49th Brewing Co


A 49th State Brewing x Blackwater Railroad Collaboration


Words / James "Dr. Fermento" Roberts

Photo / Ammon Swenson


Every time I look up, I'm amazed at the stream of creativity that flows between Healy and Anchorage in the form of 49th State Brewing Company. 49th has become an undeniable wellspring of foamy activity not only between their Anchorage location and the original location in Healy—where principals Jason Motyka and David McCarthy launched a dream of providing Alaskans, their guests and visitors with unique experiences that feature the very best in combining great food, excellent beer and top notch entertainment—but across the state in increasingly unusual locations.


I was drawn to 49th State through their vision which is borne of the simplistic but sustaining symbiosis of beer, food and music. Some breweries see the combination as a means to a profitable end. For the leadership at 49th state, it's a way of life, and it shows. We're all drawn to the explosively successful entity for different reasons, but the empire has a following that far exceeds the day to day patron.


"We were traveling around the state playing our music and it really wasn't until a couple of years ago that we came across David and Jason in Healy, and we all just clicked," says J.W. Frye, Blackwater Railroad's manager. "It was how they leveraged what they did in not only the brewery and brewpub, but what they did in the community that drew us in. We shared our vision about what we are doing in the community and we perfectly coincided.”



"The sustainability model you see crop up in a brewery here and there is apparent, but it's that model at 49th State that makes them so successful. In every level of what they do is that sustainable holistic system they build into their community—from cutting down on pollution, taking spent grain and feeding the livestock that becomes the locally sourced meat on the plate completes the circle. That's why Blackwater and the farms and the cities want to work with these guys. They see every one of their projects and every one of their events as part of that cycle. It's all about good food, good fun, tasty food, fun events, all with that sustainable cycle in mind. That's where we all align," says Frye of the growing relationship between the two groups.


During my interview with Frye, it was easy to get caught up in the essence, and I could see the natural attraction. Rarely before have I seen such a fondness in a business relationship. Having talked to Motyka and McCarthy so much over the years, I get it perfectly.


Blackwater Railroad Company is loosely based in Seward and through their travels and exposure to breweries that they target for gigs connected them to 49th State. "Beer and music mix so well," says Frye. "It's a natural, symbiotic standard industry thing. We have the beer companies or actual brewers we love and we seek them out," he says.


But for Blackwater Railroad, it's more than just a way to get a gig. "The main back story came from our lead singer Tyson Davis. He's a complete beer head. Whenever we'd travel, he'd seek out breweries and places to feed his love for beer," says Frye.


"There was never another consideration for doing a beer with any other brewery in our state, although that's not a ding for the other breweries. It's just a huge vote for 49th Sate. Once we hooked up, they bought in immediately," says Frye of the debut of 49th State's Skinny & Pale Ale that takes place on the August 26, during the Blackwater Brew Cruise that departs out of Whitter at 6 pm for a 3.5 hour cruise to Blackstone Bay and back.


Blackwater worked with 49th State to produce Skinny & Pale Ale, a beer named after some apparent debauchery during the band’s formation. “It’s a term that’s been shorthand for a number of things that went on throughout the life cycle of Blackwater,” Frye says. “The name is mostly an inside joke that came up during our first winter in Seward. That’s the most diplomatic way to explain it. Hey, the beer is good and if you have a couple of them, you’ll forget to ask again,” is all he’ll disclose.


“The beer is made using Mosaic and Cascade cryo hops which gives it big essences of that awesome orange, mango and pineapple character, then we have the Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand to round it out,” says DV3 Corporation’s Promotions Director, Ellen Maloney. “This is all on a base of Maris Otter Pale Malt. It weighs in at a very drinkable 5.2 percent alcohol by volume and 42 IBU.”


“It’s summertime in Seward and across all of Alaska where we play,” Frye says. “When you’ve been out hiking and you come in for some dancing and you want to be active, this is the perfect beer. You can drink it and not be filled up and sluggish and keep on grooving."


"What happens when you throw a concert on a remote wilderness beach in Resurrection Bay?? This I guess."

I wondered why the beer isn’t named Blackwater Pale Ale or something else that features the band’s name. “If we just named it after the band, we’d only have that one style and that one product, but mostly, if you’re going to name something Blackwater, it should probably be a stout, and that’s not a beer you want to drink a lot of while being super active,” Frye says.


“The beer’s official release will be on the Major Marine Tours Blackwater Brew Cruise; don’t look for it anywhere else before then,” Maloney says. “This is a crushable pale ale you can knock back while stompin’ your feet to Blackwater on the cruise.”


After the official release, the beer will be available on all Major Marine vessels during regularly scheduled tours and will show up at select venues around Alaska as it follows the band around this season and beyond.


The tour is a steal at $99—a regular Major Marine Tour would set you pack $149—and includes an all you can eat salmon and prime rib buffet and one complimentary Skinny & Pale Ale. Additional beer is pay as you go at one of the two bars on the vessel. Also featured will be another of my all-time favorite 49th State beers: 907 Frontier Style lager, an amber-ish, clean, easy drinking brew that I get at the brewery and in bottles every time I visit.


To book your spot, call (907) 274-7300 or surf out to majormarine.com/brewcruise. Getting to Whitter is part of the adventure. Plan to hit the 4:30 or 5:30 Whitter Tunnel traverse to get there in time for the 6:00 departure. An alternative is to preload at 49th State Brewing Company in Anchorage and take the $39 per person round trip transportation option offered by Premier Alaska Tours to avoid the driving hassle. Taking the bus will get you back to the brewery in Anchorage at around 11 p.m.