Locals Dominate the 2015 Arizona Strong Beer Festival

The 2015 Arizona Strong Beer Festival was last weekend, and man… What an experience. This is our third year in a row attending the Strong Beer Festival, and the last two years we covered the festival as press writing on behalf of our blog. This year we decided to just buy tickets, VIP tickets, of course, and attend as good old fashioned beer drinkers. Best part is… I am still going to blog about it!

Historically, the Arizona Strong Beer Festival is the kickoff of Arizona Beer Week, a week filled with craft beer events at all our favorite beer bars, restaurants and bottle shops. But this year we started things a little early with an event at Fate Brewing Company, one of our favorite brewing companies in the Valley. Last Thursday night for only $10 you could get a fill and your very own Teku glass. The Teku glass, which is an awesome glass, has the 2015 AZ Beer Week logo on it.

We didn’t do much on Friday night, as we were trying to prepare for Saturday. When Saturday finally arrived, we met, Doug, Brian and Michelle for breakfast at Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company, one of the newest and arguably one of the best brewing companies in the state. We had breakfast at Arizona Wilderness, and got the chance to try the American Presidential Stout. We had the American Presidential Stout last year, but it was barrel aged. This release was not. After breakfast, it was time to drink. As Brian likes to say, “I’m thirsty!”

The Arizona Strong Beer Festival takes place at Steele Indian School Park near downtown Phoenix. We didn’t have to wait long before we were in, tickets in hand and a somewhat game plan on what beers we were going to try first. With the VIP tickets we got in an hour and a half early, so we had access to beers others would miss. My first stop was Black Market Brewing Company for their Seek And Destroy. Turns out the tapping schedule I had, which was posted online, was inaccurate, and they wouldn’t be tapping that beer until later. So I settled for a sample of the Goliath, a Belgian dark strong ale.

At the Strong Beer Festival, a sample is really all you need. These beers sneak up on you, and to fully appreciate the festival, you need to pace yourself and take small samples of the high ABV beers. After I tried Goliath, I found Sheryl. She was drinking a sample of the Sun Up Brewing Company barrel aged White Russian, an imperial stout that, without being barrel aged, is a ridiculously delicious beer. The barrels made it even better.

From there we split up, only to find each other several times throughout the day to share samples. Throughout the day, I found myself hanging out in The Village, an area of the beer festival featuring Four Peaks Brewing Company, a couple of food trucks, and a DJ booth, compliments of Goose Island Beer Company. There were also some restrooms back there, and with over 7,500 people attending the beer festival this year, those become a necessity throughout the day. Granted, there were restrooms in the VIP section, but that was on the other side of the park.

We tried a lot of beers on Saturday. A complete list of my beers is listed below. I will link each brewing company and will also tell you what I rated the beer on Untappd. I didn’t track these beers at the festival, but simply added them to a Note on my phone. My focus was trying new beers, meeting new people, and enjoying the weather. Speaking of meeting new people… I met Mike at the 2014 Arizona Strong Beer Festival. We had been talking about it all week… Considered it our “beer-versary.” Cute, I know.

Here are the beers. Cheers!

