The Existential Brewery – Brewing Philosophy and Brewing Business: Part Three of an Interview With Black Bridge Brewery’s Owner

This is the final segment of the actual interview with Tim.  The conversation continued after the official questions stopped and some of that conversation may be posted here as an appendix to this interview for it contained some interesting insights and stories.  But for now, peruse this and ask yourself how you can support your local brewery.

As always, thanks for reading and sharing.

If you need to catch up:

Interview, part 1

Interview, part 2

***

Let’s talk about your brewing philosophy. What is it you want to accomplish with your beers?

Uh, money.

No, every business is money driven. What do I want to accomplish? I want people who come in and travel and they go to breweries – and we do get a lot – it’s nice to hear, like, when they buy a flight and they tell me that every single beer is great. That’s what I want to accomplish, you know, that people that are seasoned beer drinkers, that understand craft beer and that have a developed palate and they can separate out different flavors and tastes and they can pick up flaws, when they tell me that all six that they had are great, you know, that’s what it’s about for me.

My regulars are great, I like my regulars. Like you have your one or two that you always drink. The travelers coming through, they try everything, they’ll get two flights. When I can hear from them that everything was great, that’s pretty awesome.  There’s always a [contemptible person] who gives me a half a star on Untappd on one of my highest rated beers and I just know he’s being a [jerk] or he doesn’t know [Stone] from [Corona].

Other than money, what is it you hope to accomplish with your brewery?

I wanted to bring something to Kingman with the brewery. I wanted to improve the daily life of the community. I wanted to bring something unique. I love this town, it’s my home town, so that’s what it came down to. And I needed a job.

So, when you’re making – lets say you want to make a new beer, what goes into formulating your recipes?

Years of understanding percentages. When I talk about beers to home brewers and they tell me, ‘eight pounds of this and two pounds’ – I’m like, no, no – percentages. What percentage of your base malt or what percentage of this. So when you understand what percentages are and how they apply to all the different beers it makes it really easy to design new beers.

Like, for a typical dry stout it’s a 70-20-10, which, all added together it equals 100 percent. Seventy percent two row, twenty percent flaked barley and ten percent roast [barley]. That’s a perfect stout recipe. Thirty IBUs of one bittering hops at sixty minutes, you’ve got a phenomenal beer that’s a ten out of ten. And that’s just one example. Pale ale same way, IPA, you know, depending if you’re doing English, East Coast, Denver style or West Coast. Understanding percentages of different styles of beers, and then tweak those up or down on each one a little bit and then make it your own and make it unique. Designing a recipe is [ridiculously] simple once you have an understanding of percentages.

So where did you get all this experience and understanding? What are you drawing on?

I brewed a lot of bad beers as a home brewer. You have to fail to succeed. That and I had a mentor, Jason Fuller. He had been brewing for fifteen years before I met him. So, he’s brewed a lot of bad beers in his day and so he took his knowledge on how to make a good beer and he helped me to understand. He didn’t just give me recipes and say, “oh just do this and you’ll be fine.” He taught me percentages, how to understand this style means that percentage of, you know, medium crystal, but no higher than eight percent, no less than six.  In that range. Or whatever beer it was, percentages, and how to formulate recipes. It’s simple after that.

You going to go into any kind of brewing program?

I don’t do well in school.

So, you wanted to bring this to Kingman because Kingman needed something like this. And I agree with you. Something where people can relax –

Something homegrown.

Yeah, exactly, somewhere they can hang out. So what do you need from the community to make this place successful?

I need them to come in the door … and enjoy, you know, the artwork, the free wi-if to do their homework, the sports games that we have. There’s a lot of music that we try to bring down. Things like that. And it seems like, at times, they don’t, they just don’t care. And it’s disheartening. There’s days we have more tourist that come through than locals. And no bar can survive on that. Locals pay the bills and that’s the way the models have always worked. There’s no getting around that.

What do you think it’ll take to get that done?

A good friend of mine owns a jewelry store and when the economy went down his business suffered because he’d been accustomed to selling just the best of the best. He quickly realized to maintain business and pay his own bills and his employees and be relevant in the marketplace he would have to have a portion of his business selling less than ideal stuff – silver, sterling silver, lower quality gold, turquoise, things like that. So he ended up doing one case selling lower quality stuff and it started selling and his revenues went up. So now he has four cases in his whole jewelry store, that sells what he calls [crap].

We were having dinner at Mattina’s about a year ago and he said, “What I realized, Tim, is: if [crap] sells, sell [crap].” I’m not saying that I want to sell [crap] but as that translates into my business- like what you’re drinking, Go to Helles. It’s a yellow fizzy beer, it’s really good. We put it on tap and we’ve been flying through this, more than Evil Red, more than our other beers. So maybe I need to switch some of my focus onto … [crap]. Which is a yellow fizzy. And I think, you know our local demographic – we’re not Portland, we’re not San Diego, we’re not Fort Collins. They’re not open to drinking large amounts of craft beer, but if I had more Go to Helles on tap maybe they would come in more and more just to drink that.

