Black Spruce Brewing: Beer Crafted in Alaska’s Interior
Black Spruce Brewing Company (BSBC) is a craft brewery that was opened in southern Fairbanks’ industrial neighborhood by three people who are enmeshed in the Fairbanks community; Jake Hovenden, Carey Fristoe, and Stephanie Haskins are committed to contributing to the growth of Alaska’s and more specifically, Fairbanks’ craft brewing industry.
“Like many people that love craft beer, Carey and I both dreamed of owning a brewery of our own.”
With Carey’s education and years spent professionally brewing coupled with Stephanie’s experience in all things having to do with craft beer sales, distribution, and taproom management, they were confident they’d make a great team entering the brewery industry. While coordinating the moving pieces of starting their business and determining the perfect brewery location, Carey’s childhood friend, Jake, was achieving his MBA degree.
As Jake and his family planned to return to Fairbanks from the Lower-48, the idea was sparked to explore Fairbanks as their top- location contender. For Carey and Jake, this would be a return to their roots having grown up in Fairbanks and calling it home before college.
Carey and Stephanie’s experience having both worked in production-size breweries prior to opening Black Spruce Brewing Company, provided them with a tremendous amount of insight and valuable information. From this experience, they knew they wanted BSBC to be on a more intimate scale than they’d worked previously.
Carey had already begun working on a business plan for a brewery and together, Carey, Jake, and Stephanie modified the plan to be well-suited to the Fairbanks community and endeavored to make their way north.
With their return home came connecting with the Alaska Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Fairbanks. The team worked with Fairbanks Center Director, Russell Talvi, on their vision and worked out how to open the doors to their own brewery.
“Russell Talvi and the SBDC team were hugely helpful to us as we navigated the processes of finalizing our business plan, acquiring our business loan and negotiating our lease. We came to Russell with a nearly complete business plan, and Russell was able to help us with some key revisions and get it to the point where it would be an enticing proposal to a financial institution.
After we identified a space that we felt would be appropriate for our business, Russell was also able to help us work with our landlord-to-be to come to an arrangement that would make the beginning of the lease term more doable to us as a start-up and agreeable to our landlord.”
With the BSBC starting comes the perfect brew.
The beer brewed at Black Spruce Brewing Company vary greatly in terms of style, but the quality and intense attention paid to detail are consistently high. For Stephanie, her favorite part of being a small business owner is seeing people enjoying the beer BSBC produces and having an outstanding experience in their tasting room.
When reflecting on their entrepreneurial experience, Stephanie shared, “Expect the unexpected” seems like a bit of a cliche, but when establishing a new business, the saying couldn’t be truer. My partners and I did our best to anticipate any problems that we could run into, such as delays in shipments of materials, issues with licensing and permitting, etcetera, and very fortunately for us, we were well-prepared for the majority of the almost-curve balls that were thrown our way.”
They tribute their preparedness and ability to swing open the doors of their brewery on time by talking to other industry professionals and business owners about their own journeys of similar and dissimilar projects alike. Coupled with this generosity and camaraderie, the owners learned a wealth of knowledge and gained valuable assistance in their venture. This kindness, this tight-knit communal liberality, is exactly what Carey, Jake, and Stephanie are eager to give back to future local business owners in the future.
Alaska SBDC approved, their business advisor, Russ Talvi shared about their success, “I watched as the contractor built out the tenant improvements for the brewhouse and tasting room during the summer and fall of 2018 and stopped by several times to get updates on the progress. Since the end of December 2018 and their opening, I’ve enjoyed stopping in at Black Spruce Brewing regularly to see how their business is doing by tasting the latest and expanding offering.”
For Black Spruce Brewing Company’s first summer, they are expecting a busy tourist season at their tasting room and so far, they are encouraged by the positive and supportive feedback given to BSBC so far from local and out-of-town beer-enthusiasts alike.
Following their first season, they expect to expand their production capacity by purchasing additional tanks in order to work on more beers at the same time. They are in the process of developing additional long-term expansion plans and look forward to having the opportunity to provide the wonderful people of the Interior with an even broader selection of locally crafted beers.
To stay in-the-know on all things BSBC, be sure to visit Black Spruce Brewing Company at 3290 Peger Rd STE B in Fairbanks, on Facebook and Instagram, and their website at https://www.blacksprucebeer.com/. Cheers!