February 21, 2011

Strong Beer Fest Reactions

If you ever need evidence of the hardiness of Valley beer lovers, look no further than Saturday’s Strong Beer Festival. - Jess Harter via http://mouthbysouthwest.com
GB's Dieter Foerstner
is undeniably cool
One of our initial goals when David and I started writing Beer PHXation was to celebrate the best things about beer culture in Phoenix. Although we would have preferred better weather, the blustery wet day served to remind everyone that Arizonans want good beer here in Arizona and they are prepared to show their support.

Those that attended validated Rule 1 in the New Beer Rules of Phoenix.
EDIT: Video Added. It was this kind of day.

Mouth by Southwest
Another of our larger goals was to identify other local writers that see beer as more than just an "after work" beverage. Jess Harter's Mouth by Southwest blog discusses news in the food and restaurants of the Phoenix Metro area and his blog has the first to report several beer stories.

That's his quote at the top of this post that kicks off the Mouth By Southwest recap: Strong Beer: When it rains, it (still) pours and we couldn't agree more.

Here are some other features on Arizona Beer Week by mouthbysouthwest.com
Drink Better Beer
EDIT: We found our longtime twitter friend @lucklys and first time IRL acquaintance has posted a Strong Beer Festival 2011 recap on her Drink Better Beer blog. Alyssa has been writing craft beer reviews for a very short time but her palate and writing style might lead you to believe that she has an old craft brewer soul.  I'll be frank, I don't like reading beer reviews and like writing them even less, but I confess to having read all of Alyssa's. It's nice to see a beer discussed by someone with a new eye.

    February 16, 2011

    Non-Beer Person at Strong Beer Fest Challenge.

    The Challenge:
    You as a qualified non-beer person with a food and/or beverage blog agree to come to the 11th Annual Strong Beer Fest at your expense. You agree to follow our non-beer flight list here: Arizona Strong Beer Fest - A Non-Beer Drinker's Guide. You will check in with us at the fest. You will blog your experience.  If you are not 100% satisfied, we at BeerPHXation, will refund your ticket.

    Answer in the comments, with your name and blog and we will select one qualified blogger.

    Arizona Strong Beer Fest - A Non-Beer Drinker's Guide.

    Generally speaking, we don't write for the non-beer drinker. When we recommend a beer for such folk, we don't soften the edges, we don't choose a wine-like beer for a wine person.  We find which flavors are enjoyable to that person in the food and beverage realm and pick beers that are points on that spectrum.  We choose a few that fit that profile and a few that challenge their conceptions of beer. We think, however, that the 11th Annual Strong Beer Fest provides an opportunity to explore mead and ciders and some of beer's softer side. Just because you think you don't like beer isn't a reason to miss Arizona Beer Week.

    The I Don't Drink Beer List

    You can start out with a flight of ciders, move into some less-than-typical beer styles featuring fruits or chocolate and then finish with some sweet meads. We've set them up in mini-flights. If you skip a few, there is are a few blending suggestions at the end. If you find a flavor that you like be sure to compare notes with others. With over 180 beers, ciders and meads... there will be some finds that are new to everyone.

