Rod Matson, owner of Kenai Brewing Supplies, stands amidst beer and wine supplies in his store. He plans to start a home wine making center this fall to help customers learn, with guidance, how to make their own wine.
Photo by Mark Quiner
Some people are passionate about their beer and wine. Rod Matson is passionate about beer and wine supplies.
Matson, owner of Kenai Brewing Supplies, 6383 Kenai Spur Highway, has spent the last five years converting his passion into a viable business. And with interest in the craft of brewing beer and making wine picking up, he plans to open a home wine making center this fall, making it one of a handful in the state of Alaska.
"I got into it because I like making beer," Matson said.
Matson believes that if you build it, it will come. When he started his business, his client base was small. Now he estimates he has about 100 regular clients who frequent his store. Sales have increased every year, he said. Matson said he thinks the increase is partly because the store makes supplies available. Located on the Kenai Spur Highway, hundreds of people pass it each day and see the sign in front of the store advertising brewing supplies. It is bound to peak some interest, he said.
Alaska is a good place for making homemade beer and wine especially in winter, Matson said adding that winter is when business is best.
"A lot of people are in doors and need a hobby. People need something to do," he said.
Winter is spent making the product and summer drinking it, he said.
Plus, he added, it's cheaper. Matson estimated that beer and wine can be made for about half the price it can be purchased for, not to mention the high alcohol taxes in the state. "And the quality is actually better than store bought," he said.
Around 2000, he said he noticed wine-making started to become more popular.
With an abundance of rhubarb, berries and dandelions, Alaska is a particularly good place to make wine, he said.
"It's kind of a cultural thing," he said.
The home wine making center is designed to capitalize on what Matson said is an explosion in the popularity of wine. That is why he hopes to have a new building by the fall to house his new facility.
Customers wishing to learn the ropes of wine-making with some guidance can come to the center and make wine with Matson's help. He takes care of it while it is fermenting. The customer returns months later to bottle and cork the finished products and make a label.
To prepare, he attended a course in Vancouver, Wash. last summer to learn how to run it.
Matson thinks even experienced wine-makers will be interested in attending his wine-making center.
Deanna Duck of Kenai, who has been making wine with her husband for over a year, is excited about the center and said she will use it.
It was Rod's store that perked her interest in the hobby, she said.
"We had a bunch of rhubarb and nothing to do with it," she said.
Now, she and her husband spend all year making wine using the finished product for Christmas gifts.
"It's a huge process," she said. After crushing her rhubarb and mixing everything together, it takes at least three months, sometimes even a year, to have a finished bottle of wine, she said.
That's why Matson said it is good to make beer and wine. Beer only takes about a month to make from start to finish, sometimes less. By doing both, you can drink beer while waiting for the wine, he said.
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