Bavarian food, burn barrels, and a bear drinking beer? That was Augtoberfest at Healy’s own 49th State Brewery.
The Bavarian-style festival combined two favorite Alaskan pastimes: beer and bonfires. Coupled with authentic Bavarian cuisine and local music, this festival helps mark Healy as more than just “that city before Denali.” There were plenty of musical acts (Reverend Horton Heat and the Young Fangs, anyone?) and grilled bratwurst and frankfurter’s out the wazoo.
There was also rain, but that has been the story of the summer.
While I usually drink whiskey or wine, it’s very impolite to attend a beer festival and not sample some of the offerings. Rude, even. So, I set about the task and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Below are some of the beers I sampled:
- Bullinerweisse – 3.7 % Alc. – 5 IBUs
Billed as the “Champagne of the North,” this was the standout brew. It was tart and fruity, like a Lambic gone bad, but it proved to be oh-so-good. Despite it’s tartness, it was easily quaffable. The bartender recommended adding a shot of raspberry syrup and it was easily the best decision I have ever made. Fun Fact? During the 19th century, Bullinerweisse was the most popular alcoholic drink in Berlin.
- Augtoberfest – 5.6% Alc – 29 IBUs
The Augtoberfest is brewed once a year for the brewery’s annual beer festival. Mostly malt, this was a solid beer; filling and strong. Despite being the perfect brew for bonfires and music, it was the kind of beer you’d expect monks to imbibe on a regular basis. You could build a diet around this beer.
- Grizzly Beer – 5.4% Alc. – 26 IBUs
A tasty dark lager with hints of chocolate. The Grizzly Beer was made with a combination of Bohemian Pilsner, Munich and Chocolate Malts, and Magnum Hops. This beer definitely deserves a second try.
- White Peach Wheat – 5.0% Alc. – 15 IBUs
The White Peach Wheat was fruity (natch) with a surprising kick. This brew is light and combines American style wheat blended with peach puree. The official description of it was “kind of like a beer Bellini” which proved to be spot on. It was a good beer, but not great.
Despite the rain, the folks who turned out to this year’s Augtoberfest didn’t seem to mind. In fact, the rain added an extra layer of resolute stubbornness to the event. As if everyone shared the collective thought of “We’re Alaskans and we like beer, dammit. To hell with the rain!”
What about the beer-swilling bear? That was Augtoberfest Bear: part costume, part human, but all amazing. He became a staple of any Augtoberfest selfie and, next to the beer, was the most popular thing in Healy all weekend.
Next time you’re in Healy, I recommend giving yourself extra time to stop by the brewery. Take a tour of the facility, snap a photo in front of the “Into the Wild” bus (yes, that bus), or sample their selection of on-tap seasonal beers. You can even slack your thirst among their numerous whisky and bourbon bottles. You’ll never go thirsty at the brewery.
…and who knows, maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of the brew bear before he heads into the hills for winter. If not, I’m sure some of that Grizzly Beer is still on-tap.