February 16, 2011

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.

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