By Connor Dziawura

Every year, thousands of people descend upon Cave Creek to experience great food. Comprised of dozens of food vendors and plenty of other entertainment, Taste of Cave Creek is arguably the town’s signature event.

But in all of Stagecoach Village’s years of putting on the recurring tasting event, organizers began to track increasing interest in one specific area: brews.

To meet that demand, Event Chairman Adam Stein and his colleagues are launching a new event: the Cave Creek Craft Beer Festival. Sponsored by the town of Cave Creek, Stagecoach Village and the Cave Creek Beer Company, the inaugural fest starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, February 29.

“What we’ve noticed at the Taste of Cave Creek is people come up here, they love the food at that event, but they also love the beer at that event,” Stein says. “We’ve gone from having three brewers to 10 brewers to 15 brewers; last year we had 30 brewers. So, we realize that there’s obviously quite a market for the craft brews and the local breweries.”

General admission, which includes a sampling mug and 20 drink tickets, costs $45. “True beer aficionados,” as Stein calls them, can upgrade to the VIP experience for $60; it adds an extra five drink tickets, $7 toward food, and early access at noon. Passes are available online, in advance, at eventbrite.com. Stein says there will be discounted designated-driver options, but shuttles are also being planned.

Among the many breweries slated to participate are big dogs such as PHX Beer Co., State 48 Brewery and SanTan Brewing Company. And with everything from craft beer to cider, kombucha and mead, Stein assures there will likely be something for everyone—including nonalcoholic beverages for DDs.

When tapping brands, however, important to him was something many people might neglect: education.

“A lot of times you ask (brewers) questions and the person tells you, ‘Oh, you know what? I’m hired just to pour the beer. I don’t know anything about this beer,’” Stein explains. “The truth is: When that happens, I’m turned off to that beer already, because if I’m coming to a beer festival I want to know about it. I want to know what your thought process was when you mixed ‘that’ hop with ‘this’ hop.

“What we ask of all of our people that are participating is: If you’re going to set up a craft brewer tent, you have to have someone who’s knowledgeable about that craft beer. I want to know about that craft beer. That’s what’s going to set us apart.”

“Pub food,” as Stein calls it, will be available for purchase to complement the drinks. The Buffalo Chip Saloon and Indigo Crow are among the establishments lined up, as well as “a couple other little food vendors.”

As Stagecoach Village has plenty of open space to fill and for patrons to wander, Stein estimates more than 50 booths will be there. To top it all off, singer-songwriter Lindsey Vogt will lend her musical talents.

“If you get your beer and you want to sit down and listen to some music from Lindsey Vogt, you can sit down and listen to her,” Stein says. “She plays at all of our Taste of Cave Creek events and is just back by popular demand at this point.”

Because Cave Creek is an equestrian community, a portion of proceeds will benefit Cave Creek Rodeo Days, a nonprofit that aims to preserve the heritage of the West. Stein and his colleagues always look to help an organization with each event they host.

“What we like about the rodeo association is they’re giving back to the community as well. So, a portion of our proceeds are going to go back to the rodeo association, which then puts on these rodeos for families to come to Cave Creek and enjoy rodeos and support our equestrian lifestyle,” he explains. “We think it’s a very worthy cause.”

And to keep in line with Cave Creek’s laidback, small-town, Western atmosphere loaded with bars and restaurants, organizers are aiming to keep the event small. Admission will be capped at 3,000 tickets, Stein says.

“It’s Cave Creek. We’re relaxed up here. We’re neighbors,” he says. “We want you to come, we want you to talk to people, we want you to talk to the brewers, and I think people that come to our event are going to realize that we definitely succeeded in that area.”

Cave Creek Craft Beer Festival, Stagecoach Village, 7100 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, 480.488.6636, cavecreekcraftbeerfestival.com, 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, February 29, $45-$60.

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