September 30, 2014

GABF: From Fermentation to Festival

Beer festivals are plentiful these days, but none are grander than the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. But what does it take to get a beer from fermentation to the festival? We sought out our good friends at Fate Brewing in Scottsdale and had them walk us through the process.

The silver medal. Ooooh.
First, it’s important to note that Fate has already stood on the stage with Charlie Papazian upon procuring a silver medal for their sublime Candy Bar Milk Stout – in their first year at the fest nonetheless. But owner Steve McFate and bad-ass bearded brewer Adam Schmeichel aren’t resting on their laurels. While they’ll certainly be entering Candy Bar again, which is even better this year (think batch 1), the other four beers being entered and poured at the festival include: Single-Hop Sour, International Pale Ale, Hatch Chile Cream Ale and Double Oatmeal IPA. 

Beers being entered into the festival are brewed on different schedules depending on how long each needs in fermentation. This can be tricky for a small 7-barrel brewery like Fate, which is why timing is so very important. Smaller breweries feel inclined to keep their guests happy, which means they need to ensure the brewpub’s taps are flowing with as many of their house beers as possible.

Adam hard at work.
Once the beers are done fermenting, it’s time to bottle. This can also be a bit tricky for small breweries that don’t bottle their beers, which Fate does not. Breweries with a bottling line can fire off the six bottles for each beer entered in no time flat. Fate, on the other hand, has to hand-bottle beers using a homebrew bottling system. It’s not really difficult to do, as the system attaches to a keg for transfer. But getting the carbonation level right isn’t as easy without the right measuring tools, which can be expensive. Interestingly, I happened to be at Arizona Wilderness when they were bottling their GABF beers, and they were transferring directly from serving tanks. The issue they faced was that the high 20psi pressure caused some over-carbonation issues. Thankfully, they were able to figure it out and get their bottles entered in time.

Industry professionals from around the world, known as The Professional Judge Panel, are invited to sit together in small groups and, without knowing the brand name, taste beers and determine the three best in each specified style category. Five different three-hour judging sessions take place over the three-day period during the week of GABF. The number of entries is increasing each year, which makes medaling that much more difficult. 

Fate is one of over 700 breweries pouring their wares at the festival. Mr. McFate plans on pouring himself, and promises to have Adam or another Fate representative behind the booth at all times. I always see beer-lebrities like Garrett Oliver, Sam Calagione and Vinnie Cilurzo pour on the session floor, and admire the hell out of them for taking the time to be on their feet and meet and greet fellow beer geeks. 

Is it fate? Well, no, it's McFate.
So what will Fate’s ultimate fate be when awards are doled out the morning of October 4? It’s all in the judges’ hands now. But after having the opportunity to personally quaff Fate’s five beers being entered, I’d be hard-pressed to believe they won’t share that stage with Charlie once again. 

The awards ceremony starts at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 4. Be on the lookout for BeerPHXation Facebook and Twitter updates whenever Arizona breweries take home medals. Until then…


July 15, 2014

Real, Wild & Woody Beer List Released

Wait, this isn't the Real, Wild & Wooly fest?
Are you ready to keep it real this weekend, Arizona? Hope you snagged your tickets to the inaugural Real, Wild & Woody beer festival put on by the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. Because they kind of sold out. But you were warned many times, so snoozers really are losers this time around.

For those attending, you'll get a hand-blown commemorative glass and 20 tastings of specialty cask and barrel-aged beers. Most participating breweries are local, but look for something special from Firestone Walker, New Belgium and Epic. Below is a list, but look for more specialty beers at the fest. Beers being poured from 2-6 p.m. at Tempe Center for the Arts.

Arizona Wilderness
-DOS: double IPA with mangoes added to cask
-Woolsey the Wild: sour wit beer aged in Russian River Sonambic barrels and fermented with local wild Brettanomyces yeast and 100 lbs of AZ oranges
-Old Brood: New Brood Belgian quad Braggot aged in red wine barrels. Collaboration with Superstition Meadery.

