New brewery opens in Anchorage that focuses on lagers and Belgian beer

Clarke Pelz behind the bar at Cynosure Brewing, Anchorage's newest brewery. Photo by Paula Dobbyn/KTUU.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A new craft brewery has opened in Anchorage, one that focuses on lagers and Belgian-style beers.

Located in a former furniture store on East Potter Drive, Cynosure Brewing opened its doors in late September after being in the planning stages for four years.

It’s owned by Clarke Pelz and Cindy Drinkwater, a husband and wife team who are also the brewery’s sole employees at this point.

A mechanical engineer by training, Pelz is a former brewer at Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria. He worked at the popular watering hole for 15 years, 10 of which he spent running the brewing side of the operation, Pelz said. He left in 2012 to open Cynosure, a term that refers to North Star.

“I told my wife in 2012 that I would have the brewery up and running in six months. Four years later here we are,” said Pelz, shining new fermentation tanks behind him.

After securing investments from old friends and others and getting an equipment loan from a credit union, Pelz pushed through a mountain of paperwork and other hassles to make the brewery a reality.

“We’re still seeing whether it is going to bear fruit but it’ been a wonderful process. I’ve learned a lot. It’s wonderful to get through the build out and the planning stages and actually start the business,” he said.

Cynosure is only open for limited hours at this point. Pelz welcomes customers from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday. He hopes to expand the hours as the business grows.

As he prepared his business plan for Cynosure, Pelz learned that the greater Anchorage area has plenty of room for growth as far as breweries.

“I looked at the number of breweries in Portland and the population in Portland and if you were to assume that Anchorage could support the same number of breweries and brew pubs per capita, we would have 27. So I think there’s a lot of room for breweries and brew pubs in Anchorage and across the state,” Pelz said.

Ryan Makinster, executive director of Brewers Guild of Alaska, said Alaska currently has 28 breweries in operation with at least eight on some form of planning.

“There is room for the industry to grow. It’s one of the only manufacturing industries in the state that is growing at this time,” said Makinster.

In 2015, the brewing industry in Alaska packed an $84 million direct economic punch, according to a study by the Brewers Guild. That figure includes business income, payroll, fees and taxes paid, and rents and dividends. With the multiplier effect, total direct and indirect economic impact reached $169 million in 2015, according to the study. The industry employed 2,281 people last year.

Craft breweries tend to be good for tourism, and they tend to attract a range of local clients as well, including urban hipsters, Makinster said.

“There is a desire for a certain demographic to have breweries, wineries, and some of these types of places. If you look at other communities that entice young professionals, if you look at Silicon Valley and Boulder, Colorado, a key component of that is outdoor rec lifestyle but also fine restaurants but also the other brewing scene and the other local craft scene,” Makinster said.

On tap last week at Cynosure, Pelz was serving three brews: a Belgian-style wheat, a dry hopped steam beer, and a Belgian-style dark ale. He also had two non-alcoholic selections: a ginger-flavored kombucha, a fermented beverage thought to be a health elixir, and a lemon-lime shrub, a fizzy, refreshing drink made with sugar and vinegar.

Pelz plans to add a few more beers to the menu and either root beer or ginger ale for kids. He's open to suggestions. Besides serving glasses of beer, Pelz also fills growlers and small kegs.

The brewery is located at 144 E. Potter Drive, Unit E.

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