Thebeerchaser Does Alaska – The Final Installment – Ketchikan


We sailed from Juneau to Ketchikan on the Holland America ship Statendam for the third leg of our Alaska Inside Passage cruise before the final evening voyage from Ketchikan to Vancouver B.C. and the flight home to Portland.

Ketchikan is a charming village-like city that “empties out” in the winter, but is a nice tourist destination in the summer.   It is he southeastern-most city in Alaska, has a population of 8,050 within the city limits – the sixth-most populous city in the state, and according to its website is known as “The Salmon Capital of the World.”

One of Kethikan's finest

The 49’er Bar – One of Ketchikan’s finest

Since we were there only a day, we did not have an opportunity to actually visit any of the watering holes although a few looked very interesting.

The most interesting bar in Ketchikan

The most interesting bar in Ketchikan

The Asylum looked like a bar that needed a Beerchaser visit based on the politically incorrect slogan in their website:  “We serve nuts….” and several very good reviews on Yelp such as this one from 6/19/14, I can only attest to the beers, beer prices, and staff–all were excellent. At $3.50 for a true pint for all 14 micro-brew taps, these were the lowest beer prices I’d found in Alaska.”  P1020484

According to our guide, “Ketchikan has1 tunnel, 3 stoplights, 5 churches and 8 bars.” 

The Sourdough Bar - one of eight in Ketchikan.

The Sourdough Bar – one of eight in Ketchikan.

The Sourdough Bar and the 49’er Bar also looked intriguing.  And I definitely would have appreciated a brewski before I had my first zip-line adventure in the rain forest about 30 miles outside the city.  (It was a great experience although I told my personable leader – also named Don – my lawyer friends would have killed me if they had seen the waiver I had to sign before hooking up…….

The Asylum may have been a good place to pre-function

The Asylum Bar may have been a good place to pre-function for this activity

Fortunately, the zip-line went well and we boarded the ship for the last day and one-half cruise to Vancouver BC – then the airplane flight home.

The final rappelle

The final rappel










2014-06-29 11.07.02

A massive bow and a galley that cooks for almost 2,000 people








Although the Statendam galley cooked for almost 2,000 people (1,250 passengers and 650 crew-members), the food was excellent – great variety and good quality.   So how does one enjoy the culinary excellence without gaining too much weight?

Two answers –

  • Daily walks around the quarter-mile deck outside our stateroom.
  • Rocking and rolling in the Bering Sea......

    Rocking and rolling in the Bering Sea……

    Enrolling in a one-hour morning cycling class led by a very fit Serbian named Adrian – a great young man with high standards and no compassion – who kept us rolling even when the ship was in choppy seas requiring its stabilizers…..

I actually lost one pound.   And the lack of draft beer on the Statendam did not prevent me from enjoying an evening libation – the martini bar with cheap $6.99 martinis and a great jazz trio – Neptunes, led by classically trained bass and vocalist, Gerald Benson.

That's gin - up and with olives......

That’s gin – up and with olives……

The seven and one-half day cruise from Seward to Vancouver BC with stops at Haines, Juneau and Ketchikan, after our jaunt to Denali National Park was memorable.

The voyage covered a total of 1,538 nautical miles (1.15 statute miles per) at average speeds ranging from 9 knots to 19 per hour.

An impressive vessel

An impressive vessel


And the Statendam is an impressive vessel – 574 crew members – weighing 56,000 tons (the ship not the crew….) with a length of 719 feet and width of 111 feet.  It has five diesel generators consuming 65 tons of diesel fuel per day, and according to HA’s specs, produces 600 tons of potable water daily – 500 tons of which is consumed.


Grizzly mom and her cub.

Besides seeing scads of wildlife in Denali (grizzly bear and cub, mountain goats, caribou, moose, fox, whales, eagles).  We saw spectacular scenery such as that shown below and backdrops which will spoil us for dinners without views for a long time, went on some great day excursions and visited some cool bars and breweries.

No reservation needed for a window seat at dinner.

No reservation needed for a window seat at dinner.


