Made In the Shade Beer Festival

The wife and I arrived around noon at the Cocnino Fairgrounds in Flagstaff, AZ. It was June 22nd, a clear, warm, sunny day in Flagstaff, with a few gusts of wind – the same gusts that have been plaguing us here in Kingman. I was distressed that they followed us to our getaway. We checked in and stood around for an hour waiting for the gates to open, watching the crowd pour in and mingle like CO2 bubbles in a pint glass, smelling ribs and pulled pork being prepped. A few tents were visible from our vantage; New Belgium, Lagunitas, Four Peaks. I was antsy, ready to spend our 48 tickets and fill our 4 oz tasting cups at the Made in the Shade beer festival.

When the gates did open the crowd filed in deliberately, politely, in subdued anticipation. I kept looking for the namesake shade. It only existed under some canopies in less than strategic spots. Outside of that you were the sun’s fair game. But, whatever,there was beer everywhere.

At first I planned on making a circuitous route starting at the first station, which happened to be Four Peaks, and finishing at Lagunitas, which was the closest to the gates. I quickly discovered that there was way more beer there than even I, The Rog, could drink. So the strategy changed to finding the beers and breweries I had never sampled. I had also planned on taking tasting notes for each beer. While I did have a pen and notecards it was difficult to write while holding a beer cup and tickets. So what follows are just a few, brief highlights of my favorites.

Desert Eagle – Mesa, Arizona
A this tent I sampled Red Mountain Ale. It looked dark for a red and was very malty – like Whoppers, the candy. Strangely thick and chocolatey for a red. They did have a cool Arizona Craft Beer Road Map which lists a variety of breweries in Arizona. Good job for promoting beer!

Wanderlust – Flagstaff, Arizona
Love the breweries in Flag! Their Pan American Stout was awesome! Burnt wood, charred vanilla, one of the best stouts ever. I could have spent the entire festival drinking this. Another offering was Chateau Americana.  It is a corrupted Belgian, with hops, but still good – a little clean but some Belgian character under that pale al.

Goose Island – Chicago, IL
Yes, they were recently bought out by the evil corporate Budweiser thing. I couldn’t help myself.  The first beer I sampled was Sofie Paradisi.  It had an incredible citrus flavor.  It was four ounces of summer, like being poolside, sweltering, but enjoying every minute of the scenery and the sounds.  Then, at 2 pm they tapped Bourbon County Stout.  There’s no hint of bourbon flavor in this stout.  No, the bourbon is about all you notice, it just knocks you out.  My wife loved Sofie and the first things she said about this stout was, “Where’s the pancakes?”  Yeah, some intense sweetness in that thing.

Pints – Laughlin, Nevada
Formerly home of the Boiler Room, a brewery dear to my heart, Pints is relatively close to us. I haven’t had the heart to go sample it since the former brewery closed.  The Boiler Room took lots of my money and lots of my weekend time years ago; they had a gorgeous red for which my friends and I were insatiable.  So I was actually happy to have a chance to try their beers.  The American hefeweizen was dry, too dry.   The appearance was right but the taste left something to be desired. But man can that place make a red.  Pints offers Rehab Red a finely balanced, glistening delight.  It doesn’t match the memory of the old red, but it might be worth another trip.

Bad Water – Scottsdale, Arizona
These guys seemed a little sure of themselves – but they are from Scottsdale!  They have only one beer, which isn’t a bad way to start, I guess.  Work it to perfection.  Their experiment is a saison. I love that style so was anxious to try this one.  It seemed a little weak, kind of watery, not enough farmy spice and tang. But keep brewing!  I’ll keep tasting!

Sierra Nevada – Chico, California
I can’t stop myself from going to their tent. I know their beers, their style.  Just can’t stop.  So I tried Bigfoot again. My craft beer geek side says like it because it’s touted as the ‘greatest American barleywine’ – but I can’t.  The hops are just too much.  It’s a harsh, overstated beer.  That being said, at 2:30 I stood in line for the tapping of Hoptimum. Oh, you don’t think they had enough hops in Bigfoot and all their other beers? Well, this one makes up for it.  Monster.

