This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.

The eighth-annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival will celebrate community and locally crafted brewing this Saturday.

More than 25 breweries, distributors, wineries and a cidery will gather for a night of tasting, fundraising, music and food.

The festival will kick off at 5 p.m. with a one-hour connoisseur event offering unlimited tastings, including specialty beers provided by breweries, to those who purchase VIP tickets. The connoisseur hour is limited to 200 tickets, which allow patrons early entry to the festival.

The event for general admission begins at 6 p.m. and includes a commemorative glass, eight 4-ounce sample tokens and live music. Additional drink tokens can be purchased at the event.

When the festival kicked off in 2011, only a handful of breweries were involved, and it was hosted at a smaller venue. This year, the festival will reach a record number of participating breweries, cideries, wineries and distributors, Matthew Pyhala, the festival coordinator, said.

“This year we have new breweries that haven’t participated before, a lot of them are because they are brand new,” he said.

Headlining the evening is Colorado-based rock and country band Great American Taxi, followed by a few local bands, Pyhala said.

Attendees will have nine different food vendors to choose from, some of which are also brand new to the festival.

The festival is the main fundraiser for the Soldotna Rotary Club, and all of the proceeds going towards local projects, Pyhala said.

“(The festival) came out of a brainstorming session of fundraising ideas that were a little out of the box,” Pyhala said.

According to the festival’s website, proceeds in the past have gone to help the Soldotna Rotary Club in setting up a RAFT Fund, which pays for travel to and from local hospitals for those who don’t have transportation.

Last year, the festival had between 1,000 and 1,200 attendees. Pyhala expects a similar turnout.

Tickets can be purchased at St. Elias Brewing, Kassik’s Brewery, Kenai River Brewing Co. and at the door. VIP tickets are $50. General admission tickets are $30.

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