February 28, 2013

The A(le) Team - Pouring Tonight at Lucky Break

I've pretty much run out of ideas. Proof below.

James Swann and I have guest-tended at Boulders on Broadway, later we added Hophead Fred and did a shift at Hungry Monk. I dubbed us the Three Card Monte, as we had a  President (me), a King (Swann) or a Jester (HHF). We're back tonight at Lucky Break this time with a fourth--Oskar Blues Western Region Rep, Marcus DeGroff.

I'm going with The Ale Team!

On tap tonight will be some treats from Oskar Blues. I understand there is a impromptu 9-ball tourney in the making. There is also a line on the number of glasses I will break. For those keeping track, I've created this handy graph detailing my amateur tending fumbles.
ASH Treasurer, Christian Chandler will be on hand to get those last minute memberships before the ASH Springfest (happening this Saturday) I imagine that he will also take action on that glassware wager.

Now who is who in this A(le) Team thing?
I know it's not fair, because there are a few clear choices here and a fuzzy one or two.
  • Without a doubt, Face is Marcus. He is the prettiest one of the bunch.
  • Hop Head Fred is Murdock. There is no questioning that.
And on to the fuzzy. That leaves Hannibal with the person with the highest rank of office (me) over our ASH VP James. Plus, he has a thing for spelling my last name with one 'L'. 

You can call James Mr Tea if that helps

Thursday, Feb 28th 6-9PM
Lucky Break 
807 E Baseline Rd #101,
Tempe, AZ 85283

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February 26, 2013

Arizona Beer Week Is Over. Now What?

We keep drinking good beer, duh. We keep moving forward in growing Arizona's amazing beer scene. Beer Week saw a staggering number of events (400+) hosted at a staggering number of places. Too many? Maybe. Our large, spread-out landscape makes getting to multiple events the same night a difficult, and oftentimes dangerous, task. Also, some of the local diehards would argue there were a lot of functions overly focused on out-of-state beers. No matter your point of view, there's no doubting Beer Week showed the incredible growth in our state's beer culture. Let's look at some of what went down last week.

Strong Beer Fest
The premier beer festival in Arizona, likely the Southwest, kicked off Beer Week in style. Local breweries killed it, and a number of new ones really made their presence known. Not to mention a slew of special suds from non-AZ breweries like Bell's, Marble and Odell. Read a full review here.
Great, Scotch, is this good.

ASH Hot Scotchy Night
The fine folk at the Arizona Society of Homebrewers hosted Hot Scotchy night at two locations this year — The Hungry Monk and Moto. For those not in the know, a Hot Scotchy is the brewer's secret cocktail, in that it consists of the first runnings from the mash (aka wort) and is then blended with a scotch or bourbon of your choice. But I'm not the expert in explaining the specifics of this sweet concoction. Mr. Fullmer tells it best.

Arizona Total Tap Takeover at Taste of Tops
Greg blurrily walks by.
Huge props to long-time Tops Liquors owner Greg Eccles for having the gusto to dedicate all his tap lines to Arizona brews. Derek Osborne's cask of Tatonka Stout aged in Woodinville Whiskey barrels was a real treat. Other standouts included College Street Brewhouse's Death by Chocolate, which was on tap for the first time in the Valley, Oak Creek's Cherry Chocolate Porter and Four Peaks' infamous Sirius Black. Keep it up, Greg.

New Belgium's Eric Salazar hammers it home.
Colorado Cask Night
I missed this last year and wasn't going to make that mistake again. Held in front of a packed house at Flanny's, there were seven special Colorado casks made exclusively for this night: Great Divide Chocolate Yeti spiked with curacao (my favorite); Odell Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout with cherries; Ska Decadent Imperial IPA married with mango and habanero (good, but needed more habanero spiciness); New Belgium Trippel that had been dry-hopped (dank city); Left Hand Velvet Night Milk Stout dry-hopped with Columbus hops; Oskar Blues oSKAar the G'rauch Smoked IPA; and Breckenridge Agave Wheat infused with orange and cloves (too clovey for my tastebuds). 'Nuff said.

