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What is the media saying about Incan Brew-pouches?

This beer won't break hikers' backs
What Ales You?

By Dawnell Smith
writeous@alaska.net

(Published: March 8, 2002 Anchorage Daily News)

When exploring the hills, streams and trails of Alaska, many people like to carry a beer or two, even if it means adding weight to an already-bulky pack, pulk or gear bag. Well, thanks to Kevin Tubbs of Yukon Spirits in the University Center, hauling your favorite brews just got a whole lot easier.

Nestled amid hundreds of craft beers from around the world are lightweight backpacker pouches, which look like shiny Capri juice packages but contain beer instead. The Great Bear Brewery in Wasilla jumped into the pouch business first and "became the No. 1 selling Alaska brew in a period of one week -- to the point that folks are often waiting at the store when we open just to get a box of pouched brews," Tubbs said.

He attributes the popularity to Great Bear's tasty beer and the unique gold foil pouches that reflect light and "really stand out on the shelf in comparison to other brands with traditional packaging."

For a small outfit like Great Bear, filling pouches allows them to get beer on the shelves without facing the prohibitive expense of buying and running a bottling line. Ultimately, Tubbs wants to stock pouched beer from every brewery in the state, no matter how small the operation.

After all, the love affair with glass really has to do with appearances, not substance. Bottles weigh a lot, can break easily and let in light, which damages beer. Worse, the process of filling bottles leaves airspace between the bottle cap and beer that eventually leads to the flavor flaws resulting from oxidation.

Aluminum cans actually work better than glass bottles in many ways, but few small breweries can afford a canning operation. Plus, the flavor-barrier layer inside beer cans can deteriorate over time.

Tubbs' backpacker pouches overcome cost limitations and solve many of the quality issues. The interior layer of each pouch, he said, "is a permanent sanitary food-service barrier layer that has no flavor and will not allow flavor transference of any kind within the pouch."

So far, Tubbs has not noted any changes in flavor, even when in the pouch for up to seven months. Although he plans to continue testing the pouches, he believes "it is possible that this packaging medium may be the single best way to store high-quality beer for long periods of time."

Obviously, durability also comes into play, so Tubbs and his posse have tossed, squashed and generally mistreated the pouches to test their suitability for the rugged Alaska environment -- namely, a cooler, pack or other container often jammed, rammed and poked by mother nature, not to mention Uncle Stan and Aunt Rita.

Last but not least, the pouch is made from recycled materials and is reusable and recyclable. Heck, fishermen everywhere can haul pouches into camp with the sole purpose of filling them with fish fillets.

"Outdoors folks love the fact that the pouches are a fantastic way to package fish or game," Tubbs said. "The double foil laminates and food-service layer are ideal to help eliminate the potential for freezer burn. This is another significant advantage over bottles or cans. When was the last time you crammed a salmon in a bottle?"

How did this local boy came up with the idea?

"In a former life, like 1997, I experimented with a range of plastic substrates in the development of highly specialized "smart" telephone calling cards," he explained. "This gave me a working knowledge of which plastic laminates were available and which ones were strong, sanitary."

The possibilities seem staggering when you start thinking about consumers. Since the pouch's debut at Yukon Spirits, everyone from "green" consumers to snowmachiners and skiers to pure beer hounds has bought and devoured the product, Tubbs said.

"My experience is that folks will buy beer out of a yak's bladder if the beer is really good."

Maybe Tubbs will conquer the world with his pouch, the only one on the market that can withstand carbonation, but he just wants to get more pouches full of beer for now. He sells the packages to Arctic Brewing for sale to homebrewers and directly to commercial brewers, who then sell the filled containers back to Yukon Spirits through a local distributor.

Other stores also want to carry the beer wrap, which suits Tubbs just fine. He sees the potential of worldwide distribution as well as the benefits of having the brands at his store first.

"I'd like to see every brewery produce their own adventure brews, whether on a regular basis or for special brews they'd like to offer to a mass audience," he said. "I can see promotional angles, fund-raisers. The sky is the limit."

With that in mind, look for more Alaska-made beers in backpacker pouches soon. Great Bear products cost $4 to $7 depending on beer style, but the price gets you good beer and a ready-made receptacle for anything slimy, wet, fragile or gooey. Everyone from fisherwomen and berry pickers to camp guides, gardeners and parents can think of plenty of things that fall into those categories.

(Published: March 8, 2002 Anchorage Daily News)

Published by: The Anchorage Press  2-7-02

Is That A Beer In Your Pocket?

Or Are You Just Happy To See

Kevin Tubbs  Beer Port-A-Pack?

By James "Dr. Fermento" Roberts

The history of beer packaging is as old as the need to keep beer that couldnt be consumed on the spot, extending at least as far back as earthen jugs discovered in Mesopotamia. Since then, beers been kept in stone, wood, glass, tin, aluminum, stainless steel and even plastic. Advances in technology have pushed beer packaging into the space age, yet most beer lovers find little glamour in what their beer comes in; its just a means to an end. Still, it ought to interest some that beer packaging history is possibly being made right here in Anchorage.