A passport clerk with a sense of humor…..








And to cap off an outstanding cruise, the immigration clerk in Vancouver B.C. complimented me on my passport photo, indicating a great sense of humor.

2014-06-26 19.27.03

Beautiful scenery in every sense of the word…..

My wife rejected my proposal to commit to a January tour of the Panama Canal allowing us to take advantage of Holland America Cruise’s $200 discount on future cruises if a commitment was made before debarking!

Of course, cruise options that followers of this blog might want to explore can be accessed at the link below with details on “Seven Beer Cruise Options,” including one to Alaska:  ” … its 16th year, the Alaska Beer Cruise sets sail Sept 5 to 12 and includes seminars, onboard beer talks, beverage themed activities and tastings led by experts.”

That voyage does not appear to be in the cards, so I guess Thebeerchaser will get his vicarious thrills until the next cruise at one of his favorite bars – close to home in Multnomah VillageThe Ship Tavern (reviewed by Thebeerchaser in December 2012).

The wonderful Ship Tavern in Multnomah

The wonderful Ship Tavern in Multnomah

Thebeerchaser Does Alaska – Anchorage – Part 1

Mt. McKinley - the tallest peak in North America

Mt. McKinley – the tallest peak in North America

Alaska is not the only place in the United States where one can still find pristine wilderness, but the magnitude of the expansive unspoiled forest, glacial fiords, diverse wildlife AND good bars make it a worthy trip – one which Thebeerchaser and his spouse experienced for eleven days in late June.

2014-06-22 16.34.45 HDR

Boarding the Statendam in Seward

 Robert Louis Stevenson said, Old and young, we are all on our last cruise,” and since we had never been on a cruise, we decided to take the Holland-America Inside Passage cruise on the Statendam – a wonderful decision.

We flew into Anchorage and had a day in this picturesque city, before a day train trip to Denali National Park for two days.

The bar in the ___ Brew Pub

The bar in the Glacier BrewHouse

Of course, it was important to get a feel for the bars in Anchorage – not that I could deduct the trip, but Thebeerchaser has a reputation to uphold.  So for lunch in the city, we stopped at a brewery recommended by the hotel – The Glacier BrewHouse – for a good salad and split a Glacier Brewery Imperial Blonde – it was good and rejuvenated us after the flight.  The Brewery produces more than 4,500 barrels per year.

Adventurous spirit was not required to find the next bar – since it was a half block from our hotel, but Darwin’s Theory will go down as one of my favorite bars on this trip and on the three-year Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs.  After dinner, while Janet rested, I walked to this wonderful institution – one that had NO draft beer, wine or hard liquor, but free popcorn, a great jukebox and an outstanding environment.  Read two Yelp reviews which were spot on!

Survival of the Fittest embodied.....

Survival of the Fittest embodied…..

“When you step inside, you’ll realize that this is no hipster dive bar.  No sir!  This has been a dive bar since inception and doesn’t appear to have changed.  Beer in the bottle, great service, and interesting patrons round out the perfect dive-bar experience.” Yelp – 11/13 by Eric from Nevada City, CA

On a Friday night, the place was jammed and I sat next to a guy named Bill – in his fifties and an oil field worker, in addition to having fished in the Bering Sea and running marijuana from Mexico to the East coast in the ’70’s. “I had an old Lincoln with really big fenders….”  I asked him about bars in Anchorage and he said to be careful because in the last few years there had been a few shootings at bars close by.

The "patio" outside Darwin's

The “patio” outside Darwin’s

I thought he was exaggerating, but checked out stories on the internet and he was correct.  To wit:

At J.J.’s Lounge on  Oct. 10, 2011 – two people killed.

  • Three men shot and injured outside a downtown Anchorage nightclub – the Anchor Pub in June 2013 – three blocks from Darwin’s.

November 11, 2013 – A shooting wounded a woman and left a man in critical condition outside of the Office Lounge, a Midtown Anchorage bar.

