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Jillian Delaney (a.k.a. JAD) protects her retinas with free shades courtesy of New Belgium Brewing at the Great Alaskan Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival.
We got the stern border guard at Haines customs this year.
No, we're not bringing any firearms, plants or suitcases full of money, but I do have six beer entries for the homebrew competition.
"The what? The who? How big are them beers?"
He didn't get it.
Nobody warned him that several hundred thirsty Canadians would soon be disturbing the peace at the 21st annual Haines Beer Fest, May 24-25.
Friday the 24th was the homebrew competition; judging started at 9 a.m.
Eight different beers were in the first round — all stouts. After an hour of judging I had consumed less than 8 ounces of beer but was pleasantly glowing — possibly because four of the stouts were Russian Imperial style, way heftier than any sensible breakfast beer. Happily, The standout stout that went on to win Best of Show was an entry from Whitehorse. Rachel Finn and Michael Kulachkosky, the former writers of What's Up's Beer Cache column, reigned supreme among 115 entries. Their necks were a little distorted from all the medals they received.
The handmade medals were actual beer bottles melted in a kiln and adorned with a decal and ribbon to make them wearable — for short stints. The winners announcement was heard by only a smattering of people who ventured away from the beer taps on Saturday. I saw a lot of confused faces on people who had no idea what was going on.
The value-seekers barely let their focus drift away from maximizing beer consumption in the face of time constraints, line-ups and distractions.
Among the distractions were the sledgehammer bell-ringing strongman event; the random guy in dreadlocks, micro-gold lamé shorts and roller skates with neon green wheels; and, of course the usual pressing bladder.
Luckily, the sun was shining and the vibe was positive.
I took in the beer-pairing dinner again this year. Collette, the MC, took many jabs at Canadians. Apparently we don't need real birth control because our personalities do that job.
Dr. Fermento, a.k.a. James Roberts, was the guest speaker. He is a bona fide beer writer whose pet peeve is being asked to name a favourite beer.
"Beer is like sex or pizza," he says. "It's situational."
I agree. Sometimes you want the meat-lovers; sometimes the missionary position is just fine.
The beer-pairing dinner didn't stack up to last year's. The chef himself apologized that he had never cooked for 400 people before. The smelt wrapped in shoestring potatoes (a riff on fish and chips) was meh and the dessert was burnt. The beef tenderloin with rhubarb sauce and parsnip puree partially redeemed the night.
One of the standout beers was Haines Brewing's Black Fang, an Imperial Stout, which almost made me forget about the accompanying charred rice pudding.
Clever organizers realized that if they kept the beer flowing the backlash would be minimal.
There was certainly no shortage.