The sold-out Real, Wild, and Woody craft beer festival debuted on Saturday, July 19 at Tempe Center for the Arts, with beer geeks filling the indoor venue in hopes of getting a taste of countless rare and specialty brews. We'd love to console those who didn't nab a ticket fast enough by saying the event featured long lines or overly-hyped brews -- but that would be a lie.
In truth the first event was remarkably well-organized, well-attended, and full of one-of-a-kind beers.
In a city with no shortage of beer-feuled events, Real, Wild, and Woody stands out as a true beer geek's dream. Nearly every brewery at the event had created a specialty brew specifically for the festival. In many cases that meant barrel-aging one of the brewery's regular brews, though in some cases breweries created special casks to tap just for festival-goers.
With such a rare lineup of brews, it shouldn't have surprised festival organizers that eager drinkers were lined-up outside the event well-before the doors opened at 2 p.m. By the time the long-awaited start time hit, there was a giant line of sweaty patrons outside waiting to have their ID's checked. By our count it took somewhere between 45 and an hour to get everyone inside.
It was a tight squeeze but the fact that the crowd was friendly and excited made navigating the crowded Tempe Center for the Arts much less of a bane. And it's a testament to the number of Arizona craft brewers that there weren't many lines to wait in to get beers. The only exception was Arizona Wilderness Brewing, which boasted a fairly lengthy line throughout the event.
It took about two hours for some of the beers featured in event's cask section to run out, these small-batch brews included creations such as a Rosemary IPA from The Perch and a Cocoa Puff Porter from Fate Brewing. But other than these very limited-quality beers, we didn't notice any shortage of brews -- and that's even with the very lax monitoring of samples. Should anyone have wanted to sample more than the allotted 20 beers, we're confident they would have been able.
The small touches that really impressed us with this event included the free food samples located in a two places throughout the event. Though food wasn't a prominent part of the festival, the small number of samples from restaurants including Pig and Pickle and Cornish Party were just what we needed to soak up all the booze. Free water bottles located at the event exit were also a nice touch.
Despite long lines to get inside, it seems the Real, Wild, and Woody festival was a hit. We could easily see this becoming the craft beer scene's marquee annual event.