The Great Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival, January 14-15, 2011. The fest, says Roberts, brings virtually every spread-out brewery around the state together under one roof. Yes, thankfully, it’s indoors. There are three sessions, but if you can only hit one, spend the extra 10 bucks for a $40 ticket and make it the Saturday mid-day “Connoisseur’s Session.” Despite being shorter, it’s when the winners of the integral barley wine competition are announced and, making it worth the price of airfare alone, each brewer is required to provide a seasonal specialty beer that’s never been served before. The fest, the anchor for the burgeoning Alaska Beer Week, does sell out so Roberts advises not getting “stuck out in the cold” by showing up thinking you might buy your way in.
Aurora Borealis. “When it comes to beer pairings,” asks Roberts, “how fun would it be to find the right one to pair with the Northern Lights dancing above in the perpetual darkness, accented with a deep blanket of white snow on the ground?” Even though it is the result of sunspot activity and is only visible in the dark, visitors have all night—a very long night at that—to marvel at one of Mother Nature’s greatest phenomena.
Dog sledding. You don’t have to enter the Iditarod (starts March 5, 2011) to mush across the snowy expanses led by a team of Siberian huskies or malamutes. Several outfits offer sled rides for hire. If you’re allergic, you can always tour by “irondog,” a.k.a. snowmobile.
Brian Yaeger is the author of Red, White and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey. He homebrews in San Francisco and if you have an intact bottle of Ring of Fire, beer mail him at byaeger on the communal sites or at firstname.lastname@example.org.