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Festivals favor the planners. Some people make fail-safe plans months in advance, arranging time off, accommodations, transportation and more.
The hindsight guide to the Great Alaska brewfest 052814 NEWS 1 FOR THE CAPITAL CITY WEEKLY Festivals favor the planners. Some people make fail-safe plans months in advance, arranging time off, accommodations, transportation and more.

Melissa Griffiths Photo

Skagway Brewing Co. brewer Trevor Clifford serves a Spruce Tip Blonde at the 22nd annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival on May 24.


Melissa Griffiths Photo

Skagway Brewing Co. brewer Trevor Clifford serves a Spruce Tip Blonde at the 22nd annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival on May 24.


Melissa Griffiths Photo

Skagway Brewing Co. brewer Trevor Clifford serves a Spruce Tip Blonde at the 22nd annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival on May 24.


Melissa Griffiths Photo

Skagway Brewing Co. brewer Trevor Clifford serves a Spruce Tip Blonde at the 22nd annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival on May 24.


Melissa Griffiths Photo

Skagway Brewing Co. brewer Trevor Clifford serves a Spruce Tip Blonde at the 22nd annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival on May 24.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Story last updated at 5/28/2014 - 2:11 pm

The hindsight guide to the Great Alaska brewfest

Festivals favor the planners. Some people make fail-safe plans months in advance, arranging time off, accommodations, transportation and more.

I am not that person.

I did arrange for the time off from work, but otherwise I can offer advice only on short-term planning and how to make friends with expert planners.

Long-term planning

A better planner would be reviewing the smoked salmon and pork crepinette with potato gnocchi and shishito pepper nettle sauce in this column.

A better planner would have bought her ticket to the Beer Fest-eve paired dinner on Feb. 1, when tickets went on sale.

At least I arranged for the time off work so I wouldn't get fired for leaving the office Friday afternoon for the sake of drinking beer all weekend.

Most employers would frown on that being a spontaneous thing.

Medium-term planning

For some, the festival starts at 1 p.m. with entry to Dalton City, but for others it begins when the ferry leaves or once the tent is erected. Medium-term planning for the festival involves setting up a tent, possibly squatting on the parade grounds, because only planners get on-site showers and toilets. Medium-term planning is having full water bottles at ready because the idea of attending a beer festival while succumbing to the consequences of Beer Fest Eve is unappealing.

Short-term planning

A hearty brunch is an absolute must. Granola bars at the camp site are just a snack until a real breakfast can be acquired at one of Haines' restaurants. Patronizing the restaurants of Haines is of the utmost importance - for the town, it's compensation to make up for swarm of out-of-towners drunkenly staggering through Haines' normally quiet streets.

Since driving is out of the question, or at least ill-advised, planners are at the front of the line, having left their lodgings an hour or more before the gates open. People like me are a quarter-mile from the entrance and determining for all other people like me if the line rounds the corner turning downhill or uphill.

By now, several bottles of water should have been consumed.

Shorter-term planning

Upon entry to Dalton City, aka the fairgrounds, it is easy to get overwhelmed by options. More breweries seem to be popping up all the time in Alaska, with even Skagway boasting two. Before filling up, it's best to scout bathrooms because drinking several bottles of water means the first small sample of beer may be the straw that broke the camel's bladder.

Starting light is a good strategy, though one ought not be fooled by a lighter color alone: Beers like Alaskan Brewing's Hopothermia don't resemble a stout in the slightest but still boast a high alcohol content. Starting light introduced me to my favorite beer of the event early on in the day - Skagway Brewing Co.'s Spruce Tip Blonde. I sampled this light and refreshing brew at least four times over the course of the event's four hours.

Some choose to maximize their number of beers by queueing in the next line as soon as the fist sip is taken on a sample, but I suggest drinking more strategically. I also recommend remembering there are other things going on at the festival, like live music from bands like Pastor Lunchmeat and the Pimentos or the Wool Pullers, and carnival-type games. Swinging a large mallet is much more appealing when there are prizes involved, and throwing rocks at beer bottles has rarely been so rewarding.

Waiting in lines for the bathroom is another way to pace drinking, with a full sample lasting only a fraction of the time it takes to move from the end of the line to an empty stall. An old trick I learned when I attended Oktoberfest in Germany is to get in line for the ladies' room at regular intervals, knowing that by the time you've made it to the front of the line you will have to pee. There is talk of secret bathrooms, but knowing the location requires a vow of secrecy (though it was obviously regularly broken).

As the afternoon continues, darker beers get consumed, like brown ales, and eventually porters or stouts. It was with some disappointment that I learned there was no Black Fang at Haines Brewing Co.'s table, dashing my hopes for the dark, creamy imperial stout. Another absent beer was Silver Gulch's cranberry brew. It's important not to dwell on what is unavailable, especially when there are so many new and exciting beers to try, sometimes from new and exciting breweries.

By this time, more people are stomping in the dust, dancing to the band, savoring chicken satay skewers and making plans for the rest of the day. Four hours passes so quickly.

For some, the festival ends here, but after a break at the campsite and a leisurely dinner at Mosey's Cantina, a walk back to the Pioneer Bar rewards one with live music, if one can handle the packed house. The bars in Haines can stay open as late as 5 a.m., but for this Juneauite, an earlier night was in order, one that involved ice cream from The Hungry Moose.

With proper hydration and well-timed bathroom breaks, Beer Fest should remain a crisp memory, unmarred by subsequent headaches; and it is possible to greet the next day with the presence of mind to name your favorite beer of the festival and to use terms like "mouth feel" with only the proper amount of laughter.


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