The wife and I arrived around noon at the Cocnino Fairgrounds in Flagstaff, AZ. It was June 22nd, a clear, warm, sunny day in Flagstaff, with a few gusts of wind – the same gusts that have been plaguing us here in Kingman. I was distressed that they followed us to our getaway. We checked in and stood around for an hour waiting for the gates to open, watching the crowd pour in and mingle like CO2 bubbles in a pint glass, smelling ribs and pulled pork being prepped. A few tents were visible from our vantage; New Belgium, Lagunitas, Four Peaks. I was antsy, ready to spend our 48 tickets and fill our 4 oz tasting cups at the Made in the Shade beer festival.
When the gates did open the crowd filed in deliberately, politely, in subdued anticipation. I kept looking for the namesake shade. It only existed under some canopies in less than strategic spots. Outside of that you were the sun’s fair game. But, whatever,there was beer everywhere.
At first I planned on making a circuitous route starting at the first station, which happened to be Four Peaks, and finishing at Lagunitas, which was the closest to the gates. I quickly discovered that there was way more beer there than even I, The Rog, could drink. So the strategy changed to finding the beers and breweries I had never sampled. I had also planned on taking tasting notes for each beer. While I did have a pen and notecards it was difficult to write while holding a beer cup and tickets. So what follows are just a few, brief highlights of my favorites.
Desert Eagle – Mesa, Arizona
A this tent I sampled Red Mountain Ale. It looked dark for a red and was very malty – like Whoppers, the candy. Strangely thick and chocolatey for a red. They did have a cool Arizona Craft Beer Road Map which lists a variety of breweries in Arizona. Good job for promoting beer!
Wanderlust – Flagstaff, Arizona
Love the breweries in Flag! Their Pan American Stout was awesome! Burnt wood, charred vanilla, one of the best stouts ever. I could have spent the entire festival drinking this. Another offering was Chateau Americana. It is a corrupted Belgian, with hops, but still good – a little clean but some Belgian character under that pale al.
Goose Island – Chicago, IL
Yes, they were recently bought out by the evil corporate Budweiser thing. I couldn’t help myself. The first beer I sampled was Sofie Paradisi. It had an incredible citrus flavor. It was four ounces of summer, like being poolside, sweltering, but enjoying every minute of the scenery and the sounds. Then, at 2 pm they tapped Bourbon County Stout. There’s no hint of bourbon flavor in this stout. No, the bourbon is about all you notice, it just knocks you out. My wife loved Sofie and the first things she said about this stout was, “Where’s the pancakes?” Yeah, some intense sweetness in that thing.
Pints – Laughlin, Nevada
Formerly home of the Boiler Room, a brewery dear to my heart, Pints is relatively close to us. I haven’t had the heart to go sample it since the former brewery closed. The Boiler Room took lots of my money and lots of my weekend time years ago; they had a gorgeous red for which my friends and I were insatiable. So I was actually happy to have a chance to try their beers. The American hefeweizen was dry, too dry. The appearance was right but the taste left something to be desired. But man can that place make a red. Pints offers Rehab Red a finely balanced, glistening delight. It doesn’t match the memory of the old red, but it might be worth another trip.
Bad Water – Scottsdale, Arizona
These guys seemed a little sure of themselves – but they are from Scottsdale! They have only one beer, which isn’t a bad way to start, I guess. Work it to perfection. Their experiment is a saison. I love that style so was anxious to try this one. It seemed a little weak, kind of watery, not enough farmy spice and tang. But keep brewing! I’ll keep tasting!
Sierra Nevada – Chico, California
I can’t stop myself from going to their tent. I know their beers, their style. Just can’t stop. So I tried Bigfoot again. My craft beer geek side says like it because it’s touted as the ‘greatest American barleywine’ – but I can’t. The hops are just too much. It’s a harsh, overstated beer. That being said, at 2:30 I stood in line for the tapping of Hoptimum. Oh, you don’t think they had enough hops in Bigfoot and all their other beers? Well, this one makes up for it. Monster.
We also chatted for a bit with the owners and operators of a pending brewery, Mother Bunch Brew. Their brewery isn’t open yet (neither is the website) but they hope to be running about this time next year in Phoenix. Hope all goes well for them – I’ll be looking for their beers at the next beer fest.