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The Best Regional Beers In Arizona

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Arizona beers are made across the state and include a number of different types. Image by Alan Levine and used under the terms of a Creative Commons license.
A Group Of Beer-Heads Take The Arizona Strong Beer Festival Very Scientifically At The Beginning - Before Ending Up Way Too Buzzed - But Nevertheless Have Named Their Favorites

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By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

Feb. 22, 2016 — Arizona Beer Week is wrapping up and plenty of restaurants, bars and breweries around the Valley celebrated the past seven days with specials, tasting menus and other brew-centric activities that any hop head was sure to enjoy. But none of those goings on compared to the week’s preeminent event, the Arizona Strong Beer Festival, which took place on Feb. 13 at Steele Indian School Park.

In case your were unable to come across a ticket or just couldn’t justify spending at least $45 to stumble across the park as a socially-acceptable drunk for the afternoon, I (and two trusted friends) ventured out to the festival to taste that best that local and regional brewers had to offer.

While many of the festival’s patrons were there simply to get sloshed and taste some great brews, we had a nobler mission in mind: to find the best beers available for you, dear reader. That way you can try them out for yourselves without having to shell out nearly $50. Thanks to blessed establishments like Total Wine, Bevmo and brewery tasting rooms, you can score single servings of each of these wonderful beers and enjoy them in comfort without risk of sunburn.

My compatriots and I risked life and limb (but mostly sunburned skin and liver) to try as many beers at the festival that we could get our mitts on to find the very best for you. Don’t believe me? Take a look at my notebook. What started as an organized graded list of offerings now looks like a crumpled piece of fourth-grade homework soaked in beer and what I only can hope is more beer (and not urine or vomit).

Speaking of grades, we rated the festival’s beers based on a scientific scale that I came up with after entering the Arizona Strong Beer Festival gates. Each grade is based on five equally-weighted categories: Flavor (does it taste good), Presentation (does it look good?), Name (because craft beer is 90% about the name), Authenticity (does this IPA actually taste like an IPA?) and Alcohol Content (this is the strong beer festival after all).

The judges, myself and my buddies, are all avid beer drinkers who have long since abandoned their Milwaukee’s Best beer-pong days to reside in the fertile pasture that is the craft beer revolution. In other words, we are all sufficiently snobby enough to be doing something as douchey as comparing craft beers.

But enough about us. Let’s get to the beers. Each of these selections represents beers that blew us away, though they are listed in no particular order (as I am surprised we were even coherent enough to get this far).

San Tan Brewing Company MoonJuice IPA
Obviously, this beer nailed it in the name category, but it is far from a one-trick pony. It is a solid IPA with refreshing notes of fruit, namely pineapple and grapefruit. Known as a Galactic IPA because of the use of galaxy hops, the beer is not quite as bitter as comparable IPAs (65 IBU) but is surprisingly crisp and refreshing for beer that comes at 7.3 percent alcohol.

Wren House Brewing Who Hit John Imperial Porter
Wren House is a relative new kid on the block in the Phoenix brewing scene having opened up in a historic home near 24th Street and McDowell Road in Phoenix last summer. However, its founders are anything but new as brewer Preston Thoeny used to brew at Big Sky Brewing in Montana. That pedigree shows as Wren House already has an impressive lineup of tasty beers available, headlined by this impressive Imperial Porter. Who Hit John is a heavy beer that starts with the taste of chocolate and tart berries followed by a smooth chocolatey coffee finish. At 8.8 percent alcohol, it also packs a punch.

Nimbus Old Monkey Shine
This is a good, solid English Strong Ale from Tucson’s Nimbus that’s very malty with enjoyable bitterness. It also has decent sweetness that offsets the smoky, roasted flavor that dominates the beer.  I prefer the beer on tap, though it is easily found in bottles at most local craft retailers.

The Dudes’ Brewing Company Double Trunk IPA
The first out-of-town selection on the list, this IPA comes from Torrance, Calif.-based The Dudes’ Brewing Company. We definitely have some Arizona bias, so this beer really had to impress to make the list. While the name and presentation left something to be desired, this beer shined where it counts in the flavor and authenticity category. It’s a wonderfully hoppy beer with hints of citrus that tastes just like an IPA should. And at 9.4 ABV, it will get you drunk.

THAT Brewery Blacked Out IPA
This IPA’s name perfectly exemplifies how you’ll feel after a day at the Arizona Strong Beer Festival. It’s a beautiful beer with a deep black color and thick tan head that’s equally impressive in the flavor department with an enjoyable bitterness and toasty flavor. At 7 percent ABV, it’s not quite as high in alcohol as some others on the list, but that just means you can have two.

O.H.S.O Brewery Praying Monk Quad
It’s hard to find a decent quadrupel that’s not actually brewed by pious monks in Belgium, but I have to give O.H.S.O. mad props because this place really pulled it off. When you close your eyes and sip Praying Monk, it tastes just how a quad should. Rather than a generically strong beer, this quad is a sweet, malty beer with a flavor that doesn’t betray it’s ridiculous 11.1 ABV. Don’t get me wrong, those monks still own the game, but O.H.S.O. produces a quality interpretation.

The Beer Research Institute 480G IPA
Okay, we may have a thing for IPAs. But with this selection, you can’t really blame us. This is another picturesque IPA that pours a wonderful golden brown with a crisp white head. It’s got citrus and woody tastes and is very hoppy, though the strong bitterness is not overbearing.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and we were drunk almost the entire time, so our efficacy is suspect at best. That being said, the festival did a great job gathering together a wonderful selection of brewers. In fact, of the many (many, many) beers we tried, there wasn’t one that stood out as particularly bad. A full list of beers is available at the Arizona Beer Week website.
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