It’s a gathering where you may sip the tingly bitterness of a pale ale, sample salty snacks from the “bacon booth” and lock eyes magically with your future spouse.
No wonder tickets to the Haines Beer Fest have sold out faster than ever this year. The event takes place May 27 and 28, in Haines, Alaska, a five hour drive southwest of Whitehorse on the Alaska and Haines highways.
“People really love coming to Haines,” says Jessica Edwards, executive director of the Southeast Alaska State Fair, which puts on Beer Fest.
The event draws 1,500 to 1,700 people to the Haines community of 2,500.
“It’s a really fun, laid-back weekend. We try to make people feel welcome.”
And it works. Tickets sold out by March 9, exactly a month earlier than in 2015.
Officially called the 24th Annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival, the event features a five-course gourmet dinner Friday night, a chance to work off the meal at a fun run the next day, a home brew contest and the opportunity to sample ales, lagers, stouts, blondes, browns, porters and more in the 20 brewers’ tents on Saturday afternoon.
A new event this year, the Connoisseur’s Hour, gives about 200 people quality time with with brewers.
“They get a chance to stand and talk to the people who make the beer,” says Edwards. “It’s a really great opportunity for people who love beer and want to learn more about it.”
This is followed by general admission where crowds of people sample beers from Haines, Sitka, Anchorage, Kodiak Island and other places throughout Alaska. The Yukon will be represented by the Winterlong and Yukon Brewing companies. Along with the brewers’ tents, there will be food that goes well with beer: raw oysters, hand-made pizza, sourdough bread sandwiches and bacon. “There’s a bacon booth! Dedicated to bacon,” laughs Edwards.
There will also be live music: folk, rock and jazz-swing.
With the fun, food and music in the gorgeous seaside setting of Haines, there can be chemistry in more than just the beer.
“Several people have met their future spouses at Beer Fest and have come back here to get married,” Edwards says, adding last year there was a proposal on the main stage.
For the most part, it’s for people who love beer and even take it seriously. Rob Miller organizes Beer Fest’s home brew contest. He’s expecting 75 to 150 entries, to be tested by his dozen judges from the Yukon, Alaska and mainland United States. Even for beer appreciators, judging is hard work. Miller’s certification test “was the toughest exam I’ve ever done, and that includes my professional engineering exam.”
Edwards is looking forward to welcoming people and attending to details – like making sure enough garbage cans are set up around town. She has her eye on a beer she wants to try, a crabapple sour from Anchorage.
“Sours are kind of popular with beer nerds,” she says. “I personally just love crabapples.”
You can find Beer Fest’s full schedule at www.seakfair.org.