APR/MAY 2005 | REGIONAL | SOUTHWEST
Spring is a great time to visit the Southwest, as there are
many events to enjoy. Spring training baseball games, beer
festivals, sub-100-degree weather and more beer festivals.
Speaking of beer festivals, we had another great Arizona Strong
Ale Festival in January of 2005. Strong Ale 2005 was represented
by breweries far and wide this year, with selections from
California and Colorado and a special treat from Dogfish Head
World Wide Stout from Dogfish Head made an Arizona debut,
and the five-gallon keg blew 12 minutes after being tapped!
Not to worry, Little Guy Distributing, which was pouring a
number of high-gravity beers that day, also had YuleSmith
from AleSmith in San Diego and the 13.5% abv Czar Imperial
Stout from Avery Brewing in Colorado. As usual, it was a booth
that you wanted to be hanging out at throughout the day!
Four Peaks from Tempe was also pouring some outstanding locally
brewed beer. Hopsquatch, an Imperial Red Ale (or sometimes
barley wine), is a malty sweet beer with a great hop aroma.
This is a must beer to sample if you are into big, malty brews
and you want to try the finest that Phoenix has to offer.
Upcoming festivals in Arizona include the Great Arizona Beer
Festival on April 2–3 at the Arizona Center in downtown
Phoenix and the Spring Hop Festival II, which will be held
on Friday, April 29, at the Peoria Sports Complex from 5:30
to 10:30 p.m. Last year’s Spring Hop Festival was a
mind-blowing lupulin experience, so check out azbrewguild.com
for details on how to get tickets for this year’s event.
Gentle Ben’s new brewer, Steve Onofryton,
is brewing some truly outstanding beers.
Some other great Arizona beers of note at Strong Ale were
the 6.8% Mocha Java Stout and Ben’s IPA from Gentle
Ben’s in Tucson. Gentle Ben’s new brewer, Steve
Onofryton, a veteran homebrewer of 10 years from the Tucson
area, has been manning the 15-barrel brewhouse since June
of 2004 and is brewing some truly outstanding beers. Steve’s
beers were so good at Strong Ale that I paid a visit down
to Tucson, where I was treated to some mighty fine hospitality
and the full line of offerings at the pub.Steve has been experimenting
with some new hops, and I have to say the 7% abv IPA is wonderfully
balanced, with Columbus hops used for bittering and flavor
and Amarillo hops added in the finish. Hard to go wrong with
Other beers that can be sampled at Gentle Ben’s include
the highly drinkable Taylor Jayne’s Raspberry Ale, a
lighter ale with a clean, raspberry finish, and Red Cat Amber,
a fine 6% abv beer brewed with Perle and Cascade hops.
Of course, the NCAA basketball tournament is always a reason
to brew a special beer in Tucson, and this year was no exception.
The annual NCAAle was tapped at the end of February and was
immediately placed on a one-pint limit after a full court
press was put on the serving tank during the first night it
was on. Steve not only brewed a double batch of 13 barrels
this year, but he cranked up the abv to 9.3%! I’ve sampled
the NCAAle a number of times, and I’d have to say this
is the best batch yet. Look for NCAAle to be served on special
occasions throughout the spring, and perhaps early summer
too, in the Old Pueblo. Gentle Ben’s, located two blocks
from the University of Arizona campus in the heart of Tucson,
is a must visit when in southern Arizona.
If you happened to be in Santa Fe at the Blue Corn Café
& Brewery on February 1, 2005, you were treated to some
of the best high-gravity beers in the state in one setting
at the Big Beer Rodeo III. Diners kicked off the event with
an imperial stout brewed by Sierra Blanca Brewing Company
from Carrizozo, N.M. Nice way to start out the evening! From
there, Welsh rarebit was served with High Desert Brewing Company’s
barley wine — a tasty beer that I remember from last
year’s event — and then a salad served with a
maibock from Eske’s in Taos, N.M.
Of course, you need a killer beer for the main course, and
what better brew to serve with sautéed chicken and
Italian sausage, sweet bell peppers, fresh rosemary and horseradish
mashed potatoes than Chicken Killer Barley Wine from nearby
Santa Fe Brewing?
The Santa Fe portion of the event capped off with some dessert
and Java Imperial Stout from hosting pub Blue Corn, and then
a serving of Ice Pale Ale from Wellhead Brewing Company in
The next evening, the event moved to Milagro Brewing in Bernalillo,
N.M., where more great food and brews were served. Some of
the entrees and brews served on the second night included
Roggenbock from Il Vicino in Albuquerque, and pan-seared diver
scallops with citrus avocado mousse, which was paired with
the Turtle Mountain Whiplash Wheat.
Next, diners feasted on Chardonnay-braised lamb shank in
natural reduction with white leek risotto and roasted root
vegetables, which was paired with the Second Street 2002 Barley
Wine. Are you getting hungry yet? Good, because we haven’t
even told you about the pork and raspberry sausage with red
wine sage demi-glace paired with Tractor Brewing’s Inebriator
Doppelbock, or the dessert, which was orange lavender flan
with citrus honey glaze paired with Chama River’s 2005
Another tasty treat served early on in the evening was the
grilled Atlantic salmon with bah humbug-fennel jus on a warm
fennel and red onion salad, which was served with Milagro’s
Bah Humbug Olde Ale. Sadly, this was one of the last events
at Milagro, as the brewpub closed the doors shortly thereafter.
A possible resurrection is in the works, and we’ll have
details on that and other Southwest beer news in the next
edition. Until then, drink hoppy beer!
Gentle Ben’s Brewing
865 E. University Blvd.
Tucson, AZ 85719
Pete Ricks covers craft beer in the Southwest
for the Celebrator Beer News and beerdude.com,
where he will pick 256 professional regular season football
games with .700 or greater accuracy in 2005.