When Skye Stekoll and his wife Sara lived in Seattle in the early 2000s, they found a way for them and other former Juneau residents to get together — beer.
Starting in about 2005, they got involved in the homebrewing scene in Seattle, and found a group of people who had grown up in Juneau but had moved south.
“There was a group of about a half dozen of us who would get together every week or two and brew beer,” Stekoll said.
Now he’ll again be making beer for Juneauites. This time, he’ll be doing it in Juneau.
Stekoll, Sara and a few other partners are starting Forbidden Peak Brewery, which has plans to open doors in Auke Bay by next summer. The brewery is leasing a portion of the former University of Alaska Southeast bookstore across the street from Don D. Statter Harbor. The former bookstore is now called The Jetty, owned by Alaska Legacy Partners.
Stekoll, 39, grew up in Juneau and moved back about 10 years ago. He lived out the road growing up and lives out the road again as an adult, and has had a front-row seat to Auke Bay’s growth over the years.
He worked for the City and Borough of Juneau Engineering Department until recently, and drove through the Auke Bay area on a daily basis. Now, he’s hoping to give people one more reason to stop as they drive through.
“We just like Auke Bay, so we’re excited to be the Auke Bay neighborhood brewery,” Stekoll said. “That’s been our focus. Out here, there’s opportunity to tie into the harbor, whale watching, charters, that side of it, but really we want to focus on making beer for people who live here.”
Alaska Legacy Partners managing partners Garrett Schoenberger and Paul Simpson purchased the property in October 2017, hoping to turn it into a business hub for Auke Bay residents. Their focus, they said at the time, was to get local businesses into that spot and make it a destination for locals.
There was a hefty amount of interest in the property, Schoenberger said last week, but not all of them were ideal fits.
“I don’t want to say any names on the record, but there were some other groups, not local groups, that were interested,” Schoenberger said. “We’re really excited that it is a local group.”
Forbidden Peak, Schoenberger said, fit what they wanted. The vision, both Schoenberger and Stekoll said, is for the property to be more than the brewery. The brewery is the first goal, but Stekoll said he hopes to put in a restaurant under the same roof. Due to state laws about alcohol producers, the brewery and the restaurant must be separate. Stekoll said there are people who are interested in running the restaurant, but no concrete plans have been hashed out.
They also are hoping to move parking to the back of the building and replace the front parking lot with a large covered patio for people to sit outside and enjoy the view. Schoenberger and Simpson are also still planning on building condominium developments behind the building, and Schoenberger said construction on those could start in the spring.
Stekoll said he counts himself lucky because the Alaska Department of Transportation’s work on the roundabout and roads around Auke Bay is approaching an end. DeHarts Auke Bay Store, for example, recently went up for sale because business has suffered due to the construction, owner Dan Hickok told the Empire last week.
He and his partners — mostly family members — are ordering large brewing equipment that will arrive around February of next year. Stekoll has been a home brewer for more than a decade, but he knows brewing at a larger volume will involve a fairly steep learning curve.
He hopes they’ll take a couple months to navigate that curve, and the aim is to open the brewery in May or June. Stekoll envisions having a tasting room at first, but hopes to can and sell beer shortly after opening.
Stekoll walked around the building Friday afternoon, pointing out where the brewing equipment will go and where the tasting area will be. The brewing process is a bit messy, Stekoll said, but he’s looking forward to getting started.
“Brewing is 80 percent cleaning, but for some reason that’s never really bothered me,” Stekoll said. “I enjoy it. Ultimately, the satisfaction is that you create something that people enjoy.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.