4th Annual Great Arizona Beer Festival

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This year's festival saw ominous skies lurking above all day Saturday afternoon, April 5th, but temperatures remained in the sixties and no moisture ever materialized. Sunday yielded a beautiful sunny day with temperatures ten degrees warmer. Things seemed to be off to a good start with few lines for brewer's check-in, ticket sales, and Will Calls. As the long single line formed at the entrance to the lush Arizona Center it was apparent that all was not well. No one was checking IDs! When 1pm rolled around two contract security guards started examining photo IDs and banding patrons at the front entrance. The line stretched out of sight through the first floor shops and barely moved. The crowd was not amused; this half hour wait was cutting into their four hour drinking time. Finally, the organizers realized their planning boo-boo and assigned extra checkers to walk through the line, just as they do at the Flagstaff events. This sped things up appropriately and the absurd delay disappeared.

Inside, there was actually enough room to roam the grassy area and find something of interest from the 64 breweries present. Most brought more than two or three brews each and draught beer represented about 40% of the offerings. The tiny mug-shaped sample glasses held four ounces comfortably with nearly another inch for head. Your $25 ticket ($20 in advance) got you plenty to sample and the food selection was well above average. For those who had the time, the Association of Brewers was at the Brewer's Education Tent where every 20 minutes owners and brewers from around Arizona gave talks and answered questions. A very nice touch for increasing the public's awareness and appreciation of beer. For the laid back, the band playing on the grassy knoll was just the right accompaniment for an afternoon of tasting. In the Arizona Brewers Booth, representatives from Brewmeisters Anonymous and the Arizona Society of Homebrewers were on hand to enlighten those interested in the hobby. At the end of the day Sunday, the award presentations were made for the almost 400 beers entered in this year's homebrew competition.

Attending for the first time this year was Rio Salido from Tempe, with their 22bbl brewhouse on line about one month. Their Altbier was dry, hoppy and clean while their Munich Export was light and crisp. Prescot Brewing brought their Ponderosa I.P.A., much to the delight of all hop heads in attendance. Now in distribution in Arizona is Friends Brewing with corporate headquarters in Kennesaw, Georgia and brewer in Neu Ulm, Minnesota. Their Georgia Wild Raspberry, 3.5% ABW,offered a moderate fruit character matched to an overall light and crisp character. Thomas Kemper had their Belgian White on hand. At 4.4% ABV, it was crisp and spicy. Numerous attractions were to be found at the Spanish Peaks booth. The Black Dog Porter was dry enough but the Big Rock Black Amber on the adjacent tap was possibly a bit more malty and drier. Spanish Peaks is now trying two naturally fermented cider recipes; Apple and Pear. They didn't bring their Black Dog Ale but instead brought the black dog himself, Chug. He was very popular with the crowd but did not do any showing off by fetching 22 ounce bombers. Another brew from north of the border was the Grasshopper Wheat Ale from Big Rock. Great for the weather, the light body and crisp flavor went down very smoothly. At the light end of their always clean German-style lagers was the Tabernash Golden, 5.3% ABV, the German malts and hops produced a very clean and crisp summertime beer. Off to a good start from their new Tucson location, Nimbus Brewing showed off their Palo Verde Pale with its nice balance of light malt and pronounced hops. Their Belgian White Ale is the product of two yeast strains along with the expected coriander and orange peel. When passing by the brewery, fortunate travelers may pick up growlers to go. Fruit beers were everywhere this year and the sampling from Beartooth Brewing represented an excellent approach. Their Blueberry Pale started with a slight blueberry aroma and flavor, light body, and left a crisp and refreshing finish. The crowd also found their "Bite Me" T-shirts of interest.

Once again the Sun Sounds organizers did an above average job in raising money for their worthy charity and giving the tasting public a great value for their money. Just a few suggestions for next year's event would include: rinse water to augment the available bottled drinking water, pre-ID ticket holders to facilitate gate entry, and lose the uniformed off-duty police officers unless crime is really a problem at this very civilized event. To really find out what the public wants, distribute a survey form and collect accurate, first-hand feedback from paying customers. Such "performance-based" evaluation is foreign to most organizers but would be a boon to discriminating, paying customers.


