Discerning beer drinkers have a lot in common with wine aficionados.
"There are just as many diverse flavors in beer as there are in wine," said Joe Bob Grisham, executive director of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, "but people don’t realize that."
Grisham — formerly the brewer for Bandersnatch in Tempe — and many other brewers will examine the nuances of brew at the Strong Ale Festival 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Scottsdale Stadium. Last year the event attracted 3,500 people, and organizers expect more this year.
They hope to introduce legions of drinkers to the joy of beers that are meant to be sipped, not swigged. After all, "Wine drinkers don’t just sit down and nail a bottle of wine," Grisham said.
Instead, they savor the flavors and aromas. "We want people to say, hey, you can do the same with these beers," he said.
About 20 breweries will set up booths at the festival and pour roughly 30 beers. Most will be strong beers, meaning 7 percent alcohol or greater, and there will be a mix of styles and flavors.
Just because a beer is strong, Grisham said, doesn’t mean it has to be dark. The beers at the event will range from light to dark, dry to sweet, fruity to hoppy.
The one thing all beers will have in common, he said: "They’ll be heavier beers, thicker beers — a lot more character in their flavors."
A good beer is "not just something you throw to the back of your throat and say, ‘OK, let’s get a good buzz going,’ " Grisham said. It shows a range of flavors and complexity as it warms slightly, much like wine.
To retain the integrity of each beer, the organizers are asking brewers to rinse attendees’ glasses out before each new pour. People are encouraged to sip their 4-ounce pours slowly, ask about how beers are made and get information about the craft of beermaking. They’re discouraged from asking for Bud, Miller or Coors.
And no one should go to take advantage of the high alcohol content.
"People that are getting hammered are going to be escorted out," Grisham said. "We’re not going to put up with that."
Strong Ale Festival
Where: Scottsdale Stadium, 7408 E. Osborn Road
When: 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday (last pour at 5:30 p.m.)
Cost: $10; no advance tickets
Information: www.azbrewguild.com or call any local brewpub