So let me ask you about that. So you talk yellow fizzy beer and just – anyone who likes craft beer just doesn’t like it, they have almost this instant hatred for it. Is it really a bad beer, or is it the corporate ethics behind the beer?

Which beer?

Budweiser, Coors, any of these big industrial-

There’s nothing wrong with that. They don’t taste bad. They don’t taste good. They just don’t taste. But the corporate – you know, I hate when people say “oh, corporations.” I’m an S-corp, the same classification. So corporations aren’t a bad thing.

No. There’s a different mindset when you get into large industrial corporations. And that was my thought – I spent so long just dismissing the beers out of hand because, well, they’ve got adjuncts in them –

They do.

I know, so I just dismissed them because of that. If you just drink the beer by itself it’s not necessarily … bad.

When I go to sporty’s I drink Coors Banquet, and I love it.

It seems to be the ethics behind Big Beer that turn people off to that.

Yeah, Big Beer and InBev specifically, the way they’re doing their buyouts, they’re very strategic the way they drive down the costs. The cost for a retailer of a half barrel of IPA – like Goose Island IPA you can get from the local Budweiser rep for $85 and you can get a half barrel of my IPA for $205. Well, of course you’re going to buy the Goose Island IPA because dollar for dollar it’s a lot less money and you’re going to sell it for the same $5 a pint. Why would I spend $205 when I can spend $85? That’s how they’re hurting guys like me. But, luckily I’ve developed a personal relationship with my accounts to where they’re okay spending that and giving me a tab because they believe in the product and it does sell faster than any of their [beers].

Yeah, and I guess that’s where I was going. You were talking about making more Go to Helles because it’s a “crappy” beer. It it’s not really a bad beer, just like theirs aren’t bad, it’s just the intention behind the beer, I think.

It’s the American mindset of what beer is. I can down it. I can consume it. “Oh I drank a thirty pack today. I can drink a lot of beer, I’m tough.” It’s that kind of beer even though it is almost six percent.

Yeah, I guess I’m just trying to say it’s not necessarily a “crappy beer.” If it sells and you’re making it with the right intention –

It’s not a crappy beer. Go to Helles is very good. I really like it.

So if that’s where you need to go to keep everything successful …

If it’s selling. The second it’s not selling, it’s gone. That’s not true for all the beers. Like Locomotive, I’m brewing on Thursday and that will have been two months since I brewed it.

Yeah you really should not ever get rid of Locomotive. I might not ever come down here again.

It’s a fantastic beer. Stouts just – with every brewery they’re the slowest selling beer. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a phenomenal beer. Stouts just sell slowly. That’s all it is. I’ll never take it off tap. It’s a great beer.

So what’s the future for B3? What do you wanna do? Anything we haven t talked about yet?

That is yet to be seen. There’s one of two ways it’s going to go in the next few months. One’s good and one’s not so good.

 

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.

***

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.

_______

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

Brats & Beer Oktoberfest in Kingman

Brats & Beer Oktoberfest in Kingman

img_3811This year was the ninth Brats & Beer Oktoberfest in Kingman. It started on a Friday afternoon, October 7 and I arrived around 3:30, about half an hour after official start time. Not much was going on yet as I entered the gate. There were about fifteen booths compactly arranged and forming a corridor leading to the large tents where the food was served. A slight clearing in front of the food tents made a small cornhole game possible.

 

I stopped at the Smiley and Bee Enterprises table first. We talked honey (since that is their ware), mead, blindness and guide dog. The guide dog is the titular Smiley. It was a nice chat, good way to start the festival. Other booths featured a local writer, some key holders in the shape of classic cars, exotic healing stuff, kettle corn and Italian food. I purchased some pasta and sauce from them. On Saturday, the wife and I bought some of the kettle corn and it was superb. My son went with me on Friday and as we approached the food tent the band Push was wrapping up their set. They had a great sound, very tight, worked well with the crowd. They should be kept for future use.

img_3813img_3810But I was there for a little food and some beer. Therefore I ordered a bratwurst. It was pleasant, tender, not too strong, slight fennel in the aftertaste. It was topped with sauerkraut and mustard, but they did not overpower the sausage. It was paired with a schwarzbier from Black Bridge Brewery.  B3 was the sole beer vendor which was a brilliant decision and certainly made me enjoy this Oktoberfest much more this year. It was a much better choice than just serving boring national beers. The scwharzbier was dressed in a beautiful brown hue that was complimented by the sunlight. It had a medium body and absolutely nothing offensive or controversial, either via hops or malt or yeast. It is my definition of a session beer, an easy drinker. I feared then that it might cost me more money than usual. There was also an altbier on tap. It was a cousin to the schwarzbier, lighter in color, heavier in body and still tasty. Also being served was B3’s Octoberfest. Just. Great. I really don’t know how else to expound upon that beer. It’s Evil Red without the bad temper. Rive Ale, their IPA, was sold out by Saturday night.

