Arizona Beer Week, You're Breaking Our Little Craft Beer Hearts

Categories: Art Burn, News
We got word that Arizona was going to get its very own beer week back in November and we have been giddy ever since. More than just a one-day beer festival, we would finally join the ranks of real cities and get a whole glorious week!

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But when we heard there were going to be at least 150 different events around the state, our first thought was, Why so many? Do we really need that many events? 

Then again, the little beer guzzler on our shoulder slurred, it's a statewide event -- so maybe we do need that many events.

Shortly after that, our imaginations took hold and we were transported to a land of exotic breweries in far away lands such as Michigan, and the East Coast, sipping on samples of their fragrant brews and having lengthy conversations with the saints that made them about rare homegrown hop strains and oak-aged barrels.

That dream quickly came to an end when we saw that Four Peaks Brewery dominates the schedule of "events". Not just dominates -- overwhelms. Drowns.


Our list includes 148 event listings, a whopping 55 of which happened to be Four Peak Brewery-related, with Whole Foods beer tastings coming in second (13) and SanTan and SunUp tied for third (10 each). How much of a "beer week" is it when the usual suspects (and a grocery store chain!!!!) make up so much of the content?

Maybe we misunderstood. Is this a week to celebrate beer or a week to celebrate local Arizona beer? We were under the impression it was suppose to be a little of both.       

A chunk of these so called "events" amount to little more than discounts at watering holes we've never heard of. 

We were more than a little disappointed. We were heartbroken. We can drink Four Peaks any day of the week and to tell you the truth, after years of drinking the stuff, we're kinda bored. Pretty much every establishment around here that serves beer has at least one or theirs on tap. We're surprised you can't get a Kiltlifter with a Big Mac these days.

We are also a disappointed in the list of national breweries that are participating. All but 4 of the 22 participating brew companies are from outside of Arizona, California, or Colorado..... Alaskan, Big Sky, Bells and Schmaltz. Sorry guys, but it's not a very exciting line up.

Where are the Oregon brews? Not a single Rogue tasting? No Deshutes? And what about New Belgium? It seems as though we should have seen a bigger presence from the Tour de Fat folks. Even more important..... Where are the imports? Is beer week only for American beers? We're all about local, but we've heard Belgium make a couple really tasty beers.

Don't even get us started regarding the fact that Arizona Beer Week is now backed by our lovely governor, Jan (heh heh, yeah that's her real name) Brewer.

As heartbroken as we are, we are not the type to look a gift horse in the mouth. We will celebrate Arizona Beer Week like no beer week has ever been celebrated before. We will enjoy all of the local beer we can, savor every delicious sample we can get our hands on, embrace the hangover, and pray to the beer gods to help us muster up the strength to do it all over again the next day.

Arizona Beer Week kicks off this Saturday with the 11th Annual Strong Beer Festival at Indian School Park and continues throughout the week with various events around the State. Click here for the official Beer Week website.
   



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28 comments
David Bickford
David Bickford

It took a while for me to figure out what really bothers me about this post. Of course, there's the negativity about Arizona Beer Week and the role that Four Peaks is playing in it. Others who are involved in planning the events and who know way more about beer than I have done a good job of presenting their points of view, so it's pointless for me to get in the middle of that argument.

The issue I have is the excessive use of "we," "us," and "our" in this post and many other Chow Bella posts, especially those not written by Michele Laudig. Yes, I know that this is sometimes done on multi-author blogs, but the style seems out of place here. This post is one author's opinion about Arizona Beer Week, but all the first person plural pronouns make it sound like either a pretentious use of the royal "we" or the official opinion of the New Times. I hope it's neither.

ron k
ron k

Yes, you can drink Four Peaks beers anyday of the week, perhaps not normally at all the locations that are doing all those Four Peaks events though. Four Peaks will also be showcasing some of the specialty brews such as the Barrel aged Belgian throughout the week at the brewery and at other locations. Just because they are doing a great job at promoting their beer is not really a reason to attack them IMHO.

It's a shame the writer didn't compare AZ Beer Week inaugral year to the inaugaral years of other beer weeks. The line-up of events for a first year event is actually quite good. Some of the highlights include visits by the owners of Sierra Nevada, Anderson Valley, Redstone Meadery and ODells Brewing. There are a number of beer dinners as well as beer breakfasts with the Beer for Brains Epicuriad event being one of the highlights.

