The owners of Tap & Bottle hold numerous events and festivals in their shops throughout the year. The only issue is the events are still in their shops. The owners have long wanted to host a bigger event outdoors, and starting their open-air bar "Westbound" at the MSA Annex gave them the ability to do just that.
Being held "under the sun and stars" at the MSA Annex, the Tap & Bottle Invitational is a beer festival featuring over a dozen breweries from Tucson, Flagstaff, Albuquerque and beyond, plus live music, food trucks and more.
"We wanted to combine what we loved about all the festivals we've been to before," said Rebecca Safford, co-owner of Tap & Bottle. "So we're bringing together all the things that have worked well at Tap & Bottle and turning them into a festival."
Every brewery at the Invitational has some connection to Tap & Bottle. Either Tap & Bottle serves their beers in-house, there's a personal connection, or they've collaborated at some point in the past.
The 18 attending breweries are: Arizona Wilderness, Borderlands, Dark Sky, Crooked Tooth, Dragoon, Harbottle, La Cumbre, Firestone Walker, Marble, Modern Times, Mother Road, Public, Pueblo Vida, Tombstone, The Shop, Wren House, 12 West and 1912.
But what sets the Tap & Bottle Invitational apart from all of the other brewery festivals and events throughout town? In a word: selection.
"There are different festivals that focus on different types of beers, but we wanted ours to have as diverse a beer list as possible." Safford said.
Part of organizing the festival was coordinating which beer types which breweries would bring: IPAs, pilsners, stouts, sours and maybe some unclassifiables as well. The plan is to have all beer bases covered, and not to have too many breweries covering the same territory.
"We're also trying to make it so that what you see at the Invitational is not what you'd normally see at a store," Safford said. "We didn't want breweries to bring their flagship beers. So we have all sorts of one-off, specialty and seasonal beers."
For instance, Harbottle Brewing Company will be pouring something extra rare for the event: an augmentation of a one-off beer. Harbottle recently completed their "Beer Named Sue." It's a rich, chocolate imperial stout reaching 9.5 percent named after a regular who demanded they make a dark stout. But they're taking it a step further for the Invitational.
"Originally it was just going to be for the Invitational, but when it was also entered for the Tap & Bottle Stout Showdown, we knew we had to do something special with it just for the Invitational." said Michael Figueira, co-owner of Harbottle Brewing. "So we took some of the 'Beer Named Sue' and aged it in a Whiskey Del Bac barrel. There are only two kegs of it in existence, and one of them is going to the Invitational."
This newly made "Barrel-aged Sue" is infused with 20 pounds of cacao, plus coffee and chiltepin.
Coming in from San Diego, Modern Times will be serving their special Space Ways IPA, a 6.7 percent hazy beer with mango, nectarine, and lime-zest; their Membata, a 7.5 percent silky, chocolate stout; and their Flamenco Sketches, a 6.5 percent sour berliner weisse with blood orange and guava.
Borderlands Brewing Company will be serving three specialty beers: their Great Horned IPA, Toole Ave IPA and Barrel-aged Saison.
"We try to be different with our brews, but we're all looking at the same trends." Figueira said. "Often you go to a festival and think you're doing something unique, and you end up seeing one or two others doing the same thing. So what's really fun to see is all the different interpretations of the same trends."
Beyond the beers (if there is such a thing), the musical guests include Mariachi los Pistoleros, local rockers Golden BooTs, Inez & The Dust and Stone Band, and some vinyls being spun from Wooden Tooth Records. The food trucks Ciao Down Pizza, You Sly Dog Hot Dogs, and POPPED Artisan Popcorn are also showing up and dishing out.
"For us, it was really hard to come up with a list of which breweries to invite," Safford said. "Narrowing them down was the hardest part of planning—there are so many options in Tucson."