The Full Pint is proud to present coverage of the 2013 Arizona Strong Beer Fest, covered by our intern Jesse. If you are interested in becoming an intern at The Full Pint, please follow this link for more details.
The AZ Strong Beer festival was last Saturday and it marked the beginning of AZ Beer Week, a yearly event that most Arizona craft beer fanatics have been enjoying immensely this last week. This was one of the largest beer festivals I’ve ever attended, and I came away very impressed.
The strong beer focus made the event something special. There were barrel-aged beers galore for long, glorious sips as well as numerous hop bombs ready to crush palates instantaneously. Add in a beautiful Phoenix winter day (shorts and t-shirt kind of weather) and the beautiful Steele Indian School Park and you get a wonderful afternoon of drinking craft beer.
I was happy to see Port Brewing/Pizza Port present, and one of the first beers of the day I sampled was Brewbies Breast IPA, an ale made with pomegranates. It came across to me as an fruit-aroma filled IPA with a little extra sweetness, while the appearance was a kind of goofy pink color. It was a wonderful beer to sink into the festival with over a pulled pork sandwich (purchased from one of the vendors present). Too bad the sandwich was an utter disappointment.
Crispin Cider was in attendance with two very interesting ciders brewed in honor of the 1987 film “The Princess Bride.” I only tried Prepare to Die, an apple cider aged in red wine barrels with Killer Bee honey and blood orange added, and it was fantastic. It was odd to taste the winey barrel flavor that I am familiar with in beer so blatantly within a crisp and fizzy cider, though still fantastic.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been skeptical of Arizona’s local craft beer in the past. While I’ve always thought of Arizona’s breweries as producers of quality beer, I always felt like they never blew me away. Now, that notion is completely gone from my mind, and I’m quickly becoming very impressed by Arizona’s talented brewers. At the festival on Saturday, by far my favorite showing by a brewery was Four Peaks Brewery, from Tempe.
Four Peaks came swinging with an extensive line-up of vintage and barrel-aged (sometimes both) offerings, along with their normal year round line-up. First up was the ’10 bourbon barrel-aged Baltic Porter with northwest cherries added. It was smooth with pleasant oak flavor and a slight tartness.
They were also pouring Double Knot DIPA, ’08 and ’10 Hopsquatch barleywine, ’10 bourbon barrel-aged Hopsquatch, ’11 bourbon barrel-aged ryewine, ’08 wine barrel-aged Belgian black ale and ’11 Sirius Black, a bourbon barrel-aged stout. Somewhat overwhelming, I found myself immediately getting back in the Four Peaks line after receiving ones of these gems. They all were outstanding.
Another Arizona brewery I happy to try was Dragoon Brewing Company from Tucson. Their IPA and Scout Porter were both delicious, and there couldn’t have been nicer people at their tent. That’s a definitely a brewery to look out for.
Papago Brewing Co. from Scottsdale, Ariz. brought an incredible chili-infused black IPA called Freak’n Hot which was a collaboration beer with Sun Up Brewing Co. from Phoenix, Ariz. It was brewed with pasillas, habaneros, and red jalapenos and it was satisfactorily spicy with the hops mingling well.
Though I was elated to try those great Arizona beers (as well as Flagstaff’s own Wanderlust Brewing Company, a brewery whose future I am very interested in) the best beer I had that day hailed from Michigan.
When I checked out the line-up for the Strong Beer Fest a few days prior, I immediately became excited upon seeing one beer in particular on that list. Bell’s Brewery’s bourbon barrel-aged Batch 9000. I heard in the early hours of the festival that it would be tapped at three o’clock and that it would go fast, but low and behold that time snuck up on me and there was already a massive line by the time I arrived at the Bell’s tent.
Luckily I was able to get a pour and I knew immediately that it was going to be my favorite beer of the festival. It was everything I look for in a bourbon barrel-aged beer. Viscous, fragrant and smooth, this beer was a real treat.
I finished the festival with some great buggy beers, such as Petrus Aged Pale and Full Sail’s Chris’s Summer Delight Berliner Weisse, and the sour flavor in these beers was a nice change of pace to take me to the end of the day. From all the great breweries to a very entertaining band, it was a very successful celebration of craft beer and something that will most likely only get bigger in coming years.