Barrio Brewing
-Vanilla Bean Cask Porter
-Barrio Blanco-Chai Tea: Simcoe dry-hopped white IPA cask
-NCAAle: whiskey barrel-aged strong ale
-Dark sour beer blended with raspberries

BJ's Brewery & Restaurant
-Woody Scottsman: Scotch ale aged in whiskey barrels
-Jeremiah Red cask
-Hopstorm IPA cask

Borderlands Brewing 
-Citrana Sour: lemon-forward Gose with sea salt and corriander
-Flemish red

Cartel Brewing
-Firkin Birch: birch-aged pale ale firkin
-Cupid's Delight: amber rye ale aged on cherry wood with cherries added
-O.C.P. (Oak Coffee Porter): porter aged on oak with whole bean coffee added

College Street Brewhouse & Pub
-Fraternity of Hops 1: West Coast-style IPA pulled before end of fermentation and allowed to finish and age in a firkin
-Fraternity of Hops 2: Same IPA aged on American oak spirals soaked in tequila

Desert Eagle Brewing
-Black Sugar: barrel-aged Russian imperial stout
-Red Mountain Ale: casked amber dry-hopped with Amarillo 

Dragoon Brewing
-Saison Blue: farmhouse-style ale aged 11 months in tequila barrels
-Scout Porter: smoked porter aged 12 months in rye whiskey barrels
-Another TBD beer

Epic Brewing
-Hopulent IPA firkin
-Elder Brett: Brettanomyces-infused saison aged in wine barrels

Fate Brewing
-Puffs Imperial Coffee Milk Porter: cask-conditioned with Cocoa Puffs cereal
-Pebbles Session IPA: cask-conditioned with Fruity Pebbles cereal

-Into the Wild Sour Stout: collaboration with 1055 Brewing 
-Berlemoner: light, crisp, slightly tart berlinerweisse
-Cedar-Aged Pale Ale
-Breakfast for Dinner: barrel-aged porter with glazed donuts and Cartel coffee

Firestone Walker Brewing 
-Stickee Monkee: Central Coast quad aged in bourbon barrels
-Lil Opal: saison farmhouse ale barrel-aged and spiked with Brett and Lacto yeast

Four Peaks Brewing 
-Sirius Black: barrel-aged Russian imperial stout 
-Tequila Raj: English-style IPA aged in tequila barrels
-Sour peach cask ale

Grand Canyon Brewing 
-Shaggy Bock: traditional bock conditioned in fermenter with toasted oak

Granite Mountain Brewing
-Double English brown ale aged on U.S. oak. Collaboration with Lonesome Valley.

Huss Brewing
-Southern Hussy: peach ale aged in bourbon barrels
-BA Snowbird: imperial oatmeal stout aged in bourbon barrels
-BA That'll Do: barrel-aged IPA

Lumberyard Brewing
-Fireside Imperial Red aged in bourbon barrels
-Black IPA firkin

Mother Road Brewing 
-Wooden Spoke 3: bourbon barrel-aged Lost Highway black IPA
-Gold Road: Kolsch-style brew aged in Heaven's Hills barrels with Brettanomyces yeast and pear puree
-Roadside: dry-hopped pale ale cask

Mudshark Brewing 
-2014: Scotch ale aged in Jack Daniels barrels
-La Travail: saison aged on oak with orange, lemon peel and grains of paradise
-Frausboise Requin: raspberry lambic
-Shark Funk: barrel-aged old bruin

New Belgium Brewery
-Paardebloem: wood-aged ale brewed with peach juice, grains of paradise and dandelion greens. Collaboration with Red Rock Brewery.
-Wild Wild Dubbel: dubbel-style beer brewed with Schisandra berries
-Love Oscar: Oscar is the base beer for La Folie
-Biere de Peach: Biere de Mars aged in Leopold Brothers Peach Whiskey barrel with Brett and lemon peel

North Mountain
-N.I.B.: Russian imperial stout brewed with maple syrup

OHSO Brewery 
-Praying Monk Belgian-style quadrupel
-OHSO Hoppy: dry-hopped IPA
-Oaked Barleywine: malty, hoppy and smash-aged in a whiskey barrel
-Oaked Saison

