March 23rd and 24th saw Phoenix, Arizona host the 3rd Annual Great Arizona Beer Festival to support the Sun Sounds Radio project that offers 24 hour closed broadcasting of newspapers and magazines to 24,000 visually impaired, physically challenged or learning disabled Arizonans. This event combined a Home Brew competition that saw 216 entries with a tasting of over 200 beers from more than 60 breweries. Although a month earlier than last year's event, Mother Nature cooperated and the palm tree lined park-like area of the downtown Arizona Center was blessed by sunny 65ºF weather. This year's admission price was raised to $18 advance and $20 at the gate but the booklet of 18 drink tickets went pretty far. Some tasting tables demanded one ticket for every sample while other tables requested a ticket as a consumer vote of approval. A random sampling over the two days yielded the following summary:
The Prescot Pale from Prescot Brewing Company, Prescot, Arizona had a nice hoppy aroma and crisp flavor. Also on tap were their Lodgepole Light, Liquid Amber and Petrified Porter. although missing from the printed guide, Table Rock brought their Nut Brown with its very dry, malty flavor. Accompany it was the Raz Berry and the White Wheat. Currently being contract brewed out of St. Paul, Minnesota, the Beartooth Brewing Company of Boulder, Colorado is perfecting their fruit lagers. The Raspberry Lager was clear with a light fruit aroma, a clean raspberry flavor and a dry, slightly tart finish. Also available were the Blueberry Lager and the Cranberry Lager. Although most attention was focused on their 1995 award-winning Dog Spit Stout, the Oro Grande Wheat from O'Ryans Tavern and Brewery was very appealing with its very light gold color, light hoppy flavor and nice light body. The Red Dog Pale Ale was officially called Atomic Dog pending the outcome of litigation with an American mega with very deep pockets and a strong desire for owning this colored canine trademark. Label aside, consumers will never mistake this hoppy brew, with its 45 IBUs, for any Miller product. The Zia Extra Pale Ale was a hazy gold color with a medium body and hoppy flavor. Also being sampled was the Organ Mountain Gold.
HOPS! Bistro and Brewery is currently at Scottsdale's, Fashion Square mall but soon it will be demolished and relocated. They plan on using the opportunity to enhance their brewing system and continue their tradition of cranking out impressive beers. The head brewer, Shawn (sp?), had on hand the Three Peat Wheat, a Bavarian-style weizen with a sour, clovey character, unfiltered and representative of the category. Also being sampled were the Brewer's Blonde Ale, Grand Slam Golden Ale and the dry, malty, ruby-colored Dust Devil Dunkel. Traveling all the way from the Pacific Northwest was the Dunkel Weizen from Nor'Wester. Their Hefeweizen was a hazy, gold color, with a nice mouthfeel and a dry, slightly sour flavor. Another unlisted brewery was Timberline who brought their White Forest Ale with its clear golden color and even balance, it was most impressive for its sweet, short finish and very subtle hint of wheat and/or orange zest. From nearby Flagstaff, Arizona was Coyote Springs with their Kilt Lifter Scottish Ale. Its ruby color was accompanied by an even malt/hop balance, nice body, medium alcohol flavor and a clean finish. According to brewmaster Brian, to deal with the high alcohol content, two separate yeast strains are employed. The Dry Gulch Stout was medium-bodied with a very dry, hoppy character.
From Reno Brewing came Ponderosa Pale Ale. Dark gold in color, its hoppy flavor was followed by a short, hop aftertaste. The Wolfpack Wheat was formulated with 40% malted wheat in the grain bill. From a few hours drive to the northwest, in Las Vegas, Nevada, Holy Cow brought their English Brown Ale that was dry, malty and clean. The Brewmaster's Special was a clear amber color with a dry-hopped but clean character due to its use of lager yeast at ale temperatures. Described as a "craft brewing subsidiary" of Genesee Brewing Company, Dundee's Brewery of Rochester, New York was showing their Honey Brown Lager. The dark gold color was matched to a sweet flavor and short aftertaste. This brew, along with the Michael Shea's family of products left the impression that these were not all-malt beers. From east of the Rio Grande in San Antonio, Texas came the Frio Lager Beer. Predictably, this beer was characteristic of light lagers; light body, light hop flavor and aftertaste.
