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Made in the Shade Brew Fest: Bring Sunscreen

Mick Zano

Flagstaff, AZ—Brew Fests…what are they?  Why would someone attend these things?  What are the inherent dangers?  They don’t want you to know any of this, but I think the information in this post is crucial.  Here are ten simple rules that can save your life at such an event.  So let’s go do the hop.

Made in the Shade is one of the most prominent Brew Fests in all of Northern Arizona, not to mention one of the only ones.  This year, under blue and unforgiving Arizona skies, it occurred on Saturday June 25th. For some history on the event, Google it…I never do my homework.  Truth be told, I haven’t been to any Brew Fests in a long time—not since the 2007 Boston “incident”. Actually, the advice to avoid these things came from a slew of doctors, law enforcement officials and close personal attorneys.  Kidding, it came from other people who have gone to brew festivals with me.

Frisbee Totter

Rule #1: Don’t bring this guy.  I did.  And I think it’s important the rest of you don’t.  Kidding, he’s a lot of fun—but, all the same, don’t do it.

Rule #2: When attending any festival called Made in the Shade bring copious amounts of sunscreen; there was no shade whatsoever.  The only break I got from the sun was when I was lucky enough to pass out underneath the salsa bar.  By the way, great salsa! I wish I could remember the brand…er, I wish I could remember any of the details of the event, but that’s brew festivals for you.

Rule #3: Scope the place out and go directly to the best area first.  In this case it was the Carlsbad connection—Lost Abbey and Stone Brewing were in the same corner.  While everyone is getting on line for Podunk Pale Ale and Lowtide Lager, you’re sipping a double abbey, which segues nicely to Rule #4.

Lost Abbey

Rule #4: You don’t always have to rush.  In the picture at left, it’s tough to tell, but the woman on the left is serving Podunk Pale Ale.  Notice that line curving onward to the horizon?  The woman on the right is serving our silver medal winner for the day’s event, Lost Abbey’s Dubble.  Yes, we waited on the wrong line for ten minutes before we realized there was no actual line for the good stuff.  Not a soul.  Sad but brew.

Rule #5: Perhaps the biggest pitfall is this: they trick you into playing games.  This is important.  Remember, you have long lines to contend with and only four hours to taste.  But, despite my mission, I found myself trying to hit a bowling-pin-shaped thing off a pole with a Frisbee.  Sometime around my 75th agonizing toss I realized this is all a diversion!  “Follow the shiny ball Mr. Beer Taster guy.  Step right up, everybody’s a winner.”  Well, not this time, bitches…   I put the Frisbee down and remembered what I was there to do.  Oooooo, ring toss!!

Porta Potty

Rule #6: Never ever bring a camera…mine barely made it out alive, especially after I jumped that chain link fence.  Besides, the longer into these fests one gets the more unfathomable your pictures become (see right).

Rule #7: Make sure your tetanus shot is up to date after climbing that rusty chain link fence…you know, that fence you climbed for reasons you don’t quite remember.

Rule #8: There is no rule #8.   There was a rule number eight at one point, but this is also the nature of the beast at such events.

Viking Helmet

Rule #9: You need to bring a Viking helmet.  There is nothing cooler at a Brew Fest than a Viking helmet.  This is one of the eternal truths.

Rule #10: Always have a designated driver.  For this fest I designated the guy holding the two beers with the Frisbee on his head.   Always a safe bet.

The winner of the Made in the Shade festival was an imperial stout from Squatters Brewery in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It’s called Outer Darkness, which is coincidentally also what I named my hangover the next day.  It pains me to crown this brewery king as I was thrown out of that joint about 15 years ago.   I still blame Shag for that one.  It helps to blame…it really does.  Hey, maybe that should be rule #11?  Blame Shag.  Until next time, be careful out there, so they’re not playing taps after you’ve been hitting those taps.  And whatever you do, don’t get distracted—oooo, ring toss!

Celtic Crossings: Best Guinness Pour in AZ

Celtic Crossings: Best Guinness Pour in AZ
Mick Zano

Prescott, AZ—This article has been a long time in the drinking.  I have several crib notes on this place that have since been completely lost, which is a compliment to the establishment.  I found Celtic Crossings a couple of years ago and now it has become one of my favorite Arizona Irish pubs.  In fact, this pub changed my life…just not for the better.

