Drinking Craft Beer in Anchorage With Big Swig Tours

Drinking Craft Beer in Anchorage With Big Swig Tours

Big Swig Tours lets travelers experience Anchorage’s craft-beer scene like a local By: Jenna Schnuer
<p>Clients can enjoy several beer tastings and appetizers during the Anchorage Brews tour. // © 2017 Bryan Caenepeel</p><p>Feature image (above):...

Clients can enjoy several beer tastings and appetizers during the Anchorage Brews tour. // © 2017 Bryan Caenepeel

Feature image (above): Guests will learn brewing techniques from experts. // © 2017 Bryan Caenepeel

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The Details

Big Swig Tours

Oil still rules Alaska’s economy, but it’s not the only liquid gold that counts in the 49th state. Alaska’s burgeoning craft beer industry serves up award-winning brews that are, increasingly, becoming a major attraction for travelers.

The Brewers Guild of Alaska counts 34 member breweries, brewpubs and breweries in-planning. All that beer served up a business idea for Bryan Caenepeel, a beer enthusiast who visits breweries when traveling as a way to mix with locals.

In 2014, Caenepeel, a former tour director for Royal Celebrity Tours, decided cruise ship passengers and other travelers needed to get in on south-central Alaska’s flavor, both in beer and personalities. His company, Anchorage-based Big Swig Tours, gives travelers a chance to explore the craft beer scene of Anchorage — and beyond — without renting a car. And, Caenepeel adds, they can do so without going on a pub crawl or a party bus.

Local personalities include the brewers themselves — many of whom started out as hobbyist beer-makers (the state’s winters do stretch on) before deciding to hop into the tank full-time. Their knowledge runs deep; visitors get “a crash course in brewing 101,” Caenepeel says.

Big Swig offers three tours: The 3.5-hour Anchorage Brews option visits two breweries and a beer-centric restaurant ($99, includes 12 beer tastings and appetizers); Anchorage Bike and Brew combines a guided morning bike ride along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail with the Anchorage Brews excursion ($159); and Hops on the Rail is a full-day trip that starts with a train ride north to the town of Talkeetna and ends in the comfort of the Big Swig van, with brewery stops all the way back to Anchorage ($259, includes 16 beer tastings and a box lunch).

By summer 2018, Caenepeel plans to add a multiday trip, which will take clients to Fairbanks, Denali National Park, Talkeetna and Anchorage. Big Swig runs tours year-round.

Each tour requires a minimum of three people, and Caenepeel limits the group size to 12 in order to keep the experience more intimate. 

“Add a little beer, and everybody becomes best friends,” he said.

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