Frozen Riverfest returns, complete with ice

Frozen Riverfest returns, complete with ice

Beer lovers and music lovers will get a break from the monotony of winter at the Frozen Riverfest in Soldotna on Feb. 18 — which will actually feature a frozen river this year, unlike last year.

Now in its third year, the annual festival features some of the same food carts that frequent the summer festivals and Wednesday Markets in Soldotna Creek Park and craft breweries from around Alaska as well as live music. The organizers with the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce are still working on finalizing the food vendors, said Andy Rash, the events coordinator for the chamber. The Cheese Wheel, Wok N’ Roll and Hot Dogs a la Cart will be there, he said.

“We keep it pretty limited just because of space issues in (Soldotna Creek Park), but we’ve got a few signed up and coming in, so I would expect about five or six,” he said.

Although many people who come to the festival don’t choose to drink, there will be plenty of beers and wines to choose from for those who want to. A beer garden with 15 different craft brewers will be open to attendees 21 and older. A $15 ticket is good for admission, a signature mug and two drink tokens, which can purchase 8-ounce beers each. Additional tokens are available for $3 each.

Some of the more familiar brewers will drop by: Alaskan Brewing Co. out of Juneau, Arkose Brewing Company from Palmer and central Kenai Peninsula standbys Kenai River Brewing Company, St. Elias Brewing Company and Kassik’s Brewing Company will be there. Others, like the small Homer-based Grace Ridge Brewing, will be newcomers to the festival.

Grace Ridge, which opened its doors in May 2016, is a small three-barrel operation with four flagship brews so far. The company ran a booth at the Kenai Peninsula Beer Fest in August at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, which was a good time, said owner Don Stead.

He said the brewery will likely bring its Sadie Peak IPA, a West Coast-style pale ale, and its Otter Bay Alt, a brown ale that Stead said is technically a nut brown, to the festival.

The brewery is a small operation but did fairly well in its first year, he said. The name comes from the trail in Kachemak Bay State Park, a notoriously difficult trek that takes hikers up about 3,100 feet above Eldred Passage and Sadie Knob.

“That is why we named it Grace Ridge, because when you get to the end of that eight-hour hike you feel like you need a beer,” Stead said.

Another young brewery from the Mat-Su Valley will also make its first appearance at the Frozen Riverfest. Bearpaw River Brewing Company, based in Wasilla, opened its doors about a year ago and has participated in a few festivals since, including the Mighty Matanuska Festival and the Beer and Barley Wine Festival, said Jake Wade, the head brewer. Acquainted with the owners of Kenai River Brewing Company, he said Bearpaw River’s owners had heard good things about the Frozen Riverfest.

“You can literally do a beer event almost every weekend,” he said. “… We heard really good things about this festival.”

The company will likely bring its Mat Maid Milk Stout, a sweet dark stout, the Belgian Sluicebox, a Belgian specialty ale, and the Frontiersman IPA, an American ale, as well as another beer, he said.

Part of the fun of beer festivals is getting the chance to talk with other brewers and beer lovers, he said.

“Sharing information, the industry is very open and vocal and willing to share practices, brewery practices, and that’s really great,” he said. “It’s nice to talk to the people too; that’s the best part of this whole business, to talk to people who come in my taproom … it’s an opportunity to shake their hands and introduce themselves.”

Drinkers and non-drinkers alike can enjoy the live music set to begin at 4 p.m. Rock set Big Fat Buddha and country group Todd Grebe and Cold Country, both from Anchorage, will play at the festival, with doors opening at 4 p.m. Though attendees will be braving colder temperatures this year and more ice than last year, there will be plenty of warm food and warming stations for festivalgoers, Rash said.

“There will be a warming tent for people there to go into, and Kaladi Bros. Coffee has graciously donated all the coffee we can drink all day long,” he said.

The night will also end with a bang — specifically, the bang of fireworks, much like the Peninsula Winter Games, which took place in January, he said.

The organizers have counted between 1,400–1,600 attendees in past years, but there may be more than that because many come in for free, Rash said.

“… It’s hard to count because you have so many people who don’t drink,” he said.

Those wishing to attend can purchase tickets online through the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce’s website, visitsoldotna.org.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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