There are some incredible canned beers available in Arizona — truly, there are. But they're only part of what makes the AmeriCAN Canned Craft Beer Festival great. The bigger draw to this annual aluminum event is the ability to try beers you never see on our state's shelves. We've combed through all 250-plus beers available at this year's festival to find 13 must-try brews you'll never see again — at least until next year.
Austin Beerworks - Heavy Machinery Half IPA The dirty secret of this "Half IPA" is that it's actually just a pale ale. But that doesn't detract from its quality. Part of a series of seasonal IPAs released every other month, this Austin-born brew is made with small amounts of hops added during the boil (which decreases the beer's bitterness) while tons of Centennial and Citra are added during fermentation (which boosts its mango and lemon-zest aroma). While the bouquet and hop flavor are robust, the beer's 5.6 percent ABV is less so.
Cigar City Brewing - Tocobaga Tampa, Fla.-based Cigar City is better-known for Jai Alai, its IPA named after a regional game that involves weird scoop-gloves and balls flung at 180 miles per hour. But Tocobaga is the better beer, generously bittered with a blend of six hops that add pronounced citrus and pine flavors to a bed of toasty caramel malts. It's a charismatic brew that's far more drinkable than its alcohol content — 7.2 percent — would suggest.
DC Brau Brewing Co. - On the Wings of Armageddon Remember the Mayan apocalypse that was supposed to happen on December 21, 2012? This imperial IPA was brewed to commemorate that non-event. At 9.2 percent ABV, it's made with a hop blend called Falconer's Flight that includes some of the most popular and unique varieties grown in the Pacific Northwest. The result is a complex hop flavor absolutely stuffed with resinous pine, grass and candied grapefruit.
Fort George Brewery - Cavatica Stout Hey you guys! Fort George is located in a little town in Oregon called Astoria, which is where the greatest movie of this or any generation — The Goonies — was filmed. Cavatica is the brewery's imperial stout, black as night and full of roast flavors like scorched malt, dark chocolate and peanut skins.
GoodLife Brewing Co. - Descender IPA GoodLife is based out of Bend, Oregon, which is also home to Deschutes Brewing Co. This 7 percent IPA is made using a technique called hop bursting that involves adding the entire hop bill at the end of the boil, giving the beer intense lemon, tangerine and juniper flavors but little bitterness before a dry finish.
Hops & Grain Brewery - The One They Call Zoe This Austin, Texas-based brewery takes a decidedly Austin-esque approach to business with a focus on sustainability — its beers are packaged in recyclable cans, its spent grain is crafted into tasty dog treats and one percent of its yearly revenue goes to local environmental non-profits. Zoe, a 5.2-percent German-style lager, is brewed with traditional pale and Vienna malts but is kept weird via dry-hopping, which lends it an uncommonly complex floral hop aroma.
NOLA Brewing Co. - Irish Channel Stout NOLA stands for New Orleans Lager & Ale, and you'll want to say YESLA to a sample of the stout named for the Irish Channel neighborhood in which the brewery is located. Flavors of earthy coffee, dark chocolate and chicory led brewers to switch this 6.8-percent ABV stout from a winter seasonal to a year-round offering.
Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. - Bucking Bock Bucking Bock is a somewhat rare beer style called maibock, a German lager with a light, fruity flavor that makes it perfect for enjoying in May or other springtime months. The Fort Worth, Texas-based Rahr & Sons launched the beer for the first time in cans this year. It's pretty bucking tasty.
Revolution Brewing - Fist City This pale ale from Chicago didn't just win first place in the American Pale Ale category at this year's AmeriCAN judging competition. It won best in show, out of all 250-plus entries. It's 5.5-percent ABV, brewed with a blend of beautiful Northwestern "C" hops and is incredibly drinkable. Don't miss it.
Saint Archer Brewery - IPA Don't let the fact that this San Diego-based brewery is entirely owned by X-Games athletes, throw you — the beer is solid, as was proven when this brew took third place in the hotly contested IPA category during this year's AmeriCAN judging. A chorus of resinous American hops like Amarillo, Simcoe and Citra provide a citrusy and tropical character that deftly hides the 7-percent alcohol content. Word has it that Saint Archer will soon be available in our fair state, but you can get your first taste early.
Snake River Brewing - Zonker Another AmeriCAN judging medal winner, Zonker won gold in the stout/porter category. It shouldn't be a surprise — the foreign-style stout from Jackson, Wyoming has won six medals at the Great American Beer Festival.
Sun King Brewery - Afternoon Delight Like skyrockets in flight, Afternoon Delight flashes with flavor. The base beer, a doppelbock, delivers notes of raisin, brown sugar and bread crust, while extended aging in bourbon barrels lends sweet vanilla, whiskey and wood. This specialty from Indianapolis also won a medal at this year's AmeriCAN judging competition: silver in the specialty beer category.
Worthy Brewing - Easy Day Kolsch If you've tried all the above, you'll need something light and refreshing — and low in alcohol — to wrap up your day. Easy: Easy Day. This Kolsch-style ale from Bend, Oregon is clean, crisp and just 4.5-percent ABV.
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You'll find all these beers (and many, many more) at the AmeriCAN Canned Craft Beer Festival on Saturday, May 16. The event takes place from 1-6 p.m. at the Scottsdale Civic Center. Get your tickets here.