Dec 12, 2012

Phoenix Brewers Invitational 2012

I will be the first to admit, I don't go to nearly enough beer festivals. Being married, and having 3 kids, one of them less then 3 months old, getting away for the purpose of drinking beer is getting harder and harder these days. Admittedly, I probably don't try as hard as I should, or at least could, but in the grand scheme of things, beer festivals are fairly low on my ever growing list of priorities. So, you can imagine my excitement when I was actually able to make it to one of them this passed weekend. The Inaugural Phoenix Brewers Invitational took place in Phoenix's historic Heritage Square. So, Mrs Czar packed up our newest mini Czar, loaded her up in the family truckster, and made our way to downtown Phoenix.

Now, the festival ran Friday and Sat, 12 to 10 both days. We got there about 12:15 on Friday. Now, let me say, there are some real advantages to showing up so early, as well as a few disadvantages at the same time. Some of the pluses;

 Got our tokens!
There was hardly anyone there yet. I am assuming, since it was still during work hours on a work day, had a lot to do with it. We got ourselves a few tasting glasses ($10 a piece, and they were cups actually), a handful of tasting tokens ($1 per token, 1 token per taste), and started to make our way around to the various tents, trying to make that all important, difficult decision as to what to try first!

Now, one of the disadvantages of showing up that early, well, not everyone was quite ready to go yet. A few tents were still being erected, and kegs being tapped as we were walking around, not a big deal. We just gave them a little time, and they were up and running in no time.

Not a lot of folks there! It was kind of nice!
One of the things I didn't like about this festival, (the only thing really) and this again may very well have been a factor of us showing up so early, but there was a surprising lack of actual brewers there. In the few hours we were there, we talked to just a handful of folks that actual worked for the brewery they were pouring for. Some of them had a shocking lack of knowledge as to what they were serving, and a few had no idea what it was they were even pouring. I asked about a tap labeled "seasonal" from BJ's, and the very nice young lady told me "I think its an Abby Ale". The one that made me kind of chuckle was when I saw a tap for Mission Brewery's "Dark Seas" I was actually rather excited, as this was a beer I had been DYING to try. The guy pouring it, proceeds to tell me it was a "dark IPA". OK, so its a RIS, but close? Like I said, it made me kind of chuckle, and again, this minor issue (to me its minor, I know some people that probably would have left for such things) wasn't enough for me to say this wasn't at the very least, a VERY good event. I have heard Saturday afternoon and evening were packed, and I've heard and read a lot of great things. Oh, there was also a severe lack of Beer Girls there, but then again, it was lunch time, on Friday, dang!

Tamera Morken, Johnny, and Mike Willis of "That Brewing"
We did get to meet some great people, as well as running into a few "old friends" as well. I had a great chat with the fine folks of "Craft Brewed Clothing" that I wrote about previously. I also got to chat, and get to know a few folks from 'That' Brewing Company, in the picturesque Arizona mountain town of Pine. Great folks up there. I haven't been to Pine in a year or so, but you can rest assured, next time I am, I will certainly be stopping by! We got to meet Mike Willis (Sales and Distribution), his mom Tamera Morken (Co-owner and self appointed "Brewzette", and her dad Johnny Willis (official taste tester), 3 generations of beer folks! Some very friendly folks, that make some pretty great beer. I had their Abby Ale, which was a very unique, but very tasty Abby Ale. The other, was the Arizona Trail Ale. With proceeds from this beer going to help fund the Arizona Trail. This is a hiking trail the runs from the Mexico border to the south, all the way through the state, to Utah. This was a copper colored ale, with some spice notes, and a little caramel flavoring. If you can find it, try it, great beer, and ever sip helps to fund a pretty good cause. So, if you find yourself in the beautiful Pine scented air of, well Pine Arizona, stop in and say hello to these fine folks!

I was able to try a pretty nice list of beers I have never had before. We weren't there for the tapping of a lot of the truly rare, exciting beers, but the standard line up they had available when we were there, was enough to make any beer geek smile. The list of beers I tried were

The Beer Czar
1. That Brewing Abby Ale
2. That Brewing Arizona Trail Ale

3. Mission Brewing Dark Sea's
4. Ommegang Biere D' Hougoumont
5. Left Coast Hop Juice
6. Desert Eagle Holiday Hooch
7. Lumberyard Brewing Pilsner
8. Alaskan Brewing Baltic Porter

Mrs Czar
I didn't get a chance to try out the Valley's newest brewery "Fate Brewing" but they are just up the road in Scottsdale, so I will just have to make our way up there someday soon.
All in all, I think this was a pretty great event. Aside from a few of the issues I mentioned above, the event was great. Again, even those issues I mentioned, I could just chalk it up to either being so early in the festival, or the fact that this was the first year. I loved the fact, that this even was so affordable. We paid $10 each for our tasting cups, and $1 for each taste. So, for $40, my wife and I were able to taste 10 beers each. Most beer festivals are $35, or $40 a pop, at least. So, aside from wanted to chat with a few more brewers, and getting to ogle over a few more beer girls, I think this was a great festival!

So, a big thumbs up to the Inaugural Phoenix Brewers Invitational Beer Festival! I can't wait till next year!

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