Ah, spring! It means a great thing is about to happen for anyone who enjoys their beer - Haines Brewfest. The 17th annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival, or Brewfest as it's commonly called, takes place Friday and Saturday at Dalton City - a faux town - on the Southeast Alaska State Fairgrounds in Haines.
Begun in 1993 by Arne Olson at the Hotel Halsingland, this festival is not only friendly and community oriented, it is also the reason Haines Brewing is in existence. When Paul Wheeler won best of show for his home brew in the fifth year of the festival, he decided to take the leap and open a brewery. And with great success - he has been cranking out top-notch ales since 1999.
After moving to the fairgrounds in 2002, the beer festival has continued to focus on showcasing great Alaska craft and home-brewed beers. The festival originated in an effort to get home brewing noticed as a craft and as an art. Since it's inception, the brews featured at the festival show how people have elevated beer-brewing to a hoppy and refreshing art form. This year, there are a record number of participants from Juneau alone.
Similarly, there has been an increase in the number of highly trained beer judges throughout the world, due in great part to the success of the Beer Judging Certification Program. In Juneau, there are 31 beer judges and more in training, and this year other judges are traveling from California and the far reaches of Alaska.
Following the judging of home brews on Friday afternoon, a beer dinner catered by Mosey's Cantina of Haines will be held, for the first year ever, at the McPherson Barn on the fairgrounds. In years past, the beer dinner has been phenomenal, but packed into a small venue. The new location allows seating for 140, and a bit more elbow room to enjoy the meal.
There were only a handful of reservations left when this article went to print. Reservations can be made by calling 766-2476 or e-mail at www.seakfair.org.
Kelly Hostetler, the fair director whose diligence makes the festival possible, and chef Martha Stewart, have been scrubbing their fingers to the bone to make the barn into a true, functioning establishment for the dinner. And catering to a beer crowd isn't that difficult, as beer people tend to be fairly mellow, and take the idea, "just sit down, relax, and have a homebrew" to a whole new level.
A five course meal will be presented accompanied by beers from Haines Brewery, Alaskan Brewing, Specialty Imports, Midnight Sun, Skagway Brewing and Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady brewery.
After dinner, with full, satiated stomachs, people converge on the town. This year shuttles will be provided both after Friday's beer dinner and Saturday's festival.
Saturday morning starts off early, with activities before the festival even begins. For those who like to sweat out the night before, there is the King Slammin 5K run or walk. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. at the cruise ship dock and the $10 registration fee includes a groovy t-shirt and sponsors Community Youth Development of Haines. The run/walk starts at 9 a.m.
And for those who like a little more laid-back pace in the morning, there is a disc golf tournament at 10 a.m. at the fairgrounds. Darlin is the contact at 766-2272 for more information.
The actual beer festival begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at the fairgrounds. Tickets this year are $27 and include a commemorative glass. Sampling great local, artisanal and craft beers is what this festival is all about, and numerous breweries and distributors will be pouring their wares. Representing Southeast Alaska, will be Haines Brewing, Alaskan Brewing and Skagway brewing. From the Anchorage area, Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady and Midnight Sun will be making an appearance, and from the peninsula, Kassik's and Kenai will be joining in. Local distributors do a great job in bringing in all sorts of beers from other parts of the world, and promoting the local beer scene. Specialty Imports has been diligent in bringing in Midnight Sun and Kenai Brews, plus a variety of excellently produced beers from around the world. In addition, K&L will be pouring what they offer to our local establishments. Yukon Brewing is also slated to make an appearance, bringing in beer we don't often get over the border.
Along with a pleasant afternoon sipping beer in the sun (because it always seems to be sunnier in Haines), the homebrew awards will be announced amidst the activities, and the music of One Aisle Over and Chilkat Grass will be playing throughout the festival. Grilled burgers and dogs will be available from Mosey's Cantina, the Fireweed and the fairgrounds.
This is how spring rolls in Haines. Activities abound, beer, food and fun are the name of the game for Memorial Day weekend.