Beer Love, Beer Hate, Beer Growth: Part Two of an Interview With Black Bridge Brewery’s Owner

Here is part two of my interview with Tim Schritter, owner and brewer at Black Bridge Brewery here in Kingman.   The previous segment was the B3 Origin Story and we learned a little about Tim, too, and his goals.  This segment will focus on the beers, the favorites and the distribution.  Cheers.

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What’s your favorite beer, outside of here?

Samuel Smiths Taddy Porter. It’s my number one favorite beer of all time. The late Michael Jackson – not the child molester –

The Beer Hunter.

-the beer connoisseur proclaimed it one of the five top beers in the world ever. I was drinking it before he said that. But I always thought, man this is great, I love this beer. It’s always been a go-to; I always have it at home. It stores well, it ages well, it tastes great and it embodies a lot of what I wanted to make when I made a porter. I’ve never come close. I’ve made some good porters. I don’t generally have them on tap. I feel like I, really, I need to go back to home brewing to really hone in and fine tune some of these recipes that I have that are just like, ‘something’s off a little bit’ because I want to achieve the greatness that Taddy Porter is. It’s gonna be difficult. I need to get their water profile. It’s very technical. It’s science. I feel like I need to do that. It’s on my bucket list, up there with bowling a 300. And I’ve bowled a 299 a few times. And I’ve brewed a few good porters a few times but I’ve not made it to the 300 mark yet.

What’s the best beer here, favorite one at B3?

My favorite one at B3? As far as a seasonal, or …?

Just in general.
(Insert pause.)

Probably Katastrophic Humiliation that I have a glass of right here. That’s a hard one. I desire this the most.

What are the characteristics of B3 beers that you like the most? Aside from the fact that you make them. What makes them special, why do you desire this one? What flavor profiles do you like in the malt, yeast, etc.?

As different as all my beers are, I think they all have a common theme – all the beers that I do are kinda different from the status quo or what the guidelinees say they should be, or what other breweries do. You go to every brewery and they’ve got a golden, a pale, an IPA, a stout and an amber. We have an amber, it’s Evil Red, but it’s not a malty amber, its’ a hop forward SOB. We have a stout, but it’s not just your typical stout. We use a ridiculously high amount of English roasted barley. That’s why it’s so black and it’s so bitter; it’s not from the hops, its from the roasted barley. And then our west coast citrus IPA, Rive Ale, that’s pretty much the closest beer, other than 80 Shilling, that I make to style. I guess what sets our beer apart or what’s unique about them, if this even answers your question – my beers are kind of an extension of myself.  They’re a little bit different, a little bit off. But they’re good. Hop forward, but they’re all dry. I don’t like malty sweetness, under attenuated.

So what’s the best seller here?

Evil Red.

Which one are you most proud of here?

(Insert another pause.)

That s like asking me, in front of my four kids, which one I like the most while they’re sitting there staring at me. But in secret I tell them all that they’re my favorite. Uh, which beer am I most proud of? (More pausing). So, this is gonna sound weird, but it’s the yellow fizzy Go To Helles. It’s the first yellow fizzy beer that I’ve ever made that I really enjoy and I’m proud to have people drink and taste. And I’m really super happy with it. It’s got a great profile. It’s got a malt forward-ness but there’s a little bit of hops in the background. But it’s not sweet; it’s a nice dry finish. I really, really love it. Obviously, the barley wine I love, too. And Evil Red I love. And Rive Ale. I mean, they’re all really good beers so it’s hard to … I have my top five favorites that are tied for first.

I can tell you easier which one I don’t like as much.

All right, tell me that.

Wicked Poison.

Seriously?

I (vehemently) hate it.

Really?

I can’t stand it.

That’s funny.

I sample it weekly, just like all of my beers, just to maintain quality and make sure everything’s fine, like I did today. There’s not a flaw in the beer. It’s perfect and it’s exactly what it should be and it sells. We have people that just love it and that’s all they drink. It pays its own set of bills. I will have maybe one glass a year where I actually order a glass. If I’m having a really bad day and I just wanna get … I’ll have a shot of wicked poison. But now I have Katastrophic, so I’ll just go to this because I actually enjoy this. It’s not just about the booze it’s about the flavor, too.

