The 13th Annual Arizona Strong Beer Festival returns to Steele Indian School Park tomorrow, Saturday, February 16. The best beer festival in the Southwest called Central Phoenix home for the last four years. For at least a little while, the Beer Culture center of gravity moves out of the East Valley and we all get a glimpse of what life might be like with a few more breweries in the central city.
Beer is ordinarily the star at the fest, with each local and regional brewery bringing something to showcase the kick-off of Arizona Beer Week (Feb 16- 23). This year, however, the top story is the number of new breweries pouring this year. Eight Arizona breweries will be making their Strong Beer Fest debut. Their struggles and successes provide insight as to the future of beer in Phoenix between 7th Street and 7th Avenue.
Cosmic Beer out of Flagstaff began as a distribution company that contract brewed with the now defunct Mogollon Brewing Company. It has been recently reported that Cosmic lost its bid to buy Mogollon’s brewing equipment. If this is true, Cosmic will have to find another brewery to brew its line of beer. Saturday may be our first chance to find out the answers to both the Earthly and Cosmic concerns.
Flagstaff’s newest brewery, Wanderlust Brewing is headed by Nathan Friedman. More to the point, it is literally a one man operation. Wanderlust represents one of the two nanobreweries pouring at the festival. Nanobreweries have brewhouses that are generally under 3 barrels. By way of comparison, Four Peaks has a 40 barrel system in its 8th Street brewery and a 60 barrel system in its Wilson Street facility. There are some that believe that Phoenix could support dozens of nanobreweries, however most of the nano-operations are not sustainable in the long haul. Friedman compares his brewery to a journey and so it seems likely that he and the brewery may need to evolve as his opportunities open. Alternatively, it seems, Friedman is happy and appreciative about the moment. That’s something that many downtown business owners share. Zen from the High Country.
It was quite a shock to some when Desert Eagle Brewing announced that it would set up shop in downtown Mesa. It’s already considered a major driver in Mesa’s nightlife revitalization plan. Believe it or not, there were two other breweries looking to locate in Mesa. Mesa seems to have plenty of right-sized and right-priced buildings to support smaller production breweries. Something that Phoenix should consider when the wrecking ball cometh.
Tucson’s Dragoon Brewing just missed last year’s festival. Both Tucson and Flagstaff have seen enormous growth in the last two years. I’m really looking forward to tasting the Mesquite Smoked Porter. This ex-homebrewer team has already produced Tucson’s favorite IPA and many of their offerings make it to Phoenix.
Fate Brewing may very well provide a blueprint for a smaller brewpub that could fit right in on Roosevelt Row or on Central. The Scottsdale brewpub is small by design. A woodfire pizza oven keeps everyone fed and all beer brewed is sold on premise. The godfather of this “wee humble brewpub” concept is Tom Hennessy of Colorado Boy Brewing in Ridgway Colorado. Hennessy started two of his own GABF award winning breweries and has mentored a total of three Arizona start-ups. Ideally, an existing restaurant or bar is purchased and then a brewery is shoehorned in. This strategy allows a brewery to start-up with less cost than a traditional brewery. Fate founder, Steve McFate built the restaurant on Shea (off Scottsdale Road) from scratch. His higher end concept has attracted that neighborhood’s crowd and attracts the Valley’s Beer Geek contingent.
Tamara and Steve Morken of Pine’s THAT Brewery also learned brewing operations from Hennessy. The Rim Country brewery distributes kegs here in the Valley, which runs counter to the sell-beer-across-the-bar-only strategy. It will be interesting to see if Mischief Brewing (the third “wee humble”) will follow start-up plan to the letter. Mischief is still in the building phase, but plans on locating in Peoria.
Though not a disciple of the “wee humble” school, OHSO nanoBrewery certainly has some of the elements that a downtown Phoenix brewery would need to thrive. It has a great selection of beers, interesting food and a comfortable indoor-outdoor feel. Even without the brewery, the business has the chops to remain a vital part of its Arcadia neighborhood. OHSO is currently making small batches of beer on what might normally be a large brewery’s pilot system. Generally adhereing to the no-distribution-sell-it-all-on-site mantra, an OHSO-like enterprise could very well work in the 7th Avenue and McDowell neighborhood that borders Willo and Encanto-Palmcroft
North Mountain Brewing may not be able to bring their beer to the dance this time around as they only recently became federally and state licensed. You can be sure that Brewmaster Robert Berkner will be at the festival, so it will be a good time to ask him how his Sunnyslope neighborhood brewery is shaping up. Berkner took great aims to find a neighborhood that he could support. Let’s see if Sunnyslope is ready to give back.
