If there’s one good reason to enjoy the craft beer scene besides the excellent beer, it’s gotta be the people you meet when you really indulge yourself in it. Being a new member of AZ Girls Pint Out and having gone to three events so far, I have had the honor and pleasure of meeting some wonderful women who have a true passion for craft brews both from the breweries and from their own homes. I have been able to taste many different amazing types of beer from many local and smaller breweries thanks to my participation in this group and I can only hope to further my knowledge by continuing to attend events with such welcoming people. I love the craft beer scene for not being snobby or pretentious, how nobody’s better than anybody else, where opinions are encouraged and sharing wisdom and laughter is a binding force behind new relationships. The only thing mandatory is a genuine thirst for craft beer, whether it be a physical thirst or an intellectual thirst. I’m already looking forward to the next event so I can make more connections around the valley.
Tonight’s event was hosted by AZ Girls Pint Out in conjunction with World Class Beverages at Crescent Crown Distributing center in Phoenix. They had lots of great beers available – somewhere around 12 – 15 – for our group of 25-30 women to try at our whim. There was no way I was going to even attempt to grab a cup of every beer, so I picked six and jotted down a few notes on each of them – which means these mini-reviews will not be up to par with my normal reviews, but you are getting six for the price (time) of one. I did take pictures of the poured beer, but those plastic cups are just so…classy…and opaque…that there really isn’t a whole lot to see there. Eventually down the line I will try to get my hands on the actual bottles for myself so I can do the brews more justice, but for now, container shots will have to suffice.
A witbier, it appeared a pale golden-yellow hay with plenty of visible carbonation despite being quite hazy. It held a lovely creamy white head all the way through the drink and left thick sheets of sticky lacing along the inside of the cup. Unfortunately, this was where I stopped enjoying it, as the smell was quite medicinal and sweet. Behind the odd mixture of sour orange peel and sweet wheats, there were a few light oats and a perfumey coriander, but even before I tasted it, it smelled sickly thick. Taking a cautious sip, I found the texture to be almost waxy with the foamy head obstructing my tongue from the liquid underneath, it really interfered with the mouthfeel and made it seem thicker than it probably was. The medicinal sweetness was present again in the flavor, followed by a flighty fruity acidity, sour orange peel, and lots of thick wheat. Maybe it was just the plastic cup, but due to the foam, and despite the visible bubbles, it tasted flat and syrupy. I’m sure with the right glassware, this beer is a delight, and having tried a few witbiers and enjoying them, I can’t imagine this is that much different from the others, I just need to try it under different circumstances. So I’m not writing this one off (or any of them for that matter), I’m just going to have to try it again later.
I am a huge fan of SanTan Brewery and the beers that come out of that establishment, not to mention living only a block away definitely has its perks. I have tried their Sunspot Gold, Count Hopula, and Epicenter Amber Ale, of which the Count Hopula is easily my favorite due to it being an Imperial IPA – I love hops. The HopShock may now be my second favorite thanks to all the hops it holds. It glows a clear dark amber-red, and I can’t say much about the head as by the time I got it back to my table, it had pretty much melted into the beer with minimal retention and a faint lacing. The smell was heavenly. The end. My nose fell in love thanks to the early faintly sweet caramelized orange peel leading the way for the obvious grapefruit juice/tart lemon hops bursting from the cup. There were some super subdued malts hovering in there somewhere, too, but I only got a few whiffs of them before they were drowned out by the bitter. Soon after my nose found its soul mate, my tongue was introduced to its new best friend. Hops. Everywhere. This beer was shockingly bitter (see what I did there?) but managed to stay suave and smooth even with a spicy carbonation blasting my taste buds to smithereens. Holding a decent medium mouthfeel, it was filled with the grapefruit juice/lemon zest hops and pine hops – bitter to the max. There were some very, very faintly sweet caramel malts again right on the tip of my tongue, but they were hardly noticeable after the onslaught of hops and deliciousness. I’m trying not to be biased here…
A true fruit beer if ever there was one! Lost Coast’s Tangerine Wheat poured a clear orange-copper with a thin off-white head and minimal to no retention. Nothing impressive, but what it’s lacking in appearances, it certainly makes up for in nose. This was probably one of my favorite beers to smell if only because it was pure sweet, freshly-peeled clementine and tangerines – a nicely sweetened orange citrus juice with plenty of sugar and zero bitterness; I almost want to say it reminded me of some sort of cleaning agent, minus the hospital smell. Had I not been at an event for beer tasting, there is no way I would have known this was a beer purely by smell, as the alcohol was nonexistent in the nose. Even in the taste, it was like an off-kilter orange soda. Sipping it made me think of sucking on a clementine splashed with tangerine. The mouthfeel was medium with quite light carbonation that kept it from being fizzy. It ended nice and clean and very fresh – a summery, fruity drink by all measures.