Interesting. Wicked Poison is one of the reasons I stay down here. It’s not, necessarily, that I like it – well, I do – but it’s one of the beers my wife likes. It was her first so she would always come down here to get that.

Yeah, we’ve converted a lot of wine drinkers because of that [beer]. We’ve converted people that say, “oh, I don’t like beer.” Well here, try this. “Oh my god I like that, what’s that?” Well, that’s beer. “Holy …  I do like beer. You’re right.”  What you don’t like is what you think beer is. And people say “I don’t like beer” and I say, “Really? You’ve experienced all 36 different categories and all the sub-catergories within those categories; you’ve tried every single beer? You can tell me that you don’t like beer?” They’re confused, they don’t understand what I just said. What I’m saying is, shut your mouth, open your mind, try something new. And then if you don’t like it, fine. But I’m pretty sure I can find something here that’ll please just about everybody.

Ok, distribution. How far are you going with your distribution? How far are you right now?

Flagstaff. Well, Scottsdale.

Plans for the future?
After this weekend*, we’ll have about 30 half barrels freed up, because we’ve been buying new kegs and getting them filled and stored for the festival this weekend.  Once the festival is over, we’re going to have a surplus of new kegs and so we’re gonna double our accounts to over forty. That’s the idea.

Just inside Arizona? Are you trying to move outside Arizona yet?

We don’t have any states connected to us that I can self-distribute to. I have to sell to a distributor which I’m not going to do. I don’t have enough volume to make that even financially possible.

How many other outlets do you have in Kingman?
Thirteen Kingman accounts. Three in Flag, between two and three in Williams. One of them is constantly on tap, the other two are kinda whenever we get up there they’ll get another keg and throw it on until it’s gone and the next time we get up there they’ll take a keg. Then Scottsdale; we had an account in Tempe, World of Beers, but they went out of business. Nationwide. There’s still a couple of stores still open. The one in Gilbert is still open. And then Havasu, we’re occasionally on tap at College Street. We’re occasionally on tap at Outlaw. And we’re constantly on tap with at least three taps at the Place to Be restaurant but we’ve been up to five of their eight taps at times. they love our product and it moves fast.

***

End of segment two.  There’s only one more to come and we’ll talk brewing philosophy and expectations.  Maybe more.

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*The weekend referred to was October 7 & 8 when the Brats & Beer Oktoberfest was held.  You can read a little about it here.

The Beer and the Rest: Kingman’s Fourth Annual Beer Festival

The Beer and the Rest:  Kingman’s Fourth Annual Beer Festival

Public events comprise volunteers, vision, negotiation, organization, and financing. Putting all that together, even for a smallish town like Kingman, calls for effort and interest on the part of a few for the benefit of many. Not only is there a great deal of work behind the scenes, this is also a public event with alcohol which can be dangerous if not supervised well. So, thanks to all those who put on the 4th Annual Kingman Beerfest.

Craft beer has slowly been making its way into Kingman. While we are on a scenic, historic highway and near freeway, we are still slightly isolated here in the middle of the desert. It’s hard to attract business, so I can imagine it might difficult to convince brewers to come to a small place for just a few hours when they may not get a huge amount of business out of it. So, a beer festival has been established; I think there are improvements each year. I hope the beer market keeps growing in Kingman.

THE BEERS

Black Bridge Brewery

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First stop: Kingman’s local, Black Bridge Brewery. B3 was pouring Wicked Blueberry, Rive Ale and Bride of Frankenstout. The Wicked Blue was my favorite of this years fest. It’s their Wicked Poison infused with blueberry, their answer to Big Blue Van from College Street, no doubt. Wicked Blue is a refreshing beer and at 14% abv it makes for a quick start to a beer fest. Rive is a great example of a west coast IPA and Bride of Frankenstout is a coconut vanilla porter. The vanilla dominates that porter, overpowering the barely noticeable coconut, which is fine with me. It’s a murky brown and easy to drink. The B3 crew also mingled through the crowd drumming up enthusiasm and business and checking out other AZ beers.