As to certain breweries like Rogue or Deschutes not participating that falls on both the local distributor and the brewery combined as to if they choose to participate and have special events. FYI Descutes is participating in the Strong Beer Festival. The event organizers cannot force someone to promote their product. If the Beer Week is the succes that I think it will I am sure those companies will want to get on board next year by participating in more events.

It should be a great week, rain or shine.

Barry
Barry

Bashing Four Peaks, the states largest brewery for having the most events at the most places is lame. Looking through the daily lists on the azbeerweek.com website there are more events to go to than most people can handle. Yes I will submit that some of Four Peaks so called events are weak but at least these bars that you say no one has heard of are getting on board the craft beer movement in their own way.

There are beer and food events daily at multiple locations with multiple breweries participating. Some of the beer and food events look quite spectacular such as the Epicuriad event or the dinners at Four Peaks, San Tan, or the ones at Atlas Bistro on different days. The article mentioned New Belgium, well they are having an event at Papago Brewing with some of their special sour beers you never see on tap in Arizona. I think Papago is doing many events that are quite unique, in addition to the sour beers of New Belgium they are having a barrel aged beer night, doing a vegetarian dinner at Atlas Bistro, bringing in Doug Odell of Odells Brewing and even doing a beer ice cream event where people can bring their kids in for Root Beer Floats and pretty much have something unique going everyday. You certainly can't call any of them lame events.. Sun Up Brewing is doing a beer breakfast and releasing some beers that sound incredible. San Tan has many things going on such as dinners and a homebrew gathering. Nello's is hosting Ken Grossman, the founder of Sierra Nevada, that certainly isn't lame.

Oh, and don't forget the events in Flagstaff, Sedona, Prescott or Tucson. Including the ending beer week beer festival at Barrio Brewing.

Louis
Louis

We at the Beer for Brains Foundation have two events that are a bit different them most of the events for AZ beer week. Our Epicuriad pits Az beer Vs Az wine and we have 10 top chefs cooking. So you vote did the beer or wine pair better and you vote what chef did the best pairing. We also have a strong ale dinner with 8 out of state strong beers. So I think for a first AZ beer week there is something for everyone. Live and learn!

Jon Badalamenti
Jon Badalamenti

I couldn't agree more with Matt and Chuck, and I will simply second all of their comments.

I would add that I think all of us should tip our hats to those working tirelessly to pull off such a coordinated and unprecedented series of beer-related events in the state. I've been drooling in anticipation for weeks now.

Arizona (and Phoenix, in particular) doesn't typically jump to one's mind as a mecca of culture, but large efforts like Arizona Beer Week are going to help put us on the map. I'm originally from Philly, arguably one of the best beer cities in the country. When it comes to beer, Phoenix unfortunately is no Philly (...yet--sorry to break it to everyone), but Arizona is finally getting a long overdue 4-oz. tasting sampler of legitimate beer culture thanks to the dedicated crop of commercial and home brewers and beer enthusiasts who are putting blood, sweat, and hops into getting Beer Week off the ground. I couldn't be more excited for it--even for those infuriatingly uninspiring Four Peaks events. (Man, our beer scene would be SO MUCH BETTER! if Four Peaks didn't exist. Right.)

This upcoming week is about celebrating craft beer--regardless of its origin--and there are events suited for everyone. I'd encourage throrough evaluation before preemptive criticism. As for me, you might spot me visiting my favorite local watering holes next week for a few discounted pints of Arizona's finest suds--but watch out, you might find me yawning out of boredom.

Beer culture in Arizona may have a long way to go, but looking at the slate of events coming up for Beer Week, it sure could be a hell of a lot worse.

olllllo
olllllo

Chuck and Matt nailed it.Four Peaks has at least 8 one-off or vintage beers pouring during the week. NOBODY has had their Barrel Aged Belgian (outside of the brewers themselves).

Chuck could have gone into detail about the Whole Foods Flemish Sour Beer Blending where they will blend 2 barreled beers IN THE STORE! I've been in the beer scene a long time and have gone to pro and home brew conferences and have never had that opportunity.

