A pub is brewing for Seward
Heidi Zemach | For the LOG
Seward Brewing Company owner Gene Minden stands in front of new upper floor windows with banquet room view.
If all goes according to plan, downtown Seward will have a new brew pub and casual dining bar by the end of June. The 72-year old concrete building at the corner of Fourth and Washington, adjacent to Tony’s Liquor Store and Christo’s Palace, will be the Seward Brewing Company, a place to visit to get brewed-on-site local beer, and eat burgers or other light foods.
“It’s phenomenal, the interest is crazy, with tourists and locals,” said owner and Seward businessman Gene Minden. “Everybody’s pretty excited about having a brewery in town finally.” Minden, who also owns the Harbor Plaza building, and who built Chinook’s Waterfront Restaurant, and has owned it for the past 18 years, had originally intended to locate a brewery in Chinook’s, but never went through with it once he discovered how much space was needed.
But space is no longer a problem. The 13,500 square foot building’s size, layout and location is perfect for a brewery, he said. The building also will offer a generous catered banquet room on the second floor, along with an second kitchen for catering banquets and parties or weddings, and two spacious rooms in the basement for meetings or conferences. Each of the lower rooms will accommodate 70-100 people respectively. Once completed, the entire facility will be able to serve 500 people at a time.
While the main floor, which will open this season, will have a commercial, industrial brewery-type of feeling, with open beams and an open concrete wall on the southern side, plus “a few nice touches,” the upper floor, which will open later, will have much more finished feel, inviting to parties, conferences and celebrations, Minden said. Could the “nice touches” be referring to the enormous copper fish-themed sculptures that his brother James Minden has produced?
The former Elks Club building has been under renovation practically since Minden purchased it last spring. He and James, along with a small local crew, worked on it throughout the long winter, only calling in outside contractors and experts when needed. It’s been an enormous task. They raised the second floor ceiling by three feet, and installed 10 large windows, and had to cut out six 3,300 pound blocks of concrete to do so. Now, the upper floor has a more spacious feel, and the larger windows show off an exceptionally scenic view of the lower end of Fourth, Resurrection Bay and the distant snow-capped mountains. Before, the view cut off the tops of the mountains, Minden said.
The contractors, with help from Harmon Construction, a local firm, also moved the main staircase to a new location, tore down walls, removed furniture and hauled off enough junk to fill about 39 30-yard dumpsters. They also replaced the downstairs street side windows that had been left boarded up over for the past couple of years since the Harbor Dinner Club decided to end their business there. Before that, the building belonged to the Seward Elks Club, and it started out as a mercantile building.
Naturally, curious bystanders have stopped in to ask what is going on. Their visits increased once Minden placed T-shirts in the ground floor window next to his two shiny copper brew kettles and two silver fermenters, which had been in the window at Chinook’s. As of last week, two additional 600-gallon fermenters were being shipped to Seward from Canada to join the first two 300-gallon ones he already had.
Minden hired Kevin Burton, a professional, well known in the Alaska brewing community, and also the head brewer at Glacier’s Brewhouse on West Fifth in Anchorage, to create the Seward brews here. So customers can expect some of the finest beers in Alaska, produced by one of the state’s leading brewers, Minden said.
The brew pub will initially produce the basic beers such as amber, IPA, Hefeweizen, some sort of stout, porter or dark beer. Once they have perfected them, they will keg them off and start producing some additional specialty beers. After all, they have the capacity to brew four different beers at a time. Customers can drink them on site, or purchase them to take out in growlers (half-gallon jars) or sub growlers (quarter-gallon jugs). Minden’s wife has also suggested that they hold a brewing contest, with the winning brew produced as the featured beer that month.
Heidi Zemach | For The LOG
New brew pub building under construction at Fourth and Washington.
The building will eventually provide something Seward has in high demand: large meeting and conference group spaces, with available kitchens. Minden already is talking with the Alaska SeaLife Center about how they can work together when large parties are expected.
Minden would prefer to keep the building open year-round, but expects to close it for a couple of months during the slow time after Christmas, and through the winter in order to save the high costs of heating the building. Nevertheless, Minden is positive about the changes he sees coming to Seward, and his businesses’ chances for success here, despite the higher prices, and people moving away from town. “Look at what you get here,” he said, pointing toward the gorgeous view, “its booming. This town has always been a great town to invest in, and then with all the interest in Coastal Villages possibly coming to town, I think it’s just going good places.”