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SE Alaska Beer Week: Because a weekend just isn't long enough

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2010

Love beer but can't make it to Haines for Brew Fest? If so, the rest of this sentence will make you very happy: Beginning Saturday, right here in Juneau, its Southeast Alaska Beer Week, the first annual week-long local celebration of all things beery.

Featuring informational sessions, tastings and even a beer-accompanied film, the long pour of events is designed to showcase regionally made beer, both home and craft brews. Southeast Beer Week comes one week after American Craft Beer Week, and is bracketed by the Juneau Maritime Festival on one end and the 18th annual Haines Brew Fest, held May 28-29, on the other.

Organizer Rachael Juzeler said beer week was inspired by similar events in other cities such as Seattle and San Francisco.

"All those towns and places have beer week now, so I had to jump on the bandwagon," Juzeler said. "I hate being left out."

Juzeler, a quality control analyst for the Alaskan Brewing Co., said she is mostly operating outside of her professional capacity in organizing the events, but added that she has drawn on connections she's made through her work. She's also been involved in helping to organize Brew Fest in Haines for 10 years.

Local events include a beer garden at the Maritime Festival in Marine Park on Saturday, an informal Q&A with local homebrewers at the Alaskan on Monday, a beer-accompanied showing of "Strange Brew" at the Gold Town Nickelodeon on Tuesday, and a craft beer tasting on Wednesday at the Rendezvous.

Thursday, Juzeler has planned something unusual. Because the Alaska Marine Highway schedule worked out, and because she wanted to involve as many Southeast communities in Beer Week as possible, Juzeler organized a lightning-fast tour of Skagway Brewing while the ferry is in port in Skagway - under two hours.

"That's what makes our Southeast Beer Week uniquely Southeast," Juzeler said.

Travelers will visit the brewery in Skagway for about an hour and half beginning at 1:30 p.m., she said.

"Basically, we'll walk off the ferry, we'll walk to the brewery and then we'll walk back to the ferry," Juzeler said.

The ferry will then take the beery bunch to Haines, where they can gear up for Friday and Saturday's actives.

For those heading to Haines from Juneau, there are two fast ferry runs Friday, Juzeler said, one at 8 a.m. and one at 2:30 p.m. There are no ferries at all Saturday.

Brew Fest officially begins Friday morning with the judging of homebrew entries.

For those still hoping to enter their homebrew, there's still time. The deadline is Wednesday, and forms can be found at the Alaskan Brewing Co. office.

Believe it or not, Juzeler says judging the local beers is rough work. Not because the beer is so bad - on the contrary - because its too good.

"They've gotten way, way, way better in the last couple years, so it can be really difficult," she said. "That's why I have to have really good judges."

One entry she knows about includes two different batches of the same brew: one made in Arizona and one in Alaska. She's looking forward to discerning the differences between the two waters used in brewing.

Previous homebrew contest winner Paul Wheeler went on to start his own brewery, Haines Brewing.

Friday night marks the return of the celebrated 18th annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Beer Banquet Dinner, beginning at 6 p.m. All 180 tickets have been sold, however.

Saturday is the festival itself, shortened a bit this year in a effort to offset some drinkers' overactive thirst. It may be shorter, but its no less full, with 14 Alaskan breweries and one Canadian, as well as two distributors represented. Juzeler said they expect 1,100 people.

Juzeler said the Haines Brew Fest is her "favorite festival ever," and that she hopes to keep up the Southeast Beer Week lead-up in the years to come.

"I'm pretty sure we will be doing something every year," she said. "There's so much interest (in the craft) right now."

For more information about the Haines Brew Fest, visit www.seakfair.org.



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