How did it I find it, you ask?  Well, therein hangs the tale.  The girls and I were shopping one day at the Gateway Mall in Prescott, which is one of the coolest malls EVER.  This is one mall where I could learn to become a mall rat.  There’s an outdoor section with a Wildflower Bread Company, Makaros, as well as the aforementioned Celtic Crossings—all right across from a Barnes and Noble.  Too bad they banned me.  For the record, I think you should be able to trip your balls off, naked, in the New Age section…but that’s just me. Besides, they should never have good pubs too close to good book stores; it’s a dangerous combo.

Back to the pub: so we’re doing some Christmas shopping and everyone wanted to eat.

“Let’s eat somewhere here,” my wife said.

And, I quickly countered with, “Ahhh, we’re a few miles from downtown Prescott, a town where I have a number of ‘happy places.’”  I decided to counter with this: “Sure this is a very cool mall, but…no, two words ‘downtown.’”

My wife walked over to the directory and said, “Look honey, there’s an Irish pub right here in the mall.”

“Wow, what will they think of next?”

I have been to my share of mall bars and, by that I mean, I’ve walked into many a dark rectangular-shaped hell hole.  You know them as those places where men sit in a shopper’s purgatory, waiting for their women to finish off their credit history. They sit there sadly sipping at any number of overpriced Budweiser products while contemplating suicide, or worse.  Sorry, experiencing 17,000 of these poorly-lit Bud Light shitholes have jaded my opinion.  Sure, shitty mall joints serve their purpose, but after  thousands…fool me a lot shame on you, fool me twi…we won’t get fooled again!

Back to the story, so my wife wants to eat at the mall.  She’s a cheap date, which is why I married her, but still not wanting to concede, I resorted to “bu-bu-but the Raven, and Prescott Brewing Co. and that place that still lets me in…”

This battle I thankfully lost as they were hungry and I was outvoted 2 to 1.  So we entered Celtic Crossings, a place destined to become one of my favorite AZ pubs.  I recently did a story on Mooney’s Irish Pub, which has a very good Guinness on tap, but the gold star standard goes to this joint.  Great Irish tunes are always playing, there’s an outdoor area, and the fish and chips are the best in AZ, hands down.

The place has no business being this good, in a mall

Gary, the owner, is doing the thing he was born to do…  "wait on me."
Gary, the owner, is doing the thing he
was born to do…  “wait on me.”

The owner, Gary, is serious about beer.  I usually talk to Dave, the owner’s son, who is not beyond wearing a kilt on any given Tuesday.

Your 10th Guinness is on the house at the Crossings, but I have had little luck on any of these card bunch freebies south of Flagstaff.  Between Flag and Prescott (exit 262 on 17) stood Over the Hill Espresso.  To commemorate my 10th Americano there, the placed closed.  I still have the completely punched card and sometimes I gaze upon it and weep.  My 10th Guinness at this bar ended no differently.  Did I mention the place is 90 miles from my home?  My 10th pint anniversary happened to fall on my father’s first trip to Celtic Crossings.  He treated all of us to food and drink, so the freebie went all but unnoticed when the bill came.  In fact, he tipped an extra five spot just to rub it in.

If you ever find the women folk shopping in Prescott, let them shop…I have a plan.

The View from My Guinness: A Stout Pours in Sedona

The View from My Guinness: A Stout Pours in Sedona
Mick Zano

I have been living in northern Arizona for almost a few years now and I have both loved and loathed nearby Sedona.  It’s such wonderful place, a place sacred to both the Hopi and hobo alike, and yet there’s always something missing.  One thing that comes to mind is the lack of a well poured Guinness—actually, any Guinness for that matter.

Oak Creek Brewing Company has two locations and I love them both, but otherwise Sedona is seriously lacking good beer.  I know, hard to believe.  Even Oak Creek Brewing rarely has a stout on tap.  God loves making beautiful canyons but I’ll bet he wants to admire his work over a good stout.  He is hopnipotent, after all. Sedona is angering the Brew Gods and has brought the wrath of the Great ‘Sudsy’ Spirit down on this unsuspecting red rock community.

My stout seeking ended last week at Mooney’s Irish Pub, a place open about six months now. How did I find this place, you ask? Well, the other day I was perusing the fine art and sculptors over at the Exposure Gallery and decided to check out the place next door. OK, I only ended up in the Exposure Gallery after turning into the wrong parking lot—I had already Googled Mooney’s the night before.  Oh, and with a name like the Exposure Gallery, I thought they’d have a better sense of humor about practical jokes.  Admittedly, my joke would have been more apropos at Mooney’s.