One other new brewery, Freak’N Brewing Company, is not yet licensed but will be represented by a beer that they collaborated on with Sun Up Brewing in the Central Corridor. Double Black IPA contains twice the hops of Sun Up’s Trooper IPA and just enough roasted malt to darken the color. Freak’N Brewery is currenly awaiting approval for its Peoria brewery.
While we are not talking about a large Arizona brewery moving into the stadium district or Gordon Biersch taking residence in CityScape this year, there are a few encouraging signposts on the horizon. Arizona’s thirst for beer is being met ably. The Strong Beer Fest’s freshman class gives a beer fan some hope for a downtown brewery in the future.
It’s Friday afternoon and half of your office has joked about cutting out early and having a beer. You daydream about it but you stay at your desk. Our unwritten rules about when we drink are ingrained. We’re supposed to cram it into a happy hour, often Thursday or Friday. The drinks are big, the food is small. That’s our workplace culture–the larger culture.
Welcome to Beer Culture.
The Phoenix Brewers Invitational (PBI) in Phoenix Heritage Square is a new event for Arizona and it is billed as, “an opportunity to provide the Arizona craft beer scene and the City of Phoenix with a signature event to help generate awareness of our developing craft beer culture.” Craft beer culture says that it’s OK for your local community to be involved in beer and beer events and this extends to our city leaders.
In most parts of the country, it wasn’t politically acceptable for politicians to be seen with a glass of beer. President Obama is credited with changing that thinking with his beer summits. He’s been photographed raising a pint of Guinness. He’s bought a round of Buds at the Iowa state fair. He’s had his chefs brew beer in the White House kitchen and famously shared them on the campaign trail.
The Mayors of beer culture-centric cities have always embraced beer. In San Diego, Mayor Jerry Sanders openly courts breweries to locate in San Diego County. Former Denver Mayor and now Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper once owned a brewery and is heavily involved in the Great American Beer Fest. Portland’s Mayors have traditionally opened the 25 year old Oregon Brewers Festival (OBF) by tapping the first cask following a downtown parade. On Friday, December 7 at Noon, Phoenix Mayor is slated to open the Phoenix Brewers Invitational with a toast.
Did you miss that? Noon. Friday.
Famously, Postino Winecafe has a bumper sticker that reads, “Drinking Wine at Lunch is not a Crime.” That is true of wine culture and it is also true for those that enjoy good beer. If you’re not able to make the leap from work culture to beer culture you can still check out the fest with your worker-bee cred intact. The PIB is free to enter. You can check it out during your lunch hour and see what is being offered without paying. The PIB will have Food Trucks on hand and there is craft root beer.
If you want to partake, there will be over 60 breweries each offering a single beer. Over 25 styles will be represented. You need to purchase a commemorative mug and drink tickets. The glass will cost you $10. Tickets are $1 each for a 3 oz sample. The mug and the tickets can be used when you return after work on Friday, or Noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday.
Another tenet of beer culture is that beer should be enjoyed with food. Often at a festival, you’re enjoying great food with a tiny beer. The PIB will let you trade in four tokens for a full 12 oz serving. You can wash down the fare from Aji Mobile Food, Ole Dixie Southern Food, Torched Goodness, Emerson Fry Bread, Luncha Libre and Epic Hot Dogs with a hearty pour! Beer was meant to be enjoyed by the glass.
The Invitational is patterned after Portland’s Oregon Brewer’s Festival and it is one of the reasons that the city is referred to as Beervana. We expect that type of an event from such a beer city. Will Phoenix rise to the challenge? Will your Downtown Beer be a Friday afternoon one?
If you go:
Location: Phoenix Heritage Square, 115 N. Sixth St., Phoenix, AZ 85004
Dates: Friday & Saturday, Dec 7 & 8
Times: Noon to 10PM
Cost: Admission into the festival grounds is free, In order to consume beer, purchase of a 2012 souvenir mug is required & costs $ 10.00. Beer is purchased with wooden tokens. Tokens cost $ 1.00 per. Patrons pay four tokens for a full 12 oz. mug of beer or one token for a 3-oz. taste.