There are appearances by David Meyers of Redstone, Ken Grossman, Doug Odell...

I'm still trying to figure out how to be in 3 places at once.

If anyone needs help navigating the week, ASH - the Arizona Society of Homebrewers will have a booth set up at Strong Beer Fest (easily a top 10 beer event in the nation) on Saturday.

I published a guide for non-beer drinkers at Strong Beer Fest at BeerPHXation.com

To the Tucson commenter... Go to the THC event. In that homebrew club there will be past, present and future brewery industry people. There are perhaps 3 breweries in planning in your city and that group has information on how you can create a better beer scene.

Andrew Kno
Andrew Kno

Remember that it's the inaugural event - sure, there's lots of room for improvement, but there's also a lot of really cool events that I'm looking forward to.

Four Peaks is taking the lead on this - and frankly, if a few more Arizonans try Four Peaks and really enjoy it, we all win. This is an opportunity to advance the appreciation of beer, and I for one am stoked about it.

Annoyed Reader
Annoyed Reader

Yeah, see, I kind of figured that "Arizona Beer Week" would indeed point the spotlight towards *Arizona* beers most of all. It seems pretty silly to complain about all of the beers you want but can't get here -- you just have to realize that it's the same everywhere you go. Every city/state has a different mix of beer and breweries available, so while you can look at the inaugural AZ Beer Week as a failure because of all the things you can't get, other people are going to have a good time enjoying all of the beers that are here. Especially the local ones..

Chuck Noll
Chuck Noll

First off, given Four Peaks size and their reputation it is only natural that they would be a dominant force during any celebration of craft beer held in Arizona...oh and they make pretty good beer too. That said, I see events going on from SanTan, Sonoran, Sun Up, Papago, Lumberyard and at least five or six other local breweries going on. Part of the purpose of this week is to expose people to craft beer. Especially those who might not otherwise try it. That would account for some of the events that you describe as "discounts at watering holes we've never heard of." Just because you haven't heard of them, doesn't mean that the people that go there shouldn't have an opportunity to try some good beer at a reduced price. Discounting and Happy Hour events should comprise a portion of these events, although I will grant you that the way the calendar is set up on the Beer Week web site makes it very difficult to look beyond those events.

Locals should and do make up a good portion of the events. How about a SanTan and Ska Brews Cruise on Sunday afternoon, starting at SanTan in Chandler and riding to four local accounts for a leisurely beer; how about SanTan and Left Hand combining at Flanny's to do some beer blending; how about Sonoran offering a special evening at The Main Ingredient; or Papago doing a beer and cheese pairing at Cheuvront and a vegetarian beer dinner at Atlas Bistro; and Sun Up Brewing tapping a special cask of IPA daily and another special beer nightly? There are plenty more as well.

I can't explain the lack of presence from Rogue and Deschutes, although given that the former was called a "California based brewery" in the local large newspaper, when as you correctly point out they are from Oregon, they may not be as well known here as they should be. New Belgium does have an event on Thursday at Papago Brewing where they will be breaking out some special kegs including La Folie.

Imports are represented in the mix, and amazingly well. Global Imports (importers of Gulden Draak, Piraat, Bavik and Wittekerke) will have a representave in the market all week conducting tasting events at places like Hungry Monk, Handlebar Pub, Sun Devil, Tops and yes, Whole Foods (stick a pin in that one, I'll circle back). They have sent kegs of two new to Arizona draft products. Troubadour Magma, an award winning beer produced by a small Belgian brewery, and the ultra-rare Petrus Aged Pale, of which this event received a large portion of the kegs available in this country. Artisanal Imports will also be on hand with three special events, a re-introduction of their Trappist line now called La Trappe in the U.S. as it is everywhere else. They had been unable to use that name for years due to copyright issues which have now been resolved. This will be at Lost Leaf Gallery (a very nice craft and import location). They will also have a portfolio tasting on Thursday night out in Goodyear at Ground Control. Ground Control has become a beacon of good beer in the West Valley. They will also have their crowning moment of the week at Whole Foods (there it is again) in Chandler when they offer a Flemish Sour Blending Seminar. They have kegs of both young and old beers on hand, will discuss the blending process and then blend some of the beer for sampling...this Wednesday event is one that true beer lovers should not miss.