If you can scrounge up a handful of friends, the Brats & Beer festival is a tranquil diversion. It would consist mostly of eating, drinking, chatting and listening to the band. It was pleasant. Now, from a younger viewpoint, my son did think it was a little boring – not much variety in the vendors, not much to look at. Nothing to make you want to stay. Interestingly, he also noted that it might be better with more beer, like out of town craft beer.
But, really, no complaints – it seemed well organized and controlled, it was a good addition for down town activities. Keep it up.img_3898

A Conversion, A Party, A Business – Part One of an Interview With Black Bridge Brewery’s Owner

A Conversion, A Party, A Business – Part One of an Interview With Black Bridge Brewery’s Owner

Early in October, Tim Schritter consented to be interviewed. Many of you out there may already know much of the story and many of the facts he related to me regarding himself and Black Bridge Brewery. It was all new to me and I thank him for the time he spent answering my questions.

This is just one segment of the interview, there will be more to come. Part one is a brief origin story of Tim as a brewer and Black Bridge Brewery as a business. Further segments will go over his beers and brewing philosophy, some distribution, and most importantly what each of us in Kingman can do to make it a success. As if you don’t know that bit already …

***

When did you start brewing and why?

I’ve told this story a million times, it should be easy … so, I was dating a girl and it became pretty serious and the way things happened it ended up we were going to have a kid. And her dad – who didn’t really know me or probably like me since I was dating his daughter; he only had two daughters, this is his oldest daughter, so this is his baby girl – called me up and invited me over to meet him and brew a beer and I thought, “well I like beer, I drink Keystone Light like it’s going outta style.”

Keystone? (slightly incredulous and appalled)

I was ‘Keystoned’, that’s what they nicknamed me. –

So I go down there – it’s just downtown here – and he’s got a little seven gallon aluminum kettle pot, like a turkey fryer, on a burner and he’s got extract syrup and probably an ounce of hops and some dry yeast and a bucket. So we’re boiling water, adding the syrup and we’re just talking about beer, and my lack of knowledge about beer, and he’s like “hey do you wanna beer?” and I was like, yeah I want a beer. I’m thinking it’s going to be like a Coors or a Budweiser or something. He breaks open a bottle of Stone’s Arrogant Bastard. I never had that before in my life. That was the worst [stuff] I’ve ever tasted. Ever. Period. Ever. Ever. It’s now in my top five, I love Arrogant Bastard and it has become a huge inspiration for something like Evil Red, for instance, that big malt, hop forward type of style.

So, we brew this beer, I drink the nastiest [stuff] I’d ever had. I went home later that night and I’m drinking a Keystone Light, sitting on the couch, and I’m like, I’m not tasting anything. And I’m really starting to not enjoy this and not know why. I don’t know if it’s a bad batch, the cans are bad, what? So I crack open another 12 pack and I open one and I just don’t like it anymore. Like, that immediately something switched. So two weeks later I go back to his house and bottle this off and I take half the bottles home and I let ‘em sit in my closet then I put them in my fridge – it was just an American wheat – and I cracked that first one open and, oh, it was so good. I was hooked. I can do this. I can brew. There is nothing to this. And there is a lot to this, but overnight I developed a knack and a severe passion for wanting to have great beer. I didn’t know what great beer was but I knew the [sub-par liquid] I was drinking was not it. All it was doing was making me pee a lot, there was no satisfaction out if it, it was wasting money, it sucked.

I took my skills of fabricating and I built me a little stand and I got me a little stainless kettle and a bucket and a fridge and some temp control and just a little bit at a time. I brewed two batches, extract, and I bottled both batches – and I immediately became tired of the hobby because I didn’t want to bottle anymore. I said, if I’m gonna do this I’m gonna keg and that’s when I met Jason Fuller. He gave me a Williams Brewing magazine and a Northern Brewer magazine and I started buying a couple of kegs and a draft system I built and I had two or three beers on tap and built me a bigger brew system, gravity fed, three tier. I went all grain after my second batch, well third batch technically, but the second I had done on my own, I went all grain. And I’m on system number five now. After ten years of brewing.

img_3323
What made you want to start a brewery, do it professionally?

It was a combination of things.

I had people come to my house, because in my garage I eventually set up this bar; I had my draft system, I had my ferment fridges, I had three TVs in my garage, it was insulated, it was climate controlled, it was like a bar.

My garage was a bar.