    A Flight of Four Ciders
    Starting out relatively light with nothing over 7%
    1. Crispin Desert Noir **Limited Release**  - Desert Noir blends apple-wine aged in Tennessee Whiskey Barrels with apple-wine aged in red wine oak barrels then back-sweetened with Agave Nectar and a touch of Prickly Pear Nectar.
    2. Crispin Original Cider - A classically styled, but untraditional hard apple cider. Fruit forward, with a fresh, crunchy appley nose.
    3. Fox Barrel Pear Cider - This delicately balanced cider is like biting into a ripe pear. The hand crafted subtlety of this 100% natural beverage pays homage to finer French ciders.
    4. Crispin Browns Lane - Dark straw in appearance, with a semi-brilliant richness, the slight berattanomyces aroma lends to an almost traditional farmhouse cider bouquet. Soft, subtle natural apple sweetness up front, brett & tannins mid-palate move in to a slightly woody dry lingering finish.
    Beers that showcase fruit.
    Almost all of the beers in this flight feature orange, providing a rare opportunity to see how brewers interpret its role in lighter wheat billed beers.
    1. Papago Orange Blossom - This popular light American wheat flavored with Orange and Vanilla recalls a dreamsicle or an orange cream soda.
    2. Thunder Canyon Orange U Glad - Featuring orange and a wheat backbone. this interpretation recalls a beer mimosa.
    3. Rogue Somer Orange Ale - Oregon wildflower honey, sweet orange peel, oats, chamomile and coriander compliment this unfiltered wheat beer's medium sweet character.
    4. Coronado Brewing Orange Wit -This American interpretation of a recently revived style uses coriander and orange peel and orange blossom honey. Similar to Rogue, but decidedly more bready from the grain bill.
    5. Gentle Ben TJ Raspberry - A highly aromatic raspberry beer built on a lighter style beer that becomes lost in the berry by the brewmaster's design. It's been described as mildy sweet or over-the-top depending on your personal Berry Index.
    Undeniably Chocolate 
    Chocolate and caramel toasted grains are at the brewer's disposal when it comes to classic styles that have subtle chocolate flavors like Porters and Stouts. These beers are are tilting the Choc-o-meter and may have added cocoa, lactose and chocolate nibs. Take a sip and quiz the brewmaster at the booth.
    1. Santan Sex Panther Chocolate Barleywine
    2. Sonoran White Chocolate Ale
    3. Prescott Brewing Achocolypse
    Feeling the Need for Mead
    If you still have your sweet tooth on and haven't gotten on the beer bandwagon, this next flight will fulfill your need for mead. Mead is fermented honey with alcohol strength in the wine range and often has quite a bit of residual sweetness.
    1. Redstone Nectar of the Hops - A dry hopped mead with slight earthy and grassy hop aroma and little to no hop bitterness.
    2. Redstone Black Raspberry Nectar- Still one of Redstone's most popular meads, the black raspberries flavor shines through in a surprisingly light and refreshing manner.
    3. Redstone Sunshine Nectar- Sweet apricot preserve aromas. A brisk, effervescent entry leads to a dryish light-to medium-bodied palate with dried apricot, tart citrus spray, and a touch of floral honey. Finishes dryly with a lean fruit peel fade.
    Beer festivals offer an excellent opportunity to blend flavors and educate your palate. We recommend  blending Gentle Ben TJ Raspberry with the Sonoran White Chocolate Ale or the Redstone Black Raspberry Nectar with Prescott Brewing's Achocolypse.

    Does this list intrigue you?  Perhaps you should accept the Non-Beer Person at Strong Beer Fest Challenge.

      February 10, 2011

      Sonoran Named Official Craft Brewery of the Arizona Centennial

       From a release:

      The Arizona Centennial™ has announced Sonoran Brewing Company as the Official Craft Brewery of the Arizona Centennial™. Sonoran will be creating a special beer for the celebration of our 100th anniversary ofstatehood. The beer will be called Arizona Centennial Copper Ale™,  the Hundred Year Beer™. 
       More on what this means when we understand what this means!

      World Class Beverages Confirms Strong Beer Fest Pours

      Chuck Noll, Fine Beer Czar with World Class Beverages has confirmed the pour list for the Arizona Strong Beer Fest.

      • Lost Coast Oak Aged Imperial Stout
      • Schneider Aventinus 
      • The Bruery Mischief
      • Bear Republic Red Rocket
      • Bridgeport Hop Czar
      • Bridgeport Kingpin
      • Eel River IPA
      • Left Hand Twin Sisters
      • Left Hand Wake up Dead
      • Left Hand Warrior
      • Gulden Draak
      • Piraat
      • Troubadour Magma
      • Petrus Aged Pale Ale
      • Great Divide Grand Cru
      • Great Divide Old Ruffian
      • Great Divide Hercules
      • Great Divide Smoked Baltic Porter
      • Crispin Desert Noir
      • Crispin Original
      • Fox Barrel Pear
      • Redstone Black Raspberry Nectar
      • Redstone Sunshine Nectar
      • Moylans Barrel Aged Grand Cru
      • Moylans Barrel Aged Old Blarney Barleywine
      • Big Sky Belgian Strong Blonde Cherry Ale
      • Port Brewing Mongo Pale
      • Port Brewing Serpents Stout
      • Breckenridge TWENTY
      • Breckenridge 471 IPA
      • Ballast Point Barmy Ale
      • Ballast Point Big Eye
      • He'Brew Rejewvanator
      • He'Brew R.I.P.A.
      Statewide, Chuck reported that World Class will be a part of over 75 events during beer week. One of the more unique events he talked about is a Flemish Sour Blending Seminar on Wednesday, Feb 23. Artisanal Imports will be sending an "Old" keg and a "Young" keg and blend the beers on the spot at Whole Foods- Chandler.
      I'm going to also release Chuck's wish list for things he is working on, but I'll wait for a comment or two first.

