2016-11-18 Beer Recommendations

On tap at Black Bridge Brewery that you need this weekend:

  • Wagonwheel – an American brown ale, beautifully colored – with enticing red highlights – and tasting of late fall. It makes you want to just sit, relax, contemplate. Medium body, a little caramel and some nutty flavors (as in the edible part of a tree, etc., not the street roaming eccentrics). Superb.
  • Locomotive – it’s a stout, cuz black beers matter!  Deeply dark, heavily roasted, a masterpiece.   The Darth Vader of stouts. Seriously, epic music should begin when this is tapped.

Guest taps are available:  Mr Pineapple from SanTan (this one is meh, in my opinion, though generally their beers are stellar) and Big Blue Van from College Street in Lake Havasu. This beer seems to be one that has polarized peeps into two camps, the Lovers and the Haters.  I love it. A great wheat beer, refreshing, with blue berries. They pull it off magnificently. Three bucks for guest taps, y’all. Come have a drink.

Couple these beers with an uncritical atmosphere and a PERFECT soundtrack for a Friday – Def Leppard radio, the ultimate 80s rock music! – and you will  be able to completely decompress from your week of labor!

And be good to your bartenders for the night, Jen and Lee!  (Thanks for the tunes, Jen!)

 

 

 

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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.

Lunch at College Street Brewhouse & Pub

Up on a hill, parking is a little confusing but not terribly.

It is family friendly.

Big Blue Van served with blueberries in the glass. Don’t know that they add flavor but they add to the presentation. Makes a fun game trying to snag a blueberry.

Jesse’s Lager is heavy and clean with a hops void. I think I love this beer.

We had for lunch: chicken caprese wrap, margherita pizza, and pirate johns BLT. Sweet a Devil Stout was a surprising compliment to the BLT. Gotta be the smokiness. I know I love it. One of the best stouts ever. Ever.

Tall building
Gordon Biersch-y
Patio looks cool

Brewhouse is stainless and utterly gorgeous. Utterly.

No readily available beer menu, like a board it something. Gotta rely on servers. They’re not bad.

Food is fantastic!

Their Octoberfest is … Well, there is a bitter aftertaste that I’m not happy with. Good color, great head, but that hops at the end … Dunno. Not happy with it.

Conclusion: nice place. Would I come here again? Yes.

Is it better than Mudshark, the other Lake Havasu brewery?

No.

Sweet Devil is one of the best stouts ever. Big Blue Van is more intriguing and refreshing than it has any right to be. But Full Moon is the Einstein of wit beers and Mudshark’s atmosphere is far more liberated.

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Weekend Beer Picks

Whereas the first six months of this year have passed fugaciously, this week has been interminable. Every day I have looked at the office clock, or the computer clock, or the iPhone clock and have become whelmed with anguish that only an hour has expired instead of the four I had felt. Once the work day is finally over, of course, and I get home and can relax two things happen. First, time pretends it’s the Milennium Falcon and jumps to lightspeed right away; second, I realize that I have a ton of things that need to be done at home and, oh, day’s over. This weekend, then, I need some beer that will soothe and brighten.

When I think of soothing beer, I always think of something dark and roasty; a beer that has substance but not one that demands palate analysis; an ale that will warm while you hold your glass and not lose character. For a beer that brightens I want the opposite – in appearance, at least. A yellow to amber jewel, with mild hop aroma and presence; something on the effervescent side, with character but, again, nothing demanding.

With those parameters and my interest currently piqued in the College Street Brewhouse my beer picks for this weekend are:

Sweet Devil Stout
This beer is the Guinness of Mohave County. It’s thick, creamy and has just the right amount of roast. Just thinking about this beer is making me happy. Smooth, sable, and really good with, or as, dessert.

Big Blue Van

I’m not always a fan of fruity beers, but CSB pulls it off and makes me like it with the Big Blue Van. It’s a wheat beer, which is my vote for the best style of beer for the desert, and it’s infused with blueberry and vanilla. Honestly, you can’t help but smile after drinking this beer.

You can find their beers at the Kwik Stop on Hualapai Mountain Road. Or you can take a trip to the brewery.

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.

Boulder City Beer Fest

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Beer festivals are just fabulous events. So far in my experience they are not rowdy, raucous melees. Boulder City’s 2nd annual festival had good weather (aside from some wind, but if you’re from Kingman it was normal) in a good location.

The wife and I enjoyed the casual afternoon wandering from tent to tent. There were some great offerings. We started at Firestone Walker and had a decent pale ale. Then we wandered to Oskar Blues, enjoyed some Old Chub, and then hit the nest tent, a new Vegas local. Banger Brewing had about half a dozen offerings. I tried their jalapeño hefeweizen. It was nicely done if mild.

College Street Brewhouse was nearby. They’re from Lake Havasu, which is close to home. I tried the Sweet Devil nitro stout and it was outstanding. My wife tried their Brother Dewey’s Date Night, made with real dates. They also talked my wife into trying their flagship brew, Big Blue Van. Good call, College Street. She loved it. And I love it when she loves a beer.

We also hit the Indian Wells tent, Stone’s, Gordon Biersch, and several others. I think my favorite of the day was College Street, though. Well, maybe not ….

Kingman’s own Black Bridge Brewery was pouring at festival. And while I sample their brews regularly, I found myself visiting their tent a few times anyway. They were pouring Evil Red, Wicked Poison and Scorched Earth, which is a superbly done pepper beer. It’s hot without being uncomfortable and the beer still shines through.

I hope there will be a third annual beer Fest in Boulder City. Until then, I look to Flagstaff and the Made In The Shade festival
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