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Capital Brewfest: A new fest in town

Posted: August 5, 2012 - 12:00am

There’s a new festival in town and Capital Brewfest is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, even if the inaugural event will likely only be able to serve a crowd of roughly 400 people. The festival, which will benefit SAGA, is the combined effort of the nonprofit headed by Beverly Schoonover, Rachael Juzeler of Alaskan Brewing and The Rotary Club of Juneau, informally known as the downtown club, with lead organizers Andy Mills and Cori Badgley, both of whom had prior experience with the California Brewers Festival in Sacramento, Calif. It was Anne Metcalfe who thought to bring together SAGA and Rotary, with both organizations in different phases of planning a brew festival for charity.

“What actually happened was (SAGA was) planning already to do an event, we were thinking of doing an event, and we did not want two events to hit the town so, why not marry our efforts together, why not join forces, because we’re both charities, trying to raise money and SAGA, as I understand it, is facing a very large federal funding shortfall. One of the things you really want in an event is a great charity partner, and SAGA is a great charity and a great partner.” Mills said.

“It was magic, actually, I had been managing an international coastal cleanup day for the last four or five years through the Watershed Partnership, which was my previous job, and we would end that project with the Autumn Pour, which is something Rachael did. They put on a benefit concert for International Coastal Cleanup day, so we had sort of used that day for an event already, so I talked to Rachael and Rachael said, ‘Well Ann’s been talking, The (Alaskan) Brewing Company has been talking to Rotary about it as well.’ We all got together in a meeting and it was just on — we had the date, we had the time, we had how the money was going to work. We knew what we wanted in terms of entertainment and food. The two people from Rotary, Andy and Cori, had been planning and facilitating this California brewing fest — 40,000 participants a year — so when they moved to Juneau, they were really excited. And they’re just amazing organizers.” Schoonover said.

A perfect pairing, Rotary and SAGA, with the help of Alaskan Brewing, immediately started working together to make the event happen — a mere two-and-a-half months before the proposed date of Sept. 15.

“We’re moving fast.” Juzeler said.

Now, only a month-and-a-half out, organizers are working hard and fast to make things happen. Juzeler, with her decade’s worth of experience organizing Haines Brew Festival and the local Autumn Pour, is recruiting breweries to participate. Naturally, Alaskan Brewing will be there, but Juzeler and Mills both expressed excitement at the relatively new Baranof Island Brewing of Sitka signing on, among others.

“This year we are gonna actually do it at the JACC.” Juzeler said, “It will be all tables, booths, with individual breweries representing themselves, and then we’ll have food booths outside. We plan to open the back door of the JACC so we can provide for more capacity. We’re looking at about 400 (people), with the garage doors opened in the back for sort of an indoor-outdoor event. We’re getting extra port-a-potties.”

While Mills took the humble route and said he hopes the event sees a good crowd, the more realistic estimate is that the event will sell out in advance. Southeast Alaska State Fair Executive Director Ross Silkman was unable to provide hard numbers, but he estimated more than 500 Juneau residents traveled to Haines for their brew festival, which takes place Memorial Day Weekend each year and served about 1,350 attendees this year.

“This one, I have a feeling, is going to sell out. We can only have about 400 people, and that’s because we extended to the outside. You have your 300 for the JACC, and usually you don’t mind if you have a thousand people rotating through all day, but for this, it’s a four-hour event and we know people are gonna be there for four hours, so we’re gonna max out at 400.” Juzeler said.

One purpose of the event is quite apparent — celebrating beer. The other purpose is to raise money for charity. For the first year, the recipients will be SAGA, a local nonprofit that has been working quietly but tirelessly in the community or 26 years. Not sure what SAGA does in the community? Well, with such a long list, it can be hard to keep track.

“Our Juneau-Douglas High School construction program has been going on for the last few years and we partner with the Juneau Housing trust and the school district, and we take high school students and we build affordable homes. And this’ll be our third, no, we’re going to start our fourth low-income housing unit this September. So not only are the students learning really valuable trade skills, we’re also building units that the community really needs. Our Connections program is an individual placement program and its purpose is to build the capacity of nonprofits in Alaska to engage youth and volunteers, so we have 25 members this year, our largest group, all over Alaska. So they volunteer a year and work full-time at nonprofits and agencies around Alaska: AWARE, Discovery Southeast, United Way, Campfire, UAA, Cordova Ranger District, Prince William Science Center, Yakutat School District will have Americorps members this year. We also have the Eagle Valley Center, which we run hands-on outdoor adventures and we partnered with, I can’t even name all of them off-hand, but AWARE and Hoonah Indian Association, and we did this epic kayak trip with all these students, it was great. We work with SAIL and partner with them on events. Hopefully, if we raise enough money, Eagle Valley Center will become a really nice retreat and science center, we’re going through a master planning process right now with the City (and Borough of Juneau). We have our Corps program, which is what started our organization. We have a youth corps program, we work with kids age 17-24, they work on on-the-ground projects on public lands all over Alaska. We have teams deployed right now all over the place. We also have the Alaska Service Corps, they work on DOT-centric projects, plus habitat restoration, trail building and, basically, they’re the older Americorps (volunteers). We have a total of 10 teams, five of which are operating out of our shop up north, five of which are operating out of our shop here. So, those are, that’s what we’re doing.” Schoonover said, not all in one breath.