Boulder Dam Brewing
During a trip a few weeks ago our family stopped at the Boulder Dam brewery and because of some mechanical issues were not able to drink their Powder Monkey Pilsner. So I was happy it was available here. Very nice golden color and more citrus than I would’ve thought. Good work.

College Street & San Tan
As noted above, they did not have their own table or staff, but their Big Blue Van was available. It’s a refreshing wheat beer made with blueberries and is always a favorite. And, they had V. Beauregarde, a sour blueberry beer on site. It was fantastic. I was glad to get hold of this one since it was out the last time I visited the brewery. Definitely worth a growler fill the next time I’m in Lake Havasu. San Tan had a shandy there, I think. Not really sure.

Golden Road
This brewery is relatively new (2011) and from the LA area. Other than that, I know very little about them. Their brown ale, Get Up Offa That Brown is fantastic. While not complicated, it has a sweet caramel character and is easy to drink. The server at this table discovered serendipitously that the brown and the Citra Blend wheat make a palatable mix. The brown gives the wheat a little bit to chew on.

Lumberyard Brewing
It was good to see a Flagstaff brewery in attendance. Lumberyard was pouring Knotty Pine, Diamond Down Lager, Flagstaff IPA and Red Ale. That last one, the Red Ale – perfect. Medium body, perfect color, little hops attack, and just a hint of roastiness. The staff at the table was wonderful to talk with, happy to discuss their beer. Good show.

Mudshark Brewing
As I stated at last years festival: Vanilla. Caramel. Porter. Yeah, Mudshark has other beers, like Full Moon, but VCP is fabulous. It took two of my tickets. We also talked about their Mole Chocolate Stout, which was not at this festival – but I had it somewhere. It sounds like it was a specialty one-off brew, but I hope they keep it around.

Sierra Nevada
I like their gose, Otra Vez. So I drank that and I had their 11.5 Plato, a session IPA. Well, it was an IPA.

Stone Brewing
Oddly (to me), they were pouring a winter-spiced mocha stout called Xocoveza. A rep from Goose Island said it was like horchata in a stout. He was right. Cinnamon and nutmeg in a heavy body. It was sublime.

Monkey Fist Brewing
This brewery had nothing to pour since it is only in planning. I’m not sure that it should have had a tent. “Monkey fist” is a reference to a nautical knot.  They chose the moniker because of family ties to the Coast Guard. The brewery has big plans. Thompson, owner and hopeful brewers wants to “make everything.” Of course, that won’t be possible, so right now he’s mostly got IPAs in mind. Meh. I asked if they were open to sour beers. He said “not opposed.” That’s encouraging, because … sours!  I hope that the Monkey Fist crew is starting the brewery primarily because they love the craft of beer and beer itself.

THE OTHER PARTS OF THE BEER FESTIVAL

Like last year, this year’s festival was held at the Mohave County Fairgrounds, indoors again, which was a good call since it was about 109 degrees Saturday. There were sixteen breweries slated to appear. A couple were there only via a distributor, College Street and San Tan. I am a beer snob and did not consider Shock Top appropriate (but that’s just me) and Four Peaks gives me an ethical headache right now because of their sale to AmBev. And two of the “breweries” listed are definitely not breweries, namely House of Hops (a bar) and Monkey Fist, which is House of Hops’ pending brewery. Still, it’s not bad showing for a small, out of the way hole in the ground.

One of the organizers of the festival, from DMS Events, was pouring for Mudshark. I appreciated her enthusiasm and had an encouraging chat with her. We talked about using wristbands instead of tickets, but, alas, I think the tickets are an Arizona liquor law requirement. The rest of the volunteers who were pouring seemed much more personable this year than last year, so I’ll put that in the “improvement” category.

There’s been live music at every other festival I’ve been to and it lends a fabulous ambiance. Another improvement that I felt needed to be made, as noted in my write up for last year’s event was to have a live band for our beer festival. It happened. Now, I personally did not like the Red Hot Chili Pepper-ish punk-esque band that the organizers picked. They played well, it simply was not the kind of music that I feel fit the beer festival. It could be that I’m just showing my age. Keep the music.