And now, for something completely different. From a distant Poulsbo, Washington was the Thomas Kemper White Beer, light-bodied and crisp, its flavor hinted of coriander. Their Weizen Berry was heavily promoted and offered a fruity aroma followed by a fruity/tart flavor. The Celis booth was a popular destination. Pierre Celis was pouring the samples himself and ever willing to discuss any and all aspects of the brewing trade as he has experienced them over the years. Bayhawk Ale Brewery from Irvine, California claims to be the only micro in Orange County. Their Honey Blonde was a golden color and balanced toward the sweet side. The California Cerveza was a clear red, with a light malty flavor and dry finish. Their Amber Ale was, naturally, amber in color with a nice light malty flavor.
Brewski Brewing Company brought three of their current lineup: Bar Room Honey Red, 1052 original gravity and 20 IBUs; Bar Room Ale, 1045 and 19 IBUs; and Bar Room Blonde Ale, 1048 and 25 IBUs. The Diamondback Brewery of Tempe, Arizona was still contract brewing from Southern California Brewing Company. Their Diamondback Lager was a golden color with a light, slightly sweet malty flavor. SLO Brewing was showcasing their Cole Porter while Whistler Brewing brought their Mother Pale Ale and dark but light-bodied Black Tusk Ale. From Seattle, Washington comes Jet City Ale, gold in color, light-bodied, with a nice mouthfeel and hop balance finishing with a short aftertaste. Currently under contract brew from Boulder, Colorado comes Cherry Creek Brewing's Winter Ale, dark amber in color, with a cherry aroma and even balance, this unfiltered, all fruit extract brew finished very clean. The Creek Wheat was light-bodied and sweet, with a dry finish. The Premium Amber was evenly balanced with a nice clean finish.
Sam Adams was showing their new Golden Pilsner with its clear gold color, crisp hoppy flavor, light body and reasonable carbonation. George Killians was exposing its new Witde Honey, a dark amber all-malt brew, with a malt over hop balance and clean finish. Portland Brewing's Haystack Black, a porter, gave a chocolately flavor with a medium body and dry finish. From Jamestown Brewing Company (St. Paul) comes their Special Ale with its clear ruby color, clean malty flavor and medium body. The 5 X Stout from Pikes Brewing had a dry yet creamy character and big hop presence from the Golding and Chinook hops. Their Pale Ale was both malty and hoppy. The Saxer Hefedunkel was ruby in color, clear and with a dry, malty flavor. Their Three Finger Jack Stout was a lager, very clean and offered a light chocolately flavor along with a nice hop/malt balance. The Pyramid Best Brown appeared amber in color and yielded a hop over malt flavor, smooth with medium carbonation and overall nice impression. The two brews from Mad River Brewing Company included the Steelhead Extra Pale Ale, golden, hoppy, nice balance and clean aftertaste, as well as the Extra Stout, opaque, a creamy brown head, chocolately flavor and nice body.
The Great Arizona Beer Festival continues to be one of the most attractive beer tasting events in the U.S. with its great venue, reasonable costs and uncrowded setting. Slight improvements could be made if organizers limited cigar smoking to outlying, downwind areas and spent a little more on private security guards whose IQs were larger than their neck sizes. The limited presence of the few uniformed police officers was tolerable and the crowd very well behaved. The plentiful food and drink establishments nearby and the theoretical availability of public transportation make the Arizona Center a perfect spot for sampling quality brews in an otherwise southwestern desert beer wasteland.
