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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New Brewery Coming to Lake Havasu

Last week I was able to attend the Made in the Shade beer festival in Flagstaff, AZ. As usual, it was a pleasant three hours of sampling beers. Two things came out of the visit:

1. To the organizers of the festival:  Please reconsider using GringoDillas food truck for next year’s festival.  The food was adequate, but they were either totally unprepared or woefully disorganized. A thirty minute wait for a Chicago dog is unnecessary.

2. Hangar 24 is a craft brewery in Redlands, CA.  They are planning on opening a brewery in Lake Havasu City by July 4 this year.  I first came across Hangar 24 in Boulder, NV at that city’s beer festival earlier this year.  They were also at Kingman’s fourth annual beer fest. Brewery owner Ben Cook has been brewing for about six years, according to their website.  According to the staff at the beer tents, the brewery has been open for about eight years and is independently owned.  They plan on opening near the airport in Havasu which harmonizes with their aviation motif. Maybe they’ll think of Kingman at some point, since aviation is a big part of Kingman economy, according to our recent general plan.  Their beers were enjoyable; I tried their Orange Wheat in Boulder and Wheels Up, a Helles Lager, in Flagstaff.  Nice work.

Good beer continues to arrive in Mohave County.  Can’t be upset about that.  Cheers!

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.