Kevin Burton and Matthew Tomter are turning the former Matanuska Maid Dairy blow mold building in Palmer into a 12,000+ square foot state-of-the-art brewing facility. Matanuska Brewing Company started production on February 14, which means you will be seeing their brews in stores this month.
If Matanuska Brewing Company achieves its goals, it will become one of the biggest breweries in the state – with the capacity to produce 20,000 barrels a year. They will be specializing in American West Coast style beers using an elaborate oak aging program. It is a dream come true for founders and Eagle River residents Kevin Burton and Matthew Tomter, who have combined their extensive brewing experience with shrewd entrepreneurial expertise.
In the 1990s, Burton received a home brewer as a birthday present. He was growing increasingly unhappy with practicing law, so took on a part-time position at a brewery. After three months, he gave up his career as a lawyer to pursue his true passion: brewing beer.
“Life is too short to be doing something you’re not happy doing,” he said.
He worked his way up to Head Brewer at The Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage, earning local and national awards and accolades along the way. He has been continually brewing beer longer than any commercial brewer in the state. Burton is also a pioneer of modern oak aging and west coast IPA styles.
Partnering with Burton is Matthew Tomter, owner of Eagle River Alehouse, Anchorage Alehouse, Palmer Alehouse and now co-founder of Matanuska Brewing Company.
Tomter’s entry to the restaurant business is very Alaskan. While he was working as a pilot in Nome, he discovered an old pizza oven near one of the hangars. After some persuasion, the owners allowed him to set-up a trailer where he would make pizzas – then deliver them by plane. His pizza delivery business proved so successful that he opened a freestanding restaurant and quit his job as a pilot.
When he sold his business in Nome, Tomter wanted to open a restaurant in Anchorage. However, Kevin Burton persuaded him to open up in Eagle River instead.
“I get up every day with new ideas in my head,” Tomter says.
“I love the challenge of every day of getting up and working for myself,” he explained. “I probably work longer hours than most people, but I don’t have to. The idea is that I work for myself. I’m the boss, but I really work for my 176 employees. I work for them to make sure we’re successful.”
For its first run, Matanuska Brewing Company produced some of Burton’s creations from his time at Glacier Brewhouse.
The partnership allows Glacier’s popular Raspberry Wheat, Blonde Ale, Imperial Blonde Ale, and IPA to be brewed in larger quantities, which can now be purchased by the can.
In April, Matanuska’s Pack Raft Red IPA, Sky Cab Gold Pale Ale, Long Track IPA, and Snow Bike White will also be available.
Jamin Goecker is a local writer who recently moved to Alaska. When he’s not writing about local events and personalities, he can be found hiking, running, skiing, or editing his manuscript for a novel.