Arizona Strong Beer Fest Will Make You Happy – By Beer’s N Buddies

By: Beer’s N Buddies

Days go slow, and years go fast, and with February 2019 approaching just on the horizon, this old adage rings true. Just one month ago it was Christmas trees, lights, and presents, but now, romance fills the air, jewelry stores remind you that a “Kiss begins with Kay,” and roses will be red, and violates blue. Indeed, February is a special month, and we at Beers N Buddies wish all you love birds a great day. For us, however, February is special for a different reason, and if you have followed us for any length of time, you know that reason is beer! February 9, 2019, marks the 19th Annual Arizona Strong Beer Festival hosted by the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, an event that we love almost as much as our valentines. We first fell in love with this event in 2017, this year marks our 3rd visit to the festival, and each year that love grows deeper. As we began to think about what is to come and prepare for the plethora of great beers that are sure to impress at this year’s festival, we got a bit nostalgic and wondered how last year’s event, chronicled by us in this video, might stack up against this year. Is it possible, we wondered, for this year to be even better? Of course, only time will tell, but we thought we might try and make some predictions!

For any special event to go off without a hitch, aValentine’s Day dinnerfor instance, preparations must be made: failure to do so will likely result in a failure to launch. So, about this time last year, both of us decided to make a “wish list,” of sorts, of the various beers we hoped to sample. (see that list here) Like a kid in a candy store we wanted to try everything, but with literally hundreds of beers available to us, our livers simply could not hang. It was, therefore,a good thing we had come prepared because we knew there would be beers that we would fall in love with. True as that was, there were a few that took us by surprise. Although Scott was only able to sample two beers from his wish list, including the Barrel-aged version of ‘American Presidential Stout’ by Arizona Wilderness Brewing, Aaron was able to try much of his. Those were great beers, for sure, but for all his preparations the one brewery that caught his attention most was Pinetop Brewing Company. In fact, these beers caught both of us off guard because the brewery was not even on our radar. Talk about getting love-struck.

Although the sleepy little hilltop town of Pinetop is usually only thought of as a vacation spot to escape the blistering summer heat of the Phoenix valley, Pinetop Brewing Company produces some of the best Belgian beer in the state of Arizona, evidenced by their multiple awards and their best-in-show from prior festivals. Although Pinetop is great, their brews were not a single love affair for us. Another brewery that took us by surprise included Tombstone Brewing, Scott had never sampled their beers, from the famed Tombstone, AZ, and one from out of state: La Cumbre from Albuquerque, NM. No question about it, the 2018 Strong Beer Fest tugged at our heartstrings, and much of that came from the surprises we never anticipated. With so much great beer to try each year, this year we’ve decided to search out those hidden gems a little harder, and get to know the stories of those who brew and drink them. That, of course, is a task for the day of the event, but that does not mean we don’t have an eye for the future. Thanks to the generosity of many Arizona brewers, we have been given a sneak peek into some of the beers that will be available, and if you’re like us, the following list will make you all giddy.


Dark Sky Brewing – Flagstaff, AZ

“This year we will be bringing 3 big ol’ imperial stouts (all above 11.5%) and as usual, our ‘Palate Cleanser’ haha! No timed releases”– Nick Irvine of Dark Sky Brewing

  • An imperial stout aged in 2 separate bourbon barrels and Tahitian vanilla beans
  • Imperial coffee stout with maple syrup, aged in cinnamon/vanilla extract bourbon barrels
  • Imperial stout brewed with cherries, cocoa nibs, coconut, and lactose
  • Traditional Helles

Mother Road Brewing Co. – Flagstaff, AZ

“We will obviously have all our core products…we will also be doing 2 specialty tapings as well of our 7th Anniversary Imperial Porter aged in Colorado Whiskey Barrels, Descriptions below.”– Francis Leavy — Head Brewer-Downtown