The Guinness is great!  A very nice pour.  It doesn’t beat out Celtic Crossing over in Prescott but it’s a close second.  The place is small and otherwise doesn’t have much going for it, atmosphere wise.  There is a little area set in the rocks for outdoor seating.  Those tables have a nice view, looking northwest over Sedona.  I saw an awning off the side of the building and thought there was another outside area but, as it turned out it was just an area for the air conditioners.

Just an area for the air conditioners

What are the owners thinking? Here’s your party place, peeps.  Do I have to do everything?  You could even have stairs from the above area to the tables below.  Heavy drinking and steep stairs go together like peanut butter and jelly…for those allergic to peanuts.  Get to work on that project now.  I don’t care if you have to push the business upstairs out.  Don’t bother me with the details, just make it so.

When the fish and chips arrived that’s when this place lost serious points.  The fish was uninspired, of course it was dead, which might account for that.  The chips were not chips, they were fries and soggy ones at that.  The whole “entrée” was served in a plastic Chinese food take out container.  It came with a $12.50 price tag.  That’s actually not bad for Sedona; some places charge you more than that for the pickle.  The “meal” came with two lemons, no ketchup, no tartar sauce, and I got the feeling if I asked for malt vinegar I would get a blank stare.  So, of course, I asked, “Do you have any malt vinegar?”  See above for response.

Actually, they had some, but only for the purpose of wrecking that last joke.  Bastards! You don’t need malt vinegar for soggy fries, but now I must go through the ritual of making these sad little potato strips even soggier—while smiling blankly at the waitress who brought me the malt vinegar.  Yum.  Maybe I’ve invented something, Slush Puppies.

I still rate this place highly for the sole fact they have a good Guinness on tap, making them an Irish oasis in an otherwise stoutless desert.

A hiking trail I found in Sedona

At right is a hiking trail I found in Sedona.  It leads from the Irish pub all the way to the Elote Café next door.  I have made the journey myself down the flat, nearly 20 yard arduous schlep through an arid and unforgiving land.  That’s my kind of hiking trail!  Oh, and to the left of Mooney’s there’s the Javelina Cantina, a place with decent—and by Sedona standards, affordable—Mexican food.  It has an outdoor area and a cool bar inside.

The view from inside the cantina

At left is the view from inside the cantina.  Unfortunately, there’s only Oak Creek Amber and Dos Equis worth drinking on tap. They could clearly use a tap line upgrade, but overall a nice joint.  Wait, no WI-FI!  Forget everything I said; the place sucks.

Mooney’s makes this little pocket of shops worth the stop.   I have driven past this complex on a number of occasions and if not for the new Guinness umbrella, I’d have kept right on driving.   Well, my Guinness is kicked and it’s time to check out the nearby Elote Café.  I have a long journey ahead.  Almost 20 yards of dusty desert terrain lies between me and my next pint.  If necessary, I will set up a base camp at the edge of the Elote parking lot.  Looks like I might have time to drop my pants in front of the Exposure Gallery one last time.  Wish me luck.

Flagstaff’s Big Red Poor

Bald Tony

I figured, Zano’s been up to see me in Vegas 5 times now, it was fine time to go see him.  Never do this.  He arbitrarily picks a weekend, and leave it to Zano to be completely oblivious about it being one of Flagstaff’s biggest event weekends.  Driving into town was worse than going from Caesar’s to Mandalay Bay on a Saturday night. Geesh! And I wasn’t even getting paid!  I think a 10 to 1 Vegas-to-Flagstaff visiting ratio from now on, Mikko.

The Arizona Cardinals big scrimmage was this weekend, we both hate football, but the Big Red Pour was a beer and music festival right in downtown Flag in honor of the happy pigskin event.  And we do like beer.  Besides, Vegas was about 35 degrees hotter and for that kind of relief I’d even put up with Zano’s company.  Mick’s brother-in-law, MJ, was in town for the festivities, so when he arrived, we took to the streets of Flag. The town blew me away.  It was the monthly First Friday Art Walk, the AZ Cardinals were in town, and there was a music brew fest, all within a couple of blocks. Guitar and bongo players on every corner and an umpa band outside the German restaurant.  Wow!  Two hotel bars, three brewpubs, two Irish pubs, and one very intoxicated Partridge in a fermented Pear Tree. We hit em’ all.  And the Weatherford Hotel has the most amazing old hotel bar I have ever seen, and I’m from Vegas, baby!  It features the Zane Grey saloon, an old ornate western bar shipped in from Tombstone, complete with a wraparound third floor balcony. And if that weren’t enough, free popcorn!  Apparently, this is where Zano, Fenski, and Alex Bone meet each week both to the delight and horror of Discord fans everywhere.