References:

American Hard Cider Co., M2 Beverage Marketing, 9559 N. Field Court, Westminster, CO 80021

Anchor Brewing Company, 1705 Mariposa St., San Francisco, CA. 94107

Bandersnatch Brewpub, 125 E. 5th Ave., Tempe, AZ. 85281

Beartooth Brewing Company, POB 6100, Boulder, CO. 80306

Beaver Street Brewery, 11 S. Beaver St., #1, Flagstaff, AZ. 86001

Big Bang Brewery, 650th St., Ste. 403, San Francisco, CA

Big Rock Brewing Company

Black Mountain Brewing Company, 6245 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ. 85331

Blue Moon Brewing, 2151 Blake, Street, Denver, CO 80205

Boston Beer Co., 30 Germania street, Boston, MA 02130

Breckenridge Brewery, 600 S. Main St., Breckenridge, CO. 80424

Brew Brothers, Fourth and Virginia St, Reno, NV 89523

Brew Haus Brewing, 2025 S. Alma School #4, Mesa, AZ 85210

Broadway Brewing Company

Celis Brewery, 2431 Forbes Dr., Austin, TX. 78754

Copper Canyon Brewing and Ale House, 5945 W. Ray Rd. #13, Chandler, AZ 85226

Coyote Springs Brewing Company, 4883 N. 20th Street, Phoeniz, AZ. 85016

D.K. Hilton brewing, 12100 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 645, Los Angles, CA

Devil Mountain, 8537 E. San Lucas, Scottsdale, AZ 85258

Eddie McStiff's, 57 S. Main, Moab, UT. 84532

Flagstaff Brewing Company, 16 E. Route 66, Flagstaff, AZ. 86001

Four Peaks Brewing, 1340 E. 8th St. Ste 104, Tempe, AZ 85281

Friends Brewing, 1760 Shillings Rd., Kennesaw, GA 30144

Full Sail Brewing Company, 506 Columbia, Hood River, OR. 97031

Gentle Ben's Brewing, 865 E. University Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85719

Grant's Ales/Yakima Brewing, 1803 Presson Place, Yakima, WA. 98902

Gunnbrew Supply Co., 16627 N. Cave Creek Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85032

High Falls Brewery, 445 St. Paul St., Rochester, N.Y. 14605

Holy Cow! Casino, Cafe & Brewery, 2423 Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89104

HOPS! Bistro and Brewery, 14988 N. 78th Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85259

Lawler Brewing Company

Leinenkugel Brewing, Jefferson Ave., Chippewa Falls, WI 54729

McFarlane Brewing, 202 S. 29th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85034

Mendocino Brewing, 13351 South Highway 101, Hopland, CA 95449

Moab Brewery, 686 S. Main, Moab UT 84532

Naked Aspen Beer Company, Cold Spring, MN. 56320

New Belgium Berwing, 500 Linden Street, Fort Collins, CO 80524

Nimbus Brewing, 3850 E. 44th, #138, Tucson, AZ 85713

O'Ryan's Brewing, 3255 S. Dorsey Lane, #7044, Tempe, AZ 85282

Oak Creek Brewing Company, 2050 Yavapai Drive, Sedona, AZ. 86303

Odell Brewing Company, 800 E. Lincoln Ave., Ft. Collins, CO. 80524

Oregon Ale and Beer Co., 5755 S.W. Jean Rd., Lake Oswego, OR 97035

Pavichevich Brewing, 383 Romans Road, Elmhurst, IL 60126

Pete's Brewing Company, 514 High St., Palo Alto, CA. 94301

Portland Brewing Company, 2730 N.W. 31st Ave., Portland, OR. 97210

Prescott Brewing Company, 130 W. Gurley Street, Prescott, AZ. 86301

Pyramid Ales/Hart Brewing, 110 W. Marine Dr., Kalama, WA. 98625

Redhook Ale Brewery, 3400 Phinney Ave. North, Seattle, WA. 98103

Rockies Brewing, 2880 Wilderness Place, Boulder CO 80301

Rouge River Brewing, 31B Water St., Ashland, OR 97520

Saxer Brewing Company, 5875 S.W. Lakeview Blvd., Lake Oswego, OR. 97035

Saxer Brewing, 5875 S.W. Lakeview Blvd., Lake Oswego, OR 97035

Sonora Brewing, 3601 N. 36th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85019

Seidemann Brewing, 1520 W. Mineral #2, Tempe, AZ 85283

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, 1075 E. 20th St., Chico, CA. 95928

SLO Brewing Company

Spanish Peaks Brewing Company

Seamworks Brewing, 801 E. 2nd Ave., Durango, CO 81301

Sun Sounds Flagstaff, 1300 South Milton, Ste. 202, Flagstaff, AZ. 86001

Sun Sounds Phoenix Station, 3124 East Roosevelt, Phoeniz, AZ 85008

Sun Sounds Tuscon Station, 7290 East Broadway Road, Ste. K, Tuscon, AZ. 85710

Tabernash Brewing Company, 205 Denargo Market, Denver, CO. 80216

Thames America, Graton, CA 95444

Thomas Kemper, 22381 Foss Rd., Poulsbo, WA. 98370

Tombstone Brewing, 710 Gilbert Dr., tempe, AZ 85281

Tommyknocker Brewery and Pub, 1401 Miner St., Idaho Springs, CO 80452

Two Dogs Lemon Brew, 1165 Northern Blvd., Manhasset, NY 11030

Zebra Beers, 6856 Forest Hill Ln., Indian Springs, OH 45251


Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - April, 1997


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