We love a good lecture series. No, really. Have you been to Ignite? Heard about TED? Infomercial meets stand-up — it's all the rage, and we love to sit back and learn something we didn't already know.Add Four Peaks beer and we'll be the first in line.That's what the smart folks at Audubon Arizona did. They know their subject matter can be, well, a hard sell. Do you really want to sit in an auditorium while someone lectures to you about birds? Okay, what if it's the mating patterns of birds, and they serve beer?Throw in a frog or two, and we're there. At the monthly "series of lighthearted lectures showcasing the behavior of native animals . . . geared toward environmentally conscious adults," Four Peaks pours the beer while "environmental professionals" give 20-minute talks about, um, animal sex, complete with visual aids. The material is PG, but you'll still want to leave the kids at home unless you want them swilling ale and learning the mating call of the barn owl.
Bradley Whicker never met a beer can he didn't like. Take a gander inside the garage of his Scottsdale home and you'll see proof of that, as it's filled from floor to ceiling with his ever-growing collection of ale cans and beer memorabilia. It's more than just aluminum castoffs, however. Dozens of bookshelves hold a suds-soaked treasure trove of more than 300 different cans and a wealth of beer-related products, accessories, and memorabilia. Large glass growlers from Arizona breweries like Four Peaks in Tempe and Gentle Ben's in Tucson sit next to mini-kegs, neon signs, old-school advertisements, and even a virtual altar to Pabst Blue Ribbon (Whicker's favorite beer). His collection of cans includes those that held domestic swill such as Coors and Mickey's, imports like Sapporo from Japan and Królewskie from Poland, and regional beers such as Pittsburgh's Iron City. He also has plenty of vintage beers, including Hamm's, Olympia, and Lowenbrau. The tipsy time machine goes back even further with rusty antique cone-top cans made by Frankenmuth and Grain Belt, two Midwestern brands. Sadly, the Beer Museum is open only to Whicker's friends and family, so be sure to buy him a round and get chummy next time you see him drinking at a pub.
We ruined a pair of shoes at this year's Strong Beer Festival. Naturally, on the February day that Phoenicians had the opportunity to enjoy dozens of heavily fortified brews, the gods saw fit to make it rain in the desert. And what a torrential downpour. Mud was everywhere. Beer was sucked down like a shot before Mother Nature could dilute it. Freezing winds kept drinkers huddled together under tents, where we had no recourse but to talk about beer and drink even more. In short, it was one of the best Saturdays of our life . . . we think. After the 12 tasting mugs full of Imperial stout, things got a little fuzzy around the edges. While our memory isn't 100 percent, our resolve to go back next year — on Saturday, February 18 — definitely is.
Phoenix Art Museum
Run by Local First AZ and presented in the lush courtyard of the Phoenix Art Museum, Devoured manages to hit all the right notes: tons of food, upscale offerings (like Modern Steak's Kobe beef and lobster slider with caviar aioli), copious amounts of local wine, such comfort foods as chili and corn dogs, and cozy seating areas to enjoy it all. This year, lines were shorter, and most booths still had grub available at the end of the day. And though veg-heads might have been disappointed by the lack of meatless fare, everyone else seemed pleased with the juicy pork dished up by Kai and Barrio Café. Local First Arizona also broke a lot of news at the festival, unveiling Cycle's pop-up concept and Payton Curry's Guerrilla Gourmet before the buzz had circulated (though Curry's sausage-making demo wasn't quite as stunning as last year's pig butchering). At $49 and up, Devoured isn't the cheapest foodie fest around — but once you're in the door, it's like the best all-you-can-eat buffet you'll ever visit.
Duck and Decanter
Lauren Cusimano
Even though all the delicious eats are free, gluttony takes a backseat to community at the annual Certified Local Fall Festival. Created in 2004 by Local First Arizona, the festival boasts a ton of food from independent eateries Green, Spinato's Pizzeria, Postino Winecafe, and more, plus a rock wall, face painting, and booths from local vendors such as Smeeks and SeeSaw Designs. We appreciate that the vibe here is always chill, with tons of locals meeting and greeting each other with smiles of recognition. If Phoenix is a small world, the Certified Local Fall Festival is an even smaller, tighter-knit community. The raffle prizes are always killer, ranging from local artwork and theater tickets to two-night stays at a boutique hotel. And even if you don't win something super-special, the free massages and candy offered by local vendors are worth a trip to the festival.
Tempe Beach Park
The annual Arizona Aloha Festival goes beyond big, burly Samoans slapping their chests and sexy hula dancers swinging their hips — though we certainly don't mind either of those attractions. The event has grown in popularity and size since moving to Tempe in 2009 and now boasts a marketplace filled with coconut shell purses, hand-carved mother-of-pearl necklaces, and replicas of the carved wood and shark's tooth clubs used by ancient Polynesian tribes. We dug this year's focus on dance and education, which brought new treats, including a seminar on Maori bone carving and the return of master dance teacher Kehau Chrisman. Chrisman's hula group, Halau Hula Napuaokalei'ilima, paid homage to a Verde Valley resident who helped build a two-hulled canoe to prove that the ancient Hawaiians could navigate open waters without sophisticated instruments. We'll stick with club dancing and speedboats, thank you very much, but it was impressive nonetheless.
Medlock Plaza
To be honest, we havent bought a thing at a so-called arts festival in years. In fact, if we never see another ceramic Kleenex box holder or a howling coyote watercolor, it will be too soon. About the only thing art festivals are good for is people-watching and kettle corn. At least, that was our position til we hit the first Crafeteria a couple of years back.

