Craft Beer of the Week

40 Beers You Need to Try at the Arizona Strong Beer Festival

Here's the good news: At this year's Arizona Strong Beer Festival, a record number of breweries (140-plus) will be pouring more than 400 different beers, the widest variety that's ever been available at the 15-year-old beer fest. The bad news: a general admission ticket only gets you 40 two-ounce tastings, meaning you need to be pretty picky about which beers you try out. Lucky for you, we've pored over the extensive list of brews available and picked out the 40 you really, really, really need to seek out. Check out our selections and plan accordingly.

  1. 8 Bit Brewery Legend of Zymur - An uber-bitter (112 IBU) imperial IPA from a new video game-themed brewery out of Avondale. 7.9 percent ABV.
  2. Anderson Valley Brewing Co. Highway 128 Blood Orange Gose - Valley beer nerds have been raving about this refreshing brew made with orange juice and sea salt. Grab some and see what all the fuss is about. 4.2 percent ABV.
  3. Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. American Presidential Stout - The Best New Brewery in the World's most lauded beer is a thick, inky imperial stout brewed with mesquite-smoked jalapenos and aged with cocoa nibs. 11 percent ABV.
  4. Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. Tequila Barrel Aged Sweet Potato Saison - Fifty pounds of sweet potatoes and 20 pounds of honey went into this earthy saison before it was aged several months in freshly emptied tequila barrels. 8.2 percent ABV.
  5. Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. Four Roses Barrel Aged Granola Stout - As the name suggests, this nutty, chocolatey stout was brewed with granola before extended aging in barrels that once held Four Roses bourbon. 6.9 percent ABV.
  6. Avery Brewing Co. The Beast - Those interested in the "strong" aspect of the Strong Beer Festival shouldn't stray far from the Avery tent, where several highly inebriating beers, including this syrupy-sweet Belgian dark ale brewed with black strap molasses, alfalfa honey and Belian candi sugar. 16.1 percent ABV.
  7. Bell's Brewery Honey Hearted - This version of Two Hearted IPA was brewed with honey and aged in bourbon barrels. 16.3 percent ABV.
  8. Bell's Brewery Quince Love - A version of wheatwine -- a strong ale brewed with a hight percentage of wheat -- this brew was aged with quince (a tart pear-like fruit with a flavor like apples, pear and pineapple) in barrels that once held the brewery's sought after imperial stout, Black Note. 13.7 percent ABV.
  9. Black Diamond Brewing Co. Carnage - What do you call a beer that's above even a double IPA in alcohol content and bitterness? A triple IPA, of course. 11.5 percent ABV.
  10. Cartel Brewing Fuktunna Coffee and Donuts - A unique imperial porter that was made using cold-brew coffee instead of water throughout the brewing process, then was aged with a couple dozen donuts added right into the beer. 9 percent ABV.
  11. Deschutes Brewery Super Jubel - Legend has it that years ago some thieves attempted to snatch a keg of Deschutes' winter seasonal, Jubelale, but failed in the attempt and left the beer out overnight. When brewers found it the next day, they found the water in the beer had frozen, concentrating the remaining ale into a sweet, intensely flavored brew. Super Jubel is the recreation of this freeze-distilled brew. 11 percent ABV.
  12. Destihl Brewery Dosvidanya - A rich, black brew that undergoes two mashes and extended aging in bourbon barrels. 14 percent ABV.
  13. Destihl Brewery Saint Dekkera Sour Le Diplomat - This sour version of Destihl's Belgian/American pale ale, Ambassador, will be tapped at 2:15 p.m. 6.6 percent ABV.
  14. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery 120 Minute IPA - You've probably heard of this super-strong, super-sweet, continuously hopped ale; now's your chance to try it on draft. Special tapping at 3 p.m. 18 percent ABV.
  15. Dragoon Brewing Co. Lazarus - According to brewers, this beer was called Lazarus because it was thought dead for a while -- the final gravity of the brew when it came out of fermenters was way too high. But a few months in special barrels that have held cognac, wine and bourbon with a mild blend of English-style Brettanomyces tamed it and turned it into one of the best beers produced in Arizona. 13 percent ABV.
