Story last updated at 9:45 PM on Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Homer Brewing Company to host Oktoberfest celebration Saturday

By Carolyn Norton
Staff Writer

As the tourist character in Homer Pub Theatre's "Old Songs and Chapstick" noted, we Alaskans "don't get much of a spring n'r a fall."

  Photo provided
Members of the Alaska Blaskapelle will play at the Homer Brewing Company from 6-10 p.m. Saturday. The brewery is located at 1411 Lake Shore Drive, across from the Homer News.  
For Homer businesses, fall can mean a return to winter hours, slow sales and, in some cases, closed doors until summer 2008.

But Karen Berger and Steve McCasland, owners of the Homer Brewing Company and the Brat Stop, are using the season as an excuse for a party.

This Saturday at 5 p.m., Berger and McCasland will host an Oktoberfest, complete with locally brewed beer and music by Anchorage folk band Alaska Blaskapelle from 6-10 p.m. The $5 cover charge will help pay for expenses, including food and lodging for the band, and proceeds from beer sales will benefit the Brewers Guild of Alaska.

Berger and McCasland described the party as "family-friendly," but emphasized that no one under the age of 21 will be admitted without a guardian.

The event will take place in the "bratgarden" next to the Homer Brewing Company building. The lot is home to the Brat Stop, where for the last three months manager Celeste Novak has been serving up bratwursts, French fries, onion rings and other fried goodies. McCasland said it makes sense to hold the famously beer-soaked festival in the bratgarden.

"It's just responsible drinking to be able to provide food with drink," he said.

Still, the brewery's version of the celebration, which first took place in Bavaria in 1810 to commemorate King Ludwig I's marriage to Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, will focus on quality rather than quantity. In addition to the usual Homer Brewing Company offerings, festival-goers will be able to buy beer from various breweries around Alaska, including Moose's Tooth Brewing Company, Midnight Sun Brewing Company, Sleeping Lady Brewing Company, Alaskan Brewing Company, Glacier Brewhouse and others.

"We're spotlighting beers from around the state. Great beer from the great land," Berger said.

Besides beer, the main Oktoberfest attraction will be the music. Neal Haglund, a tenor horn player with the Alaska Blaskapelle, said the musicians are excited to have the opportunity to take advantage of everything the Kenai Peninsula offers in the fall.

"Some people are photographers, some are berry pickers. We're planning on fishing Friday night, Saturday on the way down and Sunday on the way back," he said.

The Blaskapelle has about 40 members, but usually performs in groups of 8-14. Their music comes from an extensive library of traditional Bavarian, Czechoslovakian and Hungarian pieces the band has collected since their inception in 1962, including mostly polkas, waltzes and "the occasional tango." Haglund said audiences shouldn't expect to hear too much contemporary music.

"It's just happy folk music and just a lot of fun to be around," he said. "Rock and roll in a German band sounds like a German band playing rock and roll, so don't expect Led Zeppelin."

Berger and McCasland said they have fond memories of Homer's first Oktoberfest in 1993, when the Blaskapelle played outdoors.

"The day of the event, a storm came through. It was crazy. Burn barrels came out. People were in their XtraTufs doing the polka," she said. "Since then everyone has always said, 'We want to do it again.'"

Haglund also hasn't forgotten the evening.

"It was really quite novel to be playing outside when it's 42 degrees and raining sideways. Even though our legs were blue from wearing our lederhosen, we just had a great time down there," he said.

In the event of nasty weather, the band will be able to retreat under the bratgarden's tent, but Haglund said he isn't worried about the weather.

"We'll play until we get wet and then we'll go eat and drink beer," he said. "I wouldn't say the band runs on beer, but it definitely oils the machinery. As soon as we hit town, we'll have to start sampling. We'll make sure that no bad beer passes the lips of the patrons."

Carolyn Norton can be reached at