  • Barrel-Aged 7th Anniversary: Roasted malt, caramel toffee, and coffee flavor profile, with notes of chocolate, molasses, and spices. Barrels add notes of oak, vanilla, and of course a little whiskey character. 6% ABV, 40 IBU
  • Barrel-Aged 7th Anniversary w/ Cherry: Same descriptors as above, Cherries add a bit more character to our 7th Anniversary Imperial Porter giving it a mellow Cherry Chocolate candy bar taste, really helps to bring out some more of the Caramel Toffee notes. 6% ABV, 40 IBU

Pueblo Vida Brewing – Tucson, AZ

“Here is some info on our “Ecotone” Double IPA that we will be bringing to Strong Beer Fest this year” – Andrew Ownes – Operations Manager

  • “Ecotone” is the continuation of our Strata single-hop series. A hazy Double IPA (ABV: 8%) brewed with Pure Idaho & NW Pale Malt + Unmalted Wheat from BKW Farms in Marana, AZ. Dry-hopped solely with Strata hops! Strata is a new hop variety out of the Oregon State hop breeding program with insane notes of dankness, mango, grapefruit, and peach! An “Ecotone” is a transition area between two biomes. It is where two communities meet and integrate.

Grand Canyon Brewing – Williams, AZ

We are going to feature 4 beers at Strong Beer Festival this year, see below” – Alex Phillips – Sales Manager

  • American Pilsner – Light Lager
  • Shaggy Back – Bock
  • Deep in the Green – DIPA
  • It’s Blackberry Violet – Hazy IPA (Collab with 12West Brewing)

O.H.S.O Brewery – Gilbert, AZ

“We are having two tents for beer at the fest.  One showcasing our beer and the other showcasing the best of the guest brew program from Arcadia… I’m not fully sure on which selections have been chosen from Arcadia for the pro-AM tent, but I can tell you about our beers.” – Josh Goodstein – Brewery Production Manager – Gilbert

  • Beer 1: Brass Monkey- this year for Brass Monkey, we sourced all of the tangelos from Agritopia and used over 300#’s in this batch.  Zest in the boil, candied zest in the fermenter, and the juice from all of the tangelos in the fermenter. It’s coming along very nicely and we were excited to incorporate our friends at Agritopia in this batch as they are local to Gilbert.
  • Beer 2: Knights of Windsor- The Knights of Windsor had their own take on French Toast. Instead of egg and milk, it was more of a boozy toast.  And who doesn’t want more booze, especially in their breakfast? We took a wee heavy base and aged it in Maple Syrup barrels to make the most delightful French Toast Wee-Heavy beer.  Checking in at over 13% and full of maple and deliciousness, it’s not to be missed.
  • Beer 3: Belgian Quad collaboration with Wanderlust- Our Paradise Valley Brewery brewed a Belgian Quad with Wanderlust and at 9.8% it is sure to be dangerously drinkable.
  • Beer 4: Crazy in Love Ft: Hay-Z- as it is near valentine’s day, our Crazy in Love FT; Hay-Z is making a comeback.  This year we stepped it up a notch. We took a marshmallow fluff hazy IPA base with tons of Mosaic and Strata hops and fermented it with 252# of strawberry puree.

In addition to these awesome sounding beers, rumor has it that we might see some equally awesome collaboration brews leading up to Arizona Strong Beer Festival as part of Arizona Beer Week. Keep in mind, these are rumors:

  • Ironfire Brewing (Temecula, CA) & The Beer Research Institute (Mesa, AZ) – Hazy Double IPA
  • Goldwater Brewing Co (Scottsdale, AZ) & Earn your Booze – Blueberry Coffee Cake Imperial Stout
  • AZ Breweries – Women’s Collab – ‘Persistence’ Pale Ale

Ben Franklin once said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” and we can tell you from first-hand experience, the Arizona Strong Beer Fest will make you happy, happy indeed. Whether you have a love affair with barrel aged stouts, barleywines, or triple IPAs, there will be no shortage of great beer to satisfy. Better than a box of chocolates, a dozen roses, or a romantic dinner, this year’s festival promises to sweep people off their feet, and if its anywhere near as it good as it was last year, it will do just that.

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Erik Merkow
Founder and CEO at Az Food & Wine
Erik: a father, writer, son, photographer, corporate guy, friend, brother, and foodie wine guy

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