Reading over my notes from last year, it does seem that this 4th Annual beer festival was smaller this year, both in number of vendors and in attendance. There was less spark in the crowd. I think if this were to happen in March/April it might be better attended. The weather would be milder, to be sure. Also, the lack of brewers present was a let down. That population seems to shrink each year, too. And there seemed to be less interesting beers this time. They were still good, but no saison’s and double this or that IPAs and barrel blended stouts, etc. Just some good standards. Granted, I didn’t get every beer, so I might have missed an magical one.

Cheers to year five.

Boulder City Beer Festival

Boulder City Beer Festival

Fourth year. Still a good time.  Love the breezy ambiance. 

My favorites from the fest:  a tart, sour delight from Almanac Beer. Not sure what the name of it is; Morning Joe, a coffe Kolsch from Banger Brewing

Cheers. 

   
    
    

Black Bridge Brewery from Kingman was there, too. The crowd was buzzing about Wicked Poison and Wicked Ginger. Brewer Tim Scritter got his exercise as he distributed Evil Red. 

 

Concerning a Trip to What is Called the Great American Beer Festival

  •  60,000 people are really loud
  • Sour beers are the new IPA,; you’re welcome
  • Sampling limits should be abolished
  •  Why don’t they move this festival around, like the Super Bowl? 

In the beginning, called by some 1981, when the world I know began to take shape, in the time when Def Leppard was bringing on the heartbreak and AC/DC was just getting back in black, when the decibel levels of music were rising to properly acceptable levels, a mythical figure liberated countless people from slavery to a post-Prohibition yellow beverage that had encompassed the country. This modern Moses is called Charlie and his exodus evidently ended in Denver, Colorado. There was much rejoicing. So much, in fact, that the freed slaves decided there should be a festival at that location every year for all that generation and newly liberated types to commemorate the exodus. Eight years ago I journeyed to this soiree in the Rockies and I went back this year. And there was much rejoicing. It was the Great American Beer Festival. Here’s a thing I noticed: as more come to commemorate the release from taste-neutral beer, the decibel levels at the event have risen commiseratively. To be sure, I have been and ever shall be a believer in this axiom: if it’s too loud, you’re too old. To be more sure, that proverb is turning its serpentine head on me these days as my ears become sensitive. As Brick would say, “loud noises!” I mean, blood oranges, sixty thousand people generate a stentorian buzz! Speaking of blood oranges, by the way, Revolver Brewing from Austin, Texas, tapped Sangre Y Miel at GABF and I thank their representative for being Texas friendly and steering me to their line in an unabashed fashion to sample it. The beer was tart and winey and sour.

Speaking of sours, you’re welcome, craft beer world. As I noted gallantly above eight years ago I came to this festival and wandered from table to table searching for lambics or krieks or goses, anything that would make me pucker, not in hops bitterness fashion, but in wild fermentation glee. There were approximately two beers that fulfilled this mission for me. (Cuvee de Tomme, from Lost Abbey or Pizza Port, being one of them; see, sours were so rare I remember one specifically !) I loved sour beers then. I’ve been trying to get them since I started drinking craft. The rest of the silly country has been giving themselves IV’s of hops and blazoning the virtues of IPAs and double IPAs and imperial triple ludicrous speed IPAs. Ha! My prescient palate eschewed such things and sought more sophisticated sensory input. And what did I find this year? The aether of the beerosphere was paying attention to my taste. This year, every brewery I visited had a saison or a farmhouse ale or a soured this or that. In fact, Real Ale Brewing, also from Texas (this coincidence happened because I chose to drink beers from Texas and Pennsylvania only), made what is now my favoritest beer ever, Tenebrae Aeterna. I can’t even pronounce that name, can barely spell it, but went back for more than one sample of that deliciously soured porter. I have long loved porter beers and to find a sour one is a dream I didn’t even know I had. The beer was splendid; dark, of course, as it should be, black in the artificial light of the coliseum. It still had the slightly charred ashen taste I covet, this time delightfully spoiled, tart, acidulous. Roasted grain soaked in a wine-vineagar. It was like, well, standing in line with sixty thousand people for forty minutes in anticipation – frustrating, annoying, blissful. It’s the butterflies in your stomach as you wait in that line, hoping that the stupid scanner the ticket checkers hold is not going to have a problem reading that QR code on your smartphone screen since that is your ticket and you don’t want to have an argument with the person holding the scanner, insisting that you do belong there while trying to find and unfold that anachronistic paper ticket you shoved in your pocket with all the other detritus from your long trip. Yeah, like that. There was another fantastic sour beer, a gose from Texas Beer Refinery. It was Gulf Coast Gose and was made with sea salt. What a terrific ingredient for a gose! I love sea salt in spice rubs for grilling, and it could be tasted in just the right proportion in this beer. This is right behind the sour Porter in terms of beers I want again. So, once again, you’re welcome craft beer world. My taste buds presaged your current fad. I can’t wait to discover the Craft World’s new taste. What style shall become nascent next? How about … free beers for Bottled Roger?

