Monthly Archives: March 2014

Best of AZ Beer Week

Arizona Beer Week ended…I drank lots of beers and attended lots of events.  Here are some of the highlights:

Local Breweries:
Biggest Surprise: Four Peaks Brewery. I’ve always enjoyed their brewery and have visited both of their locations a couple of times.  But since I’ve gotten more into the the craft beer, Four Peaks became a boring, predictable brewery.  This week I tried the Sirius Black, Double Hop Knot and Barrel Aged Kilt Lifter and they changed my perceptions of Four Peaks.  San Tan did jump past them and become the first AZ brewery to expand outside the state but Four Peaks is still the most popular and the brewery most associated with Arizona.  If Four Peaks can continue to make innovative beers then they might be able to jump back into the mix with all the new breweries popping up.

Favorite Local Beers:
Historic Brewery – Piehole Cherry Vanilla Porter
Four Peaks – Sirius Black
Peoria Artisan Brewery/8-Bit Brewery– Hop Hunt
Huss – Rice Pudding Porter
Dragoon – Dragoon IPA

Favorite Local Brewery:
Arizona Wilderness.  They have a different set of beers on tap every time I come in.  I don’t know if they quite live up to the billing at the best new brewery in the world but I love their beer!

Best Non-Local Craft Beers:
Goose Island – Bourbon County Barrel Aged Stout
Sierra Nevada – Numerous rare beers that I got to try
Bell’s – Oberon
Bell’s – Hopslam
Lagunitas – Sucks
Cismontane – The Mesa

Not a whole lot of surprises on this list!

Best Beer Spots That I’ll Be Sure to Go Back To:
O.H.S.O. – Being a homebrewer, this place is great and I hope to take part in one of their events and brew my own beer.
Whole Foods Chandler – I didn’t know that they had a bar in here but the events they put on are great and usually have a great selection of beers on tap.

AZ Beer Week – Day 8

The final day of events in the AZ Beer week and just a couple stops left.  After a long week, I just about didn’t go out but decided one more day wouldn’t kill me.

Stop #1 – Four Peaks BBQ, Beers and Blues at Four Peaks Tasting Room
-I had no idea what to expect with this event but it’s tough to screw up beer, blues and blues.  It was a fun event with plenty of food and beer.

Beer #1 – Double Knot
-A double IPA that has gotten good reviews that I decided to give a try.  I was again impressed by Four Peaks.  This was a delicious double.

Beer #2 – Barrel Aged Kilt Lifter
-Kilt Lifter is probably the most popular local beer.  This was the barrel aged version.  It was good but it didn’t stand out.

Stop #2 – World of Beers, GilbertSierra Nevada Tap Takeover
-This is a new location and this event was originally planned for the opening but was pushed back for AZ Beer Week.  Sierra Nevada took over all the taps plus some extras, adding up to over 70.  You buy tickets and each ticket is for a small sample of one of Sierra Nevada’s rare beers.  Most of the beers that I had were very good,  I’ll list them but I can’t remember my exact rating on all of them:

#1  Knotty Wood
#2 Ch-Ch-Cherry Bomb
#3 Barrel Aged Bigfoot (Scotch Barrels)
#4 Sorachi Solstice
#5 Beer Camp #98 Breakfast At Chicos Almond Milk Stout
#6 Belgian-Style Blonde IPA
#7 Ovila Golden

So many more beers and I didn’t even use my other tickets.  I wish I would have had a driver so that I could have tried more beers and not have to drive afterwards.

AZ Beer Week – Day 7

Stop #1 – Angel’s Trumpet – Downtown Phoenix – Belgian Beer Day
-My first stop is one of the best beer bars in Phoenix.  It’s located downtown and offers a good variety of craft beers, local beers and also imports on tap.  Today they had a Belgian Beer Day.  Belgium is known as one of the main beer meccas in the world.  There’s several styles unique of Belgium and they also have modifications on typical styles.  Belgian IPA is one of my favorites and I have even made one of my own.  Today Angel’s Trumpet was filled with taps of fantastic Belgian beers.