Beer container technology is driven by portability and the need to take beer farther and farther from its source; in Alaska, where backcountry travel often involves hauling far less than what will fit in the cargo area of a SUV, weight and mass become key considerations that can make the difference between packing suds or going dry. Thats one reason that local Yukon Spirits owner Kevin Tubbs developed a lightweight "Backpackers Beer Pouch" that just may revolutionize the heretofore-undiscovered high-portability beer packaging industry.

Tubbs wanted to find a way to get beer from breweries that dont have bottling lines to his store shelves. "I came up with all kinds of crazy ideas," he recalled, "including getting a tanker truck to haul a brewerys beer to a bottling plant somewhere."

And then one day he saw his daughter drinking a laminated CapriSun juice pack. Tubbs bought virtually every food product that came in a pouch and carefully dissected the pouches to determine a good match of material, durability, ease of use and cost. A foray into the medical-industry product line found Tubbs his solution, although he wont specify the materials. His testing included filling his pouches with highly carbonated soda pop and running them through the rigors of everyday use. "I had a few blow-ups along the way," he said. "I blew up samples all over my living room more than once, but now that Ive tweaked it, it passes my four-kid test and Im already making improvements, like different pressure release systems and stuff like that."

Homebrewers provided another test. "They dont even need to heat-seal the pouches for average use," Tubbs said. "The zip-lock holds the pressure on its own, so they can re-use them."

The end result so far is a very light container made from recycled materials, that entirely blocks out the two primary enemies of beer, air and light. Its a third the cost of a glass bottle weighs virtually nothing and flattens paper-thin when empty.

"In phase two of my product, Im coming out with larger sizes, such as a 22-ounce pouch," Tubbs said. "Fishermen will find that an emptied pouch will accommodate a quarter of a salmon fillet." This should be great news for beer-packing fishermen like me who put equal emphasis on catching a buzz and catching a fish.

Tubbs had to find a local brewery that would trust their coveted suds to an untested medium. It didnt take long before Jay Kelley, brewer at Great Bear, in Wasilla, saw the potential benefits. "Its the best thing to hit beer in a long time," Kelley said, noting that the package is "totally light proof (and) doesnt have head space, so theres no air and its entirely portable which is great for backcountry travel."

Kelley didnt decide to use the bags without first rigorously testing them. "We filled some up from our tap stands, then heat-sealed them. Weve been throwing them all over the place 10 to 15 feet across the room onto the floor, and they hold up just fine."

Even if you dont care about portability or cutting-edge beer packaging, you should still note that this is the first time that Great Bear beers are available in liquor stores. You can get their Great Bear Gold, Hatchers Pass Pale, Old Town Brown, Ars Kigger Scotch Ale and Pioneer Peak Porter, with the rest of their 10-beer line to follow, Kelley says. The Pioneer Peak Porter just took a silver medal at the World Beer Championship, in Chicago, where their Skwentna Stout snagged a bronze. Now you dont have to drive all the way to Wasilla to check em out. Backpackers pouches of Great Bear beer can be found at Yukon Spirits in the University Mall, 3801 Old Seward Hwy. Anchorage, Alaska 99503    incan@beer.com

 

Anchorage Daily News

Published: March, 21 2002

By Dawnell Smith

More news on the pouch

After writing about Kevin Tubbs and his remarkable backpacker pouches, I got e-mails from around the country inquiring about these handy containers. Judging from what I read, the coveted "Incan" gold-medal brew-pouches struck a chord in the industry.

I also heard from a local reader who requested details like the pouch size and the means for drinking from them. Tubbs can get the pouches in virtually any size depending on what a brewery wants, but he currently stocks 16-, 22- and 64-ounce pouches. The cost of each vessel depends on the size and style of beer, not to mention the brewery's pricing strategy.

I suggest that everyone go to Yukon Spirits in University Center to nab a pouch or two, but keep in mind that Tubbs has run short the past few weeks due to the pouch's popularity. But perhaps the best thing about Yukon Spirits is that if you don't find the pouch, organic Belgian ale or blueberry wine you went looking for, you can take the less-traveled path by going on a beer discovery tour. The shelves simply hold too many beers (wines and liquors, too) to bore or disappoint anyone.

While browsing, ask Tubbs about the last beer-and-food tasting at the New Cauldron in the mall. It "was a hoot," he said, though he had expected more people. The ones who showed tried Chimay, various barley wines, beers from the Great Bear Brewery of Wasilla and much more. For a scant five bucks -- that's right, $5 -- those folks tried 14 brands of beer, ate crab cakes and halibut and generally discovered cozy bliss at the Cauldron.

Tubbs has another one up his sleeve the first week of April, so get ye to Yukon Spirits and find your holy ale.

Dawnell Smith loves talkin' about brew. Her new e-mail address is writeous@gci.net.


Incan(tm)
A Revolution In Packaging For Quality Brewers