Saturday, June 3, 2017

Hainesfest at 25

Last weekend I was in Haines for the 25th Annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Homebrew Festival, aka Hainesfest. This was my third time at the festival and my first visit since 2014. As the oldest and in many ways the best beer festival in Alaska, the Hainesfest is always a great time. However, I was amazed at how much the festival has grown in just the three years since I was last there. Here's a list of the breweries that were in attendance this year:

  • Haines Brewing Company
  • Alaskan Brewing Company
  • Midnight Sun Brewing Company
  • Denali Brewing Company
  • Double Shovel Cider Company
  • Baranof Island Brewing Company
  • HooDoo Brewing Company
  • K&L Distributors
  • Specialty Imports
  • Yukon Brewing Company
  • Odom Distributors
  • King Street Brewing Company
  • Skagway Brewing Company
  • Broken Tooth Brewing Company
  • Kodiak Island Brewing Company
  • Arkose Brewing Company
  • Kenai River Brewing Company
  • Winterlong Brewing Company
  • Barnaby Brewing Company
  • Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling Company
  • 49th State Brewing Company
  • Anchorage Brewing Company
  • Homer Brewing Company
  • Cynosure Brewing Company

I was particularly excited to see Winterlong Brewing and Yukon Brewing in attendance. This festival is pretty much the only time you'll see beers from these two Whitehorse-based breweries on offer in Alaska. Plus brand-new Barnaby Brewing came up from Juneau, giving me a chance to meet its owner, Matt Barnaby, face-to-face for the first time, as well as a chance to sample his wares. Here are some photos I took at the fest just after it opened (before the crowds had a chance to pour in):

Now here's the fest about an hour later:

As you can see, the sell-out crowd of 1700 people pretty much fills the space. There were two music stages and a half-dozen food vendors as well. I particularly enjoyed the freshly-shucked oysters on the half-shell. Last but hardly least, I also saw this at Hainesfest:

Just two guys named Lee...

Before the festival itself on Saturday, the annual Brewers Dinner was held on Friday night. This event is limited to 300 by the size of the hall in which it is held and typically sells out within 48 hours of the tickets going on-sale in February. This year's dinner was exceptional as always. Here's what was on the menu:

Finally, you can't go to Haines and not visit Haines Brewing Company. It's one of the best breweries in the state that few people can drink since its beers seldom make it farther from Haines than Juneau or Skagway. After many long years in a tiny brewery on the fairgrounds, Paul Wheeler and Jeanne Kitayama were finally able to build a new brewery in downtown Haines in 2015. This was my first visit to their new facility and I was certainly impressed:

The brewery at 4th & Main in downtown Haines

Serving bar in the tap room

Another angle of the tap room

The brewhouse

Fenced beer garden behind the brewery
With its new location, bigger brewhouse, and greatly expanded tap room, Haines Brewing has become a real hub of its namesake community. Plus its beers are fantastic (see my reviews below). I only wish I didn't have to drive 900+ miles and cross an international border twice to be able to drink it...

Speaking of all that driving, on the way to Haines I made a quick pitstop in Palmer to fuel up my car and my stomach. I decided to grab a quick lunch at the Palmer City Alehouse since I had not yet visited the place. When I walked in at 11 AM, I pretty much had the place to myself, so I snapped a few pictures.

The beer selection was pretty good, with lots of local options. I ended up going with a Frontiersman IPA from Bearpaw River Brewing. The menu looked pretty good as well; the prime rib dip I chose was delicious and came with copious French fries. The staff told me that it is also a pretty hopping place in the evenings, especially when there is live music. So if you're looking for a decent meal and a good beer selection in Palmer, I give the Palmer City Alehouse two thumbs up.

As long as we're talking festivals, I want to remind everyone that the tickets for The Culmination Festival (July 29th at Anchorage Brewing Company) will go on sale at 9 AM tomorrow, Sunday, June 4. You can order on the festival's website via the link above.