As with any beer festival sampling cups were provided. One is plastic, for the use of the hoi polloi and the other is glass, reserved for members only. Yeah! I attended both as commoner and as uncommoner. Thus, I have both special sampling devices. Am I not special? Exactly, I am not. Anyway, both cups have a six ounce capacity. (Yes, I did measure it myself). A line is inscribed on the cups, marking a one ounce pouring limit. That is only seventeen percent of the capacity. I guess I understand this imposition but I am not a fan of it. It’s hard to get an in-depth perception of a beer via one ounce. I would like to have more than one ounce. Well, I did get more than one ounce when I went back and drank a beer a second time, but I also want to try as many beers as possible. What I have noticed is that when the brewers themselves pour, they don’t seem to pay strict attention to the line. They pour their beer and they want you to drink it and they give you some details about it. Some are better at this exposition than others, too. Some just provide dry infodumps, like the technobabble that is ubiquitous in a bad episode of Star Trek: Voyager; others display Asimovian glee as they clearly delineate the laws of their liquid creations. Anyway, the point is that usually you get a little more suds from the makers. The volunteers, on the other hand, while lovely and nice people, tow that one ounce limit line strictly, in Vaderian fear, apprehensive of a Force-choke from the festival overlords if they over pour.

One other point: I like Denver. It is a city full of good beer. And I guess the mythical figure of Mr Charlie Papazian lives thereabouts and this beer festival is his. Wouldn’t it be cool, though, if it moved around the country? It could rival the Super Bowl. Cosmopolitan metropolises could vie for the honor of hosting the most esteemed of beer festivals. Plus, maybe it would hit Phoenix one year and that’s only three hours away from me. So, come on, let’s go for that. 

GABF rules!

Mohave County Beer Fest, Year Three. Is There Hope For Number Four?

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Thank you to the anonymous (to me, at least) driver of a Ford Expedition for having a decal on the back window of your vehicle advertising Saturday’s Mohave County Beer Fest. It reminded me to buy tickets. Marketing works.

Saturday’s event was relaxing and enjoyable. Indeed, ‘there is nothing better for us than to eat and drink and enjoy our lives.’ While I did no eating at the MCBF, I did drink and enjoy. So here’s a recap of the beers and breweries and a few notes about the event itself.

THE BEERS

Black Bridge
Kingman’s local was pouring Secret Pass, a blonde ale; Holy Water, a Belgian Pale Ale; and Raspberry Poison. Holy Water is a refreshing drink, crisp like an APA with a little mystical off-ness to it. Owner and brewer Tim Schritter also discovered that Raspberry Poison (a wheat wine with a little raspberry) and Pints’ Chocolate Porter makes an awesome concoction. The Poison subdues the roasted malt while that roasted malt moderates the sweetness of the Poison.

Canyon Distributing
Not a brewery but a distributor with a few different offerings available here in Kingman. I had the Big Butt Doppelbock by Leinenkugel. Well made bock.

Founders
They were offering their Dirty Bastard, a scotch ale and several IPAs. The Porter was my natural choice. It was very roasted, sublimely black and tasty.

