Over the weekend, hordes of thirsty visitors arrived in Haines for the 24thannual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival. Hundreds of gallons of suds were served up, and the event went off without a hitch. The local police force was kept busy, but no major incidents were reported.
Nearly 2,000 people from all over the state, the Lower 48 and Canada packed into the fairgrounds and Dalton City on Saturday in the name of fermented hops and malted barley. As the sun got hotter, the lines got longer, snaking around the grounds.
Beer-Fest-goer Leah from Whitehorse has been to Haines for the event several times. She was one of a group wearing blue and yellow beer-mug hats. The hats helped the group easily locate each other in the mob.
“Everybody knows everybody, even if you’re meeting for the first time,” she says. “It’s super awesome. Everyone is just here to have a great time and drink some good beer.”
In between sips, Beer Fest goers enjoyed games, music, and food vendors to keep them occupied.
Dave Rector is a beer ambassador from the Arkose Brewery in Palmer. This is the brewery’s fifth year in business, and Rector says it’s expanding every day. He says Beer Fest means reconnecting with beer lovers from far and wide.
“You start to see the same folks over and over again, and you create relationships with them based on the event,” he says.
Jessica Wilken is the co-owner of the HooDoo Brewing Company in Fairbanks, another relative newcomer to the world of craft brewing. She says the reasons for the trip to Haines are many, including good exposure for the fledgling business.
“The location is awesome. It’s beautiful, the mountains are everywhere and it’s the oldest brew fest in Alaska.”
After the dust settled, those involved in organization, promotion and peace-keeping agreed that the event went smoothly with just a few minor snags. Here’s Southeast Alaska State Fair director Jessica Edwards.
“A real highlight this year was the connoisseur’s hour, we have had incredibly good feedback about that,” Edwards says. “It was just a really nice atmosphere, and it gave people the opportunity to walk around and talk to the brewers. The brewers enjoyed talking to people and getting the kinks worked out of their systems before we had a big group of people coming all at once.”
She says the main event was happy and light, the dinner on Friday was well received, and plans are already underway for next year.
Interim police chief Josh Dryden says the four officers on duty worked long hours over the weekend, and while plenty of warnings were given, only one person was brought in to dry out in a jail cell.
“He was being obnoxious and would not leave one of the hotels that he was not a guest at,” he says. “So, we helped him with that.”
Dryden says they got a lot of calls for public urination, people falling down, camping in prohibited areas, crowd control, open containers, and the like. He says no arrests were made and the calls were nothing the local force couldn’t handle.
“Everyone was very polite, very respectful and very cooperative. It was a good weekend. We just need more police officers. Act6.5:Having an extra 2,000 people in town with four cops, doesn’t really work.”
On the tourism side of things, director Leslie Ross says businesses were bustling and pleased with the turnout. One thing they are looking to improve for next year?
“We had a few minor incidences with restrooms, which we’re marking it down that next year we need more port-a-potties around town,” Ross says. “Every year it seems that there’s something new that comes up that we have to deal with. The events grow every year and so we have to accommodate for that.”
The weekend festivities also included a home brew competition, with Haines’ Mary Jean Sebens picking up first place for her American Stout. See full results here: Winners Final-2
Oh, and tickets for next year go on sale Feb. 1, 2017.