Alaska – Midnight Sun

Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. The Last Frontier… the Land of the Midnight Sun… whatever you want to call it, Alaska is where we venture to today, so let’s enjoy the setting before it gets dark:

Slogan: North to the Future – Is that better or worse than going Back to the Future?

Food: Alaskan King Crab is a delicacy found through fishing in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. These crabs are the most expensive and highly sought of all crab species, but are also difficult to catch. The industry has been highlighted by hit reality series Deadliest Catch, which has been airing since 2005.

Drink: The Alaskan Brewing Company was founded in 1986, in Juneau. Beers from Alaskan are available across half the country’s states. Visitors can tour the brewery, where 20 beers are on tap each day and a selection of merchandise is also available.

alaska

Site to See: Alaska is all about natural beauty, from its National Parks (Denali, Glacier Bay, Kenai Fjords) to Glaciers (Mendenhall, Matanuska, Portage). You can also view the Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis during most of the year.

Street: Ketchikan’s Creek Street is the former red light district of the city. Built on wooden stilts, a number of brothels set up shop here between 1903 and 1954, when they were forced out of the city center and until they were outlawed for good. The nearby Married Man’s Trail was used by customers escaping the brothels when raids occurred. Apparently, it presents a nice hike these days.

TV Show: Northern Exposure was a comedy-drama series, which sees New Yorker Joel Fleischman sent to the fictional town of Cicely to work as a doctor and pay back the student loan for med school that Alaska funded for him. While in Cicely, Joel interacts with the eclectic townsfolk, while adjusting to his new setting. The show lasted six seasons and 110 episodes, winning the 1992 Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. A number of reality shows are also filmed in Alaska, including the previously mentioned Deadliest Catch, along with other popular series, such as Gold Rush and Ice Road Truckers.

Movie: While I remember enjoying the 2002 mystery thriller Insomnia (starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank), I have to choose Sandra Bullock-Ryan Reynolds led The Proposal for this category, almost entirely based on the scene where Bullock is running around naked, looking for a towel. Cinema at its finest, my little sippers!

Northern Exposure.jpg

Book/Author: Gentle Ben by Walt Morey, tells the tale of a lonely boy who befriends a brown bear. Morey based the story on his own experiences in Alaska and based characters from the book on real-life Alaskans. Gentle Ben has since been featured in movies and TV series.

Fictional Character: Chilly Willy, the cute little penguin from The Woody Woodpecker Show, hails from Fairbanks. Upon debuting, Chilly Willy became the second most popular Lantz/Universal cartoon character after Woody Woodpecker.

Fictional City: Since we’ve already highlighted Cicely from Northern Exposure, we’ll devote some space to the town of Mystery, from the movie Mystery, Alaska, which sees an amateur hockey team battle the NHL’s New York Rangers in an exhibition match. The film has quite the cast, including starring roles for Russell Crowe, Burt Reynolds and Hank Azaria, as well as a cameo by Mike Myers, playing a commentator similar to the controversial Don Cherry of Hockey Night in Canada fame.

Actor/Actress: While not recognizable by name, Irene Bedard has a very familiar look and sound. She voiced Pocahontas for the Disney film of the same name and its sequel and was also used as a model for the character’s design. The actress was born in Anchorage and was named one of People Magazine’s ’50 Most Beautiful People’ in 1995.

Gentle Ben

Song: North to Alaska by Johnny Horton was featured in the opening credits of the 1960 John Wayne film of the same name, setting up the story to the point where the movie takes over. The song topped the Billboard Country Singles chart, but sadly, Horton never got to reap the success of the track, dying in a car accident one week before the film was released.

Band/Musician: Jewel, famous for her songs “Who Will Save Your Soul”, “You Were Meant for Me” and “Foolish Games”, moved to Alaska shortly after her birth, being raised in Homer. The talented singer-songwriter has also dabbled in acting, with cameos as herself in a number of projects.

People: Sarah Palin was the first female governor of Alaska and later became John McCain’s vice-president candidate for the 2008 U.S. election. Palin’s run brought on a Saturday Night Live impersonation, as well as an adult industry doppelganger (or would that be a doppel-banger). The Palins are practically Alaska’s first family, with husband Todd being a champion snow mobile racer and daughter Bristol gaining attention as a reality TV figure.