On a cool night in December, local crafty types take over a Phoenix parking lot for Crafeteria organized by Smeeks and Frances owner Georganne Bryant, a woman we are quite certain has never possessed a ceramic Kleenex box holder. Crafeteria is a jackpot for anyone with an etsy.com addiction and a one-stop shop for any letterpress, jewelry, or custom-button craving. All Crafeteria goods are 100 percent locally made by the likes of Danielle Hacche, Against the Grain, Crafty Chica, Harmony Handmade Books, Nancy Bobo, and SeeSaw Designs (to name a few). The baked goods at Crafeteria will keep the corn in its kettle, and the people-watchings just as good as at any old arts festival.

Coined "A Party with a Purpose," this music festival is all about the tunes, but it also has a strong focus on charity. All proceeds raised during the festival are donated to Phoenix Day Family & Learning Center and Ear Candy. This festival packs a punch in the music department, too. Bands come from all over the world to play at the late April festival, including recent appearances by JJ Grey and MOFRO, Xavier Rudd, and The Wailers. Bring your lawn chairs and sun block, and be ready to soak up the sounds.
Hoodlums New & Used Music
Here's a little secret: The guys who run the music store next to Changing Hands in Tempe call themselves hoodlums — and maybe they look like it, just a little — but really, they're old softies. Just check them out each spring when they throw a weekend-long music festival, aptly named Hoodstock. Fans pack the tiny store to catch local bands like Dry River Yacht Club and Psych 101 taking the even tinier stage to play their hearts out for charity, specifically the education intervention program at a nearby elementary school. The owners and festival volunteers spend weeks having the school kids paint record albums, which hang on the walls, available for sale. It's a great fundraising idea — who's not going to come down to buy their kid's record and spend a few bucks (a percentage of Hoodlums' sales go to the charity all weekend) while they're at it? Just be sure you get there early to buy your child's creation; last year, there were tears when a stranger snatched up a particularly good-looking album just an hour into the festival, before Mom and Dad could make it down to make the purchase. Best part of this festival: No matter where your kids go to school, this is a great way to introduce them to local indie rock in a family-friendly atmosphere.
We love that this alternative-theater festival spotlights the kind of awesome small-budget gems you'd find showing at a Greenwich Village playhouse, which is welcome relief from the recycled Neil Simon snoozers and jukebox musicals Phoenix is known for inviting. This year's event was also rife with Arizona premières, including Steven Fales' Confessions of a Mormon Boy (originally directed by Tony Award-winner Jack Hofsiss), which follows a drug-addicted, excommunicated Mormon dad as he attempts to get his shit together, and The Fall of June Bloom, written and performed in part by an Australian woman battling dementia. The fact that the latter show was rehearsed entirely via Skype is an indication of just how cutting-edge the festival is. Toss in a play about four people finding themselves during the apocalypse and Van Rockwell's Oppressed, which chronicled a breakup from the dude's point of view, and you have a series of short plays that kicks the habit of sitting through The Sound of Music one more bloody time.

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