Kent Ficek, a Juneau homebrewer, smiles after tying for best in show in the Alaskan Homebrewing Competition, Oct. 12, 2019. The competition’s results were announced during AKtoberfest. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Kent Ficek, a Juneau homebrewer, smiles after tying for best in show in the Alaskan Homebrewing Competition, Oct. 12, 2019. The competition’s results were announced during AKtoberfest. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Brewin’ bruin: Juneau brewer’s dark sour ties for top spot in homebrew contest

AKtoberfest hands out hardware

He didn’t have to travel far from home to collect his homebrewing award.

Kent Ficek, a Juneau brewer, tied for top honors at the Alaskan Homebrew Competition, an annual judged contest sanctioned by the Alaskan Brewing Company. The results of the competition, which drew over 100 entries, were announced Saturday at AKtoberfest at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center.

“I’m surprised,” Ficek said in an interview after collecting his medal. “I tried it before I submitted it, and I didn’t think it was that great. It has aged since then — almost two months.”

Ficek also placed second in the contest’s meads, stouts and light lager categories. The Best of Show award-winning beer, Aesop’s Oaken Orchard, is oud bruin, a dark sour that comes from Belgium.

“It’s my favorite style to drink,” Ficek said. “and I brew what I drink.”

“Make the beer you want to drink, and the quality will follow,” he added.

Strong stein competitors, including ultimate winner Fred Smith, left wearing a green hat, hoist their steins at AKtoberfest, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Strong stein competitors, including ultimate winner Fred Smith, left wearing a green hat, hoist their steins at AKtoberfest, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Making the oud bruin required aging it for a year, a lot of dark malts and adding more microorganisms —known as bugs in brewer speak.

“The bugs did the work,” Ficek said. “I just provided the vessel.”

Ficek has been brewing for about four years, he said, and is now a brewer for Alaskan Brewing Co. —he wasn’t at the time he entered the competition, and there is not a rule against brewers entering the annual contest.

The beer that tied for the top spot was St. Arnold Doppel by Hanseath of Anchorage. The brewers behind the beer will be flown to Juneau as part of the win.

Other Juneau winners included David Howard (bronze for spruce hoppy beers, bronze for APAs, bronze for wood beers ); George Watt, Zac Watt, Pat Neara and Willie Benning (silver for dark beers); Grant Ficek (gold for meads); Blake Hass (gold for fruit beers, bronze for sours); and Greg Handley (bronze for IPAs).

They weren’t the only ones to get some recognition and time on stage.

Womens strong stein contest winner Maureen Shivers clutches her winnings in one arm, hoists her stein with another and balances on a crutch at AKtoberfest, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Womens strong stein contest winner Maureen Shivers clutches her winnings in one arm, hoists her stein with another and balances on a crutch at AKtoberfest, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Winners of the strong stein contest also received some customized swag and congratulations. In a strong stein contest, competitors most hold their steins in front of them for as long as possible. Fred Smith took the top spot for the men, and he was surprised by his victory. He said it’s possible beer enabled his victory by making him less sensitive to shoulder fatigue.

Maureen Shivers who took the top spot in the women’s contest was also an unlikely winner.

Shivers is recovering from a torn MCL and torn ACL and was using a single crutch to get around.

Did she think she had a chance to win when entering the contest.

“No,” she said.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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