Home Living Food Keeping it Simple: Eagle River Brewfest a Big Hit

Keeping it Simple: Eagle River Brewfest a Big Hit

Photo by Ammon Swenson.
Photo by Ammon Swenson.

It’s a good time to be a beer lover in Alaska. Locally owned breweries have been popping up all over the place and certain beer tasting events have become annual rituals for my friends and me.

Last month was the Eagle River Brewfest, a tiny event when compared to something like Bodega Fest, which was held the following day and comfortably filled the Alaska Aviation Museum. Unlike Bodega Fest, which had live music and a huge variety of beer and similar drinks, Brewfest kept it simple like it always has.

It’s held at the Eagle River Lions Club and has been around for more than 20 years. All of the proceeds go to the local Boys and Girls Club and drinking beer for a good cause is definitely something I can get behind.

Tracey Hupe, the branch manager at the Eagle River Boys and Girls Club, said that Brewfest raises around $15,000 a year and all of the funds are used for tangible upgrades for the clubhouse. The event has helped the club pay for a van, a playground, musical equipment for teen music night, and a new computer lab among other things.

My buddy and I were dropped off that evening and got in the short line to have our IDs checked. After our prepurchased tickets were verified, we grabbed our tasting pints and drink tickets. This is my third consecutive year going to Brewfest and I always think about how it could almost pass for a church social.

A couple of long tables were set up so people could sit and eat their prime rib dinner which was served in an adjacent room. Dozens of people either stood around bar tables sipping beer or wandered the perimeter looking at items in the silent auction.

Max Crutch is a brewer at King Street and has been around the beer circuit in Alaska. He said that what sets this tasting apart from all the others is its community focus.

“It seems like people just are kind of out to dump their kids for the night, come down, have a few beers and have some fun,” said Crutch.

Eager volunteers staffed the event, taking tickets, serving food, and working behind the scenes. Hupe was grateful for the 35 community members who spent their Friday night helping out.

“If you say, ‘I need help,’ they’re here,” Hupe said.

I’m definitely not a beer connoisseur, so I’ll try to avoid making a fool of myself by not going into detail about what I drank. I will say that the breweries in attendance were: 49th State, Alaskan, Denali, Midnight Sun, Broken Tooth, King Street, Arkose, Glacier Brewhouse, and Celestial Meads.

After a few drinks, we strolled through the silent auction and scoped out what framed art had been donated. We mostly skipped over the gift baskets, books, and other items. We do this every year and a couple of my friends have acquired an eclectic art collection which screams “I’m making the attempt to be an adult, but I’m a bachelor. Deal with it.”

The silent auction is always the most entertaining thing for me at Brewfest; watching my friends take a sip of beer, steal a quick look to see if the person they’re outbidding is around, raise the price for a random photo of the baby deer, shrug and say “It’s for a good cause. What are you drinking?”

Volunteers roamed around selling tickets to a win-the-pot drawing, which my friend ended up winning. It might have been a combination of the beer and the excitement of having just won over $800 that he spent it all and considerably more during the live auction. I’ll admit that I egged him on a bit during his bidding war over a private table and VIP service for a group of friends at next year’s Brewfest.

I mean, it’s for a good cause and I was already planning on going anyway.

Ammon Swenson was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. He's a journalism student at the University of Alaska Anchorage, focusing on integrated media. He recently finished a stint as KRUA radio's news director.

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