Animal: Siberian Huskies, Balto and Togo, led a serum run in 1925, to deliver the supplies from Anchorage to Nome, amidst a diphtheria epidemic. Known as the Great Race of Mercy, both dogs have had their stories turned into movies, with Balto getting the honour in 1995 and Togo at the end of 2019.

Balto

Invention: The Sip Advisor is a big-time consumer of ranch dressing, so thanks should be heaped upon Steve Henson, who created the sauce while living in the Alaskan bush as a plumbing contractor. He and wife, Gayle, later moved to California and owned and operated the Hidden Valley Ranch, selling the dressing to customers in products they could take home.

Crime: As the Last Frontier moved from lawlessness to a place of rules and enforcement, a famous shootout occurred on the Juneau Wharf in 1898, between conman and gang leader Jefferson “Soapy” Smith and vigilante Frank Reid. The gunfight resulted from growing tensions between Smith and his associates and the Citizens Committee, a group looking to restore order in Juneau. Both men died in the altercation, with Soapy Smith being the one who is celebrated each year on July 8.

Law: It is legal to shoot a bear, but illegal to shoot them in a way that doesn’t harm them, as waking a sleeping bear to take a photograph of it is against the law.

Sports Team: There are no professional sports teams in Alaska, but the state is famous for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, known as “the last great race on Earth”. The Iditarod was first run in 1973, with the 938-mile trek typically taking place during blizzards and sub-zero temperatures. The quickest completion of the route was eight days, three hours and 40 minutes (set in 2017), while it took original competitors more than 20 days to finish. One of many reasons why dog mushing is Alaska’s State Sport.

flat tire

Athlete: Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling was born in Anchorage. The four-time World Series champion (with three different teams) is perhaps best remembered for his gutsy performance during the Boston Red Sox run to the title in 2004, where he had to have tendons in his right ankle stabilized for each performance, resulting in a visibly bloody sock. One of those socks now sits in the Baseball Hall of Fame, despite Schilling not being elected into Cooperstown as of yet.

Famous Home: Dolly’s House, located on the infamous Creek Street, allows visitors to see how Alaska’s best known prostitute lived and operated her business. Dolly Arthur came to Ketchikan in 1919 and remained at her home long after the brothels were banned, passing away in 1975, at the age of 87.

Urban Legend: Since 1988, it’s estimated that more than 16,000 people have disappeared in an area known as the Alaska Triangle. The region, which consists of a sizeable chunk of the state, is comprised of mostly unexplored land, from forests to mountain ranges to frozen tundras. Usual suspects, such as Bigfoot and UFOs have received their fair share of blame for the disappearances, along with a creature known as Otterman (half man, half otter, all cute). The Triangle first gained notoriety in 1972, when two politicians (one the House Majority Leader at the time) an aide and their pilot vanished into thin air over the zone.

Museum: The Saloons that dot the Alaskan map, such as the Red Onion in Skagway and Red Dog in Juneau, are home to interactive and educational experiences, while patrons are also able to enjoy a drink and bite to eat. The Red Onion offers brothel and walking city tours, while the Red Dog displays Wyatt Earp’s gun, among other memorabilia.

Dolly's House

Firsts: Completed in 1942, the Alaska-Canada Military Highway was the first stable link between Alaska and the rest of the U.S. The highway stretched all the way to Great Falls, Montana.

Company: Ironically, Alaska Air is not based in the state, but Santa Claus House is. The retail store, located in North Pole, was first a trading post and post office, before becoming a gift shop. The store, whose slogan is “Where it’s Christmas Every Day!”, is also home to the world’s largest Santa statue and receives thousands of letters each year, addressed to the jolly gift giver.

Events: In 1867, the U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million in gold (approximately two cents per acre). Americans called the deal, negotiated by Secretary of State William Seward, “Seward’s folly”. Five years later, gold was discovered in Sitka, with other locations to follow. In 1959, Alaska became the 49th state of the union and nearly 10 years later, oil was discovered. That’s quite the return on your investment!

Miscellaneous: Alaska’s State Flag was designed by 13-year-old Benny Benson, in 1927. His submission for a contest open to kids in grades seven to 12, featuring the Big Dipper and North Star in gold on a blue background, was selected from 142 contenders.