Friday, December 7th:
Headliner – Bird City,
Support – Versions of You, Cartoon Lion, We are Searchers, Inept Hero, Cosmic Goat, Libertine Social, Johnny Lee
Saturday, December 8th:
Headliner – 80 Proof,
Support – Black Bottom Lighters
Proceeds of the event benefit The Beer for Brains Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises money for the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
Far more than a friendly group of birdwatchers, Audubon Arizona offers a surprising range of outings for all ages from its little-known home on Central Avenue near the Salt River.
The opening of Audubon Arizona’s Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Center in October 2009 was the culmination of seven years of fundraising efforts, says Valerie Ramos, the organization’s development and marketing associate. “A lot of people still say, ‘I never knew this was here,’” she explains, so a primary goal is greater awareness of the Center’s existence.
Part of the 600-acre City of Phoenix Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, which stretches over a five-mile former industrial dump site, the Audubon Center welcomes visitors to a riparian region of astonishing natural wealth. More than 200 species of birds have been spotted, along with beaver, muskrat, coyote, jackrabbit, and javelina.
“It used to be a flowing river, and over time it became a landfill,” explains Ramos. “Then the federal government and the city were able to build a flood control channel…they restored the area by planting 70,000 plants and trees.”
The Center itself is certified Platinum LEED, which means that the United States Green Building Council considers it a high-performance, sustainable green building. Rooftop solar panels, wastewater reclamation, and recycled building materials all contribute to the rating.
Offering free admission year-round, the Center not only maintains interactive exhibits and acts as a gateway to 16 miles of trails through the Habitat, but also provides classes. “Our mission, in a nutshell, is to connect people with nature,” Ramos says, “primarily through children’s education programs. A lot of the kids who come for one-time field trips come back with their families and stay engaged with Audubon.”
Multiple after-school sessions like River Keepers and the high school program called River Pathways, in which teens collect field data for the Bureau of Land Management, encourage kids to think of the Habitat as their own beloved resource.
Ramos smiles enthusiastically. “We really are building a community of stewards, developing a love of nature — we’re getting them when they’re young. How can we expect people to care about the environment,” she asks, “unless we expose them to these experiences when they’re at an impressionable age?”
Adults have been finding their way to the Center through events like Birds and Beer, a monthly Thursday evening program. “We sell Four Peaks beer,” says Ramos, “and we recruit a wildlife biologist to give a punchy, enlightening, entertaining talk that usually involves some aspect of mating and wildlife reproduction.”
She laughs. “So you can see how that program would draw the professional audience — we’re just two miles south of downtown Phoenix.” It’s sort of a naturalist’s happy hour, a wilderness getaway in the heart of the city.
Financial support for the Center continues through innovative fundraising events like this weekend’s Gifts from Nature, an annual art sale and festival. “It’s an opportunity for Audubon Arizona to engage art lovers,” says Ramos. “With every item that’s purchased, a portion of the proceeds benefits our nature education and conservation programs.”
30 artists offer jewelry, wearable art, home décor, photography, paintings, ceramics, and garden pieces, all chosen through a juried process – if you’re an artist interested in participating, contact the Center next July.
The $25 ticketed kick-off event Friday night gives guests a preview of the exhibits and an artist meet-and-greet plus wine and hors d’oeuvres. Admission on Saturday and Sunday is free, and this year’s event features food trucks like Luncha Libre, Pizza People, and Burgers Amore as well as live music performed by students from Arizona School for the Arts, acoustic guitarists, and Ensemble Indigo (full disclosure: I’m a member of this chamber group).
Kristel Nielsen is one of the show’s newest artists, bringing a connection to nature through ceramic bells and wind chimes. “I want my work to look as though it belongs in the natural world,” she says. “I enjoy making forms that are organic and have a splash of color.”
Nielsen continues, “My style is slightly ‘Arizona primitive,’ very folkloric…some bells look archeological, as though they came from a temple ruin.” Along with outdoor art, she creates plates, jewelry, and holiday ornaments, including terra-cotta angels.
