It was a sunny August night. A perfect evening for civilization to meet a little fermentation and taste the efforts of Alaskan brewmeisters while supporting the Soldotna Rotary Club’s community service projects. According to Soldotna Rotary president Marcus Mueller nearly 1,400 turned out for the 2nd Annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival from all over Alaska as far away as Fairbanks and Juneau including visitors from at least 12 different states from the lower 48. “It was our best turn out ever,” said Mueller, “Voting started early for their favorite candidate and when the final count was tabulated the winner running against 50 some offerings from 11 Alaskan breweries was the Chocolate Coconut Almond Porter hand crafted by Kenai River Brewing Company of Soldotna that took the cake.”
Event Organizer, Dr. Matthew Pyhala of the Soldotna Rotary Club, presented the Kenai River Brewing Company delegation with a beautiful metal sculpture created by Scott Hamman of Metal Magic in Nikiski. “It feels great! It’s a beautiful award and the Rotary Club has put on what people are saying is the best beer festival in the state of Alaska,” said Doug Hogue of Kenai River Brewery. “We started what we call a candy series of beers, which really don’t taste anything like candy, but we started with a Gummy Bear Beer which was hugely popular for us and this was our second in that series the Chocolate Coconut Almond Porter and we are thrilled that it has become so popular with the ladies who generally don’t like a dark beer as well as the guys who do,” said Hogue. The whole image of beer drinking has transitioned into what is being called a new culture of taste thanks to the advent of micro-breweries, “The Chocolate Porter is an example of a beer that is consumed for the enjoyment of the flavor, when you get this in your glass it comes out a little cooler from our chilled system but as you let it warm up the flavor profile really changes and the coconut becomes more prominent and it’s a beer that you sip and enjoy the flavor and don’t slam it down to quench your thirst,” explained Hogue.
The Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival was held outdoors at the Soldotna Sports Center in a one-acre beer garden that included local foods, music, street art, and festivities. The Festival is hosted by the Soldotna Rotary Club as a community social event as well as a fundraiser to support Rotary service projects including the upcoming “Paint the Kenai” community mural project and a community garden project. The Soldotna Rotary Club is also known for the behind-the-scenes ice cutting for the central peninsula’s winter ice sculptures as well as building and maintaining the handicapped accessible Rotary Park on the Kenai River.
“Rotary is a service organization and we focus on that at the festival, service to the Alaskan breweries that do great things with their hand crafted beverages and creating a venue to taste their creations as well as service to the community providing a well organized social event with a high standard of conduct during the event. For the second year we have seen folk exhibiting a great deal of respect for themselves and the people they are around by drinking responsibly and enjoying the flavors of the beer and not drinking to become drunk,” said Mueller, noting that police reported no DWI arrests or other incidents that night related to the festival. Free cab rides were donated by Alaska Cab as a donation to the event with over a hundred rides being provided, “A huge congratulations to the Kenai River Brewery team and a big thank you to everyone who volunteered to make this event a great success,” said Mueller.