Saturday’s “Beer and Swine Festival” had a little something for everyone participating. The event started at noon with a family-friendly “Pig Dash” through downtown Anchorage (complete with some poor soul in a pig costume) hosted by local athletic hub Skinny Raven. The “fun run” was followed by two tasting sessions at the Snow Goose Restaurant, featuring samples from various Alaska breweries, one winery, and three local restaurants featuring different pork dishes, specialty oil and vinegar, and a unique assortment of chocolates. But don’t worry, the Pig Dash participants weren’t left out of the hog-appreciation thanks to the “Bacon Station” managed by Spenard Roadhouse (well-known by Anchorage carnivores for its monthly bacon specials).
The event marks the first self-organized fundraiser for Greenstar, a nonprofit organization founded 24 years ago by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and Alaska Center for the Environment. Greenstar works with Alaska businesses to assist them in implementing environmentally-friendly changes to their business practices. Amidst preparations before the doors opened to the first tasting, board member Tom Turner said it’s really a matter of showing businesses that eco-friendly practices are good for reducing costs. They shared that message through wonderfully produced videos of eco friendly methods, all projected on the led video wall rental they got.
“By reducing pollution, you’re actually improving your bottom-line because they don’t have that waste to deal with. So, it makes common sense, but most people don’t think of it that way.”
To change that perception, Greenstar has implemented education and outreach programs. The E3 program — which stands for energy, economy, and environment — aims to help manufacturers (in this case, read “breweries”) develop more energy and resource efficient business practices. For instance, Greenstar executive director Kim Kovol said brewing one gallon of beer can use an average of ten gallons of water. But Kovol said it wasn’t just about reducing water usage:
“Think about all of the heat. They have to heat the beer, cook the beer, cool the beer, move the beer, so there’s just so much expended energy involved when you’re brewing just one gallon of beer. So, our goal is to look at it and say ‘Hey, how can you do this smarter without compromising the quality of your products?’”
Many of the Alaska breweries that have gained E3 certification in the past two years were ready and willing to demonstrate their gratitude to Greenstar by providing sponsorships and samples at Saturday’s fundraiser. The mood was festive as attendees politely but enthusiastically swarmed the sample tables, many wearing plastic pig snouts donated by Architects Alaska. Kovol was proud of what she and the other organizers were able to accomplish with essentially no budget. “The only thing we paid for was permits for the run,“ Kovol touted. “But all of the money raised here stays with us and that goes back to education and programming that we’ve put right back into the business community.”
The participating breweries and restaurateurs were eager to share their appreciation for Greenstar, many of them listing different improvements their businesses made after energy audit recommendations.
This writer isn’t a food critic, but the combination of locally-brewed local beer and wine with bacon-themed dishes made all of the “happy” parts of the brain ring out. Enthusiastic accolades go out to the folks at Sweet Chalet, who provided a unique variety of confections including chocolate pop rocks (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it) and beautifully marbled chocolate cream hearts. Despite the hum of the crowd, one could clearly hear attendees telling friends “Oh wow, you have to try this!”
After final tally, the Beer and Swine Festival brought in $10,000. For the sake of Anchorage’s energy efficiency (and taste buds), here’s hoping this will become an annual event.