By Heidi Zemach for SCN
A new brew pub and casual dining bar opened this week in downtown Seward, adjacent to Tony’s Liquor Store and Christo’s Palace. The 72-year old concrete building at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Washington Street, the Seward Brewing Company, will be a new a place to get some local beer, brewed on site, as well as burgers and other typical bar foods. And locals are definitely happy to see another business open downtown.
“Everybody’s pretty excited about having a brewery in town finally,” said owner Gene Minden, a longtime Seward businessman.
Minden, who also owns the Harbor Plaza building, built Chinook’s Waterfront Restaurant, and ran it for the past 18 years, intending originally to locate a brewery there. But he never went through with the brewery once he discovered how much space was actually needed for all of the brewing equipment. Early this spring he sold Chinook’s to new local owners and moved his brewing equipment into the downtown facility.
Two of the shiny copper brew kettles and two silver 300 gallon fermenters, which had been in the window at Chinook’s, are in the new facility, which had a soft opening this past week, along with two additional 600-gallon fermenters he purchased.
Kevin Burton, well known in the Alaska brewing community as head brewer at Glacier’s Brew House on West Fifth Avenue in Anchorage, was hired to create the brews here. The brew pub will initially produce the basic beers such as amber, IPA, Hefeweizen, stout, porter or dark beer. Once they have perfected those, they will keg them off and start producing some additional specialty beers. 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.
But Minden has even greater plans for the facility. The 13,500 square foot building’s size, layout and location also will eventually 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, something that is in short supply here in Seward. 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.
Minden would prefer to keep the building open year-round, but expects to close it during the slow time after Christmas due in part to the high costs of heating the building. Minden is positive about the growth he expects taking place in Seward, and his businesses’ chances for success. “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,” he said recently.
The former Elks Club building has come a long way since Minden purchased it last spring. He and his brother James, along with a small local crew, raised the second floor ceiling by three feet, and installed 10 large windows. They 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 Railway Avenue and Resurrection Bay and the distant mountains. With help from Harmon Construction, the contractors 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. Before that, the building belonged to the Seward Elks Club. It started out its life as a mercantile building.