One of the reasons, I felt safe in Darwin’s was the bartender – Barbara Jean – who told me that the bar was 30 years old and she had worked there 29 of them.  She was friendly and her patrons loved her, but she was tough and would not tolerate rowdiness.  She put me on the Darwin’s mailing list and didn’t hesitate when I asked to take her picture with Thebeerchaser logo. (Darwin, the last name of the owner celebrated his 70th birthday that Saturday – and there was going to be a big celebration.)

Betty Jean with Thebeerchaser logo
Barbara Jean with Thebeerchaser logo

 Another review from a Portland guy who visited Darwin’s in November, 2013 is worth quoting from Yelp.  Ryan P. said:

“ABSOLUTELY the the best bar I’ve been to in Anchorage! The ladies tending the bar were amazingly nice and welcoming and made me feel right at home. Coming from a local bar town like Portland, it was very nice to have the same type of feel in this place.

From the moment I walked in I felt completely comfortable and welcomed. I LOVE THIS BAR. I’ve heard it can be crowded at times, which is reasonable considering how small the space is, but the service is THE BEST. PLEASE VISIT THIS PLACE! They are amazing!”

I paid $4 for my bottle of PBR and the same amount for a Silver Gulch Brewery’s Silver Gulch’s Northern Light (Bill’s recommendation from a good Anchorage brewery) and paid in cash based on the sign on the bar: “We accept no out-of-town checks and damn few local ones!”

We did not partake at any other Anchorage watering holes, but embarked on a walking tour and took some pictures – it showed a number of interesting options:

P1020424Snow Goose Restaurant and Sleeping Lady Brewery – what a great patio on the roof overlooking the bay.    P1020425



The Pioneer Bar –  “As a connoisseur of dive bars this one ranks up there. To start off, despite what opinion you have of PBR, any place that serves 24 oz. cans of PBR has a lot of class. Not to mention all the Alaskan beers on tap and knowledgeable bartenders . (Colin from Anchorage on Yelp 7/2011  P1020427

In case you need directions to The Pioneer Bar....

In case you need directions to The Pioneer Bar….







Humpy’s Great Alaskan Ale House – presumably named after the whale and not a patron – looked interesting and had “more beers than all the other bars in Anchorage combined,” on tap.   It has a sister pub in Kona, Hawaii  and got mixed reviews, in part, based on slow service and mediocre food, but does have live music.  It will have to wait for another visit, but had a lively crowd, expansive menu and looked intriguing.        P1020434


The Gaslight Lounge – This is one that you might want to avoid based on violence reported above at other bars.  Four of the five reviews on CitySearch did not recommend this bar and two mentioned fights


Not recommended.....

Not recommended…..

“Trashlight Lounge – I worked next door for years and every time I regrettably went in, there was an absence of friendliness. Staff were mostly arguing with drunk customers. It became a joke to look out our back window and watch the fights roll out of the bar every night….it seems to revel in it’s low class reputation among downtown. (ja4vlink – pre 2014)

McGinley’s Pub – While one might be suspicious of a bar that advertises itself as “A touch of Old Ireland in the heart of downtown Anchorage,” they have a great website.  We ran out of time and just took a picture of the entrance – which looked a little boring –  but they have a bunch of dark beers and ciders on tap, serve corned beef and cabbage , sheppards pie, and bangers and mash in addition to standard pub faire.

Some questioned whether it was really an "Irish experience."

Some questioned whether it was really an “Irish experience.”

It got mixed reviews on Trip Advisor, which had them rated 161 of 674 restaurants in Anchorage based on the 67 reviews submitted – 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Glacier Bay Brewery and Darwin’s were definitely hits in Anchorage.

We embarked on the train the next morning for the seven to eight hour trip to Denali National Park through some wonderful scenery.  The bald eagles were magnificent and as we saw one dive successfully for a salmon out the window, I reflected on the observation of one Alaskan resident:

“Alaska in the summer, is a great place to be a bird.”     2014-06-20 16.48.42

Darwin’s Theory                             426 G St, Anchorage






Glacier BrewHouse  and Brewery   

737 W 5th Ave Ste 110, Anchorage