Welcome to the Girdwood Brewing Company Community
Down the Chute. IP-AK. No Woman No Cryo. Hippy Speedball. Saison De Collab. Alpen Go. If you’re ever up Alaska way and you want a life altering experience, stop by the Girdwood Brewing Company. Sure, you can fish, hunt, ski, mountain climb and all those other cool Alaska things, but if you truly want the Alaska experience, Girdwood is the place. And those aforementioned beers are worthy of the visit.
Just so you know, the brewpub, complete with its timber-framed taproom filled with local art and ski relics, also features epic views of the Chugach mountains. And if that is not enough, there is a beer garden, fire pits and food trucks.
And if you need help deciding on which of the 12-ounce pours to try (there are myriad to choose from), Girdwood’s team of Taproom Attendants will not only help with beer decisions, but even share the best things to do and see.
The brainchild of twin brothers Rory and Brett Marenco, Josh Hegna, Amy Shimek and Karl McLaughlin, Girdwood Brewing is a state treasure for craft beer and outdoor enthusiasts.
We sat down with co-founder and Brew Engineer Rory Marenco to get an inside look on what makes the craft brand so special and where the Alaskan brewing is heading.
Tell us a little about your brand.
Welcome to the Girdwood Brewing Company Community. We provide fellow beer and adventure enthusiasts with fresh, flavorful craft beer. We were founded in 2017 by me and my twin-brother, Brett, and our social drinking advocate Josh Hegna, and chief tasting officers Amy Shimek and Karl McLaughlin.
The brewery is a stone’s throw from the Alyeska Resort in scenic Girdwood, Alaska. We like to think of ourselves as a brewery with a powder addiction. Being a small operation means we can brew our beers to exacting standards and try out plenty of new ideas along the way.
Our 4,200 square foot brewery and tap room has panoramic views of the surrounding Chugach mountains. Whether you are surfing the bore tide, riding Alaskan powder, pedaling the mountain bike trails, boating a nearby river or landing a trophy fish, you can cozy up to our fire pits and share your adventure.
What kind of conversations are you having with your customers today?
While we have a dedicated local following, a good portion of our customers are tourists making their way through Alaska. We strive to provide a top notch customer experience by providing local brews and epic views. Our Taproom Attendants are able to converse with customers about other adventures to undertake in Girdwood outside the brewery since they are all locals who enjoy everything the great state of Alaska has to offer outside of work.
In addition, our Taproom Attendants are certified beer server cicerones and take pride in educating customers about craft beer and its many facets.
Give us a snapshot of today’s craft spirits market from your perspective.
For beer, it is fruit sours, milkshake IPAs, barrel aged pastry stouts and contemporary pilsners.
What’s likely to happen next?
We commissioned our Wild Goose Gosling canning line just before the new year, so we’re just trying to keep up with the 16-ounce, four-pack demand. We want to continue to improve our customer’s experience in the taproom as well as keep our beer at the pinnacle of quality that customers have come to expect.
What trends are defining the space?
In the beer world, everyone is looking for something new and tasty, but they also want something familiar. We aim to provide our customers with both by having four core beers, a selection of seasonal rotating beers, and an ever evolving series of new beers that continually push the boundaries of craft beer.
What is your story from a brand perspective?
Girdwood Brewing Company started as a taproom focused brewery designed to be a local gathering space that is truly rooted in our community. We donate to a number of nonprofits and outdoor adventure organizations. Our brewery also provides year-round employment to over a dozen locals.
We have a beautiful timber-framed taproom adorned with local art and ski relics. And for those who prefer the outdoors, we have an awesome beer garden with multiple fire pits and plenty of seating. Food trucks are on-site every day, and we have stylish merchandise for you to take home.
Walk us through your branding strategy.
We let our beer do the talking for us. Word of mouth and social media shout outs are the best, most authentic form of advertising. In addition, our merchandise provides a great canvas to promote our brand.
What’s the biggest issue today related to the marketing/sales side of the craft beer business today?
In Alaska, it is the antiquated brewery laws. We can only sell 36 ounces, per person, per day for on-site consumption. We are not allowed to stay open past 8 p.m. We cannot have televisions or live entertainment and we are not allowed to have guest taps (the beer served at the brewery has to be brewed onsite, so if we do a collaboration with another brewery offsite at their brewery we can’t serve it at ours). And the list goes on…
What is the secret to creating a branding story that consumers can buy into?
Authenticity. The modern consumer is attracted to something they know is produced locally. At Girdwood Brewing Company, guests can see and smell the beer being brewed, and taste the freshness.
What is the one thing that every craft beer brand should be doing in the way of marketing?
Striving to support local talent to help promote your brand. We use all local Alaskan Artists for our beer can label designs.
What do you see as some of your biggest opportunities moving ahead?
Staying committed to supporting our local community and capitalizing on the small and local movement that we started our brand with.
What’s the biggest item on your to-do list right now?
Continuing our focus on a quality product, whether that is the beer, the merch or the customer experience.
Sitting down with Girdwood Brewing’s Rory Marenco
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Without a doubt, it’s seeing the expressions of joy and satisfaction on customers’ faces as they drink our beers. Being able to create delicious and memorable experiences for others is amazing.
What was the best advice you ever received?
You only get one chance to make a good first impression so don’t try to rush a beer to market; let the beer tell you when it’s ready.
What is your favorite brand story?
YT Industries Bikes. The owner was watching local kids at the bike park one day and they were rallying their cheap bikes because they couldn’t afford the overpriced bikes of the day. His mission was to create an affordable, quality product so that kids everywhere could have access to proper mountain bikes. YT stands for Young Talent.
What’s the best thing a customer ever said to you?
“This is the best IPA I’ve ever tasted.” And this was coming from an east-coaster who lives among some of the tastiest IPA producers in the world.