Four Peaks
Arizona’s heavyweight brewery was pouring several selections, including their flagship Kiltlifter. I chose their Peach Ale. It’s a golden ale brewed with Arizona peaches. It was moderately interesting and very easy to drink.

Goose Island
So, the volunteers at this desk were proactive. They were right by the entrance and encouraged everyone to get their first drink there. I complied. I’m not sure what I got, really. It was a Goose Island table, but I think they were pouring Widmer Brothers product. I couldn’t make out the label well enough. I think it was Brrbon ’12. It certainly tasted heavy and barrel aged. Oak and vanilla and lots of caramel malt were present. It was a strong, strong start to the festival.

House of Hops
This new local tap house didn’t have any of their own brews since that’s not what they do. But it was good to see them there doing their part to increase Kingman beer culture. They were pouring some Widmer beers, too. One was the Brrbon ’12 and the other a raspberry imperial stout. I sampled the stout. It was nicely done, but I honestly don’t remember too much about that beer.

Mudshark
Three words: Vanilla. Caramel. Porter. I had this either last year at MCBF or at the Boulder Beer festival. I may not remember the venue but I have not forgotten that beer. Look for it around town in their “Shark Cages.” The vanilla dominates the flavor, to be sure. It was good enough for seconds.

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North Coast
Amongst the selections at this venerable breweries table was Old Rasputin, one of my most favoritest stouts. It did not disappoint. Also on the table was Brother Thelonious, a transcendent, jazzy Belgian abbey ale.

Odell
This Fort Collins trendsetter had a beer that briefly vied with the Chocolate Porter as best beer in show for me – and get this, it was an IPA. I have tried to make it abundantly clear that I do not care for that style. But Tree Shaker is a style breaker. The citrus smell and flavor blends seamlessly with the peach character. The usual hop overload is not present. It’s interesting that they still call this an IPA when it only comes in at forty-eight IBU and generally they should range from sixty to one hundred. It definitely shakes up the genre.

Pints
This brewery continues to impress me. I love their Rehab Red, and they had an interesting watermelon beer at a quondam festival. At this one they had a Chocolate Porter and it was my favorite beer from the whole event. The burnt, roasted malt that makes up the grist bill for this beauty had no qualms about showing themselves in the nose and in taste. It wasn’t aggressive or brutal, just delightful.

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Shock Top
Ha-ha, yeah, like I would’ve even stopped at this table. Heh, funny, yeah – No!

Sierra Nevada
They were offering a kolsch style beer and I’d never had it. It was a respite from their usual hoppy masterpieces.

Stone
Almost as surely as Sierra Nevada, the wizards at Stone always have highly hopped brews. They were pouring one I’d not heard of nor tried before and it was a complex five ounces. It’s called Points Unknown (very esoteric) and it’s a double IPA blended with a Belgian tripel and aged in red wine and tequila barrels. It is one of those beers that is truly layered. The top layer was all hops – lemonpine for the nose, bitterness at first sip. Then the maltiness is perceived in the next layer, with some caramel and alcohol and that loamy Belgian mystique. It finished with tequila and wine. Still an IPA.

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THE EVENT

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The Improvements
Attendees received a commemorative tasting mug. It’s a little thing but I was tremendously happy to get it. It shows interest in the culture of the fest and respect for the partakers. Good call.

The venue was much improved over last year. It was indoors, in an exhibit hall. The brewery tents and tables were against the walls all around the room leaving the center open for mingling and sitting. It was still small, the whole event could be taken in via one glance, but it didn’t feel as crowded as it did last year. The volunteers seemed more engaged, too. There was music, though not a live band. But, we’ve got to have ways to improve for next year, right?

Overall, it seemed like an insouciant, agreeable good time. It didn’t leave me as tired as last year with all the heat and noise and cramped area.

The After Parties
A couple of “thank you’s” also go out to Tim from Black Bridge and T.J. from House of Hops for their invites to the after-parties. I had not made it to the House before Saturday although it’s been open for weeks and is getting good word of mouth in town. They do offer lots of good beer. The place was loud Saturday night with all the people crowded inside. It’s not really my kind of scene, but I do like that very long bar and their selections on tap. The owners and staff are all very welcoming and that is a novel approach for Kingman. Doubtless I’ll be there again.