Beer #1 – Brouwerij Huyghe – Delirium Tremens
-This is a famous beer that I just had to try.  Don’t be fooled by it’s light, golden color, this beer weighs in at a hefty 8.5% alcohol.  I’ve tried a few of the Belgian styles like Tripel and haven’t really like the taste.  This one shared a lot of the qualities that I didn’t like but there was just too much tastiness in this beer to not like it.  It’s not a beer that you can drink a lot of or one that you drink every day but as a special treat this is a very good option.

Stop #2 – Huss Brewing Company, Tempe, AZ
-This was a last minute addition to my schedule.  I want to try and check out all the local breweries but this one wasn’t too high on my priority list.  I’ve had a couple of beers from them but wasn’t too impressed.  But they were offering an open house and brewery tour, so why not?

-I was impress by the beers they had there and really related to the owners.  The owners are only a couple years older than me and started the brewery with the hope of expanding.  One the tour I learned that they actually brew the beers for Papago Brewery including the local favorite, Orange Blossom.  The plan is add a canning line soon for the Papago beers as well as their own beers.

Beer #1 – Magic in the Ivy
-The beer is an American Pale Ale which lends it’s name to the local ballclub.  Well in this case, the local ballclub is the Cubs who play their Spring Training in Tempe.  Probably an effort to gain publicity for the brewery with Spring Training coming up soon, but why not?  I think it’s a good business model to take advantages of the opportunities that you have.  Plus the beer was delicious.

-I sampled a couple other beers to decide what I wanted to bring home in a growler.  I ended up going with the Rice Pudding Porter.  It’s a dark beer with some spice to it but not overpower.  It became one of my favorite beers of this week and made me a supporter of this brewery.

Stop #3 – Whole Foods – ChandlerStone Special Tapping
-This is the only place where I made a return visit during AZ beer week.  I’m a huge fan of Stone and my visit to their brewery was one of the greatest days of my life (probably had more to do with the engagement).  At the previous event they told me to come back on Friday for the Stone event because they were sure to have some specialty beers that I would like.  Well they did have some beers that you don’t typically see but nothing too crazy.

Beer #1 – Stochasticity Project: Grapefruit Slam IPA
-I had very high expectations for this beer.  I’ve found Stone to be great with pretty much anything they do.  This was one of their specialty beers and I’ve heard that grapefruit pairs very well with IPAs.  I came away a little disappointed with this beer.  It was good but it wasn’t anything that I plan on going out and buying anytime soon.

Beer #2 – Enjoy By 2/14/14 IPA
-I’ve already had this beer once, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise.  A very good IPA that was few days after the ‘dealdine’

Beer #3 – Suede Imperial Porter – another dark beer from Stone that I’m on the edge for.  I’d probably try it again but not one I would seek out.

Beer #4 – Stone Smoke Porter with Vanilla Bean – Another beer that I’ve had before but it was on the sample, so I gave it another try.  I did like it but it wasn’t anything special.

Beer #5 – Matt’s Burning Rosids.  This was the beer I got in a growler the last time I was at this location.  It’s a saison, so it’s very light but with a strong taste and strong alcohol content.  I generally like saisons but this one was not one of my favorites.

Stop #4 – The Hungry Monk – Tempe – Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
-This was one of my biggest regrets of AZ Beer Week.  I didn’t know what to expect for this event but when I got there it was a giant party completely with people dressed up crazy costumes.  I stayed long enough to watch a contest where you had to hold your full beer stein (large beer mug) at a 90 degree angle and whoever could do it the longest got not only drink the beer inside but also win prizes.
-This wasn’t your typical tap takeover…they had tents setup where they were pouring the different beers that they brought with them.  Bell’s is a brewery out of Michigan but they are available in most markets in the US.  They are one of the most respected craft breweries currently going.  Their Two Hearted Ale is usually named at one of the best beers available.  Their seasonal IPA, Hopslam is very hard to find and goes quickly when it does hit the shelves.  This event allowed you to take small samples or a big drink.  This is where my regret comes in because I’ve already spent the day sampling other beers and was about ready to call it a night (not to mention I had to stay sober enough to drive home).

