like giving them their own private, super snazzy plant ‘oxygen bar’ (like hipsters pay out the nose for Outside) but with their preferred molecule. Healy – who has a background in farming – says he hopes it will increase the growing capacity of the plants he grows by 15 to 20 per cent.
The building also has a biodiesel generator which will run off the used fryer oil from the kitchen. It will power the in-floor heating, the steam brewing process and all the hot water in the building, Healy says.
Despite all the thought and care put into the new building, there have still been a few hiccups.
One of Skagway’s biggest employers is the national park system, was heavily affected by the American government shutdown and the town has been “hard hit,” Healy says.
Of the approximately 600 people presently in town, about 30 of them haven’t received a government paycheque “in seven-to- eight weeks,” he says.
While they wait, some of them have been employed with Skagway Brewing, helping to build the new space, but the brewery itself has had some issues as a result of the shutdown.
Its brewing license for the new facility has been delayed, meaning staff can’t start making beer at the facility until it comes in. In the meantime they are brewing out of their old facility. While Healy hopes it will be resolved by March, an exact date is uncertain.
When things are all up and running, the brewery will be selling its beer in 22 ounce bottles and 32 ounce cans to take home, Healy says, but until then they will only be able to offer to-go beer in growlers.
Once that pesky licence comes in, all the beer will be brewed at the new Fourth Avenue site. The old building is actually going to become a taqueria – Mexi Co., a play on the company’s name, Skagway Brewing Co. – also owned by Healy. The brewing facility will remain in place there, however, and be converted to make craft sodas, such as root beer.
As if all these new ventures weren’t enough to guarantee Healy will never sleep again, Skagway Brewing is also presenting a third new restaurant, The Smokehouse, which will serve barbecue. That location is down on the harbour, Healy says, and used to be called The Stowaway Cafe.
“There will be a lot of good food and beer,” Healy says, noting that while this all a lot of work, he’s “fortunate to be surrounded by really good people.”
Neither Mexi Co. or The Smokehouse are open yet.
The soft opening of the new brewhouse was held Feb. 13, an intimate event meant for locals. The weekend of March 1-2, Skagway Brewing Company will be holding a Yukoner appreciation day, with all food at the brewpub restaurant 30 per cent off for anyone who can show a Canadian passport.
Contact Lori Fox at email@example.com