A new brewery is coming to Homer. Grace Ridge Brewing is scheduled to open just before the annual Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival.
Grace Ridge Brewing is still a work in progress, especially on the inside. It has an open floor plan but no furniture, not yet. On the first floor work lights, scaffolding and tools fill the space. Natural light streams through large windows on a second floor.
The brewery is named for the iconic mountain trail in Kachemak Bay State Park southeast of Homer. But in just weeks Sherry Stead, who co-owns the brewery alongside her husband Don, says it will look very different.
“So there’s going to be an 8 foot cooler right here. We’ll tap out the beer off of the cooler. Then there’ll be the bar where people come in an order. You’ll walk in the door, we’ll have our menu on the cooler and there’s going to be an 18 foot drinking counter over here barstools. And then we’ll have some tables and chair around here,” said Stead.
The Steads are leasing the building for five years from their friends Pauli and Harmon Hall.
Sherry says there’s quite a bit of work left before opening day.
“The workers have to finish sanding and then they’re going to spray and paint all the walls. Then we have to have the concrete sealed and we can start moving our gear in,” said Stead.
Grace Ridge Brewing sits on Ocean Drive near the turnoff to the Homer Spit just a few minutes’ walk away from Homer Brewing Company which has been in business since 1996. Don Stead says the older brewery is going to be tough competition.
“He turns out a very good product but I think our products are going to be very good as well. There will be certain differences. We’re going to have four flagship beers: a stout, a brown ale, a red ale and an IPA,” said Stead.
He adds that they’ll have two specialty beers as well.
“The specialties will be experiments. We’ll be doing Belgians and sours and other kinds of beers,” said Stead.
According to the State Alcohol and Marijuana Control Board there are 31 Breweries and Brewpubs in Alaska. For now, Homer Brewing Company is the only one in Homer and there are four others in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Don says they will stand apart from the competition because they’ll offer a different flavor.
“We’re more of an English with a West Coast Bent type of a brewery. Which doesn’t mean a lot to most folks, but to people who know a lot of beer…they know we’re going to be brewing a lot of darker ales,” said Stead.
Don has wanted a brewery since 1989 when Sherry bought him a home brew kit. He practiced brewing beers from home for years and after he retired the couple started to think seriously about launching a brewery of their own.
“I was just looking for something else to do…keep me occupied is the way Sherry would put it I’m sure,” said Stead.
“It was in May and we met Kelly and Harman Hall and we shook hands in this parking lot when they were talking about building the building. And, we were like, ‘ok let’s do it,” said Stead.
Sherry and Don say they’re just a couple of months away from accepting customers. They plan to open in time for the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival starting on May 12th.
It took a while to get to this point. They needed about a year to get their federal and state licenses in place and they struggled to find local suppliers. In the end they settled for hops and malts raised in the lower 48. It was all time consuming but now they’re in the home stretch and they plan to hold onto the brewery for a long time.
“I mean at least five years…till the lease is over. An awful lot of breweries have opened up in Alaska and a lot of them are expanding. It seems like five years is kind of the time frame. At the end of five years they’re either expanding or they’re saying, ‘I’ve had enough of this and are ready to do something else,” said Stead.
The Steads say the community has shown a lot of interest in their budding business. Don calls the level of excitement a little intimidating.
“I knew that there was a market here but I didn’t think it was quite so voracious. People really are very excited...the people that we talk to are very excited to come in and have a beer with us. That’s a high standard to live up too,” said Don Stead.
They’ll see whether their beers pass muster when they open up in May.