Another Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival has come and gone. This year, though enjoyable, it seemed to inspire discussion as well as drinking. First, I have rarely seen as long a line for a local event as I did on Saturday night. One line for those who'd already bought their tickets -- the early birds apparently do get the IPA -- and one for those eagerly awaiting ticket purchase, in case the "Sold out" status changed when other patrons left the premises.
Once inside, the event started great -- spacious, good music, lots of sampling and hardly any lines (except for at Celestial Meads. Come on, folks! We can buy that stuff anytime!). Soon, though, it became really, really annoying. I don't mind waiting in line for beer -- I'd wait in line for almost any type of drink-oriented sample. But I do mind waiting behind people in large groups who have to stand in the lines, even though they aren't waiting, because there's nowhere else to stand, and no room to congregate and chat. I also mind the lack of "Excuse me's" that started to occur about an hour in, as more folks had more samples and less coordination.
I like to think that I am usually stalwart about most festivals involving alcohol, but this was one time that I actually left before the 10 p.m. cutoff. Crazy right? Since then, I've heard that attending 2 to 5 p.m. Connoisseurs' Session would have been well worth paying the extra $10 -- apparently it was sparsely populated and early-drinkers had a leisurely, relaxing and educational time. That's what we're all hoping for, right? That, and a buzz from 30 2-ounce samples ...
Is Anchorage a big enough arena for a full-scale beer festival? Maybe next year the enormous crowds should move to larger venue like Sullivan Arena or even outdoors, in the summer, of course. Or maybe I missed the point.
What was your experience like? Tell me about it.
-- by Jessica Bowman