A Belgian-Style IPA, it’s just as rowdy and provocative in execution as it is by title. I really dig how this brewery names all of their beers in a doggy spirit without holding back on the bite…clever and attention grabbing. Appearing a clear burnt orange with copper highlights, the Raging Bitch held a respectable sandy head that gradually faded to sticky sheets of lace. The nose came across as a bright orange peel citrus combined with a light lemon zest making the aroma quite crisp and bitter. There is also quite a bit of Belgian yeast, as there should be, and in the end, the nose is really pleasing. Leading straight into the flavor, there are a lot of hops (Warrior, Columbus, and Amarillo – holy goodness) that make up a large, fantastic bitter bite. The orange is still quite present as a quick zest in the spicy carbonation and medium mouthfeel, though I found myself searching for the yeast after a while. Regardless, this is one Bitch that is definitely raging.
Imperial IPA all the way, baby. My favorite style of beer just became more awesome. I love when I can continue to solidify my list of favorites with more proof that they’re awesome. Gubna poured a clear pale orange, almost peachy color, with a thin eggshell head breaking into wispy lacing and thin patches. Sticking my nose into it, I came away with pine, a weedy marijuana/hemp, and a zesty bite of bold pink grapefruit. All together it was very bright, but dank, and I had a hard time finding anything sweet in it – hops all the way. Once in my mouth, the pine dominated my palate, closely followed by waves of lemon-rind hops, grass, orange peel, and pink grapefruit. By the end I had a thick, bitter aftertaste of dry pine on my tongue, regardless of the lighter mouthfeel. The carbonation added a nice spicy twang to all of the hops, almost rendering it “springy.” I found that it reminded me of SanTan’s Count Hopula with all of the pine and grapefruit running amok, which is in no way a bad thing as I find Count Hopula to be one of my favorite beers. If you need a way to wake up in the morning, skip your coffee and dip your tongue in this – I’m completely downplaying the punchy bitterness here as it’s getting late and I’m exhausted.
Czech Pilsner and my least favorite of the brews I tried. I’m not sure if it’s because it was the last one I tasted or if I am becoming too much of a hophead, but this beer just didn’t do anything for me. It was a nice, bright cloudy golden yellow with lots of visible carbonation and carried a great thick, creamy head with good retention, but after that it just went downhill like the Troublette. Under my nose, it came across medicinally sweet but with a faint and bitter powdered sugar corn/banana bread malt tint. Oh yeah, there was some yeast in there, too. Weird, I know. The mouthfeel was definitely on the thicker side, with a lighter flavor – basically all sweet cornbread malt – than the nose. I really wish I had more to end on, but that’s about as good as it’s going to get for tonight. I’m glad for the experience, as always, but this one would be my last choice at any bar.
So I got to try three new canned beers and three new bottled, and I gotta say, for coming into this totally favoring bottles, I’m really learning to appreciate the whole canning revolution that’s going on right now in the craft beer world. About halfway through, we were led on a tour through the enormous warehouse and cooler to see all of the beer as it is brought in in bulk and as it is separated and sent out to its final home with retailers. At the end of the tasting, there was a quick presentation where we reviewed some of the first and most notable female brewers throughout history into the present day and got to know more about the three-tier distribution system that exists among breweries (suppliers), distribution centers (wholesalers), and retailers (consumers). It was an enlightening adventure, as I’m sure the entirety of my journey through craft beer will be, especially with such a welcoming community that is eager to share its wealth of knowledge with even the most amateur of members.