Since neither Elaine nor I had been there, we decided we wanted to visit Skagway and Dawson City in the Yukon, to explore the region where the famous Klondike Gold Rush took place. Plus we wanted to attend the 20th Annual Great Alaska Craft Beer & Home Brew Festival in Haines on May 25 & 26, the oldest beer fest in the state. It's a two day drive from our home on the Kenai to Haines, so we spent a night in Tok, before rolling into Haines on Thursday afternoon, May 24.
|Haines Brewing in Dalton City|
The brewery is located in Dalton City, which was originally a movie set built for the Disney movie White Fang before being moved to the SE Alaska Fairgrounds. When we arrived in town on Thursday, it was our first stop. As we walked up, we could see that there was a line of folks waiting to buy pints to drink out front and with growlers to be filled. As an aside, every restaurant Elaine and I ate at in Haines that sold beer had Haines Brewing beers on their list. It certainly speaks well of a brewery when it has such tremendous local support. After a such a long drive, I felt the need of refreshment, so I had a glass of their Black Fang Imperial Stout, which was delicious.
The next morning, I helped judge the first round of the Home Brew Competition, which was a first for me. I've written many reviews, but I'm not BJCP certified, so it was a new experience to evaluate brews for points against the style guidelines. I tasted 8 different lagers, from several different styles. A couple were quite good and one was outstanding, and they were all at least palatable. I later learned that Ben Hastings, one of our homebrewers from here on the Kenai, took Best in Show, with an IPA, I believe. Good job, Ben!
|Click to enlarge|
|May in Alaska: Drinking beer in the rain!|
The next day was Saturday, the day of the actual festival, and it dawned cold and rainy. However, cold and rainy weather does not stop Alaskans (or Yukoners -- there were plenty of them there) from having a great time. The Fest has sold out long before (1250 attendees) and the scalpers were busy outside the gate. Inside, the breweries and Specialty Imports were set up under the tents and pouring some excellent beers. The wet weather did not seem to have dampened anyone's spirits. I had a wonderful time and I can understand why many folks say this is the best beer festival in Alaska. I hope I can visit it many more times.
|Best place to drink in Skagway|
The Skagway Brewing Company has a full bar and and excellent menu of pub grub, with daily specials (Elaine and I had gourmet burgers there on Sunday night), not to mention a great atmosphere, but the real attraction is the beer. Brewer Trevor Clifford is doing an excellent job, and he was nice enough to come out and chat with me for a bit (not to mention pulling off a taster for me from a not-quite-finished batch of his Spruce Tip Blonde Ale). They had four brews actually on tap -- Prospector Pale Ale, Boom Town Brown, Chilkoot Trail IPA, and Blue Top Porter -- and over the course of the next couple of days, I tried them all. This is a really nice brewpub, and Elaine and I enjoyed ourselves every time we stopped in while we were in Skagway.
|Beer Worth Freezing For...|
When we hit Whitehorse, we made it a point to get to Yukon Brewing Company by noon, so as to be able to take the tour. As you might imagine, given my predilections, I've been on many a brewery tour, so please take me seriously when I say that this was certainly one of the top three or four tours I've ever taken! It lasted over 90 minutes total (instead of the advertised 30 or 40), was very thorough and concluded with tasting over a dozen different beers! Yes, that's right, a dozen. We tasted every beer they bottle or can (eight) plus all five of the seasonals/specials they happened to have on tap at the brewery. Here's the list:
Bottles/Cans: Chilkoot Lager, Deadman Creek Cranberry Wheat, Discovery Honey ESB, Ice Fog IPA, Lead Dog Old Ale, Yukon Gold English Pale Ale, Yukon Red Amber Ale, and Midnight Sun Espresso Stout.
Seasonals: The Noble Pilsener, Chocolate Brown Ale, Yukon Crude Stout, White Pass Porter, and Double Trouble IPA.
Had we been there on Friday, we could have added a beer on cask to the list. All this for $5, which they donate to charity. Absolutely amazing. Miss Aubre, the young lady who gave the tour did an excellent job, especially trying to answer the overly technical questions of a certain beer blogger.
As we continued our travels through the Yukon, up to Dawson City and its Klondike goldfields, the goal of all the stampeders in '98, it became clear that Yukon Brewing has tremendous local support. We were told at the brewery that their Yukon Gold was the #1 selling beer in the territory, and after being in Dawson, I believe it. Every single restaurant and bar sold it, often the only beer they had on draft. Just like Haines and Skagway, people in the Yukon are proud to support their local brewery.
So at this point, you're probably thinking: "How about some beer reviews, Bill?" Patience grasshopper! I have a ton of them, and I want to hit the highlights of the local happenings while I was gone. Beer reviews will be in Part II of this post.
So turning to what's been happening around town in my absence:
|The proud parents of Lemongrass Ale|
Looking a little further afield, Alaskan Brewing has re-released their Pilot Series summer seasonal, Alaskan Raspberry Wheat, for a limited time. They have also announced that the September release will be a return of their Baltic Porter. This is wonderful news for me, as I think that is a fantastic beer, one of their very best. In December, they will be releasing an new Imperial Red Ale, name unknown of of yet.
Midnight Sun Brewing in Anchorage just re-released their Fallen Angel Belgian Golden Strong Ale and installed an brand-new 80 barrel conical. That's one big tank! I predict lots of excellent beer will be coming our way.
Finally, the June/July issue of Northwest Brewing News has hit the streets (or the mails, or whatever). The issue is focused on Alaska, with articles by yours truly and Jim "Dr. Fermento" Roberts among others. Look for it at your local brewery, newsstand, or their website.
OK, that's it for the news portion. Look for Part II in a couple of days, chock full of beer reviews. Keep drinking those great local craft beers.
Until Next Time, Cheers!