Midnight Sun

Midnight Sun

  • Muddle Strawberries and Basil
  • 2 oz Vodka
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Egg Whites
  • Garnish with a Strawberry

There are many variations of the Midnight Sun cocktail. I went with a recipe I found from the Alaskan Spirits distillery in Anchorage, making one change by muddling the basil, rather than making a basil-infused simple syrup. To be honest, I didn’t love this drink, but probably didn’t make it as well as Alaskan Spirits would.

Sip Trips #166: The Last Frontier

The Sip Family is back from our Alaskan cruise and what a time it was. We managed to visit eight breweries, two distilleries and three saloons (a goal I had outlined prior to the trip). With so much to cover, let’s get right to it:

Our journey started in Anchorage, where after settling into our hotel, we walked to the nearby Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse, an eatery suggested to me by Ma and Pa Sip. There, I ordered a pint of King Street Hefeweizen to go with my delicious Crabby Patty Melt. The restaurant has over 50 beers on tap and is known for their halibut fish and chips meal, but I was intrigued by the Crabby Patty, partly because of my fondness for SpongeBob SquarePants.

krabby patty

After dinner and not quite ready to pack it in for the night (and with the sun nowhere near ready to set), we popped into Midnight Sun Brewing, which seemed appropriate. Our pints included the I’ll Have Another Belgian Wheat (with Alaskan blueberries) for me, while Mrs. Sip went with the Panty Peeler Belgian Tripel (with orange peel and coriander). We also split an order of their Soft Pretzel Sticks and were provided a sample serving of the Sockeye Red IPA from the very nice server.

Our last stop before returning to the hotel was Brown Jug Downtown Wine & Spirits. Interestingly, at this liquor store, your ID is checked both at the door and when making your purchase. I bought a bomber of Kassik Brewing’s Morning Wood IPA for a night cap beverage. The beer’s tagline is “Never let a Morning Wood go to waste!” Amen to that!

Speaking of mornings, upon waking up, we went for breakfast across the street at the Glacier Brewhouse. My Biscuits and Gravy were very good and quite filling. We also ordered a flight of beers, consisting of the Bavarian Hefeweizen, Passion Fruit Wheat, Imperial Coconut Ale, Pomegranate IPA, and Blood Orange Double IPA, to go along with our meal.

biscuits-and-gravy.png

Afterwards, we walked to 49th State Brewing, enjoying a seat on their patio, which overlooks the water. Here, we split another flight of beers, including the Fallen Comrade Red Ale, Belgian Pale Ale, Vagabond Saison, Moose Joose IPA, and Kingslayer Braggot. The brewery’s Smoked Marzen Glazed Popcorn was actually good, according to this anti-popcorn curmudgeon.

After travelling from Anchorage to Whittier – which included a close call, where a driver going the opposite direction crossed into our lane and around our vehicle at a decent speed, driving through the road shoulder to our right before returning to their own lane – we finally boarded our cruise. We came packing, bringing aboard three bottles of wine, a handful of mini liqueur bottles and a bottle of Lemon Hart Blackpool Spiced Rum, which was so very tasty. I used the rum in the cruise-offered lemonade and hot chocolate, as well as with mixers I bought during port stops.

Proving that miracles do occur, the Sip Advisor only purchased one cocktail onboard the ship through the entire cruise. It was a good drink, but my original choice was denied because they were doing a menu that could only be ordered at select times. I had narrowly missed the window and the bartender wasn’t willing to help a brother out. My paid for beverage was the Mint Divine (gin, ginger beer, mint, cucumber, lime juice, simple syrup), which reminded me of a Mojito and Gin Buck rolled into one.

mojito smoothie

Our first port stop was Skagway, where I had outlined two breweries to visit, as well as the infamous Red Onion Saloon. As we explored, we also learned about a new distillery in the town, so added that to our itinerary. Up first was Klondike Brewing, where a flight of their five beers set you back a whopping $17. This is also where we first learned Alaskan law allows folks to only purchase 36oz of beer per person, per day at locations. At distilleries, the limit is 3oz of spirits. Up next was Skagway Brewing, where we order a 4oz sample of each of their 10 beers on tap for $2 apiece. The Spruce Tip Blonde was particularly good and is a style that must be tried in Alaska.