Whole Foods seems to be a major issue. Are you aware that the Whole Foods in Chandler on Ray Road has 29 taps and always has craft or import beer on all of them? Are you aware that they are one of the most respected craft beer bars in the state? Are you aware that they have approximately 55 feet (by five shelves high) of cooler space devoted to beer, most of it craft and specialty import? Are you aware that they are one of the only locations in the state that have offered vintage beers that have been properly cellared for two to four years and are just coming in to the peak of their flavor? Didn't think so. You can not begrudge them for offering two events nightly during this special week.

What's the matter with Alaskan, Big Sky, Bells and Shmaltz? Each of them have sent special products out for events. In addition to conducting four or five beer dinners around town that week, Alaskan has sent in aged bottles of their Smoked Porter...the same one that consistently wins medals for aged beer...to conduct a vertical tasting Friday at Taste of Tops. Big Sky has sent in several special kegs for the Strong Beer Festival, a Papago Event and a Taste of Tops event; and they are sending their brewer, Matt Long, down as well. Bell's has gone all out also. They have sent kegs of Harry MaGills Spiced Stout, Golden Rye, Expedition and Third Coast Old Ale (and a couple of others) for events and beer dinners at Atlas Bistro, Boulders on Broadway and Hungry Monk. They are also sending head sales honcho, and Larry Bell's right hand man, Marty Compton in to town for a few days. Shmaltz has also sent in a few special kegs for events at many locations.

There is a major beer and food and wine event going on at Firesky Resort on Friday of Beer Week. Called Epicuriad, it is being put on by The Beer For Brains Foundation to benefit Brain Cancer research. This event features 10 top local chefs including Beau MacMillan and Aaron May each preparing a dish designed to pair with an assigned Arizona beer and wine. Truly an exciting event.

There are many more events and breweries such as Ska, Breckenridge and Ballast Point will all have people in town that week, and are all offering up outstanding beers either at the Strong Beer Festival or around town that week.

As noted earlier, the Beer Week web site is cumbersome to navigate and find the truly special events. I would suggest that you check out the World Class Beverages Arizona web site or Facebook page (www.worldclassbeverages.com or www.facebook.com/WorldClassBee... for a slightly easier to read format of many of these events. Since we don't carry Four Peaks (although by all means attend a couple of their events, great people making great beer and supporting the beer community) you won't have to weed through their events, although you will find SanTan, Sun Up, and Whole Foods. Hopefully you now understand why their events are vital to the success of Beer Week.

I have plans to hit many of these events during the week, I'll be happy to meet you at one or more to enjoy a beer and talk more about how this week of magic is much better than you are anticipating. Sorry for being long winded, but I felt your concerns needed to be fully addressed.

Beer Week is just about here, so let's enjoy it properly (and responsibly) and be thankful that our craft beer culture is moving in such a positive direction.

Milkshake
Milkshake

WOW!!! A Big Mac and Kilt lifter that’s great idea, I can’t wait to try it. AZ Beer week is excellent time to enjoy some local craft beers. I don’t understand why you are beating up on Four Peaks? I bet you went to a Starbucks this morning? They are on every corner. So when is consistency, being popular and having a great product a bad thing? So Four Peaks should be criticized if they have a product that people embrace and enjoy? They also take pride and have the knowledge to make a world class product and have it enjoyed throughout Arizona. Thats bad? Yes we live in America and you have the right to free press but using misleading information and not knowing what you are talking about is bad. Don’t tell me you get your tasting note from Beer Advocate? Correct me if I’m wrong but we should be embracing a business that is doing well and is an Arizona based business? So with that being said my advice go enjoy a Local craft beer this week. Go try a craft beer a great bar or restaurant and you be the judge. Cheers!

Jeremiah Kaya
Jeremiah Kaya

There are some cool events out there for us homebrewers and they may include some of the big names, but I like to think of it as a rally for Arizona craft beer. Maybe I'm naive, but I'm excited to taste my own and everyone else's AZ Double Red. I plan to stay away from the mainstream events and hit the more craft specific events. Who knows, maybe I'll learn something that will make me a better homebrewer or a more educated beer drinker.

