Sometimes it’s easier to do more with less. Or at least, that’s what I always try to convince my wife of…
Compare the limited budget of a film like Serenity versus the limitless budget of something like one of the Star Wars prequels; even with all the money in the world, George Lucas couldn’t effectively tell a story to save his life the way Joss Whedon did on a fraction of the budget.
Yeah, sometimes less is more and “small” becomes “intimate“, the way the Phoenix Brewers Invitational Festival in a small patch of Heritage Square downtown last year managed to do. But then again, sometimes a massive spectacle can pull it off just right and become an instant classic event. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Scottsdale’s own Ameri-CAN Canned Craft Beer Festival.
I will admit two things to you right now: I was so full from the night before that no matter what I did it was almost impossible for me to catch a buzz (I said almost), and we were so concerned with all that this festival had to offer that we barely took any pictures at all. What you see is a mixture of our own few meager pics along with some from the event’s Facebook page. Sorry. So sorry we were busy drinking. Sorry.
The Ameri-CAN Canned Craft Beer Festival was held at the Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza on May 18th this year, a beautiful and only slightly-hot Saturday. More than 40 breweries with hundreds of beers, some rare and hard to find offerings, plus food trucks, fans that blew cool mist, live bands, games and a whooooole lot of craft beer enthusiasts were at this festival. It felt humongous compared to a lot of the other festivals we’ve been to.
The breweries ranged from Sierra Nevada all the way to D.C Brau., from Big Sky and Snake River down to Marble and Santa Fe, along with local favorites like Lumberyard, Four Peaks, Grand Canyon, Prescott, San Tan and Mudshark, and all worked hard to provide delicious beer to eager attendees.
My personal favorite of the entire festival was Anderson Valley and I particularly LOVED their Summer Solstice, a cream ale that had me coming back again and again. And again. Also, again. I basically lived there. But so many new or standout beers and breweries to try, it was tough to keep track.
People were flocking to all the various tents, though a few drew bigger crowds than the rest. It seemed like there was a crowd around Golden Road, a brewery that boasted about its L.A. roots, but we steered clear. No self-respecting Phoenician would be caught dead drinking anything L.A. has to offer, so we avoided it like the plague. I was kind of scared that drinking it would transform people into walking caricatures of douchebag clichés and the entire festival would fill up with assholes.
Oskar Blues had a huge presence here, and the festival itself was actually sponsored by San Tan Brewery. I want to give a special shout out to whoever was running the Bohemian Brewing tent, because they were cool as shit. I can’t say why, because I don’t wan’t to get them in trouble, but suffice it to say that they wanted you to really sample the beer and it was very appreciated on a hot day. Really, I want to give a shout out to all of the volunteers because this was a WELL-orchestrated masterpiece of a beer festival. It could have easily veered off into “seriously, this is way too much” territory but it never did.
The problems we had with other festivals were pretty much non-existent at this one. Long lines, few bathrooms, no food…Look, the Ameri-CAN Canned Craft Beer Festival could have easily failed in ways that other festivals did. Like the Brewers Invitational, it could have had shitty food offerings. It didn’t.
Like the Mesa Spring Swing Beer Bash and Brewers Invitational, or even Wingstock, it could have had awful bands that didn’t fit the vibe of the warm spring day. It didn’t.
(I won’t call them amazing or awesome but other than a dude that was whining out a bunch of slow songs right at the beginning of the festival, it was mostly upbeat stuff that kept the crowd moving without interrupting or otherwise bothering our beer drinking.)
It could have had an abundance of hipsters and snobs and…errr…ok, so they were there, but that’s to be expected with craft beer. They’re the enthusiasts, so I can’t be mad at that. Let’s instead say there could have been a severe lack of attractive women like the Spring Swing Beer Bash, or the entire city of Tucson. It didn’t.
Also, I looked at those pictures and then immediately thought about all of my life decisions.
Anyway, the point is that the quality of the entire event, from the food to the music to the class of attendees, was top-notch. The little mini-cans you got your beer sample out of? Great touch. The place giving away custom beer koozies for those mini-cans? Awesome. The fact that the restrooms were plentiful and the little portable sinks were stocked with soap, paper towels and soap even at the end of the day? Great. The garlic cheese fries from Brat Haus? While drunk? CAN-FUCKING-TASTIC.
Tyler ended up having a little more fun than the rest of us, and by that I mean that he was going up to random people and asking them if they had stolen my dog, which is incredible. What do you expect though when there’s that much awesome beer in one place, with that much sunshine to boot?
We had an awesome time, and I’m all the more impressed considering the size and scope of the Ameri-Can Canned Craft Beer Festival. What could have been an epic beer disaster was an amazingly fun and enjoyable time. Only two people got shit on by birds out of our group, so that’s also a great success. We had SUCH a good time that it took us a month and some change to write about this event. I’d like to blame that on how awesome it was…it took us this long to process our experiences. Also we got busy and it’s hot outside, give us a freaking break.
Looking back, minimalism has its place in the right applications, but sometimes you just want a Disneyland-style sensory overload of craft beer -related things, and this was that tentpole event. This was Phoenix craft beer’s Jurassic Park, this was the Avengers, this was the big summer blockbuster.
Of course I still love smaller festivals the same way I love quiet introspective indie films or off-kilter P.T. Anderson movies, but sometimes you just want to go to a theater and watch shit blow up – and sometimes you just want to go to a huge beer festival and have a hell of a time. Nailed it.
This post was written by Xavvi