Kenai River Brewing is rolling out its latest assortment of specialty brews — this time partnering with Tsalteshi Trails Association to produce recreation-themed beers that raise funds for the nonprofit.
“Tsalteshi is near and dear to my heart,” Brewery owner Doug Hogue said. “It’s something we wanted to support.”
The series includes four beers. The first of the series — the “Moose Gallop Ale” — made its debut at a beer-tasting reception July 30 at the brewery’s Soldotna location.
“I call them my nonprofit beers,” Hogue said.
The four concoctions will feature running, mountain biking, nordic skiing and cyclocross — which the trails association promotes and provides a venue for.
Moose Gallop ale is meant to be a good drinking beer, perfect for quenching one’s thirst after a run, bike or ski out on the trails, Hogue explained.
“It’s supposed to be thirst-quenching, with a little hops to dry things,” he said.
Hogue said the exact date of the unveiling of the last three beers are yet to be determined. The next in the series lineup is cyclocross brew, which is likely to hit shelves in October, he said. The skiing batch is looking at a January release, and the mountain biking batch will debut in the spring.
While Hogue and his crew decided on the recipe, the trails association tasked Soldotna artist Kaitlyn Vadla with designing the labels for each of the four beers. Vadla didn’t mince words when expressing her gratitude for Hogue and his contributions.
“Doug’s a saint,” she said. “He does so much for the community … I say there’s BD and AD — before Doug and after Doug.”
Vadla said each beer represents the “seasons of Tsalteshi” — running for spring, mountain biking for summer, cyclocross for autumn and skiing for winter.
Vadla is owner of “Vibrant Alaska” art, a company she began that “connects people to place.” She said it was a meeting in January that sparked the idea of getting on board to help design the beer can art.
Trails association members Larissa Arbelovsky and Laurie Lingafelt said the ideas behind each of the beer names came from their own personal experiences and knowledge using the trail system.
“We thought, ‘Well, what trails do we like to run on? What trails are the most fun to ski on? What trail’s the most fun to cycle on?’,” Arbelovsky said. “That’s how we narrowed down the themes.”
Vadla said the acrylic painting had its challenges, mostly in determining the space on the label, and added that the Moose Gallop moniker was born out of a run on the easy Moose trail that makes up part of the Tsalteshi Trails.
“We decided we really wanted to see people and animals sharing the trails,” she said. “That’s what that trail system is all about.”
In looking for ideas, Vadla said she took time researching and talking to community members who use the trails often, asking them what best represents Tsalteshi.
Vadla said Ts’alteshi — which in the Dena’ina language translates to “Black Stone Axe Ridge” — refers to the land that the trail system sits on.
“Tsalteshi has for thousands of years been a transportation corridor for indigenous people in Alaska,” Vadla explained. “You go up there, you’re literally up on a ridge, and that, along with the Kenai River, were transportation corridors.
“I think it’s my duty to know the real history of this place and to do what I can to learn about indigenous culture and help out my friends who are (part of) the Kenaitze Tribe.”
Lingafelt said the unique collaboration between Kenai River Brewing and the trails association is what powered the initiative to craft a line of beers that would support the trail system.
“I think the neatest thing is the collaboration,” Lingafelt said. “Kenai River Brewing is so supportive of the trails and it’s all local, bringing everything to the local trails.”
“Doug is so great to work with and he’s just such a community member,” Arbelovsky added. “It was a natural collaboration.”