Pretzel necklace? Check. Four-ounce tasting cup? Check. The drinking constitution to be able to take down high-alcohol beers and keep on ticking? Blazing sun in February and no shade to be found? Check, check, check. Welcome to the kick off event for the 2014 Arizona Beer Week, the Arizona Strong Beer Festival. But wait, someone forgot the strong part of that name.
See also: 10 Best Breweries in Metro Phoenix
A beer festival is enjoyable on any day, but when the words strong and beer are thrown together, one expects the breweries to bring out the big pours and leave the 5 percent to 8 percent ABV beers at home. Even Avery Brewing Co., makers of the 15 percent to 17 percent ABV Demons of Ale, Samuel's, the Beast and Mephistopheles, capped it at 10.2 percent with their delicious IPA Maharaja. To them I say "Thanks for coming back to Arizona but give me my Mephistopheles or give me death!" And to everyone, "What gives with the girl beer? I took the light rail here I don't have to drive!" I'm a girl who likes her beer like she likes her coffee, deeply black and strong enough to smack me across the face with its fortitude. Those dark beers were plentiful, but if I'm still standing fully erect after drinking my way through my 15 tasting tickets, there's something rotten in the state of this beer festival.
Thankfully, The Bruery didn't disappoint, bringing bourbon barrel aged Bois and Melange #3, 15 percent and 16.8 percent ABV, respectively. Both worth every drop of that beer ticket. Other favorites from the festival were Big Sky Brewing Co.'s Ivan the Terrible, Sonoran Brewing's raspberry-infused Inebriator stout, Borderland Brewing's barley wine, SanTan's always amazing Sex Panther, Desert Eagle's Black Sugar, and Pizza Port's Devil's Collaboration.
See Also: Strong Beer Festival 2014 at Steele Indian School Park (Complete Slideshow) Obsessing over booze content, or the lack thereof, aside, here's the rundown on this year's Arizona Strong Beer Festival:
• Great showing by Arizona brewers, with 42 breweries representing every corner of the state. Please note this is slightly inebriated counting, one or two may have been missed. The granddaddy of Arizona craft beer, Four Peaks made a huge appearance with their entire brewing lineup, including the very popular Sirius Black; but it was one of the newer kids, Arizona Wilderness Company that got people moving when a 2 p.m. text message announced one of their keg tappings.
• This year's text message alerts were the most entertaining part of the festival, with dozens of eager beer fans swarming the tents as the cleverly written alerts flashed on their screens. Odell's Creme Brulee Porter tapping was met with enthusiastic whoops and a line so long it didn't seem worth the wait or the sweat. Among the messages:
Simon says touch your nose. Simon says go to the Grand Canyon booth for Hop DIPA. Simon says skip there. Simon didn't say stop touching your nose. You're out!!
Some skipping may have been seen.
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• Incredibly strong sun for mid-February + boozy beer + only one place where to pick up water = an early afternoon headache from alcohol being baked straight in and a grumpy beer lover. For the love of all drinks foamy, dear event organizers, provide more shade and more water next year. Beer lovers everywhere will thank you.
• Is it just me, or was this festival lacking some of the usual lively entertainment?
If you missed this year's Arizona Strong Beer Festival, don't worry, you have a busy schedule of beer drinking opportunities with the 4th annual Arizona Beer Week coming your way.