Matt Diamond
Matt Diamond

Oh, almost forgot, except for you Michele! You're the BEST! Love your writing, but some of these kids and their anti-downtown, anti-good beer, etc.......had to speak on it!

Joe
Joe

1- Have a Bell's Two-Hearted and one of Schmaltz's Rye beers and then tell me how un-excited you are about those two. I'll at least get a good laugh out of it.2- Yes, it would be great to see more variety in what's presented at the events.3- Appreciate what you've got Phoenix. Maybe I missed something among all those events, but it looked like Tucson has only THREE things listed ($3 pints at The Hut aren't an "event," it's a happy hour), one with little known Barrio Brewing, one from it's own homebrew club, and a Redstone Mead tasting. A sad showing from my fine city indeed, but I will do as you northerners and celebrate as best I can ;)

Matt Diamond
Matt Diamond

Wow, this again. While I do agree with you that the more breweries participating in events statewide the better, this anti-Four Peaks sentiment that I've come across fairly often, I find to be mis-informed. Of course it is your OPINION, I get that, but why are New Times writers so overwhelmingly negative & cynical? Maybe it's an age thing? An occupational thing? That's my opinion I guess. Four Peaks is arguably one of the greatest craft breweries in the United States. Reference this one example from about a year ago: http://www.askmen.com/fine_liv... . You mention Kiltlifter right away, as most who are of your opinion do. Agreed, it IS out there, but shouldn't we be happy for what I consider to be a local treasure of a brewery's success instead of hating on them? Do you come across their Raj IPA, Hefe, Hop Knot, their killer seasonals everywhere? Are you bored of their Stout, their Double Red, or their Motley Bru? If you don't like it, don't drink it, but before you try to sway the public's opinion, you should call up the brewery & ask them for a tour of the facility & see for yourself how much passion, money, technology, & pure love that these people have invested in making some of this country's best beer.

Roger
Roger

True that. I'ma bit disappointed myself.

Matt Diamond
Matt Diamond

David, you are the MAN! If anyone "nails" the comment section on Chow Bella just about every time, it's you. As I've stated in just about every comment that I've made, I GET that it's an opinion, but it really does make the reader question why New Times doesn't have some editor-type at least proof this stuff before it goes out to the masses. As soon as I read this piece, I knew we were in for a long thread of comments, because beer is at the top of the list of things that invoke passion in people! Ms. Armour succeeded in that sense whether intentional or not. If we all continue this discussion, we will be in Crazy Amy territory before we know it! How many comments were there? 400? 500? Now THAT was entertaining!

chaoduyu520
chaoduyu520

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Mister DaH
Mister DaH

How do I re-tweet Chuck's Comments without the article? I love the Chow-Bella blog and I think there are some valid points. People- remember, this is the first AZ beer week and it's only going to get bigger and better from here. If there were 5 BIG events, people would complain that it's a lame beer week. Having the owner of Sierra Nevada at Nello's in Ahwatukee may not seem like a "destination event" to some people, but for fans of Sierra, and many beer lovers in general, it's great that he has taken the time to come to a little place in Arizona and spend time with the fans.

I say the pint is half full!

(oh man, that was bad...)

Shannon Armour
Shannon Armour

Actually I don't think I was beating up on Four Peaks at all. Their beer is everywhere, good for them they make good beer and have for years.. My point is that you can get Four Peaks beer whenever you want and they always have events going on. I was just hoping that there would be more of a variety, that's all. I know that Four Peaks and their Reps works really hard to make these events happen but it would have been nice to see a little bit more of a presence from some other breweries.

Michele Laudig
Michele Laudig

Hey Matt, thanks for the shout out! You took me by surprise as I was reading these comments. Cheers!

Michael Lopez
Michael Lopez

Four Peaks is arguably one of the greatest craft breweries in the United States? You need to get out more. Take a trip to Oregon - or even Colorado for that matter.

They make good beer, but a lot of their secondary beers (non-Kiltlifter or 8th St.) could be so much better. Every decent-sized craft brewery puts "passion, money, technology and pure love" in their beer. Every single one.

