It’s spring again, although it doesn’t much look like it, and time for my favorite little beer fest, The Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival – aka the Haines beer fest -- all grown up. Yep, that’s right, the Haines beer fest is “of age,” celebrating its 21st birthday. It’s going to be a good one.
This “little” beer festival isn’t so little any more, hosting sold-out crowds for the past several years. People are now in-the-know; checking the sales countdown on the Southeast Alaska State Fair page (www.seakfair.org) as of May 14, there are 110 tickets left.
The same can’t be said of the beer dinner held the day before the festival, which is already sold out. This dinner has expanded from completely packed VFW halls, to the remodeled Harriet Hall on the Southeast State Fairgrounds, and is now a fantastic place to sit and have dinner with 250 of your closest friends – all with something in common (which should go without saying): the love of craftbeer and homebrew. The dinner this year, prepared by guest chef Anthony “Travis” Kukull from Epic Ales in Seattle, known for its specifically paired brews and foods, sold out as of March 15, and goes to show just how popular beer dinners and similar events have become.
The popularity of events like this is the reason Southeast Alaska Beer Week exists. Even though I’ve left the beer biz, my artistic nature -- deeply rooted in the appreciation of craft, food and fermentation, all of which are true arts -- continues to feed my love of SE Alaska beer week. With the beer festival and dinner in Haines sold out yearly, there needed to be more opportunities to share the love of craftbeer and food with a broader population, including those who can’t get to Haines -- while providing the opportunity to showcase craft beer and the food establishments which serve them.
This year, SE Alaska beer week – May 18-25 – is going to start out with one of my favorite types of events, something new, as of last year: beer brunch. Brilliant idea, isn’t it? Saturday, May 18, at the Baranof hotel is where it shall commence. Put on by the Baranof Hotel, Midnight Sun and Specialty imports, this is a great way to kick off the week. And a Saturday. Forget the mimosas.
Check out the offerings:
The Baranof Hotel and Midnight Sun Brewing Company Beer Brunch
Fallen Angel (starter)
Spanish Cinnamon Churros
Kodiak Brown Ale
Fresh Thyme and Sausage Waffle
Sockeye Red IPA
Alaskan Salmon Hash with Poached Eggs and Chipotle Hollandaise Sauce
Arctic Rhino Coffee Porter
Mocha ice cream with chocolate espresso beans
Salivating yet? If you would like to attend this event, you will want reservations, so contact Linda at 463-6234 It is $27.95 per person for tickets, and starts at 11 a.m. – you know, brunch time.
On Sunday, May 19, from 11 a.m. -5 p.m., the Maritime Festival will be happening in downtown Juneau. Not only will there be an Alaskan Brewing Co. beer garden, but there will be plenty of food around to create your own pairings – and a contest offered to various restaurants in town to create the best salmon and beer pairing, to be judged by an elite panel. May the best pairing win.
Monday through Wednesday slow down a bit, but there are quite a few venues which have gone through some change and are worth a revisit. For example, the Silverbow has a new chef who studied at Le Cordon Bleu and they are carrying Denali Brewing beers – in cans. (Ha. That just made me laugh at how the beer culture has/is changing – for the better – I never thought I’d write Le Cordon Bleu and canned beer in the same sentence, but now-a-days it works . . .and is fancy . . . And yes, good craft beer in cans – the wave of the future for so many reasons, but subject for a different article.)
Things pick up again on Thursday, May 23, with a few events:
Dinner at the Rookery. My favorite beer/food chef in town, Beau Schooler, will be rocking out an Alaskan beer dinner. I have few details, but this is of little concern when you are talking about Beau’s dinners (and IPA ice cream), I would say reservations are a must for this one, as seats are limited to 40, and at $50 a plate they will be gone before you can blink. Call the Rookery to reserve your spot.
Also on Thursday, Kenai River brewing will be at the Alaskan Hotel – and I’m sure with something special you won’t be able to normally get in town. And you get to chat with some really cool people. Brewers, like all artsy types, are pretty damn fun.
And it’s this sense of friends and community coming out of the woodwork after a long winter and gathering in Haines, and Juneau, and throughout the Southeast, which makes it spring. Haines just makes it really spring. Time to jump up and cheer.
• Rachael Juzeler is a local artist whose creative works span many media. Visit her website at www.ratchetconstructs.com.