Hundreds of craft beer enthusiasts came together to sample micro-brews from throughout the state Saturday at the fourth annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival in Soldotna.
With 22 participating state breweries, festivalgoers packed the beer garden outside the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex from 5 to 10 p.m. to taste some unique creations from state brew masters. For $30 admission, guests received a 4-ounce glass and eight tickets to sample the variety of suds available. Live music and food trucks kept the crowds fed and entertained.
Event organizer Dr. Matthew Pyhala said all but five breweries in the state were represented. The Soldotna Rotary Club sponsored the event with proceeds going to local rotary projects. The sold out festival had to turn away nearly 100 guests and turned out to be a great success, he said.
One of the projects that received funding was RAFT, ride assistance for transportation, which offers free rides to and from the hospital for people in need, Pyhala said.
“It is a huge service available for a lot of people who may not have a ride or could afford the cost of an ambulance,” he said.
Alaska Cab Service provided reduced fare cab rides from the festival, a service a lot of people took advantage of evidence by all the cars left overnight, Pyhala said.
The Kenai River Brewing Company won the people’s choice award for Best Brewery. Owner Doug Hogue and his staff offered 13 different beers, including fruit infused beer concocted with Kumquat Kolsch and the Peninsula Brewer’s Reserve.
The 49th State Brewing Company out of Healy won best beer for their -12 degree Quadruple, a dark Belgian ale with 10.5 percent alcohol laced undertones of banana and caramel. Lisa McCarthy, who works for the brewery, said the beer is a favorite because it is easy to drink.
Along with Kenai River Brewing Co., all five Kenai Peninsula breweries were on hand including Homer Brewing Company, Seward Brewing Company, Kassiks Brewery from Nikiski and Saint Elias Brewery in Soldotna.
Justin Miller, of Anchorage, said he enjoyed the Hoppin’ Salmon Wheat from Kenai River Brewing Co. but could not choose a favorite from all the great beer featured. Miller, who was grooving to the music while wearing a Grumpy Cat T-shirt, said he enjoyed coming to the festival because it highlights the best Alaskan product – beer.
“Everyone is here to have a good time and enjoy some great beer,” Miller said.
Shannon Grant, of Kenai, said the Blackberry Porter from Saint Elias Brewing intrigued her. After taking her first sip, she smiled and said the drink had a smooth aftertaste.
Pyhala said the weather cooperated and the clouds parted for the sun to shine down on the festival. He said the planning for next year’s festival has already started with the goal to have every brewery in the state represented.
“(The festival) is always on my mind,” he said. “All the brewers I talked to are appreciative and had a blast. We are closing in on all the breweries in the state. Sharing great Alaskan made beer is what makes this festival great.”