Well, they said it would be off-centered.
The first annual Beer for Brains Foundation Off-Centered Experience was held Saturday at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort, and it was a weird, wild ride.
The day began with the toots of horns and the bangs of drums courtesy of the Bad Cactus Brass Band. To the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In," patrons marched in, eying the oddball décor: a statue of Elvis, suits of armor and cardboard cutouts of super heroes, Alice in Wonderland characters, the scarecrow and Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz. None of it made any sense.
What did make sense was the benefit of this celebration: brain cancer research. In 2009, Louis Dolgoff, a representative of Dogfish Head craft brewery, founded the Beer for Brains Foundation in memory of his wife Laurie, who lost her battle with brain cancer that year. The group's sustained by a philanthropic group of craft brewers striving to support brain cancer research through beer-related charity events. Most of the Off-Centered Experience's entrance fee went directly toward benefitting the Barrow Brain Tumor Research Center, where Laurie received her treatment.
Though their donations undoubtedly went to a worthy cause, patrons received much more than warm-and-fuzzies for the price of entry. The $75 entrance fee entitled festival-goers to a commemorative Beer for Brains cap, unlimited pours of some of the most sought-after beers in the country, and a beer festival experience unlike any other.
Each corner of the festival grounds offered something different. In one area, hungry patrons picked up Northeast-style food such as crab cakes and Philly cheesesteaks with a dessert of ice cream made from pumpkin-flavored ale. In another, paraphernalia such as bottles of uber-rare brews, a bike from New Belgium Brewing Co. and an autographed Kobe Bryant jersey were auctioned off. As the sun fell behind the mountains, belly dancers began their wild choreography, ending a wild performance dancing with fiery sword and torches. Local bands took the stage later, playing tunes as disparate as their original songs to covers of Ke$ha. It was all wonderfully disconnected, off-kilter and unique.
And the beer. Oh, the beer! Breweries from around the country -- many that have never been distributed in Arizona -- sent kegs of their best. Those unlimited pours came in handy, as there were more than 50 of the tastiest, weirdest and most sought-after beers in the country to try out. Some of the boozy highlights:
Founders Devil Dancer, a double IPA that's dry-hopped for 26 straight days with a combination of 10 hop varieties
Dogfish Head Raison D'Extra 2007, an 18% ABV brown ale brewed with brown sugar and raisins
The Bruery Coton, an old ale aged in bourbon barrels that was released to celebrate the Bruery's second anniversary
Lost Abbey Deliverance, a blend of two other Lost Abbey beers: bourbon-aged Serpent's Stout and brandy-aged Angel's Share
Redstone Meadery Nectar of the Hops, a dry-hopped honey mead
BrewBakers Big Shawn's Cellmate Stout, an 11% stout brewed with almonds, chipotle peppers and turbinado sugar, then aged on a bed of Nicaraguan Cacoa nibs
Moylan's Wet Hopsickle, a double IPA that was aged in chardonnay barrels
All in all, Dolgoff said there was enough brew for 1000 people. Around 750 showed up to the event, but even this was more than expected, Dolgoff said. "We hope for an even bigger festival and a better turnout next year," Dolgoff said. "We want to make this the best beer festival in Arizona."