Jim Lolli addresses the Monk faithful. 
(photo courtesy of David Rojo)
Bell's Eccentric Cafe, Arizona-Style
What many consider to be the main event outside of Strong Beer Fest, The Hungry Monk brought back their popular Eccentric Cafe to the delight of crazily-dressed crafties statewide. Owner Jim Lolli, a Kalamazoo native and one of the friendliest people you'll meet, pulled out all the stops this go-round. Patrons were presented with over 20 Bell's beers from which to quaff, including rarities like bourbon barrel-aged 9000 (perfectly balanced), Cherry Stout and Black Note, the Brettanomyces-laced Kal-Haven Rye, among many others. A wonderful way to round out this writer's AZ Beer Week.

February 19, 2013

Take Back the Night

Say my name, say my name.
We have a problem here in the Arizona beer scene. It's a simple and annoying phenomenon. I can't think of the word for it. It's when people (repeatedly) add an necessary word to something? You know, like:
  • Xerox copy machine
  • Superbowl Football game
  • Bud Light Light Beer
It's similar but not the same as RAS syndrome... you know PIN Number, ATM Machine.
The closest thing I could come up with is an overlapping semantic pleonasm wherein a word's semantic component is subsumed by another. 

What the Hell am I talking about?

The organization is called: ARIZONA GIRLS PINT OUT.
There is no NIGHT in their name. Never has been. Why do people keep adding it?
You people keep screwing it up so much that even google thinks you're right.

With apologies from me to you, Arizona Girls Pint Out, I'm making up a word for your situation.
Pintmanteau - Not to be confused with portmanteau, a Pintmanteau is the addition of a word or words that were never intended to be there. "Pint" is derived from Girls Pint Out. "Man" is rooted in, "Man how do people keep making this mistake?" Finally the Frenchy, "Teau" signifies a spitting in your direction for screwing this up.

Cheers. I'm glad we fixed that.

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!

February 14, 2013

The Greatest Arizona Beer Week Event Ever Conceived

Because you are a reader here, I'm going to make assumptions about the kinds of beers that you drink. You're not like anyone else at work. You are the "beer guy" in your neighborhood. You don't often drink the same beer twice. You are looking for new beers all the time. It may even be distracting to you, so much so that you can't focus on the here and now.

For the most part, the good people that put on beer week cater to you. Special dinners, one off beers, new releases... there is no shortage of events for you during beer week. Last year in my Open Letter to our Readers on Arizona Beer Week I laid out a beer drinker taxonomy:
...there are three types of audiences that Beer Week traditionally caters to: The Beer Geek (for lack of a better word), the Casual Beer Drinker and those that are unfamiliar.

And then there is this. This disruptive force. This amazing re-think everything mold-breaking event. It applies to everyone. We need events like this and more of them because beer is FUN!

I am, of course, talking about Ska Brewing Presents: Breezi and the Deviant Dames Burlesque show at the Yucca Tap Room on Wednesday February 20th at 9PM. Please read no sarcasm into this. I mean it.

Breezi Walton, is a veteran beertender at Valley and regional treasure, Papago Brewing Company. According to Zach Ogle also of Papago, Breezi will be preforming original musical content and well there will be burlesque. Will it be of the Bob Fosse, or Gypse Rose Lee, or Dita Van Teese, or Al Jolson variety? I frankly do not know. It matters not. It's going to be an extravaganza of uproarious proportions I am sure.

UPDATE: More information from Breezi herself, "It's an old fashioned style Burlesque show. Ill be singing dancing. I have 2 background dancers, a stand up comedian and announcers. I choreographed 6 songs that we will be preforming. Some older, some newer. But it's like a funny fun teaser type show.... Costumes props and all."

I repeat:  It's going to be an extravaganza of uproarious proportions I am sure.