MJ and Mick told me a story about getting kicked out of there one night, by throwing legions of coasters up into the chandeliers and harassing the help.  Back in the lobby, they met the perfect foil.

Mick walked up to the manager and asked, “If we’re thrown out of the Zane Grey, does that mean we’re thrown out of Charley’s?  (The Weathford’s downstairs bar).

He of course, said, “Yes!”

So, arm in arm, they walked back up the stairs to the Zane Grey.

“Where are you going?”

“You said we were kicked out of Charley’s?”

This went on for several minutes.  The manager/foil managed to keep saying the perfect line, sending MJ and Mick, not out onto the street but, rather, walking past him between the two bars to the backdrop of the manager’s increasingly bulging neck veins.

At the brew fest, the Big Red Snore, we paid 10 bucks each at the door and twelve more for 10 four oz pours.  They had everything ranging from crappy light beers to crappy pale ales.  Honorable mention to Shiner Bock dark lager.  Yes, it was that bad.

A drunk woman accosted me for beer coupons, and then said, “Sorry, I’m obnoxious.”

I said, “Hi obnoxious.  Nice to meet you.  I’m apathetic.”

Dustin, a brewer at Four Peaks, one of the better breweries in AZ, was there.  Mick and MJ proceeded to wow him with their Beer Geek Speak (BGS) for what seemed an eternity, while I chatted up Enya, a cute Australian exchange student.  MJ and Mick then butted in and ruined my moment:

MJ: So where are you going after the fest?

Enya: Back to my place to sleep.

Zano: OK, if you insist.

The music was pretty good, but with three pints in us, 4 oz times ten, we headed out for adventure.  Overall, Flag really rocked that night. It has a kind of a hippy, animal friendly feel to the place (which is why Zano is tolerated). And one coffee shop is better than the next.  Funny thing, but Mick seemed to know all the bartenders and police officers…imagine that.

We skipped the second day of the brew fest due to our ailing livers.  We are not 21 anymore, even though we act like it sometimes.  Day two, we drank chamomile tea, coffee, and ate stomach friendly foods.  But we’re heading to a party now and tomorrow it’s hiking in Sedona, so I guess there’s little left in the tank.

Beer and Frothing in Las Vegas

Mick Zano

For my last trip to Vegas, I decided to look beyond the flashing and blinking lights of Sin City and really rate this town.  Sorry, the blinking lights of Vegas are about as close to Christmas as you’re going to get here at the Discord.  The biggest hurdle to my destination came in the form of a brewpub, the Boiler Room, in Laughlin, Nevada.  This pub, constructed like the bowels of a giant ship, had a sign out front that read: Thirsty Thursdays: All Drafts 1 Dollar.  It happened to be Thursday and I was, in fact, thirsty.  Hmmmm.  I opened my wallet and implemented an old college equation.  A dollar a beer, so if I have eighty-dollars in my wallet…then that means I have…er, carry the one…a shit load of beer!

Wow.  This place is so much more inviting than the other sign that says:  Crab Cakes and Karaoke.  The stout at the Boiler Room was very good, and did I mention it was only a dollar?  Shortly into my trip, my plan to stop at three (and only three) places and partake in three (and only three) pints had already been completely blown out of the water (but only off by 77).  In fact, the beer was so good and so cheap, I considered staying there until Happy Thursday slipped painfully back into F-ing $3.75 a Pint Friday.  The dark time period known to the locals as Crappy Hour.

The back of this ship-shaped pub offered a nice view of the wrinkled mountains to the east.  The rocks around Laughlin are more interesting than the landscape around Vegas (as far as rocks go). It was hard to leave.  What helped my decision was the bartender’s suggestion, “Get the hell out, asshole.”

Actually, that was the first bar.  So, with a heavy heart and bloated liver, I drove the forty-five minutes northward to Boulder City.  The old town area had a nice wine bar and specialty beer shop with indoor and outdoor seating, a coffee shop/bar combo, a brewpub, and several other interesting joints.  At the brewpub, the Black Canyon Shitty Stout was somehow masterfully brewed back into something resembling dark H20. The outdoor seating and the service brought the place up a notch (thankfully). But I did not try any of the other beers out of a healthy fear.

The town itself did seem to have a chip on its shoulder, as the main reason for the town’s existence, Boulder Dam, was no longer called Boulder—thanks to one of our worst presidents ever.  The Bite Me Hoover Diner kind of spelled it out for me.