Anchor Brewing Company, 1705 Mariposa St., San Francisco, CA. 94107
Bandersnatch Brewpub, 125 E. 5th Ave., Tempe, AZ. 85281
Beartooth Brewing Company, POB 6100, Boulder, CO. 80306
Beaver Street Brewery, 11 S. Beaver St., #1, Flagstaff, AZ. 86001
Big Rock Brewing Company
Black Mountain Brewing Company, 6245 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ. 85331
Breckenridge Brewery, 600 S. Main St., Breckenridge, CO. 80424
Brewski Brewing Company, 9355 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA. 90232
Broadway Brewing Company
California Cider Company, 714 Penny Royal Ln., San Rafael, CA. 94901
Celis Brewery, 2431 Forbes Dr., Austin, TX. 78754
Cherry Creek Brewing Company
Coyote Springs Brewing Company, 4883 N. 20th Street, Phoeniz, AZ. 85016
Crested Butte Brewery & Pub, 226 Elk Ave., Crested Butte, CO. 81224
Diamondback Brewery, 1879 E. Broadway Rd., Ste. 3, Tempe, AZ. 85282
Eddie McStiff's, 57 S. Main, Moab, UT. 84532
Flagstaff Brewing Company, 16 E. Route 66, Flagstaff, AZ. 86001
Frio Brewing Company, 1905 N. Saint Mary's, San Antonio, TX. 78212
Full Sail Brewing Company, 506 Columbia, Hood River, OR. 97031
Grant's Ales/Yakima Brewing, 1803 Presson Place, Yakima, WA. 98902
High Falls Brewery, 445 St. Paul St., Rochester, N.Y. 14605
HOPS! Bistro and Brewery, 7000 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, AZ. 85251
Lawler Brewing Company
Irons Brewing Company, 12354 W. Alameda Parkway. Unit E, Lakewood, CO. 80228
Mad River, POB 767, Blue Lake, CA. 95525
Mile High Brewing Company, 2401 Blake Street, Denver, CO. 80205
Naked Aspen Beer Company, Cold Spring, MN. 56320
Oak Creek Brewing Company, 2050 Yavapai Drive, Sedona, AZ. 86303
Odell Brewing Company, 800 E. Lincoln Ave., Ft. Collins, CO. 80524
O'Ryans Tavern and Brewery, 700 W. Telshor Blvd., Las Cruces, NM. 88001
Pete's Brewing Company, 514 High St., Palo Alto, CA. 94301
Portland Brewing Company, 2730 N.W. 31st Ave., Portland, OR. 97210
Prescott Brewing Company, 130 W. Gurley Street, Prescott, AZ. 86301
Pyramid Ales/Hart Brewing, 110 W. Marine Dr., Kalama, WA. 98625
Redhook Ale Brewery, 3400 Phinney Ave. North, Seattle, WA. 98103
Riverside Brewing Company, 1229 Columbia Ave., Suite C4, Riverside, CA. 92507
Rock Bottom Brewery, 1001 16th St., Denver, CO. 80265
Rockies Brewing Company, 2880 Wilderness, Boulder, CO. 80301
Samuel Adam's Brew House, 1516 Sansom St., Philadelphia, PA. 19102
Saxer Brewing Company, 5875 S.W. Lakeview Blvd., Lake Oswego, OR. 97035
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, 1075 E. 20th St., Chico, CA. 95928
SLO Brewing Company
Spanish Peaks Brewing Company
Sun Sounds Flagstaff, 1300 South Milton, Ste. 202, Flagstaff, AZ. 86001
Sun Sounds Phoenix Station, 3124 East Roosevelt, Phoeniz, AZ 85008
Sun Sounds Tuscon Station, 7290 East Broadway Road, Ste. K, Tuscon, AZ. 85710
Tabernash Brewing Company, 205 Denargo Market, Denver, CO. 80216
Thomas Kemper, 22381 Foss Rd., Poulsbo, WA. 98370
Wasatch Brewery, 250 Main St., Park City, UT. 84060
Reviewed by Tom Ciccateri - March, 1996