-First couple samples – I don’t remember exactly which beers I sampled but I know I tried a couple rye beers.  This is a style that I haven’t acquired the taste for yet.  They weren’t bad beers, I just wasn’t for me.
-First (and only) big beer – Bell’s Oberon.  A rarity in the craft brew world – a beloved wheat beer.  Craft beer is usually all about IPAs and Stouts and their wheat beers are often just add-ons to their beer selections for the people who don’t like those styles.  I’ve always loved wheat beer and it’s what got me into craft beer in the first place.  Bell’s Oberon is probably the best Hefe that I’ve had and helped me to discover their great brewery.  So having it this night was a safe choice, a beer that I knew I’d love and one that wouldn’t get me drunk.

Stop #5 – Caballeros – leftover Goose Island Tap Takeover
-Caballeros is one of my favorite spots to stop in and have a drink.  During beer week there were a couple beers that I knew I had to pickup and one of them was Goose Island’s Bourbon County line.  I’ve had the Bourbon County Stout before and that was likely what I was going for but they also do a Bourbon County Barley Wine.  Too sweet for my taste…
-Beer #1 – Goose Island – Bourbon County Stout.  This is a rarity to find.  Usually distributed in November and off the shelves as quickly as their put on, these were stashed away for AZ Beer Week.  Several places had Goose Island events and I finally made it to one.  The Bourbon County Stout is a Stout aged in bourbon barrels.  The style isn’t for everyone but if you do like this style, the beer is the holy grail.  The bourbon flavor goes perfectly with the taste of the stout.  This is a ‘big beer’ and something you sip on and savor instead of chugging.  One of my favorite beers.

AZ Beer Week – Day 6

I took a couple days off because this little thing called a job.  But I made up for it on Thursday of AZ Beer Week.

Stop #1: O.H.S.O Eatery & Nano Brewery
-This is a place that I’ve been looking forward to checking out.  It stands for Outrageous Homebrewers Social Outpost.  They have their own beer, support local breweries and even allow local homebrewers to brew using their own equipment.
-I decided to start here with a nice beer and lunch.  I tried their 366 Safety Session which was pretty good light, satisfying drink to start off the day.
-I will definitely be back for more food and beer and may even look into brewing on their system.

Stop #2 – Papago Brewery, South Scottsdale
-Papago is known for their great selection of craft beer and known as one of the best beer bars in the valley.  They also have a few of their own beers, notably their Orange Blossom.

-I decided to stick with the local trend and try a rare Four Peaks beer – Sirius Black.  Four Peaks is the most popular brewery in Phoenix but often doesn’t get much respect because their beers are ‘boring’.  Well this one is anything but boring!  I had low expectations but what I found was a bourbon barrel aged beer that tasted a lot like the Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout.

Stop #3 – Fate Brewing, Scottsdale, AZ
-One of the newer bars in the valley, I wanted to check it out.  I’ve heard good things especially about their Candy Bar Milk Stout.

-I came to the bar looking for the Candy Bar Milk Stout but it wasn’t on tap.  They’ve decided to keep it as a ‘seasonal’ beer.  I settled for the Hibiscus Saison which was very good.  Saisons are ‘Farmhouse Ales’ that are light in color, easy drinking but usually with good amount of alcohol.  Another spot I will be visiting again!

Stop #4 – Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company
-This is my second time going to this brewery both after ratebeer.com named them the best new brewery in the world.  Both times the place has been packed and packing was hard to find.

-After the first trip, I knew I’d be coming back because of the great beer and also the food was fantastic as well.  This time I ordered a fantastic basket of BBQ wings that just fell off the bone.  My beer selection was the Dos Cabezas IPA IPA.  This was one of the beers that ratebeer.com loved and while it was a very good beer, it wasn’t one that immediately became a favorite.

Stop #5 – Flanny’s Bar – Tempe – Colorado Firkin Festival
-I was very excited for this event because I wanted to try some rare beers from these fantastic Colorado breweries.  Each of the breweries brought a cask of a specialty beer.  A cask is a barrel that is tapped and poured without additional carbonation.
-I can’t remember which one that I tried first but I think it was the offering for Great Divide.  It wasn’t that great.  I was looking to try the Creme Brulee Porter but I guess that one went very fast.  The second one that I tried was the Coconut Vanilla Porter from Breckenridge Brewery.  I’ve had the regular Vanilla Porter and really liked it.  This one was also good but I didn’t like that Coconut additional much.