My last stop brought me to Barley’s Casino and Brewpub in Henderson—so close to Vegas you can smell it. In the same way ‘In Bed’ can be added to any fortune cookie fortune, Nevada has discovered anything can be paired with ‘And Casino.’  Apparently, even at rest stops, massage parlors, and laundromats.  Smog Busters and Casino should be coming soon.  Vegas is like a 50’s horror movie: It Came with Blinking Lights.  At Barley’s I ordered a double bock and, I have to say, it was the best double bock I’ve had in some time.  Somehow I managed to procure an outlet and a table, blissfully free of any blinking gaming thingies.  This is a scarcity in Vegas and, for my trouble, the security people immediately started profiling me.

Ah, he’s sitting at the table without any games…yeah, pretty seedy-looking. Doesn’t seem to be eyeing the scantily clad women or any of the flashing lights.  Should I apprehend?

Who works on their laptop in Vegas?  It’s a red flag the size of the Stratosphere.

Sorry folks, but I have a laptop and I’m not afraid to use it.  Of course, I couldn’t get online.  The state of Nevada, or as I have come to call it ‘connection problem’, has serious Wi-Fi issues.  Apparently, Nevada is an old Pauite Indian term meaning “connectivity issues.”  You see, way back when, Vegas had cheap everything just to lure you in to gamble—like a sequin-covered spider web.  Now, it’s top dollar for even Wi-Fi. Bastards!

Hey, a cigar shop!  Why not?

I pulled into the store that said SMOKES/CIGARS.  Walking across the parking lot, I realized this was not the best neighborhood. Hey, this joint is more about joints than cigars.  They had glass blown bongs of all shapes and sizes.  Their store facade should have said Reefer and Smokes.  For a necessary visual aid, the Ghetto Shaman should have been passed out in the doorway.  Then I would have gotten the message sooner.  Next to no cigars adorned their skull-bong filled cases. In this store, under the big red sign that read CIGARS, I had about four choices.  If I wanted a Swisher Sweet, dude, I’d have gone to the Circle K!

This misunderstanding tonight is the single most poignant argument for the legalization of marijuana.  With proper legislation, next time I won’t stop at the Garcia Palace when I am really looking for Humidor Heaven.

I looked around and immediately saw another cigar shop about a block away.  Cool. This town is gaining some points.  I decided to walk it.  As I approached the sign in question a sinking feeling crept upon me.  Bald Tony rarely has running water.  Then came a second, perhaps even more disturbing, thought, the sign over yonder was for the same cigar shop that I had just left.

SMOKES/CIGARS…you know, Reefer and Smokes.

As I walked back—the walk of shame—several groups of thuggy types were heading toward me when the startling realization crept upon me that: 1) I had more money in my wallet than usual (>5); 2) I should have drank more at the Boiler Room; and 3) if I were to die here on the way back to my car while walking toward the sign of the place that I had just left…well, it was then I realized:

I do not have nearly the insight one would expect for a person my age.

I survived.  The thugs were probably intimidated by my Batman T.  I was early, so I decided to hit one more place right by Bald Tony’s.  After making it back to my Impala, I pulled out my trusty Tom Tom and proceeded to make a nearly fatal mistake.  Never-ever search ‘Nightlife’ in Las Vegas on any GPS device.  Really.  Don’t.  The bitch actually started smoking.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to hit one more place before the Great Bald One gets off his shift.  So far Vegas rates an 8.  The scale, however, has yet to be determined…

Top Ten Fictitious Drinks and Places to Enjoy Them

  1. The Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster – The Restaurant and the End of the Universe
  2. Fudd– The Beer & Brawl, Spittle County
  3. Moloko– Korovs Milk Bar (for all your ultra-violence needs)
  4. Electrick Floorbanger – The Mended Drum, Ankh Morpork, Discworld
  5. The Flaming Homer – Moe’s Tavern, Springfield, ??
  6. The Flaming Gargantua – Patrick’s Pub, Ringwood, NJ (NJ should be fictional)
  7. The Vulcan Mind Probe – Fred’s living room (definitely fictional)
  8. Slurm – anyplace in the future
  9. Romulan Ale – Ten Forward, Deck 10 (not quite legal this side of the Neutral Zone)
  10. The Get the Fuck Out of My Way – Valley Stream, LI, Wal-mart Snackbar (best enjoyed around the holidays).  OK, we made up this last one.