Get your Merkins & Hemp Ale Saturday in ... Downtown Mesa?

With its conservative politics, large Mormon temple and dearth of nightlife, downtown Mesa is just about the last place in the Valley you'd expect to find people parading around in scanty genitalia coverings and drinking hemp ale.

But that's what's planned Saturday at Il Vinaio, a restaurant and wine bistro that almost single-handedly seems to be trying to transform the city's staid image.

In less than 10 months, the restaurant has established a reputation not just for fine dining, but also fun dining -- such as last month's doughnuts-and-beer tasting.

This Saturday, from 7 to 10 p.m., Il Vinaio will be tapping what owner Cameron Selogie claims is the Valley's last remaining keg of Velvet Merkin, a small-batch seasonal oatmeal stout from Firestone Walker Brewing.

The beer takes its name from the small patches of cloth that prostitutes began using to cover their freshly shaven genitalia in the 15th century. (Shaving was done to combat lice, and displaying bare genitalia was considered a social faux pas, even for prostitutes.)

A Firestone rep will have velvet and scissors on hand to make merkins to order Saturday.

At the same time, Il Vinaio is introducing its latest draft beer: Humboldt Brewing's Hemp Ale, a brown ale with a hoppy character but a crisp taste with little bitterness.

Pints of both Velvet Merkin and Hemp Ale will be just $3 Saturday night.

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