February 18, 2013

There's Nothing Weak About AZ Strong Beer Fest

The calm before the Strong Beer storm.
In its 13th year, this epic event seems to get better over time like a fine wine, or in this case, beer. Gone are the days when out-of-state breweries outnumbered local ones and garnered most of the attention. This fest oozes local, and boy did the Arizona breweries deliver. From fest favorite Four Peaks to newbies like Flagstaff's Wanderlust, AZ flexed its muscles and really stepped up their game. It's awesome to see so many creative ales being produced in our state, and a plethora of them found their way to the sold-out Steele Indian School Park Saturday afternoon. Here are some highlights...

Four Peaks
I'll take two of each, please. (Photo courtesy of Four Peaks)
Was there any doubt these guys would be the big ballers of the fest? I mean, check out that tap list at right (drool). If you didn't hit up their booth early, you probably missed out on rarities like the 2010 wine barrel-aged Baltic porter with northwest cherries and 2010 bourbon barrel-aged Hopsquatch.

But the big news out of the brewery is something Mouth by Southwest's Jess Harter mentioned yesterday in his SBF review — Sirius Black and Double Knot will be available in 4-packs sometime this year. If that's not enough, look for fall favorite Pumpkin Porter and Arizona Peach in cans.

Nice to Meet New
It was certainly a year of firsts for the fest, as a slew of newcomers made their mark with tasty grog and long lines.

Cartel makes their SBF debut. (Photo courtesy of David Rojo)
Cartel Coffee Lab may be new to the brew scene, but their rich, robust coffee has been perking up Arizona State students since 2007. They'll start selling their beers soon, and you won't want to miss the coffee stout —  delish.

Steve McFate's Fate Brewing brings North Scottsdale a legit small brewpub. Steve was on-hand serving up his dank, citrusy double IPA and Figmentation Collabey, a collaborative effort with fellow local breweries Sonoran and O.H.S.O. This brew stays true to the Belgian dubbel style, with a flavor profile of caramel, candied sugar and light figs, which were sourced at Sphinx Date Ranch in Scottsdale.

Mr. McFate serving it up. (Photo courtesy of David Rojo)
Other new arrival standouts included Mesa's first microbrewery, Desert Eagle, Flagstaff's one-man-show nanobrewery, Wanderlust (try Nathan's 928 Local Farmhouse ale), Dragoon Brewing from Tucson, and O.H.S.O.'s wood-aged firkins.

Best of the Rest
Sure, this fest is hometown-focused, but that doesn't mean there weren't other heavy-hitting beers from afar. Bell's 9000 aged in bourbon barrels was sublime — much better than the standard 9000 release. Albuquerque's Marble Brewing wowed with their oud bruin and imperial stout. Last but not least, one of my favorite beers from the fest: Odell's Triple Threat. Yes, this Belgian beauty was brewed at Odell, but the recipe was concocted by Arizona homebrewer Mik HeerBrandt. Mik won Best of Show at the Arizona Society of Homebrewers' Oktoberfest and got to go brew on Odell's pilot system. Good showing, Mik.

Beer Week may have just begun, but it's going to be awfully hard to top its trophy event. But like any good beer enthusiast, I shall soldier on and see what the rest of the week brings. Salud!

1 comment:

  1. We greatly enjoyed attending Arizona beerfest. Infact, it was a little bit TOO enjoyable!