Arizona Beer Week, once upon a time just a twinkle in the eye of desert-dwelling beer lovers, is now upon us -- and has grown to juggernaut proportions. As our mom likes to say, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a beer week event. With somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 celebrations of beer going on throughout the week, you may find it hard to navigate the forest to find the events worth your time.
But fear not! There are certain festivities going on every night that are definitely worthy of quality beer-drinking hours. These are the events you'll definitely see our shining faces at -- though they may be blocked by a beer or two.
- Get an early start on Beer Week with brunch and a pint at the Four Peaks brewpub in Tempe. You'll need that solid base, because after you take the short walk to the light rail station, your next stop will be...
- The week's kickoff event is also its best, boasting close to 200 craft beers, many of them rare and all of them tasty and highly inebriating. Look for Ballast Point Barmy (a strong, sweet apricot ale from California), Four Peaks' Sirius Black (an imperial stout), Voltron (a collaboration ale made by SanTan, SunUp, Papago, Sonoran and Thunder Canyon), Redstone Nectar of the Hops (a dry-hopped honey mead), and Lumberyard Imperial Red (an award-winning red ale from Flagstaff).
- As if the Strong Beer Fest yesterday wasn't enough to get you slizzered, Boulders on Broadway is offering their own mini beer festival. For fifteen dollars, you get 20 pours of beer from Breckenridge, Left Hand, Anderson Valley, Great Divide and more.
- Twenty dollars and a bike are all you need for this bar crawl on wheels, which will take you from SanTan to Whole Foods to the Stadium Club to Iguana Mack's, with food and a pint of SKA or SanTan beer at each stop.
- Mead, being fermented with honey and often spiced with hops, is like beer's awesome crazy uncle. This dinner of food and mead pairings is the first of its kind in Arizona, and Redstone Meadery head David Myers and Trader Vic's chef Justin Pfeilsticker have joined forces to create courses the likes of which we've never seen.
- The ladies of SanTan will host the first women's-only tasting in the brewery, with five beers paired with locally-made cheeses and toffees and guest speakers from AZ Girls' Pint Out, Whole Foods and Goodytwo's.
- The man, the myth, the legend, and maker of some of the finest beers available in Arizona, Doug Odell will be in-house to talk beer while special Odell brews flow from the tap.
Tuesday, Feb. 22
Arizona Society of Homebrewers Double Red Challenge - Tempe Womens Club, 6 p.m.
- Every gathering of the ASH is more beer festival than club meeting, and this one looks to be especially ebullient. Members gathered last month to brew their own versions of the AZBW imperial red ale, and attendees will have a chance for themselves to taste them all and judge the best.
- The legendary owner and founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. rarely travels to this part of the country, but you can geek out with us and meet him while sampling some of the brewery's best, including what may be the last keg of Hoptimum -- Sierra Nevada's outstanding new double IPA -- in the state.
- Representatives from Artisanal Imports will be showcasing the entire portfolio from Trappist brewery La Trappe, including the Quadrupel Barrique, a dark Belgian ale few beer geeks in the world have even had the chance to try.
- Four Peaks has a tendency to avoid pushing the envelope with their brews, but this one seems to break that trend: a Belgian black ale aged for two years in a combination of raw oak, chardonnay and merlot barrels. It goes on tap at 4 p.m. and probably won't last long.
- Representatives from Montana's Big Sky brewing will showcase their brews. Trout Slayer and Moose Drool will be on tap along with new seasonals for you to discover.
Thursday, Feb. 24
Certified Cicerone Exam - Crescent Crown Distributing, 10:30 a.m.
- This one's for the beer geeks truly dedicated to their hobby. Cicerone is to beer what sommelier is to wine, and on Thursday representatives from the Cicerone Program will be on-hand to proctor the intense examination that can grant this lofty certification.
- If you didn't get enough strong beer on Saturday, Taggia's got your fix. This event, a collaboration between the Beer for Brains Foundation and AZ Girls' Pint Out, will showcase strong ales paired with equally strong meals. It'll also be the first-ever co-ed Girls' Pint Out event, meaning it's a great place to pick up beer-loving chicks.
- Our favorite beer bar will be showcasing barrel-aged beers from around the country, including their own rye barleywine aged in High West Distillery whiskey barrels. Got to love the taste of wood.
- Ten of Arizona's top chefs will vie for glory in this event that pits beer against wine. For the price of $75, you'll get to sample 10 original dishes -- each of which paired with a locally-produced wine and craft beer -- and vote on which pairing you liked best. We know you'll do the right thing and pick the beer.
- Papago will team up with Sweet Republic to create unique ice cream made with Papago beers that you can enjoy on its own or as part of an ice cream float. Beer-flavored ice cream floating inside a glass of beer? Being grown up is nice.
- Bell's Brewing from Kalamazoo, Mich. makes some damn fine beers, and several of their most sought-after will be on-tap here, allowing you to close out Beer Week licking the sweet taste of rarity off your lips.