The Real, Wild & Woody Beer Festival will return to the Phoenix Convention Center on Saturday, July 28, bringing a bevy of adult beverages, from barrel-aged brews to creative cask ales and almost everything in between.
The festival will allow local beer enthusiasts to sample rare and unconventional beers and rub elbows with more than 70 of the state and region’s best craft brewers. The event is hosted by Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, an organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the local craft brewing industry and its brewers, distributors and consumers through lobbying, legislation and events like Real, Wild & Woody.
Rob Fullmer, the guild’s executive director, says the festival focuses on three types of beer: “real,” which refers to beer created in casks, “wild,” which means making beer with other microflora beyond traditional beer yeast, which can add sour, earthy, tart or spicy flavors and “woody,” which is the practice of putting beer in wine or spirit barrels so the beer will exhibit characteristics of the wood or what was in the barrel before.
In addition to showcasing innovative brew styles and unique flavors, the event features small-batch brews, seasonal specialties and “beer cocktails” like micheladas. Attendees can also expect activities other than the obvious — lots of beer.
“We have some education components. We had a rock climbing wall last year; we’re going to bring that back,” Fullmer says. “We also feature local live music… and it’s not done in a way that you can’t have a conversation. We want people to sample the music just like they’re sampling the beers.”
Some of Arizona’s top restaurants will also be serving up small bites to pair perfectly with the beer samples. Standouts from last year include grub from gourmet gastropub Pig & Pickle and sliders from Hopdoddy Burger Bar.
“We have a number of small vendors who want to showcase their flavors,” Fullmer says.
According to Fullmer, Real, Wild & Woody is a testament to the synergy between the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild and local breweries, as well as the close-knit community and vibrant culture that craft beer has created throughout the state and beyond.
“What you see in Arizona today is a result of some of our breweries volunteering to help this organization and us helping them build the kind of beer culture that we can all be proud of here in Arizona,” he says.
The event’s location is also significant. Now in its fourth year, the festival is the first beer event held in the Phoenix Convention Center since its construction 30 years ago. Fullmer says events like Real, Wild & Woody help put downtown Phoenix on the map as a destination for craft beer.
“Years ago, there wasn’t a brewery downtown at all,” he says. “We’re going to see State 48 come downtown, Mother Bunch is right on the other side of 7th Street and we’ve got a small brewery called Grand Avenue coming along soon.”
He also says downtown watering holes like Copper Blues and The Whining Pig have also helped spearhead downtown Phoenix’s craft beer movement by continuously keeping local brews on tap.
“Each of those businesses has been working with us to really feature Arizona products and we appreciate that, but that doesn’t happen without having great local breweries and an organization that supports them,” Fullmer says.
Real, Wild & Woody Beer Festival, Phoenix Convention Center, 100 N. 3rd Street, Phoenix, 602.262.7272, realwildandwoody.com, Saturday, July 28, 2 to 6 p.m., $57 regular price, $25 designated driver.