  16. Elevation Beer Co. Montanya - A rum barrel-aged version of Elevation's delectable Horchata porter, Senorita. 10 percent ABV.
  17. Fate Brewing Co. Barrel Aged Droppin' Beetz Saison - Created in collaboration with Cartel, this saison was brewed with beets, fermented with Brettanomyces yeast and aged in chardonnay barrels. 7.8 percent ABV
  18. Four Peaks Birch on Hops - Another collaboration, this one was brewed with Flagstaff beer bar Hops on Birch and follows a distinct theme, making use of birch syrup and birch wood during the brewing process. 7.9 percent ABV
  19. Four Peaks Double Pumpkin Porter - A bigger, stronger, more substantial version of the seasonal Pumpkin Porter. 8.6 percent ABV.
  20. Freak'n Sweet Thang - An imperial creme brulee milk stout. If that's not enough to get you to drink it, I don't know what would. 10.6 percent ABV.
  21. Goose Island Beer Co. Bourbon County Stout - Thick and sweet, this well-known imperial stout picks up smooth whiskey flavor from extended aging in used bourbon barrels. 15 percent ABV.
  22. Goose Island Beer Co. Bourbon County Barleywine - After the Bourbon County Stout is removed from those bourbon barrels, they're filled with this complex English-style barleywine. 12 percent ABV.
  23. Great Divide Brewing Co. Barrel Aged Old Ruffian - Also a barleywine, also aged in bourbon barrels, also delicious. 11.8 percent ABV.
  24. Green Flash Brewing Co. Serrano Chili Double Stout - Perfect for Arizona, this imperial stout gets a smooth peppery heat from an addition of Serrano chilis. 8.8 percent ABV.
  25. Hangar 24 Craft Brewery Pugachev's Cobra - This bourbon-aged stout isn't only the most alcoholic brew at the entire festival; it's also one of the smoothest. 18.9 percent ABV.
  26. Historic Brewing Co. Bear Arms - An imperial porter brewed with wheat, cocoa and orange peel. 10.6 percent ABV.
  27. Historic Brewing Co. Screaming Goat Sour Saison - A traditional saison aged in red wine barrels, this beer has a clean, slightly tart character with an earthy finish. 4.8 percent ABV.
  28. Maui Brewing Lorenzini 6th Sense IPA - Brewed in collaboration with Pizza Port Ocean Beach, this IPA contains tangerines, blood oranges and cane sugar. 8.1 percent ABV.
  29. Nebraska Brewing Co. Attack of the 50' Brunette - Run, don't hide from Nebraska's imperial nut brown ale aged in Zeppelin Bend Whiskey barrels from New Holland Brewing Company. 9.8 percent ABV.
  30. New Belgium Brewing Co. Cocoa Mole - Say hola to this spiced-up ale full of cocoa and ancho, guajillo, chipotle peppers. 9 percent ABV.
  31. New Belgium Brewing Co. Whiskey Barrel Salted Belgian Chocolate Stout - A collaboration with Perennial Artisan Ales brewed with cocoa and just a dash of salt. 9 percent ABV/
  32. Ninkasi Brewing Co. Devil Went Down to Oregon - This imperial dark rye ale was brewed in collaboration with Devil's Backbone Brewing Co. 7.2 percent ABV.
  33. Peoria Artisan Brewery Imperial PB Porter - An imperial version of Peoria's popular peanut butter porter. 8 percent ABV.
  34. Pizza Port Leather Bound Books - The best-named beer at the fest, this scotchy-scotch-scotch ale has a sweet, toffee-like flavor with a subtle smokiness. 8 percent ABV.
  35. SanTan Brewing Co. Canzilla - Take KiloHop, an imperial IPA, and age it in tequila barrels to get this hoppy, funky brew. 9.8 percent ABV.
  36. Sonoran Brewing Co. Dark Rum Oak-aged Inebriator - Sonoran improved upon the smooth roastiness of this imperial stout by aging it with rum-soaked oak. 9.1 percent ABV.
  37. Sonoran Brewing Co. Blanco Tequila Oak-aged Smooth Rebel - The malty imperial IPA Smooth Rebel gets an herbal boost from aging with tequila-soaked oak. 8.2 percent ABV.
  38. SunUp Brewing Co. White Russian Imperial Stout - One of the best coffee stouts you'll ever try. 9.3 percent ABV.
  39. Unity Vibration Dank Wasser - Brewed in collaboration with Witch's Hat Brewing Co., this strange ale blends sour kombucha tea with a hoppy saison, mangos and spices. ABV unknown.
  40. Wanderlust Whiskey Barrel-aged Quad - This strong ale from the Flagstaff-based Wanderlust features fruity belgian yeast characteristics blended with pronounced whiskey notes. ABV unknown.

Zach Fowle is a BJCP-recognized beer judge and a Certified Cicerone. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.

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Zach Fowle
Contact: Zach Fowle