We also chatted for a bit with the owners and operators of a pending brewery, Mother Bunch Brew.  Their brewery isn’t open yet (neither is the website) but they hope to be running about this time next year in Phoenix.  Hope all goes well for them – I’ll be looking for their beers at the next beer fest.

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The Session #69 – The Perfect Beer World

And now for this month’s Session.

This month it is from Jorge at Brew Beer And Drink It.  I’ll say it now – rock on, Jorge.  There are two reasons for this:  Uno) Jorge lives in Arizona (right on, Jorge); Dos) Jorge has a straightforward, western, to the point, no beating-around-the-bush, call a spade a spade, etc., name for his blog (right on, Jorge); Tres) – oh, right, I said two reasons, yes, my bad.

Anyway, Jorge presented this theme:

 … what is something you would like to see change… something that will take us closer to the Perfect Beer World?

It’s so simple that it pains me to make the obvious statement.  The Beer World shall indeed be perfect whence-forth it has accepted me as its rightful King.

Until then, I suppose there could be some other changes.  I shall try to conceive of them.  Well, at least think of them.  Ah, wait, here they are, approaching me as vassals should, with their knees bent, beating themselves upon the head, desiring to kiss my awesome Ring of Power. ( isn’t it awesome, it opens beer bottles, you see.)  They quietly and respectfully tell me the things that the World of Beer must know and alter so that it may live on to times indefinite …

FIRST AND FOREMOST
American craft brewers, please, stop with your incessant belief that hops is the greatest beer ingredient since the Egyptians started fermenting whatever they fermented and called it beer!  I mean, really!  Let me illustrate with some imaginary dialogue between a producer of fine beer (Brewer) and a consumer of this fine beer (Drinker).

“Behold,” says Brewer and he holds forth his newest libation, a glistening copper nectar. 

“Oh, lovely, what is it?” says Drinker, appreciator of all that is sacred and beery.  “What makes it utterly unbelievable and greater than all other beers?”

“I put hops in it,” says Brewer. 

A record scratching sound imposes itself into the conversation.  “What the …” says Drinker.  “You mean like Joe across the street?”

Brewer smiles a smile of smugness.  “Nay, Little Joe put in his amber beer only a couple of ounces of hops.  I, I have put seven hundred and eighty five ounces of hops in my three gallon pilot brew.  I shall make hop farmers wealthy land barons!”

Drinker rolls his eyes.  “Whatever, Bill put 784 ounces in his.”

Stop it.

SECOND AND SECONDMOST
There can be a separation of alcohol worlds.  It’s okay.  What do I mean by this?

Stop being such snobs!  Brewers and beer judges are starting to sound like uppity wine people, blabbing on about the age of their barrels and the vanilla bouquet of [insert French sounding words here] and going all geeky about how the cuvee de amber of what’s-his-name just sublimely complements the current of currants in a grease braised country fried steak.  Whatever.

Granted, the tastes and flavors of beer are sophisticated and generous, as much or more so than wine.  But that does not mean beer people should try to be, well, see above.  Come on.  Beer is the ultimate social drink.  Sharing a beer with someone puts each drinker on the same playing field – just another human enjoying humanity’s greatest beverage with another human.  Open, honesty, happy – that’s beer.  So act that way!

ONE LAST ITEM OF NOTE
Wouldn’t be great if beer was free?

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Yes, It’s Called Witless

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I love Mothership Wit and Hoegaarden and, especially, a local brewery’s wit beer called Full Moon.
So I did my best to make a wit.  All right, not my best.  It was just a general attempt to make a Belgian-y quasi-wit.
Homebrewing is all about enjoying beer.

As you can see Witless is considerably darker than many wits.  It has grown even darker as it’s aged, transforming from orange/brown to copper/brown.

You may have surmised from an earlier post that I am not overly fond of hops.  Thus, unsurprisingly their aroma cannot be found in my beer.  A tart bready smell is there.

It has more apple than citrus.  The house got a little hot during ferment.  It was June in Arizona and I’m trying to save a little money.  It doesn’t taste bad, though.  It has some other fruit overtones that I can’t place.

It’s a little over 5% abv which isn’t too bad.  Witless is mine and I like it.  It grows a little sour and I don’t mind that at all.  Makes it more Belgian-y.