Beer drinkers will take a flavorful tour of Alaska and the Yukon at the upcoming 24th annual Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Fest. More than 20 brewers will share their concoctions with nearly 2,000 attendees.
Haines Brewing Company owner Paul Wheeler says the local festival was a major motivation for him to start his brewery.
“Having a beer festival in Haines without having a brewery in Haines just seemed kind of ridiculous, so I got working on building the brewery,” he says.
The Haines Brewery’s Spruce Tip Ale, Ripinski Porter and more will be joined by beer from around 20 Alaska and Yukon Breweries. Jessica Edwards is director of the Southeast Alaska State Fair, which organizes the beer festival.
“New beer this year at the festival will be from Kodiak Brewing,” Edwards says. “We’ll have several from Anchorage, a couple from Fairbanks. Southeast Alaska will be will represented again. Yukon of course, we’ve got two now from the Yukon, we’ve got Winterlong and Yukon Brewing.”
As people drink, they can listen to music at two stages on the Fairgrounds, and sample food from eight vendors, including one devoted to bacon.
The festival is made up of a few events. On Friday, May 27, is the home brew contest that tends to attract around 100 entries each year. The main beer tasting is on Saturday May 28 from 1 to 5 p.m.
For 200 people who want to have more time personal time with the brewers, organizers added an hour-long Connoisseur’s Tasting right before the regular event. Wheeler says he thinks it’s a great idea.
“There’s a want for this opportunity to be able to talk to the brewer who is at the table pouring the beer,” he says. “And it’s really hard to do that in a big crowd. And so this is an opportunity for the brewers to talk about their product with the people interested in it.”
The Friday night before the festival, Seattle-based restaurateur Travis Kukull will chef the Gourmet Brewers Dinner for the fourth year.
“Travis really likes locally sourced foods and he has done a great job refining the menu as he learns what he can get locally here in Haines,” says Edwards.
She adds that U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski plans to attend the dinner.
The festival sold out in record time this year, but Edwards says there’s been some worry about how a new event could impact Beer Fest. Alaska Crafted is an Anchorage festival to showcase state brewers and distillers. It’s scheduled the weekend before Beer Fest, which could pose a problem for smaller breweries that don’t have the staff to travel two weekends in a row.
“I think it won’t have a huge competing effect in terms of Beer Fest vendors for us this year. And I’m hoping just with some thoughtful discussion of dates we can avoid potential conflict next year.”
Edwards says the hint of competition with Alaska Crafted has shown how supportive many brewers are of the Haines festival.
“It has been an opportunity for people to say how much they love this festival, and how it feels like their festival.”
Tourism Director Leslie Ross says accommodations around town are booking up fast for the last weekend in May. The borough allows overflow camping at Tlingit Park and Port Chilkoot Beach during the festival. It also has extra staff working to keep things clean. Ross says the borough will meet with organizers this week to plan for the summer’s first major influx of visitors.
Information about Beer Fest can be found seakfair.org.