I never once parked my vehicle in the garage. I had people over all the time and they would just drink a beer and we’d watch sports; I had a grill and I’d cook food for people. It just became this thing, like, why don’t you do this, why don’t you start a brewery? I was always told, like, there’s no way you can do it. You’re never gonna make money. Turns out, they were actually very accurate. So, it was just a culmination of that.

And then, with the economy turning south my other business, that I still operate, it’s a demolition landfill, with a lack of construction comes a lack of demolition – which translates into a lack of funds for myself. I lost my house, both vehicles, I ended up living with my kids in my dad’s house, which is very humbling when you’re 28 years old. The only thing I really kept was my brew system and my stuff. And he’s got a big detached garage and so I started brewing there because I couldn’t find a job, I needed to do something. My other business was still operating enough to give me money. So I started brewing again and I put an open sign up out on the highway, it was on Hualapai Mountain Road, and people would just (say), “what’s this?” and they would pull in and it’s, oh, yeah, I make beer, try it out, it’s free, and they would leave tips. And it became this big following and every weekend it was this huge party at the Garage Days, which is what we called it, and I began to see a huge desire for craft beer in Kingman and there was no place to get it other than the few gas stations. There was no place for people to go sit down and have a variety of craft beer. So that’s when I said, you know, if the bank will give me a few dollars, I’m gonna do this. So I went and talked to the bank and I got a few dollars and I did it.

Who else is involved down here, is it just you?

I am the sole owner. Of course, my dad is around and he helps, and I’ve got Karry, and I’ve got a great crew. We all operate as one; no one here is above anyone else. There’s no boss. I mean, we joke; I call Lee “Mr Boss Man” and do the same thing to Karry. But as far as anything goes, we’re all the same. I guess, ultimately, the responsibility comes down on me.


So tell me this story: the Black Bridge name. I know it’s for a local landmark, but why is it signifies for you?

It’s a railroad bridge. If you go down 4th street,here, the second one (bridge) – there’s three – is THE Black Bridge.

In high school we had a few party spots; Black Bridge was the best because it was completely hidden, it was off the beaten path and yet you could get to it in a Honda Civic. You didn’t have to have a truck, like the other three places. So it was the most accessible for everyone to go party and have a good time at and it was completely hidden from the highway to where the the cops couldn’t see the bonfires and all the vehicles and everything. I didn’t know this at the time, but, for generations high school students have been going to Black Bridge. That bridge has been there since, I think, the ’10s or the ‘20s. It was there, you know, when the railroad came through and that’s what created Kingman. That bridge was there.

And then, coming up with a name for this place … “oh, that’s a great name,” I’d Google it – taken! I’d come up with another name, Google it, taken! I went months, looking for a name that wasn’t taken. Then something came up, “hey remember back in the days when we used to go down to Black Bridge.” So I Googled Black Bridge Brewery. There was Draw Bridge Brewery, but no Black Bridge Brewery, so I said that’s it and we got that name. And it made sense because it’s a local party spot, so now I feel like, in essence, I’m bringing a party to downtown in a legitimate business that generations of Kingmanites will recognize the name by and say, “okay, that’s what this is.”

I’ve thought about looking into that, about names and breweries, because I think some of the best ones are tied to something specific in a community.

There’s two trains of thought about that. If you want to start a brewery and someday have a goal of distributing nationally, well, you don’t want a local reference because no one across the state is going to understand that or know what it is. Think of Stone [Brewing]. Well, a stone is a rock and everywhere you go there’s a rock or a stone. So that doesn’t have a significance to one area, which is Escondido. If it was Escondido Brewing it wouldn’t make sense to sell it in Quahog, you know, Maryland. So Black Bridge is – and I’m not saying that my goals aren’t someday to be huge and be everywhere – but it’s very much a local landmark type thing. But I could always just rebrand to something else.

Black Bridge would work; even if went beyond local. It’s got a good cadence to it. Think about Russian River, that’s somewhat localized but people know it.

Russian River is also very, um, well known river as well.

Yeah, but it’s tied to a locale.

That also goes to show if you have lots and lots of money to develop a lot of products and have amazing labeling and marketing you can do anything, anywhere. I mean, there is literally a company that sells (poop) and you buy it and they’ll send it to someone you don’t like and they don’t know who it came from. It’s called poopsenders.com. I kid you not.

***

End of Part One

Next we’ll talk favorite beers and the singular quality of B3 beers.

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.

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.

By Any Other Name

How can I not be happy that the craft beer cosmos is expanding in Kingman? You’re right. I cannot.

So I am glad that the Kingman Club is becoming a craft beer bar.

I just wish it wasn’t plagued by a lack of creativity. House of Hops? Derivative. One dimensional. Should I have expected better? Maybe it should have been Mansion of Malt. Bivouacked Beer.

Whatever, I shall still visit. And mourn the lack of a proper name, a moniker that ties the establishment to its locality.

House of Hops … [insert head shaking]