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Southwestern Thirst
By Pete Ricks

Arizona keeps adding quality craft-beer festivals each year, and the latest event was no exception. The Arizona Real Ale Festival was held on a Saturday night in November at the Icehouse in downtown Phoenix. The Icehouse, which is a converted warehouse building, served as a perfect venue for the event, and participation was strong. Festival patrons were treated to a wide range of real ale. For those not in the know, real ale is beer naturally carbonated in a cask, vessel or bottle by yeast, as opposed to using carbon dioxide gas from a tank.

The walls of the main serving room were lined with over 40 casks from breweries in four states and two continents. Little Guy Distributing, which keeps raising the bar at every craft-beer festival, was serving Sawtooth ESB from Tabernash in Colorado, YuleSmith from AleSmith in San Diego, Hop Juice Double IPA from Left Coast in San Clemente, and Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil from Scotland. How is that for a lineup!

Tucson had a couple of breweries up for this event. Gentle Ben’s was serving IPA, Blond and Copper Ale. Nimbus Brewing had a fine Russian Imperial Stout and Rye IPA on tap. Rock Bottom was well represented, with 11 casks from Arizona and California. Some of the beers provided by Rock Bottom included Perpetual Burn Double IPA from the Arrowhead location, Udder Goodness Milk Stout from Desert Ridge, a fine barrel-aged stout from Long Beach and a wonderful saison from the Ahwatukee location.

Speaking of Rock Bottom, the Scottsdale location's brewers Charlie Billingsly and Joe Bob Grisham from the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild were instrumental in organizing this highly successful event, one that is sure to become a regular tradition like the Arizona Strong Ale and the Spring Hopfest. The next big beer festival after Arizona Strong Ale is the Great Arizona Beer Festival, which will be held on April 2 and 3 this year at the Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix.

I paid a visit to the new Sonoran Brewery recently, which is now located at the Pinnacle Peak Patio in Northeast Scottsdale. New Sonoran owner and brewer Scott Yarosh is cranking out the beer. You can still get the Burning Bird Pale Ale, Desert Amber, Old Saguaro Barleywine, Inebriator Imperial Stout and other Sonoran favorites, but not in bottles, as the new brewery is smaller than the old one and does not have bottling facilities. Sonoran beer is available in kegs via Little Guy Distributing, and you can also get kegs, growlers and an assortment of other containers filled at the brewery. Call Yarosh for details.

Speaking of upcoming events, I was worried that the annual Sonoran Brewout might be history now, but Yarosh has informed me that it will indeed be held on February 26, 2005, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the new location, which offers some scenic views of Pinnacle Peak and the surrounding desert landscape. The Pinnacle Peak Patio is an expansive facility, and Yarosh is planning the biggest and best Sonoran Brewout ever, with live entertainment, Sonoran beer specials and a tasty assortment of grilled goods. Yarosh is also lining up a series of beer dinners to be hosted at the Pinnacle Peak Patio, the first of which was held in January of this year. We’ll have details in the next issue.

In addition to the upcoming festivals in Arizona, which include Strong Ale and the Great Arizona Beer Festival in March, Colorado River breweries are gearing up for the annual schwing break. Owner Scott Stocking from Mudshark in Lake Havasu City is ready for the masses with Upriver Lager (for those looking to trim a few carbs), Dry Heat Hefeweizen, Scorpion Amber and the easy-drinking Pub Draft ESB. Mudshark always has a fine assortment of beers on tap, a monthly lineup of fun activities for customers, and great food too.

Right along the river and next to the famed London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, you can sample the fine brews from Lon Weatherson, such as the Kickstart Oatmeal Stout and Bighorn IPA. Weatherson usually has an interesting seasonal on tap, so it is always worth the visit. Both Mudshark and Barley Brothers are good stops to make whenever in Lake Havasu City. (Check the updated Mudshark Brewing Web site for details and specials at mudsharkbrewing.com.)

New Mexico brewers are ready to celebrate Big Beer Rodeo 2005 at two locations this year. On February 1, 2005, the BBR will kick off at the Blue Corn Café and Brewery in Santa Fe. On February 2, the event will move down to the Milagro Grill and Brewery in Bernalillo. Some of the beers scheduled to be on tap include an award-winning Roggenbock from Il Vicino, a barley wine and Double IPA from Chama River, Ice Imperial Stout from Three Rivers in Farmington, and Old Ale from host brewery Milagro.

In other New Mexico brewing news, the construction at the former Blue Corn Albuquerque is going well and the opening of the new Chama River is on schedule. Look for Ted Rice and crew to have a bar to serve their fine beers in soon. Santa Fe Brewing is in the middle of a major expansion that will be unfolding throughout 2005. A new 10,000-square-foot brewery is in the works, and there will be a larger brewpub located right next door. We’ll have more details in the upcoming issue as the new operation takes shape.

Sonoran Brewing Co.
10426 E. Jomax Rd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85255
(602) 484-7775

Little Guy Distributing
5456 E. McDowell Rd., #123
Mesa, AZ 85215
(602) 484-7775

Milagro Grill and Brewery
1016 U.S. Hwy. 550
Bernalillo, NM 87004
(505) 867-8562

Blue Corn Café & Brewery
4056 Cerrillos Rd.
Santa Fe, NM 87507
(505) 438-1800

Pete Ricks covers craft beer in the Southwest for the Celebrator and beerdude.com, where he picks each pro football game every season with a high degree of accuracy.


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