“I use a one-step firing process,” she explains. “It’s an environmental practice to not use that much energy, to not have to fire twice on one object.” Nielsen developed her technique when Taliesin West opened its clay studio for employees to use after work, and began selling her creations at the Desert Botanical Garden and Southwest Gardener.
The show’s artists, including Allison Shock, Caren Gomez, and Nathaniel Smalley, are all local. “The bottom line is that you’re contributing to a non-profit whose mission is to connect people with nature and provide opportunities for inner-city kids,” says Audubon’s Valerie Ramos emphatically. “Every dime spent at the event contributes toward our programs.”
If you go
Event: Gifts from Nature
When: December 1 & 2
Where: The Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, 3131 S. Central Avenue, Phoenix, 85040
Artists participating in Gifts from Nature: Joan Baron — Jacqueline Benard — Cynthia Eral — Dos Damas Designs — Julius Forzano — Lynn & Mark Gardner — Caren Gomez — Wendy Goodma — Nora Graf — Pam Harrison — Sue Laub — Mary Lavan — Michael LiPira — Regina Lord — Brenda Lovejoy — Devon Meyer — Daniel Moore — Kristel Nielsen — Barbara Pohan — Arlene Powers — Rebecca Rush Profeta — Walter Salas-Humara — Christina Scherer — Amanda Scheutzow — Allison Shock — Nathaniel Smalley — En Chuen Soo — Vivian Stearns-Kohler — Genie Swanstrom
All photos courtesy of artists and/or Audubon Arizona.
This past Saturday evening was bustling with various activities throughout the Valley. With the Big Pour in Scottsdale, the Phoenix Parade of Arts on 5th Street, Phoenix Green Streets on Roosevelt, Rock Support for Decent Shelter at Trinity Cathedral and more, it was hard to select the right adventure to take. Since I am so with the times, I have relegated Twitter as my guide to what event will fill up my evening. I noticed a buzz about Phoenix Brew Party and, after perusing its nifty website, the beer snob in me decided it was a noble venture.
This event is hosted and conceived from a local non-profit group that is helping our community in its own way. Communitas is doing its part for our community. It hosts some pretty intriguing events: Taco Day, a taco-eating frenzy that supports a new charity each year; On Bike with Love, where you form a charitable bike gang that delivers care packages to the needy; and many more.
So, I approach this event with some suspicion. After all, who gives away free beer with no strings attached? Apparently Communitas does. At a house on 7th Street and Coronado, there was a yard full of guests and a porch full of some of the finest local brews you can imagine. It started off with some judging from some local patrons, and then it came the mob’s turn to judge. We were encouraged to vote for the beer we preferred by placing a dollar or two in the bin next to each keg — a charitable gesture. The proceeds were not kept, but collected to help some of our local transients with acquiring necessities. This is all well and good, but inside this lovely 1920s bungalow resided a table loaded with homemade goodies — everything from pulled pork barbecue to seafood pasta. If anything, these people know how to throw a party and support their community.
I feel inclined to jump on board with them. Check them out. Become a part of the cure.
All photos by Andrew Langdal
I ask you, what in tarnation could be better than kickin’ back at the ever-hip Roosevelt Tavern? The answer, my friends, is a resounding nothing. Just a hop, skip and a jump from my front doorstep, this cavernous early 1900s home is easily my favorite bar in Downtown Phoenix. So, this blog is biased. Brace yourself.
I strolled, in what seemed like slow-mo, through the dimly lit corridor of the Roosevelt ready to take on the challenge of their neighborhood-brewed house beer. I must preface this with the fact that I am a beer snob. I like my brew to be awesome. That is my only requirement. So, beneath the familiar glow of a spaghetti western on the bar-area TV, I ordered and lightly sipped the house beer. I was immediately met with the sharp taste of what seemed to be grapefruit careening down my throat. One glance at the menu revealed it to be laced with cardamom, which produced its unique flavor and lingering aftertaste. Each sip opened a bright burst of flavor through my whole palate. I realized that, had I not been full from an earlier meal, this would have enlightened my taste buds when paired with the homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese. I will say that the good sir Matt Pool got this one right, too. I’m officially moving in now.
The Roosevelt Tavern is located at 816 N. 3rd St. and pours its house beer (and many other rotating selections) Tuesday-Sunday. (602) 254.2561
All photos by Si Robins