Black Bridge had a band out back, Almighty Dog, playing on a newly constructed stage.  B3 is planning on booking more bands and really turning the back lot into a cool hangout, making it even more like a neighborhood or backyard gathering spot. I enjoyed some more Holy Water and some Chiapas iced coffee, as well. Black Bridge has helped make the downtown area very interesting and I look forward to their future.

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So, good improvements for the beer fest. It was an enjoyable event. It felt like everyone cared this time around. Look forward to year four.

Beer Festival Blogging

This weekend there is a beer festival in Boulder City, Nevada.  My wife and I and another couple will be in attendance.  While there, I plan on doing my best to do some “live” blogging.  The posts will be very short.  I expect numerous pictures, too.  We attended this festival last year and it was a delightful and peaceful afternoon spent with my wife, full of great beer, good food, live music.  It is my hope that the pictures and brief posts will convey something of the flavor of the day.  If any of you out there reading this are also attending, hey, have a great time!

The Second Annual Beer Fest in Kingman, AZ

Let me first transmit a “thank you” to my beer network. There are enclaves of friends and acquaintances out there who are listening to the grapevine and letting me know of beer events. This time it was my Goodyear crew that alerted me to Kingman’s second annual Beer Fest this past Saturday, May 31.

I’ve been in Kingman for some twenty years now and have attended a handful of events around town. There’s been only one alcohol related event that I found palatable. So I entered this beer festival with trepidation and left with … well, mixed feelings. That is, oddly, better than I anticipated.

But, first, the beers. A beer festival is all about the beers!

College Street
This brewery is from Lake Havasu City, Arizona. They had great beers at the last festival I attended.
Sweet Devil Nitro Stout. Can’t help but love this beer. It’s thick and dark and creamy, the desert’s answer to Guinness.
Jesse’s Malt Liquor. The moniker “malt liquor” always makes me think of a sweet, thin, cheap beer for hoboes. That’s not this beer. Nay, it is a medium bodied delight heavy on sweet caramel. It triumphed as my fave of the fest.
Big Blue Van. Just try it. Ye shall not be disappointed.

Barley Bros
Another brewery from Lake Havasu. It’s been there since 1997. They were among the first places I went as I discovered craft beer.
Kickstart Oatmeal Stout. It was supposed to have espresso notes. Alas, though, I found this one unrememberable.
Tripleberry Wheat. This wheat beer sounded intriguing and finally drew me back to their table for a sample. The cranberry was most prominent. It was well balanced but in the end it was just liquid bubblegum.

Mudshark Brewing
A third brewery from Havasu. They had about a half dozen or so of their beers on tap from their refer truck. I always go to Full Moon when I see Mudshark. As I’ve written before it is my favorite wit ever. So far. However, it was too cloudy and bland this time. Very unhappy.
V.C.P. They were also pouring their new vanilla caramel porter. Nice even color, chewy body, but not too heavy on either vanilla or caramel. I’d like to try it again. Somebody go buy me a Sharkcage.

Historic Brewing
This is Flagstaff’s newest brewery. That town just can’t stop producing breweries and good beer.
Piehole Porter. I did not notice it was a cherry vanilla porter. But the cherry and vanilla jumped out right away. It tastes like a pie. If it had not edged toward soda, like an ice cream float, this would have been my favorite.
Joy Rye’d – I did not try this for I dislike rye. But my beer Fest associate could only say it was “tooooo hoppy”.
Every Day Special – a “hopped up Pilsner” according to them but I tasted none. They must have dumped into the rye.

Grand Canyon
This brewery from Williams brought their American Pilsner and Sunset Amber. I like Sunset Amber, though it veers toward hoppy side instead of malt.

Pints
Laughlin’s brewery did not bring their Rehab Red but they had several other selections.
Loaded Jefe Mexican Lager. Not bad, good color, smooth. Laughlin’s version of Modelo.
Watermelon Wheat. Better than the berry.

