Written by Ben Anderson for Alaskadispatch.com Photo Chan Anderson
The first time I tried to brew my own beer, I went down on a basic beer brewing kit from Arctic Brewing Supply with my roommates. For weeks, we diligently saved our beer bottles — this was before glass recycling was discontinued in Anchorage — in anticipation of enjoying 12 frosty ounces of our own homemade suds.
We spent one night thoroughly hand-washing about 60 bottles in preparation for our brewing session the next day. We bought a capper and plenty of bottle caps. Finally, we were ready to transfer the beer from the primary fermentation carboy into the bottles. We transferred the liquid gold into the first bottle, placed it under the capper, and pressed hard.
The cap wouldn’t seal.
We tried again. The cap seemed to be forming to the mouth of the bottle, but it just hung loosely from the top. Baffled, we began to inspect the top of the bottles for imperfections. Eventually, we realized that there was a big imperfection — all the bottles we’d washed originally held Alaskan Winter Ale, which comes in a screw-top bottle, not a pop-top. The threads were preventing a seal.
We panicked. Our dream of uniform bottles evaporated as we frantically washed all the pop-top bottles we had, from a variety of breweries, in a multitude of shapes and sizes. We got it all bottled, but the end result wasn’t great, and it certainly wasn’t very strong.
I tried again, of course, and one of my roommates still takes home-brewing very seriously (and is getting quite good at it). But nothing compares, to me, of going out and enjoying a new beer that surprises you with a subtle spice or a fervent kick.
Plenty of surprises are sure to be on tap at the Beer and Barley Wine Festival this weekend in Anchorage. This is always a popular event in Anchorage, and this 16th iteration of it is unlikely to disappoint.
This year’s festival features more than 270 beers, from more than 70 breweries, from locations as far-flung as the Czech Republic and Australia, as well as regions classically associated with beer, such as Belgium and Germany. Porters, pales, stouts, barley wines, IPAs, Belgians, and others that some will have never heard of will all be available.
A ticket will run you $35 ($42.50 with fees if you buy online) for each of the two general sessions on Friday and Saturday night, and $45 ($53 online) for the Saturday afternoon “Connoisseur Session,” which will feature some specialty beers not available during the general sessions. The purchase price includes a sample glass and allows the ticketholder 30 samples of their choosing. Proceeds from the festival will go to benefit the American Diabetes Association.
Fifteen local breweries will also be present, from the popular Anchorage-based Moose’s Tooth and Glacier Brewhouse to the Haines and Homer Brewing Companies and others, based out of Nikiski (Kassik’s), Talkeetna (Denali Brewing Co.), and Fox (Silver Gulch). Many of the local breweries are offering a half-dozen beers or more, so be sure to choose wisely.
“Drink judiciously and go forth with a strategy,” he writes. It’s good advice as you navigate the multitude of available options.
Another piece of advice from Roberts is worth taking even closer to the heart. “You’ve heard this countless times before,” he says, “but I’d be remiss if I didn’t beg you to drink responsibly.” We at Alaska Dispatch emphatically second this motion and encourage all attendees to get a designated driver, hire a cab, or carefully moderate themselves. Stay safe, Alaska!