It was a strong finish for this year’s Arizona Strong Beer Festival (Feb. 14 in Phoenix), as one of the Southwest’s biggest beer-centric events brewed up record-setting numbers from start to finish. Now in its 15th year, the large-scale hospitality and tourism event celebrating the craft brewing industry’s rarest and strongest standouts saw more than 7,500 attendees strewn about three footballs fields, as well as 143 of the nation’s best breweries sharing more than 400 of their most sought-after specialties.
From barrel-aged brews to barley wines, the offerings at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix didn’t disappoint even the most discerning beer drinkers, and those who wanted to be in the know were given to-the-minute text updates right before breweries began tapping their most limited and exclusive brews.
“This year’s breweries really outdid themselves as far as offerings,” said Rob Fullmer, executive director of the Arizona Craft Brewer’s Guild, the presenter of the annual event. “This festival has built up quite a following since its inception, but even we were blown away by this year’s figures.”
In addition to 400 craft beers, the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild hosted its first-ever wedding. One lucky craft beer-loving couple was married at Arizona Strong Beer Festival by Crescent Crown’s own Chuck Noll. Eric Hasty and Jessica Wilson tied the knot on Saturday morning as festival goers entered in the Guild’s first wedding giveaway — but it may not be the last.
Fullmer said there several things that factored in to this year’s big numbers. The growing number of breweries in the state and nation, the steadily rising popularity of the craft beer movement in general and the Guild’s recent presence in the news as part of its legislative successes and continued efforts all helped hype this year’s festival and ticket sales. VIP tickets sold out several months in advance, and general admission tickets were gone within a few minutes of opening the gates.
“We’ve been working ‘round the clock toward the growth of craft beer in the state, and the success of this year’s Strong Beer Festival indicates that it’s paying off,” Fullmer said. “With this year behind us, we’ll continue to focus to the #AZBeerBill, as well as the steady growth of both the Arizona Craft Brewer’s Guild and the craft beer industry as a whole.”
The guild will continue to celebrate craft beer with more than 400 events on tap until Saturday as Arizona Beer Week continues. The next craft beer celebration is planned for mid-July, with the 2nd annual Real Wild and Woody Festival. Details will be released soon.