      February 9, 2011

      Craft Beer Annoyances

      David has thrown in the towel
      I hate to write this because I'm going to sound like a beer snob, but I am, and there are some things with the craft beer experience that I would really like to see change. In no particular order they would include:

      Chilled Beer Glasses

      Imagine ordering a nice pint of your favorite IPA and anticipating the sweet malt aromas and floral, citrusy or spicy hop aroma and flavor. Then the bartender sets the glass down in front of you, you take a whiff and a nice swig, but everything is subdued. The flavor is blunted and not as bright as you hoped. Then you notice the ice crystals on the outside of the glass and sit at the bar with your hands wrapped around the glass for 15 minutes until it is warm enough to take another sip. This is how I feel every time I get served a pint in a chilled glass. Unfortunately, many brewpubs and beer bars are not immune to this practice and it is time for the craft beer consumer to demand change.

      Flavor and aroma are strongly impacted by beer flavor. Aromas are carried to your nose by CO2 coming out of solution, a process that increases as the beer warms. In addition, cold temperatures numb your taste buds and reduce the flavor impact. This is fine if you are drinking a mass-produced industrial lager, but if you are drinking a craft beer with more flavor it is detrimental to the beer. Ideally you would drink most craft beers at 40-42 degrees or larger, more flavorful beers such as an Imperial Stout or Barleywine round 50 degrees. Next time you are enjoying a beer, either at a bar or at home, slowly sip the beer over 30-40 minutes and see how the flavor evolves as it warms. If you have never done this, I think you'll be amazed at how much it changes and will agree that somewhere in the 40-50 degree range is better than ice cold.

      Shaker Pint Glasses

      Although they are iconic as the universal beer glass, shaker pints were not designed for serving beer but for mixing drinks. Obviously, they are popular with bar owners due to cost and easy stack ability, but they are not an ideal serving vessel. For one, it is very difficult to serve a good beer with adequate head. There is no headspace for any beer foam, which means either a short pour with head, or a full pint with absolutely no head. Anyone who has enjoyed a properly poured heffeweizen in a traditional weizen glass with a three finger head on it will know what proper beer foam brings to the craft beer experience. The shaker's wide mouth also promotes quicker dissipation of aromas and flavors. I won't go as far as the Belgians and say every beer should have its own glassware (this is more a function of marketing than flavor considerations), but bars should employ an assortment of glassware, from tulip and snifters, to Abbey goblets to present their beers in a better light.

      Domestic vs. Import Beer Lists

      We've already discussed the dearth of craft beer on the restaurant dinner table, but something that really annoys me is the arbitrary split between "domestic" and "imported" beers. Much of this split comes from marketing, especially brands such as Heineken that attempt to portray themselves as a premium beer in the American market despite the fact that there is very little difference between mass-produced lager beers. One effect of this split is that many people now associate skunked, light-struck flavor common in many of the import beers packaged in green or clear bottles with imported beer itself and may be unwilling to try more flavorful imported beers if they do not like this flavor. A much better beer listing would be a split by common flavors, styles or ingredients.

      Beer Served in the Bottle or Can

      As mentioned above, aroma is important when enjoying a flavorful craft beer. As such, it is awfully hard to get much aroma through the 1 inch opening of a beer bottle. If I'm ordering a craft beer, I want it in a glass. And if I ask for a glass on my first beer, the bartender should assume I'm going to want one for number two and number three. Asking for a glass every time I'm served a beer gets annoying.

      Swirling the Beer

      Many craft beers are bottle conditioned but that doesn't mean I want do drink the yeast in the bottom of the bottle. I hate it when the bartender assumes I want the yeast poured with the beer when this is really only appropriate in certain styles of beer such as witbier or weizen. This isn't just a rookie mistake as I experienced it at one of the finer beer bars in the valley recently where the bartender poured the first 10 ounces, swirled up the remaining two and finished pouring the beer. If a beer is bottle conditioned, it should either be presented to customer with a glass and the bottle to pour themselves, or it should be poured clear with a little amount of beer left in the glass so the consumer can decide what to do with the yeast.

      I think that is enough annoyances for one day. If some of these upset you too, please mention them to the manager next time you are out for a beer. Offer them as constructive criticism and convey to them how much correcting the issue will improve your enjoyment of craft beer. Beer will not be treated well until we demand it as consumers.

      February 8, 2011

      Arizona Craft Beer Week Taking Shape

      As excitement builds for Arizona Craft Beer Week, more events are popping up around the local craft beer scene. Here's some of the latest items we've heard about:

      Hungry Monk, Chandler (@hungrymonkaz)

      • Tuesday, 2/22: Anderson Valley, 4:30-6:30 & Ballast Point, 6:30-8:30
      • Wednesday, 2/23: Left Hand Brewing, 6:30-8:30
      • Saturday, 2/26: Bells Brewing, 5:00-7:00

      Flanny's, Tempe (@Flannys_Tempe)

      Friday, 2/25: 7:00 - Beer Blending Extravaganza

      Colorado's Left Hand Brewing and local breweries SanTan and Sonoran will be on hand at Flanny's Irish Bar & Grill to showcase one of the hottest trends in the beer world. Meet James the "Beer Scientist" and try some suggestions from the brewers in attendance or have a crack at your own.


