Setting up the night before in the rain Soldotna Rotarian Dr. Matt Payhala predicted the skies would clear the next day and remain sunny for the 3rd Annual Peninsula Beer Festival then rain after it closed. That’s exactly what happened Saturday, August 10th as over 1,100 attendees plus bands, over 30 volunteers and servers for 17 breweries from all over Alaska conaverged on the Soldotna Sports Center to taste the latest craft brews, dance, and visit and meet new friends and visitors from at least 12 different states, Canada and Germany. Payhala came up with the idea to promote our local micro breweries while raising funds for local Rotary projects. “It’s never been about how much beer you can drink in a night, but what different tastes in beer are being created in Alaska and an end of summer event for the community to get together, have fun and taste beers they might not have an opportunity to get any other time. The turn outs continue to be great and right on target with our vision and what sets our festival apart is that 100% of the proceeds go to local projects of the Soldotna Rotary Club,” said Payhala.
During the festival attendees were able to vote for their favorite brew and brewery known as the People’s Choice Awards. This year’s awards went to Kassik’s Vanilla Blueberry Cream. Accepting the award for Frank and Debbie Kassik was Drew Walker from New Orleans, “We brought Drew here specifically to brew for us at Kassik’s and we’re not letting him leave, he’s that good,” said Debbie in a phone interview. The Kassik’s have been strong supporters of the local festival since its inception, “We appreciate all the community has done for us and we love giving back. We’re very happy to have had the People’s Choice this year,” said Debbie.
Winning the People’s Choice for Best Brewery this year was Kenai River Brewery. On hand to receive the award were Dog Hogue, Sissy Bird, Wendell Dutcher and Joe Gilman, “We’ve had a tremendous summer and the business is going crazy due to the support of the local community and now throughout Alaska. We’re super excited about the award and we intend to keep working hard to supply Alaska with good beer. The Soldotna Rotary Club is incredible and puts on the best festival in Alaska and what we like best is what we donate 100% gets invested right back into the community,” said Hogue. While craft brewing is competitive in Alaska, Hogue says that a distinctive trait of that competition is that we all collaborate and work together to help each other produce the best product possible.