ON AND OFF THE BEATEN PATH :: SPECIAL EDITION – Ring of Fire Festival, Surprise AZ

by David Daugherty on October 22, 2011

On the weekend of October 8th, exactly one week after arriving in my new home here in Arizona, I took in the local craft beer/food festival in Surprise Arizona called “Ring of Fire.” The weather was hot, high 90’s with blue skies and what I had hoped was going to be a plethora of beer.  We’ll get to that “plethora” of beer part soon.

The event was a precursor to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships featuring such tennis greats as Pete Sampras, Mats Wilander, Jim Courier, Michael Chang and Chris Evert.  This marked the fourth annual tennis event here in Surprise but it was the inaugural event for the beer festival.  Keep that in mind.

Called Ring of Fire for the area along the North American and Pacific plates where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur, from which (very large) region come breweries such as Sierra Nevada and Kona who sponsored the event along with Golden Eagle Distributing.  Everything seemed proper; it looked like a beer festival.  There were the tents with volunteers pouring beer samples; food tents featuring Mexican, Italian and American fare. and bands playing on stage featuring a couple fine local bands, Ron’s Garage Band and The Chadwicks.

I went to the beer ticket area to exchange my entry ticket for my 5 free samples and bought a couple extra full beer tickets. After surveying the tennis court looking for the shortest line to any beer tent,  I got in line and waited… and waited and waited for my first sample.  I continued to wait while the line crawled at a snails’ pace.  About three quarters of the way to the table, the line was informed that they had run out of beer at that tent.

So here I am, at least 40 minutes in line, and – I am at a beer festival… without a beer in my hand!

I looked for another short line to another beer tent and it was the same.  Wait…slow crawl…run out of beer.  How do you run out of beer at a beer festival?  At this point I was perplexed and mostly thirsty.

Thankfully, I ran into my new neighbor Tony.  He had been kind enough to help us unload a portion of the truck at my new house a week earlier, and then brought over a six pack to properly welcome me to the neighborhood.  Tony asked why I didn’t have a beer yet.  I explained that I had been there for an hour standing in lines and he handed me one of his samples. Now, with a beer in my hand, I picked another line hoping I would finally get my own beer. and finally, I did, a  Sierra Nevada Stout, which I have already had so I took the sample, turned around and got into another line, this one for Kona Brewing from Hawaii!

I chose the Wailua Wheat Beer.  This was an interesting brew.  Made with the nectar of passion fruit, this was a totally refreshing beer on a hot day like today.  I was getting more fruit than wheat out of this beer which was fine with me.  The aroma was citrus and fruit, but not so much like a juice, as it was something of a malty sweetness.  That sweetness came through on first sip and stayed throughout as well as the malty, citrusy, fruit tastes.

While there, I got a bottle of their Kona Pipeline Porter made with Hawaiian Kona coffee.  Awesome to say the least!

At this point I was feeling, not only better about the event, but refreshed and shored up enough to try the line that had the one Sierra Nevada ale I really wanted to try, their Tumbler.

I really wasn’t into last year’s version of Tumbler, but I had heard some good things about this year’s offering and was ready to give it a serious go! Absolutely worth the wait!  I drank it straight out of the bottle, so as for color, I would submit that it was dark from what others who had a small sample had shown me.  The aroma was a bready, malty sweet smell.  But it was the taste that sold me.  I was getting a bitterness of hops as well as chocolate notes, malt, malt and more malt.  A very nice ale and even though I had it on a hot day, this is a great fall beer.  With an ABV of 5.5%, you can enjoy more than a couple and not regret it in the morning!

Ok, so even though my anticipated “plethora” of beer ended up being just the couple I really wanted to try, it turned out great after all, and as this was Surprise’s first beer festival, I think it’s likely next year’s will be much better.  I’ll support it next year and hope it expands (without the running out of beer part)!

Oh, and thanks Tony! 

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