We’re beer snobs…err…reviewers now, right? And as beer house reviewers, if there’s a festival that has 61 breweries participating in an outdoor event on a warm and sunny December day in downtown Phoenix, well I suppose it’s just our awful and terrible duty to find a way to cover it, right? Right. Right as shit.
The Phoenix Invitational Brewers Festival (PHX BrewFest) took place on December 7th and 8th in Heritage Square in Phoenix. Organized by Greg Fretz of the Phoenix Ale Brewery (and namesake of Fretzy’s Unfiltered Ale), it was a weekend scheduled specifically for craft brew enthusiasts. We wanted to check out both Friday and Saturday but we had a rather large prior engagement to attend to on Friday. As well, Tyler was extremely under the weather basically since the last time the Cardinals won a game so it was up to me to suffer through this terrible task of drinking delicious beer on a gorgeous day.
Being relatively unprepared for this event (we honestly didn’t even plan to cover it until the very last minute), the pictures and notes I have are mostly scattered and as you can imagine would be the case with a beer festival, the later the day got, the more scattered my thoughts got.
What I’m saying is that I got very very drunk, if you’re not good at catching hints.
The selection of brewers was absolutely fantastic. The entire state of Arizona was represented well and it made my heart soar with pride and glee. Not that really shitty, lame Glee show that sucks or anything, either. I mean like legit, actual glee, like you get from Christmas songs. Here’s a list of the local breweries represented (Linked for convenience, check them out):
- Four Peaks (duh)
- San Tan Brewing
- Phoenix Ale Brewery
- Lumberyard Brewing
- Oak Creek Brewery
- Prescott Brewing
- Sonoran Brewing
- Grand Canyon Brewery
- Papago Brewery (PS: Update your site, dear lord. I’ll do it for you if I need to)
- College Street Brewhouse (PS: Get a shorter URL, dear lord. I’ll buy it for you if I need to)
- Nimbus Brewing
- Old World Brewery
- Mudshark Brewery
- Sleepy Dog Brewing
- Fate Brewing
- THAT Brewery
- Thunder Canyon Brewery
(You can find the full list of participants including non-locals by clicking HERE)
Ask yourself an honest question here. Did you even know Arizona had that many brewers? Have your tried their beers? Do you have any favorites? My friends, Arizona is undergoing a beer renaissance. Actually, scratch that. The entire country is undergoing a beer renaissance. The sales of Bud Light and their ilk, the standard bro-beer lager fests, they’re stagnant. They’ve lost a lot of their market share. Who have they lost it to? Why, craft brewers! Craft brewers like the ones listed above that are helping to forge the beer revolution and bring America up to speed with those uppity fucking European trouts so we can challenge them for beer supremacy and let them know that we brew better beer because FREEDOM.
And damnit, we’ll win the beer war.
Now, I got a deal for the PHX BrewFest on Groupon or DealChicken or CouponWolf or SavingsPlatypus or SlightlyDiscountedHybridCatMan or whatever stupid random sites give discounts and have animals in their name. The festival is free to enter, but to get a mug and start tasting it cost $10. You could buy tokens for $1 each, and each token was supposed to be good for 3 oz of beer, or you could pay 4 tokens for a full mug. The deal we got gave us the mug and 25 tokens for $20. You do the math (or, if you went to public school, just know that we basically got $15 worth of tokens for free).
Here’s the rub: there’s no way these very kind and nice volunteers pouring the beer are going to know exactly what 3 oz is. Some of them are going to under-pour. Most are going to over-pour. It’s fine, really it is. But the 4 tokens for a full mug deal? It’s completely worthless. They’re pouring basically a half a beer for each token, why would I give you 4 for twice as much? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about getting lots of beer, I’m just saying, either make it 3 tokens and make the stupid people think they’re getting a deal, or just ditch it altogether.
Heritage Square is really the perfect place for this event. It’s not too big to make it feel empty and unsuccessful, but it’s not so small that it’s cramped. It’s a classy little reprieve in the middle of gleaming glass skyscrapers and homeless people that make up downtown. There were people with their dogs there, including a great dane that looked like it would force Marmaduke and Scooby Doo to 69 for the opportunity to eat its shit, it was so huge.
There were couples, there were single people, there were groups of bros, there were groups of hipsters. There were also more hipsters. There were slightly more hipsters after that. There were then mo- you know what? The place was primarily filled with hipsters. The amount of scarves and ironic hats and plastic glasses and plaid was unreal, it felt like I was on the set of Portlandia, or on the patio at Casey Moores.
