June 14th, 2021 (Juneau, AK): Alaska is beloved for its rugged, “back-to-basics” lifestyle. In contrast to the frustrating, high-speed, and complex world most of us live in, Alaska is one of the few places to find refuge. The Last Frontier is home to many communities cultivating innovative economies that sustain a lifestyle separate from the busy urban jungles most are accustomed to calling home.
About 50 miles west of the Alaskan Brewing Headquarters in Juneau, Alaska lies the 450-person town of Gustavus. Each year at the beginning of the summer, the town drops everything and comes together to do one thing – harvest spruce tips. The use of spruce tips dates back over 10,000 years, used as a traditional food source among the first cultures living in Alaska. Our spruce grows on the ancestral homeland of the Huna Tlingit, which we respectfully acknowledge.
Spruce tip is a bright green new growth at the end of a branch. The trees hunker down for winter, then in the spring they send out this tender new growth that yields a light citrus flavor when boiled. Blessed with an abundance of spruce trees and a vibrant community, the entire town of Gustavus takes to the forests to trim the sweet conifer needles from the branches.
It’s often a family event, with people of all ages and backgrounds from around town taking part in the picking. Once children and adults alike have stuffed bags full, they head to the Peps Packaging plant in town to weigh in their harvest and receive payment.
But who is buying all of these spruce tips? We are, of course, demanding 5,000+ pounds to brew our spruce tip-infused hard seltzers and limited-edition specialty brews. The harvest is transported on numerous flights by a single, small Cessna aircraft piloted by a Gustavus local and loaded to the brim with spruce. Once in Juneau, our brewing team takes over and starts the process of turning this little-known piece of pure Alaskan living into of a one-of-a-kind seltzer and making it available to drink nationwide.
In many ways, the spruce tip story is one of nostalgic optimism. It’s a pleasant change to be a part of a supply chain so simple, natural, and purely Alaskan. The spruce harvest ensures the safety of the forests surrounding Gustavus as well as adding to the livelihood of the townspeople. Meanwhile, after undergoing our beer-powered, carbon-negative brewing process, their hard work results in millions of people across the country getting a delicious sip of Alaska.