Shannon Armour
Shannon Armour

First off, this is not bashing Four Peaks. I drink their beer quite frequently and have been for 10+ years. That being said, it would be nice to see some other breweries since there is no shortage of Four Peaks events throughout the year. I know that the folks over there work extremely hard and I wish them all the success in the world. I am not trying to "sway the public's opinion" I just didn't know they were going to dominate Beer Week. Good for them as a company, bad for us beer drinkers that drink Four Peaks all the time because it IS the most available local beer.

Amy Silverman
Amy Silverman

the cool thing, matt, is that shannon has the right to share her opinion -- and so do you! and you have some very good and insightful things to say. i'm glad you took the time to say them.

really, you think chow bella is overwhelmingly negative? do you read it on a regular basis?

Chuck Noll
Chuck Noll

Shannon - I understand your point about the ready availability of Four Peaks, but have you seen some of the special events and beers they are pouring? Sometimes we take a brewery llike that for granted until we try something different from them. Of course, given their relative size in the market, they should dominate.

I still submit that there are more than enough specialty events going on that don't feature Four Peaks or has them as part of a larger event, such as Epicuriad. At World Class Beverages, we are conducting over 80 events at 30 different accounts featuring 17 different brewery or importer representatives. Of these, only 19 are traditional pint night type promos. 25 of these are tasting events involving several different beers and the remaining events would fall in to special events. That's over 35 different beer dinners, or other events featuring something unique. Most of the promos and tastings we are conducting will feature some rare beers.

All in all, this is a championship effort by Arizona Brewers Guild and others responsible for scheduling these events. Clearly there are glitches, most of which revolve around publicizing the truly special events properly. But this is year one and things will get better. By the way, Philly Beer Week features over 100 events daily and I guarantee you there are a few clunkers in there.

Stugdum
Stugdum

Mr. Lopez, I get out plenty. Thank you for your concern for my social life though! I have literally travelled the planet touring breweries & tasting their beer. Vienna, Portland, South Australia, & Sonoma/Russian River Valley are some of the cities/ regions that popped in my head right away as memorable experiences. I stand by what I said about 4 Peaks as some of the best beer I've had, EVER. Thank you for commenting- this has been fun!

olllllo
olllllo

Good. As long as we are answering questions, I'd like to know where you are drinking these "all the time" from Four Peaks.

# 2007 and 2008 Hopsquatch Barleywine# Aged Double Knot# 2 year old Barrel Aged Belgian Black# Motley Brew# Aged Russian Imperial Stout aka Sirius Black# Aged Strong Scotch Ale# AZBW Double Red

Each of the local breweries in the guild submitted their own events and they roughly approximate the breweries size (in barrelage available from the BA if you want to look it up), and resources. A smaller newer brewery shouldn't be expected to have multiple events in one day, a larger one can.

Here, someone did their research and identified 10 things to do and Four Peaks was only mentioned once: http://mouthbysouthwest.com/20...

Matt Diamond
Matt Diamond

Regularly indeed Amy. Not just Chow Bella, but I read New Times overall. I GET that alternative weeklies are supposed to be the rebel voice (let's all bust out our requisite Che Guevarra T's). Trust me, I read 'em from C-Town to Tinsletown. Much of your own work I enjoy & read on a regular basis. I have noticed, though, that some things that are written by contributors & staff seem to generalize, in a negative light, certain subjects. Examples include, and of course I'm paraphrasing: all downtown restaurants are closing or are in danger of closing, downtown sucks because Cityscape is perceived by New Times to be a piece of shit. (another Arizona Center?!) Probably, but THAT"S THEM, they don't represent all of downtown or really any of Phoenix. This stuff about the Strong Ale festival being weak.....really? Go to their website and examine the lineup of breweries that will be represented in the valley over the next 3-10 days. Shockingly good for a beer lover. I won't discuss specifics on too many other subjects since most concern religion and/or politics & I AM in a bar. Just adding fodder to the sawmill, that's all. Fuck, I'm reading & writing, so nicely done! Peace.

Tom  Alan
Tom Alan

yay for the home town favorites but Four Peaks best in the country come on. I think you may be swayed by proximity or you relationship in or around the brewery.

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