Then I realized that I wear plastic rimmed glasses. I have my own website. I’m at this beer festival extolling the virtues of local beer and craft brew and artisan cheeses. And fuck my life, I was wearing a Porkchop Express shirt. Yup. These were my people, and I was theirs.
There was a BBQ truck and a wood-fired pizza vendor, there was a place giving away Al Capone Cigarillos that I got drunk enough to smoke, there were people walking around with free energy bars of some sort, and a place giving away Larry The Cable Guy-brand chips. Dead serious. Fried Pickle flavor, and they were good too. I remember feeling really guilty for eating them until I remembered I didn’t pay for them and so fuck him and that’s all I have to say about Larry. But they were good. I am trying REALLY hard right now to resist a git-r-dun joke.
There were some very nice folks from CraftBrewedClothing.com that really exemplified the entire festival’s approach. They had a great attitude, super knowledgeable about beer, and their entire business was based on sending you t-shirts and info from brewers from around the country, one every month throughout the year. It’s like when Clark Griswold got the 1-year membership to the Jelly of the Month club, except this doesn’t suck. I promised I mention that I’d mention their promo code, so I’ll just git-r-dun now (kill me, please):
Use Promo Code CRFTBRW when ordering your 12-month membership and receive your first Craft Brewery T-Shirt for FREE!
CraftBrewedClothing.com also told us that Fate Brewing had just tapped a special keg, which I promptly ran over and guzzled from. Sweet nectar of life, I besmirch you with my paltry existence but I thank you for the fruit of the Gods you bestow upon me. Getting rare beers is such a fun thing.
This kind of stuff is what really makes the festival. These guys have reserved kegs that they’ve aged or held out or brought from a private stash. Rare beer, things that you can’t just buy. Mudshark had a mint chocolate porter. Per Ron Kloth, president of Papago Brewery via Facebook: “Friday 6:00 PM- Awesome beer being tapped-Wild Raven-double black IPA aged in used Odell sour deconstruction barrels with brett added. Total beer geek beer. If this beer were bottled it would easily be $25+ a bottle.” You just can’t find this kind of enthusiasm for beer anywhere else. It’s truly staggering to see this many brewers having this much fun.
My wife and I had a blast at this event. It didn’t hurt that we ran into a couple of pals there, one of whom is the only person I could actually consider an actual WhyDidIEatThis.com fan and enthusiast. Aimee, when you read this, you’re totally famous now. Also, this makes you our site-groupie. Seal with it.
The food options were existent but somewhat lacking, I would have liked to see at least a couple more places to eat. The bathroom situation seemed dire at first too, with only 3 port-a-potties, until we realized that the Heritage Square public bathrooms were open (as were the bathrooms in the Science Center, though they were none too happy that we were going in there to relieve our strained bladders). It would have been nice to have some sort of little water fountain thing to wash out your mug after each beer, though I gave less and less of a shit about cross-mixing as time went on and I realized I could only barely stand anyway.
The bands were fine I guess, I didn’t pay too much attention as I was busy DRINKING.
Beyond the locals, the list of other brewers that showed up is really encouraging for the future of this festival, and my respect and my best wishes go out to the organizer, Mr. Greg Fretzy who we’ve learned is now battling throat cancer. Anyone who wishes to donate to help him out with medical bills can do so by clicking HERE. I’m pretty poor but I’ll gladly give a few bucks to a guy that has my favorite city’s name on his brewery, makes a damn fine brew, and worked so hard to organize such a great event for beer lovers. Good luck, Fretzy. I look forward to meeting you and having a beer with you and then having you go, “Wait, who are you again? From WHAT site? ….what the hell is that?”
On a lighter note…some more pictures!
And the last picture I took of the night ended up being this one:
Yeah, the beerfest did a number on us. 25 tokens was just so many that by the time we got towards the end we were just giving the vendors 4 tokens anyway, even though we only got 1/2 mugs. Trust me, 25 goes a long way. And then we got our name called to get into Pizzeria Bianco, the womenfolk got really loud and shrill in there, some bitchy hostess decided to come up and be a jerk about it, and then we shut up, ate our pizza and drank our wine and beer and left while grumbling profanities towards her person. Were we in the wrong? Was she? I don’t care (read: probably us. Sorry Bianco). All I know is that by the time I was done with such a lush selection of beer and good breweries, the only thing that was going to satisfy my stomach was the best pizza in America.
It doesn’t matter that I don’t remember how it tastes. What matters is that I knew, even in my inebriated state, that the only thing that could top a day as good as this one was to finish it with perfection.
Thanks again to Fretzy, and all the brewers that put an effort into this PHX Brew Fest to make it the event it was. We’ll see you next year!