Mohave County Beer Festival – Year Five

We arrived at Mohave Count Fairgrounds punctually.  The sun shades were placed on the dash and windows rolled down fractionally as our group debouched from the car.  The sun was far from shy on this hot Saturday afternoon.  With temperature was in the mid to low 90s we were anticipating a few hours of good beer.  It didn’t take long to present our admission tickets and get our sampling tickets and then we were inside the Fairgrounds for the fifth Mohave County Beer Festival.

There were six of us.  A variety of perspectives. A variety of tastes. Alas for you, readers, you only get mine.

My imbibing began at the Black Bridge booth. Because local.

Poppin’ Cherries. Black Bridge Brewery
This is Stout Chocula with cherry extract added.  It’s dark and, surprisingly, seemed undercarbonated.   A function of temp?  Ah, well, it did not adversely impact the beer.  The cherry flavor is not domineering making this a sessionable stout, I feel, that doesn’t completely fill you up.   I would be back to the B3 tent throughout the afternoon.

Cucumber Sour. 10 Barrel Brewing
10 Barrel had two beers available, both sours.  I am not sure what drew me to the cucumber rather than the raspberry.  The beer is like a vegan tart.  The cucumber flavor hits right away,  and then the sour chases it off like a jaded spouse.  It’s not picklish, as one might suspect (it’s a thought I harbored, briefly).  It’s a salad with an attitude. Very refreshing for the summer, actually.

Redlands Red. Hangar 24
It’s red. Dry and IPA like. Bready finish.

Mariner Double IPA. College Street
This was offered at the Rickety Cricket brewery’s booth.  It is another Kingman brewery due to open in the downtown area.  Alas, they had none of their own beers to sample.  The owner mentioned that they are heavily involved in construction.  Still, I would have liked to have tried their creations.  Beer first, I told him, everything else will follow.  But I understand they are busy.  Next year they should be there.

So, on to the Mariner … it is very, very, dry with a strong malt presence and no hops aroma evident.  Interesting for an IPA.  I was told there was apricot, but I believe a server was confused.  No apricot.  Tough beer.

Trip in the Woods. Sierra Nevada
Holy fantastic, Beerman.  So, this was not the usual Sierra Nevada conglomeration of hops.  The light brown body had caramel and vanilla from oak barrel aging.  Really good!  It’s nominated for Favorite Beer of Fest.

Breakside IPA. Breakside Brewery

Well done.  No fruit.  Straight, dankish IPA.

Peanut Butter Milk Stout. Belching Beaver
Not as weird as you might think upon first hearing the name. Peanut butter is evident but not dominant. Medium body. Worth a second round.  Nominee for Favorite Beer of Fest.

Sunbru.  Four Peaks
Kolsch.  Still good, but … AmBev.  Or AB Inbev.  Whatever that giant conglomerate is called.

Hollywood Blondie. Golden Road
Whoa.  Okay, I love Belgians (fine, their beer; I don’t personally know any Belgians).  But this version, this was hard.  Hard to drink.  It was like expired vinegar.  Old, wooden, musty, wrong.  I honestly could not drink the whole thing.

Selene Saison. Victory Brewing
Victory Brewing has been around the craft world for a while; I’ve heard the name and always associated it with good things.  They are now part of Artisanal Brewing Ventures.  So that’s private equity.  Kinda like what Dogfish Head is doing.  I do not know a great deal about the business structure but Selene Saison was utterly beautiful.  A dark, roasty saison with a little funk and a little smoke. That heavily roasted characters wraps around the rye it seems and gives it a bacon characteristic.  I don’t even like rye.  But I do for this beer.  Another nomination for Favorite Beer of Fest.

Tart Ten was another offering from Victory and it was good and all, but no Selene.

What else can be said about this year’s beer festival?  It had better music.  The Swillers were the featured band.  They have good energy and play the crowd really well. Good range of music. Their interpretations are fast and eclectic and approachable. Gotta love it.  The food was meh.  There is a lot of opportunity to improve in the food vendor arena.

It didn’t seem as populated this year, either, and last year I noted that the crowd was down from the previous year. I have no statistics to bear this out, just my impressions. I now want said stats since that seems to be a bad trend. It wasa fairly quiet crowd that did not ebb and flow in noise and population as last year.

Also, aside from the Black Bridge group it didn’t seem that there were any other brewers on site.  It was all just volunteers from the area serving bottled or canned offerings.  No kegs, no cool side-of-the-booth chinwags with other brewers.  Seems like a bad trend.

Well, anyway … here’s what everyone’s been waiting for … Bottled Roger’s Favorite Beer of Fest …

Let’s recap the nominees:

  • Trip In the Woods
  • Peanut Butter Milk Stout
  • Selene Saison

The clear and unequivocal winner was … Selene Saison.

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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

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

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. 

 

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.