Head brewer Micah Renfeldt and owner Cristiana Fincher cheers in front of the beer tap counter at Copper River Brewing’s one year celebration on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. Photo by Kinsey Brown for The Cordova Times

Copper River Brewing celebrated one year in business on Friday, Nov. 17. The brewery hosted a special birthday party evening where patrons were able to mingle over locally brewed beverages and enjoy a free piece of cake made by Cordova’s own confectionary maven, Diane Ujoka.  

The location on First Street has become known locally as a space for comfortable afternoon gatherings. On any given day visitors to the brewery can order from a list of 11 different beers on tap in addition to non-alcoholic ginger beer and root beer.  

Micah Renfeldt, head brewer, said that his favorite beer to create is the oatmeal stout, in large part because he has been making it the longest. The oatmeal stout, Paulie Sasion, and Kveik IPA were the first three original beers featured at the brewery’s opening day last year on Nov. 10, 2022. Since then, the Kveik IPA has continued to be the top seller even as the list of brews continues to grow.  

When asked about his philosophy on brewing, Renfledt keeps it simple: “Don’t just brew good beer, brew great beer.”  

Copper River Brewing’s space has a split loft level with two colorful velvet couches on each side and a table for large groups near the southern facing windows. Below, on the main level, the order counter is situated in front of a row of large silver fermenters where Renfledt monitors his current batches. There is a small kitchen on the main floor where they prepare and serve a rotating menu of sandwiches on fresh bread. Art from a mix of local artists is displayed throughout. A sign on the main wall welcomes dogs and children as long as both are well behaved.   

Christiana Fincher co-owns Copper River Brewing with husband Curtis Fincher. She said that reflecting on the past year has made her thankful that they were able to fill an otherwise empty spot on Cordova’s main street.  

Advertisement

“The building was a blank slate when we came into it,” she said “And now seeing it full of heart and people is very special.”  

Fincher is thankful to foster a welcoming space in town and said that the brewery team has intentionally created a community atmosphere by sourcing locally made furniture, art, and other items.  

“We were always thinking that if we can do something locally, we want to,” she said. The resin and wood high top tables and counter were made by Erin Muma and the custom flight board was created by Kyle King of Boswell Bay Lumber.  

The business accomplished several successes this past year. In addition to a busy summer season the brewery became the sole supplier of beer for the Copper River Salmon Jam music festival, an agreement they plan to carry out with Cordova Arts and Pageants for the next three years. The brewery team also received an honorable mention for small business of the year at the Cordova Chamber of Commerce’s business awards gala on Nov. 18.  

Copper River Brewing added a menu of sandwiches soon after opening last winter. Joe Hamm and Shea Bowman own and run the food aspect of the brewery. Like many of the people working at the brewery they share more than just a work relationship with the Finchers, they are good friends as well.  

“It’s not always easy to do that,” Fincher said of maintaining positive friendships while developing a new business together. “But we’re grateful that it’s worked so well.”  

Joe Hamm has developed his sandwich menu over the months to offer crowd-pleasing favorites including the steak sandwich, BLT, and banana PB&J, all of which are served on bread made in house.  
“The food is a really important part of the business,” Fincher said. “Cordova is short on places to eat, so to me it’s important that we are one of them.”  

Fincher said that the brewery has plans to open for lunch in the coming year. As for the future of the business, Fincher said they plan to get more kegs out to local restaurants and are currently discussing options with the Reluctant Fisherman Inn. She also said they look forward to the return of the popular trivia night series come January.  

This story originally ran in the Nov. 24, 2023 issued of The Cordova Times.

Advertisement