Gummy Bears aren’t just for kids anymore.
Kenai River Brewing Company is turning candy into beer, with the help of Abbey Ale yeast.
The new beverage is just one addition in the works at the Soldotna brewery. The other is an expansion to create a new seating area, set to open next week.
“It’s going to be just a nice sit-down taproom,” said Doug Hogue, brewery co-owner.
The new taproom will seat about 20 people. Hogue said the brewery won’t serve food, but will welcome people to bring their own meals.
“Our customers are very excited about it so we’re anxious to get it rolling,” Hogue said.
When the taproom opens, the brewery’s main door will shift, and the old room will be used for canning. That will alleviate some growing pains the brewery was feeling, Hogue said.
“Right now when we’re canning beer it pretty much shuts down the whole operation ‘cause it just takes up so much room,” Hogue said.
The brewery took over the space it is expanding into in November, but just started working on the room in January.
Accompanying the locally-made beer are locally-made tables and art.
Dan Skipwith built the picnic table that anchors the room. The table was built from just one tree; the benches on either side are mirror images of one another. The tree aged in his woodshop for about seven years before being turned into a table, made without any metal attachments.
Wednesday, Terry Hogan was working on an Alaska-themed mural in the overflow part of the new taproom.
“We thought about the pioneer homesteader, and that’s why the cabin and the outhouse,” Hogan said.
Hogan said the mural is the first piece of art he’s done for the brewery.
“I like beer, so why not,” he said.
Also on display in the taproom is an award the brewery took home from a Reno canned beer competition for its Skilak Scottish.
Skipwith’s table won’t be the only piece of furniture. Hogue said the brewery plans to have another table, a couch and eventually, a custom-made wooden coffee table, also by Skipwith.
There’s also an electric woodstove, for ambience, Hogue said. The fire area is decorated with an aluminum salmon by local artist Laura Faeo, a piston man sculpture, and a sockmonkey-style moose and walrus. The eclectic mix has been pieced together, Hogue said.
“Some neat things that we’ve collected at some art auctions around town,” Hogue said.
As for Gummy Bear Beer, the unusual brew is an experiment.
“We try to brew just as often as we can, just these little single batch brews,” Hogue said.
If all goes as planned, the 20 pounds of Belgian candy sugar and 15 pounds of the bears — that’s about 2,565 multi-colored gummies — will create a Belgian Tripel that’s about 9.2 percent alcohol, Hogue said.
There was also an extra five pounds of gummy bears devoured in the process. Those went to the brewery staff.
Hogue said he mixed the sugar and candy with a variety of grains to craft the brew. The base grain is a Belgian pilsner, and Hogue also used two malts.
“It smelled awesome,” he said.
Now, it’ll spend about 10 days fermenting. Then it’ll spend a few weeks in the fridge before Hogue makes sure the carbonation is set and puts it on tap.
The batch should yield about 186 gallons of beer, Hogue said.
“It’s a real pretty golden yellow color,” he said.
Molly Dischner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.