For all ye lovers of incendiary IPAs, big barleywines, powerful porters and strong stouts, this is your day. Over 100 breweries will be descending on Steele Indian School Park, 300 East Indian School Rd., on February 15 offering close to 500 different beers in which revelers can partake.
The event begins at high noon for V.I.P. ticket holders and 1 p.m. for general admission. Festival goers are urged to take public transportation as safety and responsibility are key tenets of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. The Valley Metro light rail stops a couple blocks west of the park at Central and Indian School. There will also be a shuttle running from The Hungry Monk in Chandler to and from the festival provided by Arizona Brewery Tours. Designated driver tickets are also available for $10 for V.I.P. or general admission.
Along with an extra hour to sample the beers, V.I.P. ticket holders will be lavished with several beer-centric gifts including a t-shirt, reserved seating towel, pretzel necklace, $10 food voucher and a meet and greet with the brewers. The reserved V.I.P. section also includes seating and dedicated restrooms. Five additional beer tasting tickets will be issued to V.I.P. ticket holders.
General admission entry starts at 1 p.m. and includes a commemorative 4-oz tasting mug with 15 beer tasting tickets. This festival is like no other, with beers reaching up to 16.8% A.B.V. and several above 10%, you will not have to worry about not having enough tickets.
The two strongest beers of the festival come from The Bruery in Placentia, Calif. According to their website:
Melange #3 is a blend of three bourbon barrel aged strong ales. White Oak Sap, a wheat wine, our Anniversary Series old ale and our imperial stout, Black Tuesday, join forces in this luxurious strong ale that links some of the best characteristics of each of the contributing beers. Chocolate, dark fruits, oaky vanilla and rich toffee-like character reach through the bourbon veneer for an intensely satisfying quaff.
The Melange #3 tops out at 16.8% and the Bourbon barrel aged Bois comes in at 15% A.B.V. Other beers offered by The Bruery are the Sour in the Rye (7.6% A.B.V.) and the Humulus Lager (7.2% A.B.V.).
Local Arizona beers will be the focus of the festival with many breweries making their first festival appearance. The state can be very proud of its 38 breweries as well as three franchises of corporate brewhouses. Local breweries from Lake Havasu City to Tucson, tiny Pine to behemoth Phoenix and 17 cities throughout the state.
The cities of Phoenix and Tucson will both have the most representation with six breweries each while Flagstaff will have five and Tempe will bring four to the party. Scottsdale (three) and Lake Havasu City (two) will also be represented by multiple breweries. Eleven more breweries will be the sole representative of their cities including Ahwatukee, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Peoria, Pine, Pinetop, Prescott, Prescott Valley, Sedona and Williams. Life is good for the Arizona craft beer drinker.
Even though this is the kickoff event for Arizona Beer Week, several national favorite breweries will also be offering strong beers that are rarely, if ever, seen in these parts. Some notable beers include:
- Bell’s Brewery Black Note – 11.5% A.B.V.
- Big Sky Brewing Ivan Imperial Stout – 12% A.B.V.
- Breckenridge Brewery Barleywine – 10% A.B.V.
- Dogfish Head Brewery Theobrama Chocolate Ale – 9% A.B.V.
- Great Divide Brewing Peach Grand Cru – 12.2% A.B.V.
- Lagunitas Brewing Hairy Eyeball – 9.4% A.B.V.
- New Belgium Clutch Dark Sour – 9% A.B.V.
- Sierra Nevada Brewing Narwhal Imperial Stout – 10.2% A.B.V.
International breweries will also be in attendance including Belgium’s Brouwerij Van Steenberge/Brouwerij Bavik bringing their Gulden Draak (10.5% A.B.V.), Piraat Triple Hop (10.5% A.B.V.) and their Belgian Double Cherry Ale, Petrus Aged Red (8.5% A.B.V.). The Gouden Carolus/Het Anker Brewery, also from Belgium will have their Grand Cuvee van de Keizer (11% A.B.V.), a Belgian Strong Ale.
Hofbrau from Germany will have their Original Lager and Hefeweizen if the Oktoberfest spirit strikes and you are in the mood for an easy-drinking beer, both coming in at only 5% A.B.V. Canada brings us Hop City Brewing with their Barking Squirrel and Mr. Puff Pale Ale. Howe Sound Brewing has some interesting beers in Total Eclipse of the Hop Imperial I.P.A. and Three Beavers Imperial Red Ale.
The festival is a rain or shine event and runs until 5 p.m. with last pout at 4:45 p.m. but many brewers will run out so prepare to arrive early. This is a 21 and over event with valid ID required for admission. and There will be several food booths with beer-related food for purchase and complimentary bottled water will be available for all festival goers, so outside food and drink (other than pretzel necklaces) will be prohibited. No pets, weapons or backpacks will be allowed at the festival so do yourself a favor and leave them at home.
Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate if they are still available. Go here to purchase tickets before they are all gone!