Made in the Shade Festival Report

Beer festivals, like the beers they serve, come in many styles. Some try to awe with a high volume of vendors; others showcase unusually potent brews. Occasionally, however, one simply shows up. I’m sad to say that 2010’s Made in the Shade beer festival leaned more toward the latter of those three; I think I actually had more fun before and after the festival than at it.

But I still enjoyed the festivities. I drank some good beers, made a few new friends, and even took a walk in the woods — which, contrary to what news stations have been telling us, did not result in singed facial hair —  but I kept wanting more. It was my first time at this festival, but the regulars said they’d seen half as many people last year and twice as many vendors. Several breweries on the guest list didn’t even show up. And the one’s that did show up started running out of beer!

Many breweries only brought their flagship beers. This would be a great idea if the people who went to beer festivals were casual drinkers, but all the attendees I met were beer geeks, and many expressed disappointment in the selection. For example, New Belgium could have packed in a few cool, funky beers (see: their Lips of Faith series, mentioned below), but they brought Fat Tire and two other staples. Same goes for one of my favorites, Deschutes. They showed up with Mirror Pond and Black Butte Porter, two beers you can usually find at Wal-Mart. Alaskan brought their White and their Amber. And so on. I’m not saying these beers are bad — in fact I semi-regularly enjoy most of them — but I didn’t pay forty bucks to drink 4-ounce shots of something I could buy for seven dollars a six-pack at Safeway.

A handful of breweries came prepared. The Lost Abbey and Port Brewing shared a booth (they also share a set of owners), and each brought at least three or four beers. One Lost Abbey beer, a Saison named Carnivale, was particularly tasty — a solid representation of the spicy Belgian style. Some other breweries also had good beers, but, as I said before, I was a little bored overall. Except when a guy wearing lederhosen and a fake mustache challenged Ryan to a leg wrestling match. That was entertaining in a fever dream sort of way.

Remember what I said about having more fun before and after the festival? We got to Flagstaff a few hours early and went to Beaver Street Brewpub to watch the World Cup game. I had their Railhead Red, which was a well-balanced ale with just a touch of bitterness behind the sweet, crisp malt and, buried between them, a hint of smokiness that startled me. They also had an outstanding seasonal porter. After downing a delicious beer or two, feasting on a barbecue chicken pizza, and enjoying the World Cup buzz that was electrifying the pub (we left for the festival after the U.S. team scored its only goal), we headed for Made in the Shade. Ironically, I noticed very little shade. I mostly saw people who looked like lobsters.

After the beer fest, we wandered around downtown Flagstaff for a while, listening to some musicians performing street-side and eventually finding a beer and coffee store called Pay ‘n Take. We bought a 12-pack of Full Sail’s Session Black, bombers of Lagunitas Lucky 13 and New Belgium’s La Folie, and a 750 milliliter bottle of Chimay Blue. Then we brought them back to the motel and played Halo on the slowest high-speed internet connection I’ve ever seen. At first the lag was frustrating; as we drank, however, it became more and more hilarious. Enemies would disappear and reappear in front of us; they’d run through walls and somehow pistol whip us from 100 yards away. Several times, when I pressed the “chuck grenade” button, my character performed his throwing animation without remembering to grab a grenade first, sending a ball of nothing flying through the air. It was like gaming inside a 20-year-old dryer as it rumbled across the floor.

Thankfully the dryer was filled with beer! Wait — would that make it a washing machine? Whatever. The beers were good. Lucky 13 was spectacularly hoppy; the Session Black was smoky, smooth, and drinkable; and Chimay was great, as usual. But the real surprise was La Folie, a Flanders red ale that smelled as funky as it tasted: like tart cherries, dry oak, and a hint of vinegar. That probably doesn’t sound great to most of you; in my opinion, Flanders Reds are one of the hardest beer styles to “get.” But all those odd flavors came together pleasantly, melting on the tongue like sour candy. I loved it — although at $15 a bottle (almost my entire weekend beer allowance) I probably won’t buy it again soon.

So this beer fest was less impressive than the last one, but still fun. I particularly enjoyed the pre- and post-game entertainment, but the festival itself introduced me to some good beers and more than a few interesting people.

P.S. – I’d like to remind everyone to drink responsibly, especially at beer festivals. The small samples can sneak up on you.

4 Responses to “Made in the Shade Festival Report”
  1. Ben says:

    I have to skip beerfests this year. It’s very sad. Sorry yours was lacking. That is the bwallz.

    At least Pepsi now encourages drunk driving, though.

  2. Shawn says:

    I love flagstaff…too bad about the festival though.

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