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The 4th Annual MADE IN THE SHADE Beer Tasting Festival took place from 3 to 8PM on August 17th at the Coconino County Fairgrounds outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. The increased admission fees of $20 advanced and $25 at the door didn't seem to deter the mostly college student crowd that packed the place. Unlike a more primitive neighboring state to the east, there was no restriction on toddlers or infants in strollers. A photo ID earned festgoers a bright orange wristband, and with it, tasting privileges.

The tasting glasses were tiny four ounce mugs, with the "pour to" level at the two ounce mark. Most pourers were generous. Brewers were allowed to pour their own beer and this was a major attraction. For those patrons whose focus wasn't strictly on consumption, questions could be asked about the brews and answers readily provided. Even at tables where numerous bottled micros were being served, the distributors who were pouring were very knowledgeable and informative.

The physical layout was a reasonable compromise between an indoor setting and an outdoor one. The indoor pavilion was one large two story room with the pouring tables four feet out from all four walls. Each brewery seemed to have enough space to both showcase and serve their beers. Bottled products outnumbered the draughts. Drinking water and rinse buckets were noticeably absent. The German-style band kept the mood inside festive. Outside, the mood, like the crowd, was more eclectic. A few dozen picnic tables in the center of the square offered a place to sit and relax while aluminum bleachers on the side provided the vantage point for people watching. Regardless of you location, your senses were inundated from all directions. From behind, the unmistakable fragrance of hops, as the local homebrew club finished their boil of their barleywine brew. From the right, the smell of BBQ ribs and roasted corn-on-the-cob. From the left, the amplified sounds of the various singers who took the stage. From the center, the shouts and cheers of the Tombstone Brewing crew doing a successful job of getting the crowd to enjoy themselves. Coming with the breezes from all direction was the occasional scent of cigar smoke, confirming reports that this fad is indeed sweeping through the craft beer scene.

Overall, the MADE IN THE SHADE event was a success for the Sun Sounds Radio Reading Charity and for the beer tasting public. The two-plus ounce samples were adequate, given the fact that you could have an unlimited number. There was a healthy mix of tasty food and beers, and although a bit crowded, people were well behaved and there were no uniformed police present anywhere at the event. There was one incident to report however. A lone juvenile terrorist was seen skulking in the crowd and spraying unsuspecting, and uncaring, victims with colored stringy foam. Security guards' attempts at apprehension proved fruitless. A very enjoyable event, next year's could be even better with a few rinse/water stations and restricting smoking to the outside area.

Some notable beers included the following:

Celebrating its 100th anniversary, from Anheuser Busch came the Michelob Centennial Special Brew. Gold in color, the well-carbonated liquid offered a malty aroma, thin body, nice mouthfeel, very clean malty flavor and no noticeable adjuncts. The Victoria Avenue Amber Ale from Riverside, California was a clear ruby color with a weak head, rich malty aroma, malty (almost molasses-like) sweet flavor, thin body, and strong sweet aftertaste. From Lawler Brewing came the Scotsdale Pale Ale with a light body and clean smooth malty flavor. The Copper Canyon English Mild had a light hop flavor to accompany its light body and left a very favorable impression. Their Porter was medium-bodied, with a light chocolate and hop flavor and finished on the dry side. From Grants Yakima Brewing was their Perfect Porter with its nice chocolately aroma and an unfortunate distracting chemical flavor. Bert Grant was reported to still retain ownership in the current operation. The commercial operation known as J.J. Wainwright, contract-brewed in Pittsburgh, PA was offering a number of brews under the colorful Evil Eye label. The Evil Eye Amber was a clean, light malty beverage. The Honey Brown was a gold color with a medium body and overall sweet flavor. Sam Adams had their three contest-winning recipes represented. The Longshot Pale Ale was a clear gold color, medium-bodied, with a very clean medium hoppy flavor. The Hazelnut Brown had an intense nutty aroma and flavor with a medium body. The Black Lager gave a clean light chocolate flavor with a nice blend of light caramel malt. The Pale Ale from Four Peaks combined its malt and hop flavors with a nice body, overall, a good combination. Check out their Web site.

In addition to numerous colorful T-shirt designs, the folks at Tombstone Brewing produced some memorable brews. The Saguaro Pale Ale was amber-colored, with a malt over hops flavor. The Prickley Pear Porter produced a creamy body and an even flavor balance, overall, very nice. The Sedona Scotch Ale appeared dark amber in color, yielded a medium body with a malty, dry flavor and dry finish. The Heatmeiser Hefeweizen was an amber color with a light clove aroma and slightly tart smooth clove flavor. From Quaff & Nosh Restaurant was the Big Rock MagPie Rye Ale (Calgary)., gold in color, the medium body was matched with a slightly hoppy flavor and dry finish. A surprising find was McFarlane Brewing and its Pilsner. Light straw in color, the beer offered a good head, clean hoppy flavor, medium body, and nice impression. Tours at their Phoenix location are common on Saturday's from 12AM to 10PM. Their Hefeweizen was a hazy gold color with a clovey aroma, clove and wheat flavor, medium body, and no overpowering characteristics. Unencumbered by legal wrangling over nomenclature, the Atomic Dog Pale Ale from O'Ryans Tavern was a hazy amber color with a hoppy aroma and very nice hoppy flavor and aftertaste. The Younger's Tartan Special was a Scottish ale, dark amber in color, with a light body and light malty flavor. The Rhino Chaser Dark Roasted Lager was a dark amber color with a malty aroma and clean dry malty flavor. Their Peach Honey Wheat was a hazy gold color with intense peach flavor, medium body, and sweet but not overpowering flavor. The Steelhead Extra Pale Ale was a hazy gold color, with a nice hoppy flavor to match its medium body.

Common beers included Amstel and Heineken, ciders were present from ACE and a lemon brew was offered by One Eyed Jack. The Leinenkugels Northwoods Lager was a gold color with light body, dry malty flavor and dry malty finish. Their Berry Weiss was a cloudy dark amber with an intense "berry" aroma, medium body, and very fruity flavors. From the local Beaver Street Brewery was the Bramble Berry Brew with its hazy dark gold color, light blueberry aroma, medium body, smooth slightly tart blueberry flavor and dry aftertaste. The HOPS Biltmore location brought the Golden, clear gold in color and nice clean hoppy flavor, as well as the Porter with its very sharp dry malty flavor. From their Fashion Square brewpub came the Stout with its smooth creamy full-bodied dry flavor. Imported from the great white north was the Mothers Pale Ale from Whistler. Its golden color was matched with a malty sweet flavor. Yet another label claiming St. Paul, Minnesota as its origin, the Beartooth Blueberry had a blueberry flavor balanced on the sweet side. Their Cranberry was a dark gold color with a smooth mouthfeel and medium body accompanied by a nice evenly balanced sweet malty/tart flavor. Rounding out their line was the Raspberry with its clear gold color, light fruity aroma and fruity flavor that finished dryly. From Slo Brew came the EPA, gold in color, the medium body was matched with a distinct hoppy flavor. From nearby Bandersnatch came their Wheat with a clear dark gold color, medium body and slight clove flavor.

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Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - August, 1996

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