"It certainly was fun," said Paul Wheeler, owner of the Haines Brewing Company, the only establishment of its kind in Haines. "The reason we have this festival is to educate people on the different styles of beer - non-mainstream beers."
The Haines Brewery was one of three independent breweries representing its product at the event, along with Juneau's Alaskan Brewing Company and Moose's Tooth, based in Anchorage. In addition, four distributors - Odem, Alaskan Distributors, K & L, and Specialty Imports - provided a sampling; altogether nearly 100 different beers were available for tasting.
"Living in Haines we don't have that kind of contact."
Attendance doubled at the three-part festival this year from last; in 2004, roughly 350 people partook in the event, a fundraiser for the annual Southeast Alaska State Fair. This year the head count - 600 - was the highest in beer fest's history and translated to $11,000, said fair manager HerbVanCleve, who has organized the event since 2002.
"The biggest factor was weather," he said. Also, "The word is out that the beer festival is the premier event of the summer. I think it will continue to grow."
The fest kicked off Friday evening with a five-course gourmet dinner at the American Legion in Haines. Each course featured a different beer, which was also served as a beverage.
The menu "spoke for itself," VanCleve said.
The main entrée, Taku River Wild King Salmon, featured a glaze made with Alaska Brewing Company's Smoked Porter, and was served with asparagus and baby potatoes. A dressing made from Haines Brewing Company's Spruce Tip beer fancied up a salad of baby greens and blood oranges. Dessert included a sundae with a caramel topping created with Mammoth Stout, a beer from Anchorage's Midnight Sun.
The food, prepared by the Bamboo Room Restaurant, "was excellent," Wheeler said. About 115 people feasted while receiving info from various brewers and brewing companies about the beer in each recipe.
Saturday afternoon fest-goers sampled beers while Haines band "Hot Club Sandwich" and Juneau's "Daddy-O" provided entertainment.
"It was a well-behaved group," VanCleve said. "Six hundred people consuming that much alcohol and we had virtually no problems."
Of the 76 entries in the homebrew competition - most of them (more than 50) from Juneau - Rod Savoie's American IPA took best in show. The Whitehorse, Canada resident's "Bombay Terror" fit its category "perfectly," an important qualifier for all division winners, said Rachael Juzeler, who organized judging. Savoie received top honors out of 13 categories and four divisions, including ales, lagers, specialties and meads.
"Rod's creation is a supreme example of (American IPAs)," said Juzeler, an analyst for Alaskan Brewing Company. "It has no off flavors. When you take a sip, you think, 'Oh, that's really good.'"
"Home brewers feel good" about entering their creations to the competition because they're considered seriously, Wheeler said.
The majority of the 19 homebrew judges had completed the Beer Judging Certification Program, an intensive, 19-week program complete with a final exam, Juzeler said.
Most of what the judges tasted was light and amber lagers, acategory which received 10 entries. Eight entries were received in the American amber and American pales category; seven IPA entries were judged; six pilsners; four Belgian and French ales, German and American wheats; four English pales; seven specialties, including smoke and wood and a strong ale; six traditional meads; six other meads and Melomels; five stouts; five English brown, porters and a black bear; and six fruit, spice and herb, and vegetable beers.
Division winners are as follows: lagers, Arne and Eleanor Oydna, "Shop Pilsner #22; ales, Savoie, "Bombay Terror"; specialties, Savoie, "Too Wit"; meads, John Trapp, "Sweetie Pie".
And "just for fun this year we came up with a beautiful pink sheep ribbon which we used for the best name," Juzeler said. The winner: "Which boots are mine? Barley wine," by John Kajdan.