We heard that Anchorage was a great beer town and the beer festival a blast, but the real motivation of choosing a somewhat unconventional January location was to show everyone how serious we are about the “Year in Beer” (YiB). Basically, “If they are crazy enough to go to Alaska in January they just might be crazy enough to pull the whole year off.” However, I will admit that I did look to see if Hawaii had a beer festival in January… I couldn’t find one.
Are we prepared for the cold? Merideth has a nice new long coat, but for the most part I refused to buy a bunch of winter clothes that I will only wear for a few days. Obviously, I am not going to be wearing my normal shorts and a T-shirt but neither will I be wearing 8 layers of clothing. We are not spending much time outside so why do I need arctic clothing? In the end, it might not even be that cold, which I hear also presents a problem… Anchorage turns into a slushy mess.
I will say that traveling to such a remote place has me somewhat confused. Several times, I have mentally reminded myself to put my passport into my pile of travel stuff and then remember that Alaska is part of the United States.
OK… here is the really embarrassing ‘I know very little about Alaska’ moment… embarrassing mainly because I am really good at geography. For some strange reason, I thought ANCHORage was inland.
Ignorance aside, let’s get back to the reason for our trip: BEER.
The focus of the trip is the Great Alaska Beer & Barleywine Festival, which is on Friday and Saturday. Fifty breweries are going be pouring almost 200 different beers and meads. The festival is orchestrated by the Great Northern Brewers Club, Anchorage’s “biggest, best, and only homebrew club.”
Our strategy is not complicated… No matter how tempting, we will try not to drink beers from the lower 48. We didn’t travel to Alaska to drink Sierra Nevada, Full Sail, Rogue, Anchor and the rest. Beers that we don’t have easy access to at home will be tempting… maybe after we go through all the Alaskan beers, we can move on to them.
Secondly, we will most likely (Merideth most certainly) shy away from the Barleywines and other high alcohol beers so to focus on trying a wider range of Alaskan beer. Besides Alaskan Brewing’s smoked porter, we don’t see too much Alaskan beer in this part of the lower 48. So, this is our chance to really experience what Alaska has to offer.
A new adventure in our trip is that we are volunteering at the festival. I thought it would be a good way to meet people. Unfortunately, we are unable to pour beer (you need to go through a class to be able to pour), so we are going to help straighten up between the two Saturday sessions. If it goes well, we will make volunteering a regular occurrence this year.
Then there is always the quest to find all the beer industry pre- and post-parties. This is where you find all the good stuff.
Outside of the festival, there are 4 breweries in Anchorage to visit, as well as a handful of beer bars that are ‘must stops’. We have made some local connections to help us with our quest because in the end, it is all about the brewery list. And luckily, we will be meeting up with some fellow beer travelers who are more familiar with Anchorage, so we shouldn’t get lost.
Less than a week to go and the excitement is building! The YiB is finally here and Alaska… here we come!