22nd Annual Great Arizona Beer Festival Goes Beyond Bud

If your beer buzzes come courtesy of good ol' Bud and Miller, there's a whole world of brewskies you're missing out on. The 22nd Annual Great Arizona Beer Festival will have more than 200 of them for your sampling pleasure this weekend as it takes over the Tempe Beach Park Saturday, March 6 and Sunday, March 7.

"If people are fans of craft beer, this it the festival to go to because there's more craft beer at this festival than at any fesitval in the state," says director of marketing Colleen O'Donnell Pierce.

Participants will get to taste 24 different kinds of brews, at 3 ounces each, making for a guaranteed tipsy time during the 4-hour event. Most of the beers come from Arizona and the Southwest, as well as many from across the country and one Belgian beer.

Besides chugging the golden ales, there's food and other entertainment, including live music by local bands Big Nick and the Gila Monsters and Major Lingo, a simulated paint ball experience, foosball and cornhole. There's also a VIP area with casino games, an auction and catered food.

Don't worry if you're a designated driver: there's fun for you, too. The designated driver area has free food and massages, plus soda.

This year is the first year the festival is featuring judging on the beers, by a panel including representatives from azcentral.com, 944 magazine and DRAFT magazine. Winners in a variety of categories, such as Most Original and Most Refreshing, will be announced Saturday.

If you're planning on drinking but don't have a DD, the Fest will feature a taxi service, a Safe Ride Home program, bicycle valets and a holding area to sober up in.

The event goes from 2-6 p.m. each day. The event benefits Sun Sounds of Arizona, a reading service for the reading impaired, and tickets for each day are $40 in advance for general admission and $50 at the gate. VIP tickets are $80 in advance and $90 at the gate. Designated driver tickets are $20 for general admission and $30 for VIP entry. For more info, log on to www.azbeer.com.

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