Romer Beverage Company
The AB wholesaler truck had some good beers available and they dominated as far as selection. Some memorable beers: Odell’s Lugene Milk Chocolate Stout. Odell Fernet Aged Porter (this beer is a personality to be reckoned with, to be sure. It’s in my top three beers of the day. But it is so powerful it’s almost difficult to quaff). There were several other Odell beers; plus some from Sleepy Dog in Tempe. And lots more.

So the beers were mostly delicious and enlightening. Now on to the rest. How did the Kingman Beer Fest hold up in the context of the beer festival world?

Attendees received fifteen tickets for $25. It wasn’t a bad price for several good beers. However, we did not get a tasting mug. Well, okay, the first fifty people did receive such a cup. The rest of us could get one if we wished to pungle down $3. I felt that was just cheap, Kingman cheap. Every other festival I’ve been to included a commemorative mug upon entry. Even the wine festival held here provided a glass. So, it’s a little thing, but it would be an improvement.

At first most of the people staffing the tables that I met were local volunteers not brewery employees or brewers themselves. That was distressing because they didn’t really know anything about the beer. For example, at one table where a pilsner and an amber were offered I was simply told one was their light beer one was their dark. Not quite accurate and it made it obvious the pourer did not know the product. It’s nice to go to these festivals and be able to interact with the brewers. But to be fair that was just the first hour I was there. Knowledgeable types did arrive.

While I was personally disappointed in the beginning the more I spoke with people, especially the visiting brewery staff, I began to feel a little better about the event. Some visitors remarked that Kingman is in a decent area for beer festival since it’s on a corridor between Phoenix and Las Vegas. Many remarked that it wasn’t a bad festival for this being only its second year. There is potential for growth. Almost all the breweries said they would come to year three.

If there is year three, some modifications are in order. The booths and tables were tightly arranged in a corridor beneath the bleachers at the Fairgrounds. When I first walked I could look left and right and easily see the entire festival. My initial impression was that this was a tiny place and absolutely the wrong venue for a beer festival. Person after person commented that the location was too crowded, too small.

Mudshark’s refrigerated truck was running the entire time which did not go over well. It dominated the ambiance of the … corridor. However,I shall not lay blame at Mudshark’s fins. They were having mechanical issues with the truck from the moment they left Havasu. If the festival had been held in a more open area, say, a park, as the wine festival has been held in, the mechanical issues would not have been so noticeable and annoying.

Speaking of sound, there was a good buzz happening when I entered the … hallway. The good buzz was conversation that could be heard above even the Mudshark truck. I took that as a good sign. Another sound point: I heard over and over again that people wanted music, especially a live band. And, once again, if the festival would be held at a different venue a band would fit. Live music makes a festival memorable.

However, I also heard, from attendees and brewers alike, that this year’s locus, though cramped and loud, was still an improvement over last year. Why? It kept everyone out of the sun. And if the beer festival shall continue to be held at this time of year a shaded setting is imperative. Imperative.

So, festival organizers take note. This beer festival is a positive thing for Kingman. Choose a better location. A beer festival needs space; attendees need to be able to wander, chat, enjoy the beer in a laid back atmosphere. And there needs to be some live entertainment.

Combining the variety of beers available at this beer event with the annual Oktoberfest that is held downtown would vastly improve both events. Then we could start truly calling the thing a beer festival. Oktoberfest already has an okay venue (the whole, you know, train passing by thing annoys me) and live entertainment. I’m not sure which has better attendance. I’m leaning towards this beer event I’m writing about over the Oktoberfest. Put the two events together until it gets unwieldy and then we can move on. While doing that, add some additional food vendors if possible and consider a home brewing competition. There’s a good amount of home brewers around here and we wouldn’t mind showing off our art.

Everyone said that the beer selection was better this year. That’s my focus. A beer festival can provide some community interaction, sure, and it can highlight local businesses, okay; but let’s not turn our local beer festival into a lame Chamber of Commerce mixer-like event. No, it needs to be about the beer. Bring the beer and the rest will fall into place.