Kenai, Anchorage breweries take top beer fest prizes

First place in the two judged categories at the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival went to breweries in Kenai and Anchorage.

Buffalo Head Barley, from Kassik's Brewery in Kenai, took top honors in the barley wine style category, besting 30 other barley wines from around the United States. Broken Tooth Brewing of Anchorage won the winter warmer category with Darth Delirium.

For the first time ever in the festival, judges were unable to decide between second- and third-place winners. The result was a tie between Old Birdbrain Barleywine from Black Raven Brewing of Redmond, Washington, and Olde Gnarleywine, brewed by Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma, California.

Read about Alaska's brewery boom

Only the single first-place award is given in the winter warmer category.

Old Birdbrain will already be familiar to repeat attendees at the Alaska festival. It took first place in the barley wine category in 2010 and 2011.

The festival was held in Anchorage on Jan. 22-23. Early on Jan. 24, a magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck Southcentral Alaska, resulting in the destruction of many bottles of beer that fell from shelves in area stores.

On Monday, brewery owner Frank Kassik was busy bottling "all day to catch up with the earthquake loss. Not us, but for the rest of the state. We only lost two bottles here."

The label of Kassik's award-winning product shows a grinning buffalo smoking a cigar. Kassik said the image and name were not a reference to the foam or flavor of the brew. "(We) just thought the name was appropriate when we first tried it. Bit of a kick. Bit of an attitude."

Mike Dunham

Mike Dunham has been a reporter and editor at the ADN since 1994, mainly writing about culture, arts and Alaska history. He worked in radio for 20 years before switching to print.