Black Market Brewing Goliath 4/5
Sun Up Brewing Co White Russian Imperial Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged) 4.5/5
Two Brothers Brewing Company 16th Anniversary Ale 3.5/5
Peoria Artisan Brewery Imperial Peanut Butter Porter 4/5
Cartel Brewery Fuktunna Coffee And Donuts 3/5
Freak’N Brewing Company Sweet Thang 3.5/5
Barrio Brewing Simpatico Stout 3.5/5
Blasted Barley Beer Co. Orange Bomb 1/5
Wanderlust Brewing Company Birch On Hops 4/5
Four Peaks Brewing Company George Dickel Barrel Aged Robust Porter 4.5/5
Four Peaks Brewing Company Jack Daniel’s Barrel Aged Kilt Lifter 5/5
Four Peaks Brewing Company Sirius Black 5/5
Coronado Brewing Company German Chocolate Cake 3.5/5
Funkwerks Fruition 4/5
Kannah Creek Brewing Company The Demise of Ivan 4.5/5
The Perch Pub & Brewery “Rule All the Things” American Imperial Stout 3.5/5
Sonoran Brewery Darth Sidious 3.5/5
Fate Brewing Company Double Stout 4/5
Fate Brewing Company Imperial Coffee Milk Porter W/ Mesquite Smoked Habaneros 4.5/5
Pizza Port T-Rex Raglan’s 3rd Anniversary 4.5/5
Pizza Port Thruster 4.5/5
The Beer Research Institute Belgian Tickler AKA #dontfuckinworryaboutit 2.5/5
The Beer Research Institute 480G IPA 4/5
Saddle Mountain Brewing Company 300 Ft Steve 3.5/5
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. Granola Stout Aged In 4 Roses Barrels 4/5
Bell’s Brewery, Inc. Quince Love Ale 3/5
Bell’s Brewery, Inc. Honey Hearted 3.5/5
Spoetzl Brewery Shiner Birthday Beer (2014) 4/5
Historic Brewing Company Bear Arms 3.5/5
Saddle Mountain Brewing Company Hop Snob 3/5
Four Peaks Brewing Company Idle Hands Belgian Strong Golden Ale 4/5
Four Peaks Brewing Company Hopsquatch (2008) 4/5
Mother Road Brewing Company Gridlock IPA 4.5/5
Mother Road Brewing Company 3rd Anniversary Imperial Stout 4.5/5
Dragoon Brewing Co. Lazarus 5/5
DESTIHL Dosvidanya Russian Imperial Stout 4/5
Nebraska Brewing Company Attack Of The 50 Foot Brunette (Barrel Aged) 4/5Black Market Brewing Co. Seek And Destroy 4.5/5
SanTan Brewing Company Tequila Hop 3/5
Huss Brewing Company Lemon Lush 4/5
Mike Hess Brewing Ordeum Rex 2/5
Mike Hess Brewing Strong Ale 2.5/5
Mike Hess Brewing Umbrix (Ex Umbris) 4/5
Marble Brewery Quad 4/5
Four Peaks Brewing Company Barrel Aged Sour Brown Ale 3.5/5
Dragoon Brewing Co. Sarcosuchus Double IPA 3.5/5
Barrio Brewing Taylor Jayne’s Raspberry Ale 3.5/5
Thunder Canyon Brewery Cupa Joe Porter 3/5
Unity Vibration Dank Wasser (Collaboration with Witch’s Hat Brewing, Sour Saison Kombucha Blend with Clove & Mango) 3/5
Thunder Canyon Brewery Thinking Cap Strong Ale 2.5/5
Victory Brewing Company Hop Ticket – Session IPA 4/5
Rocky Mountain Wild Cider Spiced Apple Pie 3/5
Rocky Mountain Wild Cider Pineapple 3.5/5
Napa Smith Brewery Grateful Dog 3.5/5
Napa Smith Brewery Bourbon Barrel Aged Porter 2/5

I tried 48 beers last year. This year 54. Even after all that, I still managed to find the car, let the dogs out when we got home, and make my tee time on Sunday morning. I didn’t play very good, but that is beside the point!

In the end, it was the locals that stole the show. I mean, the beers Four Peaks was pouring were just ridiculous. The beers from Dragoon, Fate, and even a few from SanTan, were just incredible. Yeah, there were some big named breweries represented, like Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Sierra Nevada and others. Oh, and Pizza Port was there. They are quickly becoming one of my favorite brewing companies in San Diego. Funny story… I argued with a guy in line about this. He said Pizza Port beers were distributed to Arizona. No, Port is distributed to Arizona. Not Pizza Port Brewing Company. Try telling him that!

Like I said, we didn’t cover the festival this year. I didn’t even take any photos. My Tucson beer drinking buddy Victoria took this photo. She said I could use it. She was pouring for Mother Road during the festival. They had some delicious beers on tap, too.

At the end of the day, I am glad we went. I am glad we did VIP and I plan on doing the same next year. Yeah, it’s expensive. But it is worth it. We got in early, we had access to private bathrooms, there was food… That alone makes it worth it. Plus, we got VIP parking and pretty much pulled right to the gate.

This year was all about the locals, as it should be. This IS the Arizona Strong Beer Festival, after all. Next year I hope to try even more great beers from all the local brewing companies. By then I am sure some new breweries will be here, and unfortunately, some may close. But we roll with the punches and keep drinking local.

I almost forgot. On Monday Mike and I went back to Arizona Wilderness for a barrel aged beer event. They had 6 beers they were tapping that were all barrel aged. I didn’t track these on Untappd, either, as I wanted to make sure they were all accurate. But here are the beers I had on Monday.

American Presidential Stout (This was not a part of the flight, but since it was Presidents Day, I had to order a one!)
Picacho Pecan Pie Brown (DBA Pappy/Rum Barrel Aged) 2.5/5
4 Roses BA Granola Stout 4/5
Barely Wine Barley Wine (Bourbon/Red Wine Barrel Aged) 4/5
New Brood (Superstition Meadery Mead Barrel Aged) 4.5/5
Sweet Potato Saison (Tequila Barrel Aged) 3.5/5
Biere De Wassail (Red Wine Barrel Aged) 4/5

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