Old World Brewery
-Whiskey Sour: Scotch ale aged in bourbon barrel. Tartness comes from 2nd run in barrel.
-Yard Dog 1: House porter soured and dry-hopped
-Yard Dog 2: House porter soured and aged in red wine barrel
-4 Leaf Irish Red aged in red wine barrel

Papago Brewing 
-Papago Park: barrel-aged pale ale
-Otis: barrel-aged milk stout

Peoria Artisan Brewery
-Artisan Arsonist: smoked and oaked red ale

SanTan Brewing
-Saison di Aleatico aged on oak
-Barrel-aged saison vs. Cabernet Franc
-Beer Gone Wild (no further info)

Sonoran Brewing 
-White Chocolate

Sun Up Brewing 

The Beer Research Institute

The Perch
-Rosemary IPA cask
-Very Cherry fruit ale cask

Thunder Canyon Brewing 
-Continuously hopped cask IPA
-Belgian Brick: barrel-aged Belgian-style pale ale
-Buckmaster: barrel-aged brown ale
-Good Vibe: barrel-aged sour IPA

Wanderlust Brewing       
-928 Local: Belgian farmhouse ale brewed with local wild yeast and honey
-Ostro: sour saison brewed with Lactobacillus yeast
-Farmhouse Rouge: Wine barrel-aged dark saison
-Pan American stout cask: coffee stout aged in the cask with whole vanilla beans

June 13, 2014

Meet the AZ Brewers, A-Z: Huss Brewing

Up next in our A-Z series is another newcomer to the Arizona beer scene, Huss Brewing. Nestled in the old Rio Salado Brewing location on the Tempe / Guadalupe border, Huss’ tasting room has a clean, homey feel wrapped in a warm, inviting setting. In fact, Jeff did a lot of the renovation work himself and was only electrocuted once. But the key to this brewery is the surprisingly large production space — more on that later. Let’s meet the man behind the brew kettle.

Affectionally known as Ginger for his red-hued ‘do, Jeff Huss began to homebrew during his college days as a Purdue Boilermaker (coincidence?). He went on to hone his beer know-how at the Siebel Institute ofTechnology in Chicago and Doemens Academy in Munich. After filling his head with the technical intricacies of brewing, Huss moved to our great state and started putting all that wisdom to work at BJ’s Brewhouse in Chandler. Jeff held the position of head brewer for seven years, working with and learning from one of AZ’s best brewers, Derek “Doc” Osborne. Huss sums up the life of a brewer in one too-true line: “You spend 10 minutes in the morning making a mess and the rest of the day cleaning it.” I think most brewers will wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment.

As for Huss Brewing, Jeff isn’t the only cog in the machine that keeps things chugging along. His wife, Leah, is not only the brains behind the business end of things but, according to Jeff, is the real beer geek of the family. She’s part-owner of Papago Brewing and has been an integral part of their success for years. And speaking of Papago, did you know that Huss brews Papago’s Orange Blossom, Coconut Joe and Hopago in addition to all of Huss’ house brands? Guess that’s why they use a 30-barrel system, which, for those not in-the-know, is quite huge for a start-up brewery.

But a 30-barrel system apparently isn’t enough. Remember that large production space I mentioned? There’s room to grow. A lot of room. Here's a rundown of major Huss happenings.
  • Huss recently announced a distributing partnership with major craft player Crescent Crown, which means you’ll see more Huss beers and events around town.
  • They plan to put in a canning line this summer. Beers likely to be canned include the aforementioned Papago beers, as well as Huss IPA, Scottsdale Blonde and Magic In The Ivy.
  • The production capacity will double in a few months to accommodate the canning line and overall demand.
  • Huss recently obtained the suite next door, which will house a huge 50,000-lb. silo. For reference, this is the same-size silo Four Peaks and San Tan use.
  • More barrel-aged offerings, which will include both Huss and Papago beers. Huss Snowbird Imperial Oatmeal Stout and IPA are two that are receiving the barrel treatment.
Phew, talk about a full plate your first year being in business. And this is only the beginning for Jeff and Leah. If they’re this busy now, there’s no telling what lies ahead. Perhaps a beer infused with ginger…