Screw the Duff -- when Groundskeeper Willie is lookin' to get his swerve on, he's likely to be sipping one of the arse-kickin' brews featured at the second annual Strong Beer & Ale Festival, put on by the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild at Papago Brewing Company in Scottsdale. The libations have to be at least 6.5 percent alcohol by volume, so enthusiastic attendees should plan on cab rides or designated drivers. These libations are no joke, especially for the dipsomaniacs among us.
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The participating breweries are primarily Arizona outfits, but there'll be copper-kettle goods from a few outsiders such as San Diego's Stone Brewery, Fort Collins' New Belgium Brewing Company (home of Fat Tire), and Solana Beach Pizza Port. Arizona's far reaches will be covered as well, with Prescott Brewing entering its Raven Maniac Stout, Lake Havasu City's Barley Brothers Brewery presenting its Strong Ale, plus two Tucson breweries, Gentle Ben's and Nimbus, entering multiple beers. Props go to the Craft Brewers Guild for assembling such a broad spectrum of both breweries and styles. Arizona breweries deserve more credit than they're afforded.
Pay the $5 entry fee and you'll be able to get three-ounce tastes for a buck a pop. The selection includes barley wines (which are really too strong to be classified as beers, being aged longer and containing more malt), strong ales, several stout variations, and some bocks that should send you reeling. We're preferential (after many hours of intense research) to Four Peaks' Winter Wobbler, an old-style strong ale, and Sonora's Old Saguaro Barley Wine, a strong, thick brew that's at the perfect age for a barley wine right now. You don't want to put these bad boys down on an empty stomach, so before you're too faded, grab some brats or ribs from the chuck wagon on the scene.