Jim Roberts on beer
I’m honored to once again acknowledge the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival (GABBF). For returning participants (I’ve never missed a year), this year is indeed special. Our beloved fest is a quarter of a century old and it just gets better and better every year.
If you’re new to the GABBF, this festival is Alaska’s biggest gathering of our state’s incredible brewing talent and the best way to sample most of what Alaska’s got to offer in terms of fermented craftsmanship all under one roof.
Although the event also features beers from around the world with a focus on regional beers as well, the true draw is the alluring draw of upwards of 50 different beers from breweries around our state, some of which are only sampled outside of their respective breweries at this event.
I’m like that proverbial kid in a candy store and sometimes spend the entire session in the special Alaska beer section. As much fun as it is drinking the beer, I truly enjoy watching our geographically dispersed brewers commune, laugh and enjoy the most social aspect of craft beer. There are many reunions at this annual gathering; for some of our small, outlying breweries in the remote corners of our state, this is the only time they get together every year, and it’s truly something to see.
This program is your indispensable guide; its both a map and a compass leading you to all of the foamy goodness across the festival floor.
In addition to the over 75 breweries represented and over 350 beers to chase down, the music for this venue has been completely revamped for this year. On Friday the 18th, rev it up with the Jangle Bees and H3. At the Saturday Connoisseur’s Session, the Vintage Retro and Super Frequency will take the stage. At the Saturday evening session Danger Money and Blackwater Railroad Company will be rocking the house. If you’re a local Alaskan, you’ll agree that these bands kick ass.
Turnagain Brewing Company and Matanuska Brewing Company are two new local breweries at this year’s fest, so welcome them on board along with other newbies including Cynosure, Girdwood and Odd Man Rush Brewing Companies. This year try to drink your way through at least one beer from each of the 21 local Alaska breweries on the festival floor.
New food options have been added this year. Get your buzz-mitigating grub from the likes of 49th State Brewing Company, Glacier Brewhouse, Moose’s Tooth and Main Event Catering will all be in place, so if you don’t patronize a nearby local establishment before you head to your session, you can get great fare while wandering around with a beer in your hand.
As always, this is a designated driver event. If you think the cops don’t know about this legendary annual event, you’re mistaken. Trust me; they know when each session’s bar break occurs and they’ll be out there.
The event organizers have made it easy for you to get to and from the festival safely. For the first time ever, Lyft is offering discounted rides for this event. Use code AKBEERFEST19 in your Lyft ap to get 25% off of two rides for a total of $5 on each ride. This is a great way to take some of the hassles out of being a responsible beer citizen and doing the right thing by not drinking and driving.
Be cool when you’re out on the festival floor. Remember, the guy or gal next to you or in front of you is just as thirsty and excited to be here as you are, so exercise some good old Alaska respect and hospitality and ebb and flow with the crowd.
The servers helping you out deserve special recognition. They are all volunteers and love good craft beer as much as you do. Please don’t try to con them into overpouring your serving glass or giving you a beer without a ticket; the Alcohol Beverage and Control Board says no, and likely they’ll be in the house watching the goings-on. You’ve got plenty of beer tickets to sample the best of the best, call buzz on, or whatever your objective is, so do it right and help everyone have a great time.
I’m around too, and if you happen to run into me, hit me up and I’ll buy you a beer!
Jim “Dr. Fermento” Roberts has been the weekly contributing columnist for the Anchorage Press for 19 years. He penned his 1,000th consecutive column for the September 22, 2016 issue. Fermento has also been contributing his Aurora Beerialis column to the national brewspaper, the Celebrator Beer News for 15 years.