February 11, 2013

Get Your Livers Ready, Arizona

That's right, fellow beer lovers, it's time to prime that liver for the third annual Arizona Beer Week. From Chandler to Flagstaff, this year's festivities stretch the desert landscape with well over 400 beer-focused events.

Kicking off the week is one of the West's best fests, the Strong Beer Festival. In its 13th year, this brew bacchanalia boasts some seriously strong ales. Look for local fave Four Peaks to be the place to hang, with various versions of Hopsquatch, barrel-aged Sirius Black, among many others. Add in another 75+ breweries, and you've got a great recipe for a good time.

I could go on and on about this rare tapping or that beer dinner pairing, but I won't. You'll just have to check back throughout the week for updates on what went down. Until then, stay thirsty my friends.

February 7, 2013

Your Semiannual Arizona Mead Update

Mead. It lays silent, still, cool, biding it's time often for years. It's not brash like its cousin beer nor does it get the culture cred as does wine. Generally, mead makers aren't creating a stir by calling out other larger mead makers as not being "Trad" just "Trad-dy". They aren't packaging meads in stoats or getting bragadoccio about freeze distilling. There is no "Enjoy By Fall 2023" mead. Mead has yet to enter into a canned mead is superior to bottled mead phase.

A Cascadian Dark Mead? Puhleaz. No Social Mead-ia Drama for the youngest1 of the naturally fermented beverages.

In that spirit, I have two pieces of under the radar local mead news items. This is, of course, another non-re-occurring segment called, "Your Semiannual Arizona Mead Update". As we all know, semiannual refers to  every 2 years or six months with the annum concurring roughly with fermentation cycle of a typical show mead (give or take) or the occurrence of any medieval reference or anytime I want reference that Pliny the Elder also wrote of mead (milititesand not just hops. Murky stuff.

Arizona's First Licensed Meadery Opens

Actually it's several firsts. Superstition Meadery out of Skull Valley (Prescott) was officially licensed by the state sometime during the summer. Their first releases began to appear at The Raven Cafe in early December. Among the other firsts:

  • First Mead on Tap made in AZ
  • First Hard Cider made in AZ
  • World’s First Bourbon Barrel Fermented Mead
You can see how a list like this could grow, since they are first in everything in that class including first mead owner to buy me a beer at OHSO2.

One of the more under-appreciated, yet landmark, firsts may be First Alternating Proprietorship in AZ. That could factor in to many start-up business plans in the AZ beer scene.

That's quite a good show without much fanfare or self-promotion on their part. Help them out here.

New Hampshire Meadery with Valley Connection Distributing in AZ
Yea, I went all TV news-y with "Valley Connection".

The strong home mead making community in Phoenix has always been a fan of Michael Fairbrother's mead. Some met his acquaintance at AHA National Homebrewer's Conferences as a pro speaker or before that even, while he was an amateur. Others know of his story to open Moonlight Meadery. Moonlight was a sponsor of the Brewmeister's Anonymous Mead Cup in March of 2012. ASH member, Steve McKellips won the Best of Show last go-round and was rewarded with an opportunity to make a mead professionally with Michael.

You would think that I'd know if this actually happened or not, but these mead guys--very quiet folk. Downright murky. Moonlight will be distributed by Young's Market. We'll be looking to get Moonlight and Mr. Fairbrother out for an AZ visit soon. (We shook on that right, Michael?3).

1Mead: ~2000BC; Beer: ~3500BC; Wine ~6000BC; earliest physical evidence.
2I have a fuzzy memory Jeff.
3We did not shake on that.

February 6, 2013

What in the Phoenix Beer World?

Do you know where in the beer world this photo was taken? What are we looking at? How does it relate to Arizona beer?

The concept is simple. We post a picture that is relevant to the Phoenix area beer scene and you try and identify it. Sometimes there will be a larger story involved, but often there will not. So, for glory and a tip of the glass next time we see you. Please, no social media cheating!