      As our goal is to grow the Phoenix craft beer scene, we're not disappointed that we were scooped on this one by local food & drink blog mxsw. Like the coming together of 5 animatronic lions into a super robot, this beer brings together five local breweries interpretation of the collaboration double red recipe into Arizona's first craft beer blend. For all the details, check out mxsw's blog posting on the beer and look for it first at Strong Ale Festival.

      Strong Ale Festival

      Speaking of Strong Ale Festival, the latest word is that all 500 VIP tickets are now sold out. Tomorrow (February 9th) is your last chance to purchase discounted general admission tickets. Save $5 by ordering online at the AZ Beer Week website.This event has sold out in the past so make sure you don't miss out on tickets.

      In other Strong Ale News, we received Odell's planned list of beers for the event:
      • C4 1st Crack Espresso Porter (Collaboration with Cave Creek Coffee Company), 7.5% ABV
      • Double Ninja Double IPA, 9.8% ABV
      • Odell Red, 6.5% ABV
      • Odell IPA, 7% ABV
      • 2 special 1/4 bbls to be announced later.

      These are just a few of the hundreds of events planned for beer week. We'll try to keep you up to date on new events as we hear of them, so keep following our @BeerPHXation Twitter feed and make sure you follow AZ Beer Week on Twitter @AZBeerWeek or Facebook.

      February 4, 2011

      Session #48 Cask, Keg, Can, Bottle?

      We've participated in the last few occurrences of The Session. This month's topic is hosted by the Reulctant Scooper is Session #48 Cask, Keg, Can, Bottle?
      Simon explains:
      The method of beer dispense often raises the hackles of even the most seasoned beer drinker. Some evangilise about living, breathing cask as being the one true way. Others heartily support the pressurised keg. The humble tinny has its fans. Lovers of bottled beer, either conditioned or pasturised, can be equally vociferous.

      Perhaps you think that one method magnifies a beer's impact. Perhaps you won't try a beer if it's dispensed in a way you don't agree with. Perhaps you've tried one beer that's been dispensed every which way.

      The question is simple but your answer may not be: Cask, Keg, Can, Bottle: Does dispense matter?
      We're taking a punt on this one to a degree.  We've discussed a few things on format as they pertain to Phoenix. We looked at moving beer into restaurants in the case of 22 ounce bottles (Bombers) with a  marketing and sales strategic perspective. We also looked at how craft beer in the can is changing opinions about freshness and quality.

      Locally speaking, we're not aware of anyone that is bottle conditioning. Oak Creek does make use of a spundling valve which they attribute to a softer and smoother finish.

      A few locals cask condition:
      • Santan
      • Four Peaks
      • BJs
      • Papago
      • Rockbottom
      But the true local master is Uwe Boer of Sun Up Brewing. Uwe has 1 or 2 casks on every day with about a two day turn. He also does the casks for Papago. Supporting that type of a program matters to us. So does freshness and showcasing a single hop varietal which is what Uwe commonly does. That's our vote!

      February 3, 2011

      Of Re-Starts, Starts-Ups and Endings

      "I didn't want to do what was right. I didn't want to do what was wrong. I just wanted another beer." - Don Younger
      We have three stories this week about starting up, starting over or coming to an end.

      Old World 2.0
      Last weekend I attended the re-opening of the Old World Brewery tasting room at the former Phoenix Capital Station Post Office. The brewery is not yet operational, according to Jeff Olson. They are waiting for a certificate of occupancy before Southwest Gas will connect their service which could take a few weeks. Still, there was beer- Nitro Blond and 4Leaf Red provided by a contract brewing arrangement with Flagstaff's Mogollon- and some things to celebrate.


      Old World's move into the hardscrabble neighborhood of 25th Avenue and Van Buren is somewhat metaphorical of its Rock and Roll existence. It's hard enough to get a brewery up and running, tougher still to move so shortly after you get up and running. It seemed to be a move into a good deal of unknown.  At the opening, it was clear that there was still a long road ahead, but Jeff seemed to have the team on a managed growth regimen. We can all debate the circumstances of the move and reports of some lactic character migrating into the Wit and the Red in the latter days of the Deer Valley days, but craft beer can be about redemption too. Last weeks beers were clean and flavorful. I'm going to give them a clean slate and well wishes. Craft beer in the Estrella neighborhood certainly would be an indicator that Phoenix is ready for a cultural change.

