Tom Dalldorf for Celebrator
Alaskans are a sturdy bunch. Independent and resourceful, they are in survival mode for much of their existence in the wilds of the Last Frontier. Included in “travel gear” are water, blankets, Spam or jerky and a good supply of duct tape (called 100-mile-an-hour tape). Downtown Anchorage is a bit more civilized, with modern hotels, shops, restaurants and pubs. Scattered around the biggest state in the U.S. (with one of the smallest populations) are an impressive collection of breweries and brewpubs (more per capita than any other state?) catering to the eclectic tastes of its hearty inhabitants.
Once a year, during the dead of winter (the summer is far too busy for such foolishness), the Alaskan brewers and beer fans converge on the “big city” of Anchorage for the annual Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival. Traveling 300 to 800 miles to a beer fest is a challenge for most brewers and beer geeks, but in Alaska it means over roads that can be covered in snow, with temps plunging to –30ºF. For this year’s festival, the weather was milder, with highs in the upper 20s and lows in the teens — a regular heat wave for those rugged inhabitants.
Aurora Productions did another superb job of organizing a great beer show. Fest founder Billy Opinsky of Humpy’s Alehouse did yeoman’s work in bringing the best Alaskan beers together, along with excellent offerings from the Pacific Northwest and beyond in the Lower 48. Classic European beers were also available to provide a truly excellent cross section of great beer for interested Alaskan beer lovers, and an inspiration to local brewers and homebrewers alike.