Annual festival raises funds for nonprofit Sun Sounds
Cindy (left) and Bill Shriver enjoy a toast with Cindy's daughter, Alisha Shelton, at last year's Great Tucson Beer Festival at Hi Corbett Field.
Organizers of the 22nd annual Great Tucson Beer Festival want Tucsonans to drink for charity.
Well not quite, but how about sampling from a healthy variety of more than 150 beers from 43 national and international breweries?
The annual event supports Sun Sounds of Arizona, a nonprofit that provides audio assistance to people in the Southwest who can’t read print because of disabilities.
All the profits from the event go to cover the roughly $150,000 in annual operating costs of its Tucson radio station.
So why a beer festival?
It’s simple, says Sun Sounds Advisory Board President Steven Auslander: “A beer festival attracts a large chunk of the population. We attract a crowd that appreciates beer in much the same way oenophiles appreciate wine.”
From Fat Tire and Big Sky India Pale Ale to Warsteiner Premium Dunkel dark lager, an abundance of styles and flavors appealing to beer enthusiasts will be on taps and in bottles.
Not only will beer be provided, but several Tucson eateries will be on hand to provide nourishment while Back for More and Descarga perform.
Nimbus Brewing Co.
3850 E. 44th St.
Producing about 6,000 barrels a year, Nimbus has won the following of Tucsonans looking for an ale-style beer.
“We deliver a high-quality consistent product,”says Nimbus owner Jim Counts. “Overall it’s a world class beer.”
Counts says the success of Nimbus beer is all in the water.
“The largest ingredient in beer is the water and the water in Tucson is outstanding for making beers,” he says. Tucson’s hard water is particularly suitable for ale-style beers rather than lagers.
Nimbus opened in 1996 and Counts, a former homebrewer bought it in 1999. Now Nimbus creates six beers. The most popular are Nimbus Pale Ale and Old Monkeyshine, an English ale with a “mildly sweet flavor” he says. It also is the only Tucson brewery that bottles its beer.
The ideas for its beers are influenced by customer feedback.
“We produce beers that we enjoy drinking and we offer them to our customers and our customers are actually the ones that choose,” Counts says.
This is the eighth year Nimbus has participated in the beer festival. It will serve its six regular beers and one “surprise” brew created just for the festival.
“If there is a cause and we can help and it makes sense to do it, we will help,” he says. “We will try and bend over backwards.”
Thunder Canyon Brewery
7401 N. La Cholla Blvd.
Steve Tracy had been a homebrewer for years when he decided to use what he made to open Thunder Canyon in 1997.
He is the lone brewer at Thunder Canyon, dedicating seven hours a day twice a week to the task. It adds up to 1,300 barrels produced each year.
With 40 recipes on hand and 10 to 11 original creations, Tracy says the brewery prides itself on unique flavor combinations.
“We like to do some unusual things too,” he says. “We have an Ornament Ale (with) nutmeg and cinnamon – it makes for a great holiday beer.”
Tracy says he has seen customer’s tastes for beer change over the years, thus Thunder Canyon’s philosophy is to keep a wide range of beers available.
“I try and have something for everyone,” he says. “We always want to have a couple of light styles.
“It’s as fresh as you’ll ever get beer. It’s a lot more flavorful. We use the best ingredients ourselves.”
Thunder Canyon will serve four beers, including its Deep Canyon Amber and a “light bodied, easy to drink” Sandstone Creme Ale, in this its 10th visit to the beer festival.
Barrio Brewing Co.
800 E. 16th St.
Once run out of Gentle Ben’s Brewing Co., on Main Gate Square, Dennis Arnold’s brewing operations moved to this 10,000-square-foot building a year ago.
Arnold took over Gentle Ben’s and put in a brewery in 1985, when he returned to Tucson from the San Francisco Bay area. It’s been at its current location, 865 E. University Blvd., since 1995.
In 1999, Arnold bought and gradually renovated the old Tucson Prime Meats and Tucson Warehouse and Transfer property at Toole Avenue and 16th Street, moving his brewing operations there and opening Barrio Brewing brewpub in September, 2007. The new brewery has enough capacity to keep 12 beers – ales and lagers – on tap year round at both locations.
The belief for Barrio Brewing is, “stay true to the customer (by) using quality ingredients (and) brew good beer that will challenge people’s tastes,” Arnold says.
“Brewing is like cooking; it’s all about taste, smell, feel and as you go through a dozen different malts . . . each of them gives you a different flavor profile,” Arnold says.
He touts Taylor Jayne’s Raspberry Ale as one of his most original brews, adding that its mild and sweet raspberry flavor is made for people who are not big beer drinkers. He also pointed to his Mocha Java Stout from last holiday season, with coffee and Dutch cocoa.
Barrio has been participating in the beer festival since 1990 and will pour five or six beers, including its most popular beer Tucson Blonde, an American lager.
Steve Tracy's Thunder Canyon Brewery will serve four beers, including Deep Canyon Amber, at the beer festival.
Dennis Arnold, brewer and owner of Barrio Brewing Co., scoops out spent grain during the brewing process. The mixture was barley malt mixed with water.
Jim Counts is owner of Nimbus Brewing Co.
ON THE WEB
• Barrio Brewing Co.: www.barriobrewing.com
• Nimbus Brewing Co.: www.nimbusbeer.com
• Thunder Canyon Brewery: www.thundercanyonbrewery.com
IF YOU GO
What: 22nd annual Great Tucson Beer Festival, with samplings of more than 150 beers from 43 national and international brewers, plus food from local restaurants served in the VIP area.
When: 6-10 p.m. Saturday
Where: Hi Corbett Field, 3400 E. Camino Campestre
Price: Tickets are only available for ages 21 and older. Designated driver options are available. Prices are: • General admission $40 in advance, $50 at the door; $25 for designated driver general admission at the door, includes a souvenir mug, sample tickets to exchange for beer samples, finger foods from local restaurants, one free hot dog served by the Tucson Downtown Lions Club and live entertainment • VIP admission (tickets available online only) $80 in advance; $90 at door; $40 designated driver at the door, includes 5 p.m. admission, access to VIP area with a catered dinner by Desert Diamond Casino’s Agave Restaurant, desserts from Marie Callender’s, with wine and coffee, too, with two how-to-play blackjack tables and one how-to-play poker table from Desert Diamond.
WHERE TO BUY TICKETS
Advance tickets are available at:
• Sun Sounds of Arizona 7290 E. Broadway, Suite 166, 296-2400
• 1702 Craft Beer & Pizza 1702 E. Speedway Blvd., 325-1702
• Belushe’s Bar & Grill 1118 E. Sixth St., 903-9039
• Beverage Depot 4231 E. 22nd St., 323-6566
• Brew Your Own Brew 2564 N. Campbell Ave., 322-5049
• Gus’s Liquor Store 3350 N. First Ave., 293-6932
• Gus’s Liquor Store II 4302 E. Grant Road, 320-3779
• Magee Road Liquors 7980 N. Oracle Road, 297-9113
• The Beverage House 8660 E. Broadway 296-9933
• Nimbus Brewing Co. 3850 E. 44th St., 745-9175
• Plaza Liquors & Fine Wines 2642 N. Campbell Ave., 327-0452
• Rumrunner Wine & Cheese Co. 3131 E. First St., 326-0121
• Thunder Canyon Brewery 7401 N. La Cholla Blvd., 797-2652