Try a crisp, flavorful summer beer featuring flavors like pineapple, berries and peaches at these seven Phoenix-area breweries.
Wendy Killeen/

It’s a beautiful time for beer lovers.  

There are more craft brew options out there than ever, new breweries consistently opening throughout the state and many beer-centric events happening year round. 

For the true beer enthusiast, there is one event that has become a must-attend since its inception in 2014: The Real, Wild & Woody Beer Festival. Hosted by the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, this event is expected to attract 3,000 beer lovers and feature more than 65 breweries, each bringing unconventional and creative beers. This year, the number of breweries has increased overall. 

“A majority of breweries are from Arizona, and we want to stay true to our history and have people come to celebrate the entirety of our beer culture here,” said Rob Fullmer, executive director for the guild. “There are going to be more out-of-state breweries than usual this year.” 

So what does real, wild and woody actually mean? The event title refers to the types of beers that are celebrated at the festival:

  1. Real: Stands for real ales, which are beers created in a traditional method. They undergo secondary fermentation in the casks from which they’re served. 
  2. Wild: Beers containing wild yeast, particularly a strain called Brettanomyces, or “Brett” for short, yielding beers with funky flavors. 
  3. Woody: Represents beers aged in wooden barrels that previously held whiskey, tequila or wine. 

Each ticket holder will receive 20 beer sampling tickets, and the first 500 people to purchase tickets will get a “30 Years of Brewing in Arizona” glass. Tickets also include food samples from local restaurants, including meatballs from Crust, chicharrones from Mother Bunch Brewing and fried cheese curds from the Pig & Pickle. There are designated driver tickets also available. 

This year there will be a number of new activities, including a rock climbing wall from Tempe beer bar Boulders on Broadway, RVs and ATVs on display, and trees that were donated by Moon Valley Nursery to Downtown Phoenix Inc., which highlight areas throughout downtown that need shade. 

“It’s an indoor event to celebrate the outdoors, because no one likes to go outside here during the summer,” Fullmer said. “It’s a stereotype that everyone leaves in July and goes somewhere else, which is somewhat true, but we’ve found that a lot of people look forward to this event.”

Avondale’s 8-Bit Aleworks will be participating at the festival and setting up the “8-Bit Alecade.” The brewery, owned by Ryan and Krystina Whitten, is based off old-school video games from the ’80s and ’90s. So all of the beers are named after video game references, and the brewery features 8-bit artwork, gaming consoles and arcade cabinets. 

The “8-Bit Alecade” will feature two original Nintendo and two Super Nintendo consoles, and seven or eight arcade cabinets. Half of the cabinets will come from 8-Bit Brewery regular customers. 

“Most of the time at beer festivals you tend to walk from one beer tent to another and drink beer, and it’s hard to get through it and still be functional,” Whitten said. “With the activities, we hope people will go in and have a couple beers, take a break in between, play games for 15 or 20 minutes, and wander back out for another beer.”

Live music will be provided by the Sugar Thieves, Barefoot and Sunset Voodoo. 

The week is also a way to showcase Arizona’s rapidly growing beer scene, and offer help for those who are interested in getting into the industry. The day before the festival, the brewing and craft beer community are invited to attend Brewcon, a trade show and conference with seminars that range from the amateur to the seasoned brewing professional. 

“We want to demonstrate that Phoenix has the capability to hold a national brewers conference through the Brewers Association,” Fullmer said. “We want to demonstrate that we have the convention floor space for a trade show, and have rules in place to serve alcohol to the public in an exposition type of way.”

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Try these Arizona beers: 

  • Into the Tartness: Sour ale with tart cherry, Dark Sky Brewing in Flagstaff. 
  • Plumbquad: Belgian quadrupel with plum, North Mountain Brewing in Phoenix. 
  • Coco Moco: Cask ale, Uncle Bear’s Brewery in Ahwatukee. 
  • Secret Fantasies: Imperial stout, O.H.S.O. Brewery in Phoenix and Scottsdale.
  • Midnight Wine: Coffee stout aged in red wine barrels, 12 West Brewing in Gilbert. 
  • Nirvana: Belgian strong dark ale, Iron John’s Brewing Company in Tucson. 
  • BA Shot in the Arm: Gigantic imperial stout, McFate Brewing Company in Scottsdale. 
  • One Chance Fancy: Barrel aged blended sour, Historic Brewing Company in Flagstaff. 
  • Mon Couer Blanc: Belgian ale, Lonesome Valley Brewing in Prescott Valley. 
  • Cucumber Berliner: Berliner weiss, Mudshark Brewing Company in Lake Havasu City. 

Details: 2-6 p.m. Saturday, July 29. Phoenix Convention Center South Building, 33 S. Third St. $57 for general admission, $25 for designated driver admission (food samples included, no alcohol). 480-586-6711,

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