      A New Brewing Landmark on the Horizon
      We've seen a surge of craft beer bars in the last year including recent newcomers The Garage on Bethany and Flanny's in Tempe. It seemed like we might be due for some new brewery start-ups. After a few months of running down some brewery-in-planning rumors, I picked up the trail for North Mountain Brewing.

      Apart from the window graphics on the smallish office suite near the tri-corner area of Dunlap, 7th St and Cave Creek Road, there is nothing that indicates that this will be the site of Sunnyslope's first brewery. You need to talk to Robert Berkner to understand how the recently gutted shell will be transformed into neighborhood focused brewpub.

      Robert, a native Phoenician, recounted how the seeds of his current vision began some 20 years ago during the micro-brewery boom. He spoke about how he almost chose to go down the craft beer path about the time that Coyote Springs had just closed and Four Peaks was just starting up. There were some opportunities and possibilities, but he was led back to family business.  Success in other areas, led to a successful small business of his own and a lifestyle that allowed him to begin a family and raise 3 children.

      North Mountain Brewing
      Fast forward to today and Robert is eager to take the path that, years ago, he had not. He describes the bar area where 6 taps will serve classic styles and a few seasonals. He has a chef lined up currently working in the state that will be revealed as they get closer to opening. Together they have planned a menu that will feature beer foods of the world as well as seasonal offerings and an emphasis on brasied meats.

      Outside, he paints in gestures where the wrap-around patio will go and the site of the future outbuilding that will house a 15 barrel brewhouse sometime in the next 8 months. He walks me over to the adjacent suite and points out the landmarks of the space's former seedier past. "It used to be a massage parlor and yes, it was raided. I'm not sure how much of that we're going to discuss with customers" he jokes as we laugh about the possibilities.

      The possibilities.  It's early in the process and Robert begins to reel back in a bit on what might be changing with his plan and some of the details are still in flux. Construction, permitting and market forces will certainly impact the timetable and influence the vision. He returns to the the principles that will he feels will make this brewpub successful. There is a strong desire to have a beer-centric pub that integrates into the village of Sunnyslope. He credits his family and past experiences owning and running businesses and believes that will carry through any of the gaps that he might have as a first-time brewery owner. His passion when he speaks is steady and measured. If the timetable seems ambitious to you then you are in agreement with some of the local industry people that I've talked with, but you can't help but get excited about the picture he's painted.

      Legacy Lost
      Don Younger outside of Falling Rock
      I can't let the week go by without mentioning the passing of craft beer icon, Portland Publican and racanteur Don Younger. Having only met him a few times and speaking with him in-depth one time, I'll leave the tributes to those that knew him better and reflect on his larger impact.

      Despite being credited for birthing the entire Portland beer scene, you will be hearing hundreds of stories about how engaging and open Don was. That he would just as easily strike up a conversation with an beer neophyte or brewing legend  is something I can attest to.  We've lost some great breweries here in Phoenix and a few notable figures have left, but there really isn't a comparable figure to Don. We do not have many of the things that make a city like Portland a premier beer destination. Our beer culture story will be unique. We do not have favorable water our climate is harsh, our city is lacking some connective tissue and we will most probably not have a Don to lead us- at least not with the sheer will and physical presence of Younger. 

      The quote at the top of this post is Don's and I think it fits both breweries pursuit of beer. They aren't looking to set a blueprint for anyone or to determine what beer everyone should have in their hands.  They're looking to get their next beer- in their own vision and on their own terms.

      If you are excited as I am about seeing this vision, join me in following North Mountain Brewing on their Facebook page.  As I get this ready to publish, we're just hearing about a new start-up in Tucson called Dragoon Brewing. We've also been following Flagstaff's Mother Road Brewing. Exciting times!

      February 2, 2011

      Four Peaks Leaks Strong Beer Fest Largesse

      Ted Golden, the Beer Traffic Controller posted the Four Peaks Strong Beer Fest line-up minutes ago and as predicted, it is formidable.
      • 2007 and 2008 Hopsquatch Barleywine
      • Aged Double Knot
      • 2 year old Barrel Aged Belgian Black
      • Motley Brew
      • Aged Russian Imperial Stout aka Sirius Black
      • Aged Strong Scotch Ale
      • AZBW Double Red
      • Hop Knot IPA
      • Raj IPA
      • Kilt Lifter
      • Sunbru
      A telling comment on Facebook was Breckenridge's marketing director asking if nyone could work his booth so that he could hang out at Four Peaks.