Moving on, we walked what seemed to be the length of the town to end up at Skagway Spirits. After sampling their vodka and gin, we ordered some finely-crafted cocktails in their Rhubarb Collins, Rosemary & Grapefruit, Fireweed Cosmopolitan and Bloody Mary. I typically don’t like Bloody Mary’s, preferring the Canadian Caesar, but this was a good rendition of the Caesar’s American cousin. Our last stop was the Red Onion Saloon, a former bordello that was built in 1897. Along with a shared plates of Nachos with Chicken, I enjoyed a pint of Alaskan Icy Bay IPA, while propositioning the gorgeous Mrs. Sip.

The next port was Juneau, where we began our day at the Alaska Fish & Chips Company for pints, as the bartender was very helpful with directing us to some attractions around the city. While Mrs. Sip drank an Alaskan Blonde Ale, I had the Alaskan Hazy Bay IPA (only available on draft). We never made it to the Alaskan Brewing Tasting Room, as it cost $25 each (including guided tasting) to take the shuttle there and back, with Baby Sip being charged full fare.

expensive poor

Instead, we stuck to touring downtown Juneau, popping into Devil’s Club Brewing. Mrs. Sip went with a three-beer flight (Mile 37 Belgian Tripel, Silt Milk Stout, Tangerine Dream), while I ordered a 12oz serving of Princess Peach Milkshake IPA. The server also provided us with a taste of their Summer Lights Cucumber Berlinerweisse Sour Ale, which was light and refreshing.

After that, we moved on to the Amalga Distillery. Following samples of their gin, we got their Sixth & Seward (gin, lilac, lemon, simple syrup) and Rosemary Collins (gin, rosemary, lemon, simple syrup, soda water) cocktails. A gentleman at the bar, who owned a distillery in Indiana, ordered a specially made drink, comprised of rhubarb, mint and other ingredients, which he shared with us.

Our crawl continued with the Red Dog Saloon, the oldest man-made tourist attraction in Juneau. Here, I enjoyed the Alaskan Husky IPA, completing my trifecta of the company’s IPAs. Mrs. Sip had a glass of wine, which seemed a little out of place given the setting, but she’s a classy broad.

classy

We then returned to Barnaby Brewing, which we had stumbled upon earlier in the day when it was closed. I had The Goods from the Woods Spruce Tip Pale, which was satisfying. On the way back to the ship, we briefly stopped at the Pier 49 beer garden for a can of Kenai River Brewing Spruce Tip Double IPA. This was recommended to us back at Alaska Fish & Chips Company and was a very good beer.

Our final port was Ketchikan, where we visited Bawden Street Brewing to begin the day. I had a 16oz serving of their Hooktender Saison, while Mrs. Sip went with a 12oz serving of Berliner Weisse. After some touring of the town, including the scandalous Creek Street, we wrapped the day at the First City Saloon, enjoying a Single Engine Red and Twister Creek IPA, both from Denali Brewing.

Finally, the last day of our cruise was upon us, which typically means finishing off whatever bottles still remain. We began our activities with the Pub Lunch, where Fish & Chips were combined with a bottle of Piraat Belgian Ale. Next up was a wine tasting, featuring a champagne, one white, two reds, and a dessert wine. I was largely dealing with Baby Sip during the tasting, so didn’t get to spend much time savouring the vino.

wine tasting

In the evening, we used the new cruise ship app to order a couple free cocktails. I went with a Manhattan, which was disappointing in both taste and presentation, while Mrs. Sip had a Mai Tai, which wasn’t drank until we had Baby Sip in bed, so had become watered down by that point. My Duty Free bottle purchases for this vacation were the Edward Gunpowder England Spiced Rum and Anchorage Distilleries Ghost Pepper Vodka. I look forward to using both in future recipes.

In closing, I would recommend cruising Alaska to anyone interested. It was great to get off the ship in each port and not have to travel too far to explore the area. People were very friendly and helpful and enjoyed talking to visitors to their state. Mrs. Sip and I are looking forward to returning one day and doing some of the sites we didn’t get to this time around, but feel we made a pretty good dent into the last frontier.