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Beer lovers find more taps than ever at the fair

  • Author: Kaylin Bettinger
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published August 26, 2010

A line stretched almost out of the tent at the Oasis Beer Garden at 4 p.m. on Thursday, the opening day of the Alaska State Fair.

Amidst chaos that comes with rides, food vendors, events and music, grabbing a beer gives some people a chance to chill out.

"It's a great place to people-watch," said Molly Noah, who sat in the sun in the beer garden, drinking a blond ale.

And this year, it's easier than ever to get a brew.

Sheri Musgrave took over as fair beverage manager this year and has ramped things up.

First off, she doubled the number of taps in the Sluicebox, making it faster to get served than in years past, when she said there was often a wait at the bar.

It's also the first year the fair has ever had an official beer. "Cream of the Coop," a cream ale by Kassik's Kenai Brew Stop, took the title as the fair's first official beer.

Cream ale brought the image of a stout to my mind, but Musgrave assured me that it's a light, sweet beer, an easy summertime drink. "Keeping summertime and warm weather in mind, we wanted a lighter beer," she said.

And she was right.

So far, bartenders aren't sure if the beer will be a hit, but it has certainly caused curiosity. Though it's early in the fair, bartenders said people have been ordering it.

Musgrave said they received a lot of support for a fair beer when they announced their decision on social media sites earlier this summer. People even wanted to help with the official fair beer logo.

She said they chose the beer because it was the people's choice winner at the Mighty Matanuska Brewfest in October of last year. She said they could have gone with other beers, but they wanted to highlight a smaller local brewery.

"We just have so many great little breweries popping up all over," she said.

Making you thirsty?

Beer and wine are served at Woodlot, the rodeo, Sluicebox, the Oasis beer garden and the Borealis Theater. There is no hard alcohol.

Each venue is different, but there is a large variety of beers on tap all over. At the beer garden, the domestics are Coors or MGD. On the micro side, there is a blond, a pale ale, one porter, one IPA and a hefeweizen, along with the Cream of the Coop.

Sorry, devotees of heftier beer varieties. There aren't any stouts.

There are five wine choices, all from Barefoot Wine.

Domestics cost $5 and micros cost $6.

And those beers and glasses of wine add up. Last year, the fair made just under $300,000 on alcohol sales, according to Kirsten Mason, fair accounting manager.

But interest in fair alcohol seems to range further than just the beer gardens.

People milled through the Hoskins Exhibits building on Thursday afternoon, stopping to look at dozens of bottles lined up on shelves. Blue, red and white ribbons hung from their necks.

The bottles were representatives of the top dogs in the homemade wine and beer competition.

Wine maker Pete Hannon was one of the people checking out the bottles. He pointed to one of the three wines he submitted this year, saying he wasn't satisfied with the third-place ribbon it received.

He's been entering the competition since 1996. Usually his wines, this year made from crab apples or rhubarb, win first or second place.

Mary Helms, who runs the competition, couldn't be reached, but Hannon said he thinks the competition has gone on for a long time, maybe even almost as long as the fair itself.

"Back then, if you wanted a drink, you had to make it," he said.

Find Kaylin Bettinger online at or call 257-4349.