PUBLISHED: 6:05 PM on Wednesday, June 4, 2008
No time for moderation at Haines Home Brew Fest
HAINES - "Everything in moderation" is a good maxim, but not at the Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival on the first warm and sunny weekend of the year.

When you haven't felt the sun on your face in three weeks, it's hard to stay in the shade.

When the half-pint glass in your hand is your ticket to unlimited tastes of the dozens of craft beers on tap, it's hard to try just one.

  photos by Katie Spielberger
Home-brewers, brewery workers, and other beers aficionados packed Dalton City in the Haines Fairgrounds on May 24. Nobody seemed to mind the crowd or the heat.

As a guy from Skagway put it, "This is the best day of my life!"

A groom-to-be from Whitehorse was having his bachelor party that weekend. He was shackled to a ball and chain made out of a shot put, but he didn't seem to mind that either.

After the first hour everyone looked red but few had time for sunscreen.

"I'm only on round two," a girl admitted to her friend. She had only completed one full round of every beer on tap.

Honestly, I don't know how she did it. After a pint of beer and twenty minutes of direct sunlight, my boyfriend and I were both ready for water and shade.

From the Dalton City boardwalk we watched the revelry. We listened to the New Growlers play, we pointed out emerging sunburns, and we watched the hula-hoopers.

I don't know where they came from or where they learned to hula-hoop, but these girls were good. The only adults I'd ever seen hula-hooping were gym teachers. If there is such a thing as professional hula-hoopers, we were watching them.

The next morning, all the 20- and 30-somethings we saw around town looked dazed. Four hours of beer, sun and hula-hoops are enough to make anyone's head spin.

We'd kept our heads intact so we could go for a different spin. We had a borrowed motorcycle and miles of new road to explore.

Dandelions, lupine, and forget-me-nots colored the side of the Haines Highway as we headed towards the border, 42 miles north of Haines.

We hadn't brought passports or birth certificates so we couldn't officially cross, but we could visit the park built around the historic Dalton Cache building and set foot, however briefly, on Canadian soil.

It didn't matter how far we could go. All roads do not feel the same, and coming from Juneau, a road that doesn't dead-end is exciting.

We saw a brown bear walking down the highway and a moose rustling in the bushes. We visited the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve and put our feet in the Chilkat River. We ate at the venerable Mile 33 Café.

By mid-afternoon the backs of our necks were sun burnt and we were almost out of water. But we took the road to Mosquito Lake, we turned off at Porcupine Crossing and we rode through Klukwan.

I finally understood the Beer Fest spirit. When you have a limited amount of time to do something you love - be it drinking great local craft beers, sun-worshipping or riding the open road - you don't worry too much about the next day.