Craft brewing continues to grow as an industry of acclaim in Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival has become a statewide event for brewers and visitors. Saturday, August 9th saw a record crowd of over 1,400 turn out at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex under cloudy rainy skies. 15 breweries plus four distributors from across the Great Land brought their latest and greatest creations to the 4th annual festival organized by the Rotary Club of Soldotna. “Our goal next year is to have every Alaskan brewery represented. The Peninsula Festival has been embraced by the beer community across the state and there is no shortage of festivals in Alaska, but we really strive to have our event stand above the others as far as the quality of the event, the music, the food and a show case for the breweries. It’s a huge volunteer effort of the Soldotna Rotary Club,” said Dr. Matthew Pyhala event creator. Proceeds from the event go to local service projects to improve the community’s quality of live such as handicapped access to the Kenai River at Rotary Park and the Rotary assistance for transportation at Central Peninsula Hospital known as RAFT that helps local families in need when undergoing medical treatment according to Pyhala.
When the People’s Choice ballot for favorite brewery and beer were tabulated by Rotarians it was the Negative 12 degree Quadruple craft Belgian ale from the 49th State Brewing Co. of Healy, Alaska that won the coveted handmade trophy and commemorative tap handle for the best beer. For the third year in a row Kenai River Brewery was voted the People’s Choice for Favorite Brewery. “It’s a real honor to win this award three years in a row and I have to attribute a lot to our local clientele and the fantastic crew we have working with us. We hands down have the best crew at KRBC who take great pride in their work,” said owner Doug Hogue. KRBC offered 16 different beers for tasting at this year’s festival, “It’s great to see the number breweries that are in the state of Alaska considering our small population and every one of them make an excellent product. I have never had a bad beer that is made in the State of Alaska. The festival gives a chance to showcase a variety of our new unique beers and get feedback on how tastes are evolving from the public,” added Hogue.
Alaska Cab Service offered over 140 discounted cab rides after the festival closed at 10:00pm, “I’m a Rotarian and it’s important to us that everyone who comes to the festival has fun and a safe ride home,” said Brent Hibbert owner of AK Cab who personally ran the cab station. The fun continued as the rain fell and by 8:00pm the event was sold out, having to turn away nearly 100 folks according to Pyhala. “We’ll be encouraging folks to get their tickets in advance next year so that won’t happen. They will be available at all local breweries and on line. It’s hard to have to turn people away, but we want everyone to enjoy the festival and not be overcrowded. We had folks from 18 different states check in and over 50% of the crowd were visitors to the Peninsula,” he said. Along with Kenai River Brewing Co. all five Peninsula Breweries were on hand including Homer Brewing Co., Seward Brewing Co., St. Elias Brewery in Soldotna and Kassik’s Brewery of Nikiski.