They call it the Strong Beer Festival. You might think that means they serve strong beer. Other years you would be right, but this year it was primarily because you had to be strong to simply attend.
You can normally throw a dart at a calendar and hit a sunny day in Phoenix, but on February 19th, 2011, that dart would have done you wrong. It was cold, wet, rainy, gray, muddy, soggy, numbing, disgusting, and an unreasonable amount of fun.
I took it as a rare excuse to wear my trenchcoat in town without being hauled in for questioning, but even the coat, a sweater, a hat, and boots couldn’t stop me from being soaked to the skin. Some fools who hadn’t consulted the oracle arrived in jeans and a tshirt, but my favorites were the girls in mini-skirts and stilettos. The festival was in a park, on the grass, so I’ve no idea why stilettos would have been a good idea in the best of weather, but bless ‘em as they tried to navigate the freezing mud pits in their outfits.
Others were not so lucky. The mud pits claimed more than a few souls, including Charlie the Beer Guy, one of the many beer gurus I now know. The port-a-johns became a truly memorable experience as intoxicated patrons and numb hands combined with the copious mud to create mucky portals to the maw of an odiferous Hell. Through it all, local Phoenix band Captain Squeegee played on.
The whole affair was just a few quaaludes and one Jimi Hendrix shy of Woodstock. What made it so much fun was the great, stalwart local beer community.
I ran into Maureen from AZ Girls Pint Out, and local craft beer geek Rob Fullmer. People answered questions, braved the freezing rain, and bonded over the misery and tasty libations. Community is about what you share, and everyone there shared a ridiculously fun experience.
I was never much of a beer drinker growing up – I had a father who did way too much of that and it rather brutally crushed my interest in the topic. Thanks to the patience and friendship of some local hop-heads I’m already counting the days until the next festival.
I hope it rains.