SAGA, for 26 years, relied on work and grant funding to keep the organization running, but they recently received some devastating news.

“This year is really the first year that Americorps, well last year, that Americorps became super competitive, where in years past there was money left over from Americorps and not enough demand, and now there were hundreds of organizations that didn’t get funded and we received only 30 percent of our funding that we expected for next year.”

This will be the first year that SAGA engages in major fundraising events and donor campaigns and Schoonover seems ready for the challenge.

“We’ve never done major donor campaigns or corporate donations, we’ve always just sort of stuck to working and using grant money. But this year we’re going to be doing a lot of pretty much everything you can see in a fundraising book — we’ll be doing it.”

SAGA will be the recipient of the funds from the first annual Capital Brewfest, but there is already talk about future festivals.

Juzeler suggests that Capital Brewfest would be perfect to absorb the Autumn Pour, creating an event much like the popular Haines Brew Festival. This year, the time frame for organizing the Sept. 15 event might be too short to get the proper permitting for the home brew competition, but Juzeler said she is hoping she can get the permitting process fast tracked.

Mills is already thinking of other, larger venues than the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, hoping to have an event that more closely resembles Haines Brew Festival in size as well as content. He also anticipates doing the event at the end of August instead of mid-September, hoping for some sunshine and the possibility of having more outdoor space. And in case of rainy weather, he referred to the beer as “a little spot of sunshine in a glass.”

The event will probably also raise money for different nonprofits each year.

“It was really cool how willing they were to let us be the first charitable organization. I think in the future they’re going to pick a different charity each year, which is awesome… spreading the wealth around is a great idea. We’re just happy that we’re the founding group.” Schoonover said.

“It’s really hard because Americorps grants are three years, so everyone who had been here before had been on these three-year grant cycles for years, and now to not get hardly anything of what we had expected was hard. But Americorps is really changing… So we need to be a little more strategic. We have to turn around and put our grants back in in October. It’s going to be a wild fall.”

Schoonover hopes the funds from this event and other donations will at least get them through to the next grant cycle.

Whether you are more excited about funding SAGA or tasting some regional brews, the event is sure to be a hit in Juneau.

The first annual Capital Brewfest will be from 1-5 p.m., Sept. 15 at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center. It’s sure to feature breweries and beers from around Alaska, local distributors, and potentially breweries from elsewhere in the region to fill things out.

“We don’t want to keep it all Alaskan to the point that it’s a hardship, because so far we have, what, Haines Brew Festival, Kenai Brew Festival which I’m going to in two weeks, and Talkeetna just started a brew festival also on August 22.” Juzeler said, “So we just have beer festival after beer festival and it can be really taxing on these small breweries, especially traveling. And that’s what we’re having a hard time with — getting to Juneau is kind of difficult. So we might have to rely on down-south breweries a little more heavily. They’re always supportive, I mean, the Alaska brewing community is hugely supportive, but the Alaska breweries work really hard and if they’re not showing up themselves, we can get beer shipped.”

Though the idea first started brewing only a month ago, the partners for this event have history planning solid events. And if the excitement among members of the downtown Rotary club and SAGA volunteers is any indicator, buying tickets now might be wise. Tickets can be purchased through the brew festival’s website capbrewfest.com, where further information can be found as it is made available. Tickets will be $25 for entry and 10 drink tickets for 4 oz. pours. There are also non-drinking tickets available for $5 for designated drivers — those come with a bottle of water. Additional drink tickets may be purchased for $2 each.

For more on SAGA or to donate directly, visit servealaska.org or contact Schoonover by calling 789-6172 or emailing at schoonover@servealaska.org.

• Contact Neighbors editor Melissa Griffiths at 523-2272 or at melissa.griffiths@juneauempire.com.

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