On my way back from Haines, I managed to visit Gakona Brewing, easily the most isolated of the breweries in Alaska that are on the road system. It's about a mile from Gakona Junction, where the Tok Cutoff intersects the Richardson Highway. For those of you who haven't been there, it's not quite the end of the world, but you have a good view of it from there. In this fortress of solitude, Ed Miner operates Gakona Brewing Company. He currently uses a 3-bbl brewing system, which is a significant improvement over the Sabco Homebrew system he started with. Not to mention Ed doesn't have a well, so he has to haul in all his brewing water! Here are some photos:

The sign for the brewery

Ed Miner in front of hi 3-bbl brewhouse


The original SABCO system

If you're wondering why anyone would want to have a brewery in Gakona with all the hardships that entails, here's the answer. Standing a short distance behind the brewery, I snapped these photos, looking from left to right.

That's the Copper River, by the way. For a view like that, I guess it's worth hauling your brewing water! If you're looking to sample beers from Gakona Brewing, you can find them at Humpy's in Anchorage, the Princess Lodge in Copper Center, the Trapper's Den in Gakona, and select Hacienda Mexican Restaurants.

If you missed my most recent radio show (the broadcast was Saturday, May 29th), you can listen to a recorded version of it at My next show will be broadcast three weeks from today on June 24th at 11 AM. If you've got any suggestions for topics you'd like to see covered, just drop me a line and let me know.

Alaskan Brewing has announced a new beer for its rotating Alaskan Sampler Pack: Alaskan Cream Ale, which is following the Spruce Tip IPA and Gold Creek Ale. Alaskan is inviting people to give feedback on its website about all these beers.

That about it for news this time. I hope to have more local beer news in my next blog, as I won't be on the road for a large part of it! Here are my beer reviews:

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen's Oude Geuze: I purchased this beer a couple of years ago as a leftover from The Culmination Beer Festival and have had it in my cellar ever since. When I opened it a couple of weeks ago, it poured a clear red-gold in color, but with very little in the way of head, and what there was dissipated rapidly to a collar. This was very unusual, as the style normally has tons of carbonation. The mouthfeel was light. The flavor profile was that of a classic geuze, tart but refreshing, yet missing the crucial element of effervescence due to the lack of carbonation. Perhaps I got a bad bottle, but it was still disappointing after cellaring it for so long. 6% ABV.

Haines Brewing's Ryepinsky Porter: I sampled this at the brewery. It poured black with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated to a collar. The nose had hints of peppery rye, along with the traditional roasted malts of a porter. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. On the palate, it was smooth, with lots of chocolate and roasted coffee notes, as well as a bit of pepper from the rye. Unusually, there was a slightly sweet note to the finish. Overall, a delicious porter made even more interesting by the twist of adding rye. 5.4% ABV, 25 IBUs.

Haines Brewing's Motueka New Zeland IPA: According to Paul Wheeler, he discovered this hop while visiting breweries in New Zealand and decided it would make a good IPA. I sampled this one at the brewery as well. It poured a cloudy gold with a nice cream-colored head. The nose had some very nice lemon-lime notes from the Motueka hops. Carbonation was good and the mouthfeel was light. Stylistically, it was closer to a more understated English-style IPA than an in-your-face American IPA. The Motueka hops give it a nice fruit-like flavor without the overwhelming citrus notes you get from some American varieties. Delicious and highly drinkable. 5.7% ABV, 55 IBUs.

Founders Brewing's PC Pils: As I mentioned in my 4/28/2017 blog, Founders Brewing is now distributing in Alaska. On my way home from Haines I stopped at La Bodega and picked up some Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale (reviewed on 6/1/2011) and All Day Session IPA (reviewed on 8/1/2014). In addition, they had a beer I had not yet tried, PC Pils, so I grabbed a six-pack of that as well. It poured a clear gold color with a small white head. The aroma had lots of American hop notes. The mouthfeel was light, and the carbonation was good. The flavor profile was clean and fresh, but the American hops were considerably more assertive in their bitterness than the European noble hops traditionally used in the style.  Not a bad beer, but for my tastes, it was really more of an India Pale Lager than a pilsner. 5.5% ABV, 45 IBUs.

That's it for this blog. Get out and enjoy the wonderful summer weather we are having here in Alaska, and be sure to drink lots of good craft beer while you're at it. I'll be back in a couple of weeks with more local beer news and reviews.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

No comments: