Storm the Gates

Rain or shine.  In Arizona one cannot be sure if that is a promise or a threat; often this statement goes ignored because the shine is the worse of the two. This simple statement isn’t really for our benefit – it doesn’t mean that the event is any more prepared – it’s just a trivial way of letting you know that you’re not getting your money back. So, once the rain did come, it was no surprise that people were upset when the Mile High Brewfest shut down early.

Rain or shine, but, not stupid. This is my proposed amendment to this idiom. Yes, the rain did come … in true monsoon fashion it hit fast and hard … but it was the people that ultimately caused the event to shut down. Before we get into that, lets go back to the beginning. How very Tarantino of me.

Prescott, Arizona – No I do not pronounce it PRESSKIT. I refuse to believe that the town’s namesake, a historian born in Massachusetts and a graduate of Harvard would pronounce his name that way. Hey, I could be wrong though. If NHL greats Patrick Roy and Martin St. Louis pronounce their names the way they do, then, it’s possible. Even the people that live there don’t even know why they pronounce it that way, gotta love a small town.

Prescott is a charming place; it seems very east coast with its brick architecture and like most mining towns in Arizona it started with wood buildings that inevitably burned down to be replaced with the current structures. Today it’s probably most famous for Whiskey Row; a section of street containing mostly bars. Prescott also has Old West credentials; it was the home of the Earps and possibly Doc Holliday just before they left for a boom town called Tombstone.

Apparently Beer School made me think I’m a history teacher.

I believe Prescott’s greatest landmark is the courthouse and the park that surrounds it. This beautiful and intimidating structure is the focal point of downtown. It calls back to a simpler time when buildings like this radiated power but still belonged to the people. There are still traces of that today and on any given weekend the park is hosting a social event of some kind like art walks, markets and concerts. So it only made sense that the beer festival be held … on the street next to it.

We were literally dropped of at the end of the line to get in the Mile High Beer Fest – kudos to our Lyft driver! It was a little confusing at first because the entrance looked more like a construction site then a festival. There was a mix of closed road signs, chain link fence and orange plastic mesh barriers. The entire event was confined to the black top to avoid disturbing foot traffic for the local businesses. As we entered what felt like a hole in the fence, we were given wristbands with fifteen boxes which would be our vouchers for beer. Then we were given a pint glass, yes a full size glass pint! I didn’t even realize there was a 5 ounce pour line until my wife pointed it out about eight tasters in.  Truth is I don’t think one tent actually hit at or below the line. The other problem with this is that when pouring only 5 ounces into a pint glass, especially in a hurry, sometimes more foam than beer was the result.

I went through all 20 tickets at Real Wild & Woody while I didn’t make it through 12 this time.

Our first stop was Modern Times Brewery. As of late I have seen them everywhere in AZ; they seem to be making a hard, yet welcomed, push in to the state. At this point it was typical beer fest protocol. We tried to hit some of the places that we missed at Real Wild & Woody, like Freak’n Brewing Company but, also tried some new places like Saddle Mountain and College Street.  Of course, we finally caved and went to the local favorite Granite Mountain even though we knew we were going to the brewery itself after the event. Also a big shout out to Lonesome Mountain Brewing, they had two of their beers from Real Wild and Woody as well as a tapped keg full of water to rinse out people’s glassware.

Besides the occasional sound of shattered glass followed by a mix of laughter and cheers, it seemed the festival was running pretty smooth. Despite the narrow confines of the street and constant cutting through on the lines people were cordial, amiable, forgiving and animatedly social. Then it got dark.

The grey-black storm clouds came in with pace and the temperature dropped quickly. It wasn’t a question of rain, but, how much rain? In true Arizona fashion, in the end, the answer was all of it at once.

The first few minutes were great. A lot of people looked for cover to see if the storm would pass quickly, so most of the lines only had a few people in them and we took advantage. Then it started to pour and virtually all lines were empty, again – advantage us. Then the torrent started and people ran for cover. My wife had already decided she was done with the festival (mostly because of the NOT 5 oz pours) so we started walking to Granite Mountain. Finally the rain decided its next trick was to flood the streets as quickly as possible. As the street light was turning I darted across and hustled the half a block or so in to the brewery.

My wife is a runner, apparently she didn’t get the memo, and in my defense I thought she was right behind me …. but she got stuck at the light. If you want to hear that part of the story talk to her.

Careful – it’s long – I still haven’t heard the end of it.

The brewery was relatively empty so we grabbed a couple of beers and sat down near the window to watch the rain but got caught in a different flood – this one was made of people. Instantly the bar was wall to wall as everyone was trying to get in, grab a beer and find a seat.  The poor bartender was all alone, facing a wet mob of beer lovers who wanted the brews they felt they had been robbed of. It wasn’t but a few minutes later that the Granite Mountain tent crew showed up to save the day.  We were confused by this rush because the brew fest was far from over and the rain had settled down a bit.

That brings us back the beginning of this story and the stupid part, there is no other word for it … although asinine would fit, too. We heard from the Lonesome Valley crew that just after we left people freaked out trying to find cover, leaving through the gates to hide under the store front awnings. But, someone somehow managed to tear down parts of the fence in their scramble to escape the rain. Apparently safety orange just isn’t bright enough! At that point the event was no longer a controlled location and all the breweries were told they had to stop serving.

Overall it was a fun event in a beautiful and perfect setting. Too bad it had to end the way it did.  I blame the all the men in Tommy Bahama shirts probably trying to save their cigars, seriously how can you taste beer smoking a cigar?!

I don’t know if my wife did it on purpose but as I’m writing this she decided to put on Forrest Gump so I guess I’ll end with a fitting quote from the movie, “ Run Forrest, run!”


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