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What's in a name? Alaska's Moose's Tooth rebrands brewery

Ben Anderson

Anchorageites may have gotten excited about the recent Olive Garden that opened up for the first time in January, prompting two-hour waits for dinner, but most residents know that if you want to wait two hours for a table on a Friday night, there's no surer bet than Moose's Tooth restaurant.

A perennially popular night out for Alaska's largest city, the Moose's Tooth brand has been built on its elaborate, hefty pizzas and freshly brewed beer, a dozen varieties of which are available almost every night. Customers especially devoted to the brewpub's frosty beers have long been able to come in and get a growler -- a half-gallon jug -- filled with their favorite libation.

Now, the brewery associated with the restaurant, simply named Moose's Tooth Brewing Co., will undergo a facelift, as the name is changed to Broken Tooth Brewing Co. and the company gets ready to start selling its namesake beers in cans.

The Broken Tooth name coincides with previous branding from the company, which saw a theaterpub opened in 2000 under the name Bear Tooth. Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth are all mountains in the Alaska Range, near the Ruth Amphitheater in Denali National Park.

According to Clarke Pelz, head brewer with Broken Tooth Brewing, the decision to rebrand coincided with the need to start designing cans for the recently-purchased canning line. He said that it's a way for the brewery "to establish its own identity."

Pelz said that the name change isn't indicative of any major restructurings in the brewery: the brewery will continue to operate under the brewpub license used by Moose's Tooth, which puts a strict limit on how much beer can be sold on the premises and then taken off-premises. That amounts to about 1200 barrels of beer every year, Pelz said -- the equivalent of about 37,000 gallons. Pelz said that sales have been "up against that cap for a decade," so selling more beer off-premises under the current license wouldn't be feasible.

But for anyone who's ever purchased a growler of beer only to find it sitting flat in the refrigerator a few days later, the canning will be welcome news. Canning will provide a longer-term method of fresh-beer preservation, and "provide a more shelf-stable package for our customers," Pelz said.

There were other practical considerations as well.

"We chose the canning machine because cans are kind of an up and coming packages for the craft industry," Pelz said. "The cans are also recycleable here in Anchorage, unlike glass. Cans are lighter, more transportable."

Pelz said that the first beer available will be the Fairweather India Pale Ale, along with the non-alcoholic root beer.

"The Fairweather is the beer we sell the most of out of the brewery," Pelz said, "but we’ll probably quickly introduce other styles of beer."

Unfortunately, the brewpub's famous First Taps -- beer served for the first time coinciding with a musical event on the first Thursday of every month, and replaced by another special beer the next month -- likely won't be available in cans, due to the volume of cans that would need to be ordered, Pelz said.

Also on the downside for beer aficionados is that they won't be seeing a can of their favorite Broken Tooth brew on the shelf at their local liquor store anytime soon -- thanks to that brewpub license, the cans will be available only at the licensed brewpub locations of Moose's Tooth and Bear Tooth. Pelz would say only that the name change could be beneficial if the regulations were to change, allowing the brewery to distribute outside of the licensed establishments.

On the upside, those wanting a stable, long term package for camping or rafting trips in the summer now have an alternative to a breakable growler, or toting along a heavy pony keg.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com.