I tolerate the douchery of the Great Arizona Beer Festival. I enjoy the charitable nature of the Beer for Brains Rare Affair. I love the drunken shenanigans and alcohol-heavy drink that flows freely at the Arizona Strong Beer Fest.
But the AmeriCAN Canned Craft Beer Festival -- held this past weekend in Scottsdale -- just might be the best beer fest in the state. Here's why.
Reason #1: The Venue On a sunny, not-quite-yet blistering summer day, the Scottsdale Civic Center is the perfect place for a festival like this. The tree-lined outdoor area provides plenty of natural shade if, like me, you forgot to bring your sunscreen, and the layout is spread out enough to support a much larger crowd than showed up. The freedom to move about -- especially near the end of the fest when you're scrambling for final pours or a bathroom break -- cannot be overstated.
Reason #2: The Pourers Here's a common beer festival interaction: POTENTIAL DRINKER: Hi! I'm ready for some beer. What beers are you pouring today? CUTE GIRL: Well . . . we have one that's kind of light and one that's a little darker. PD: Um, okay. Do you know what styles they are? CG: Um . . . we have one that's kind of light and one that's a little darker.
All too often at beer festivals, the people who are the main points of contact for a brewery have less knowledge about the products they're pouring than the people they're pouring for. It didn't seem this was the case at AmeriCAN. Many of the pourers were brewers or reps for their respective breweries, and those who weren't had been recruited from local beer-loving groups like the Arizona Society of Homebrewers. These people are dedicated to the cause of craft beer -- some were worried the night before the fest because they hadn't yet received their booth assignments and wouldn't have much time to research the beers they'd be pouring. Volunteers who know what they're pouring can do so much to enhance a beer festival experience.
Reason #3: The Crowd In recent years, even the venerated Great American Beer Festival has become overrun with chumps looking for a cheap way to get shithoused drunk. Perhaps it's because this is a festival organized by a craft brewery, which itself draws a very particular kind of customer, but the drinkers at this year's AmeriCAN seemed more educated and more focused on expanding their palates than on increasing their BAC.
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Reasons #4-154: The Beers For beer nerds, the major draw of a beer festival is the opportunity to try some brews you've never seen before. Here's what I drank Saturday:
21st Amendment Back in Black 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat 21st Amendment Lower De Boom Bohemian Cherny Bock Cigar City Jai Alai Cigar City Maduro Brown DC Brau Penn Quarter Porter DC Brau On the Wings of Armageddon DC Brau El Hefe Speaks Goodlife Sweet As Half Acre Pony Pilsner Hopworks IPA Sixpoint 3 Beans Revolution Bottom Up Wit Revolution Eugene Porter Revolution Rosa Hibiscus Ale Sixpoint Apollo Sixpoint The Crisp
Not a one of those is available in this state, and a good number of them are new to my taste buds. With a plethora of new beers to try, geeks like me turn into kids at a candy store, and soon the entire fest becomes abuzz with drinkers bouncing between booths to taste new brews, sharing and talking through the flavors with their friends, and finding new favorites. That's what a beer festival is all about, Charlie Brown.