Put some suds in your summer with our seasonal spotlight on the Arizona craft beer scene. PLUS: Drink the state’s most award-winning beer!
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SUMMER AND A WINTER BEER?
Typically are lighter-body, less-malted styles like lagers, hefeweizens and blondes.
- Lower ABV, i.e. “session beers”
Code for stouts, porters, imperial ales and other well-malted, high-gravity styles.
- Higher ABV, i.e. “get-you-blottoed beers”
Several Arizona breweries have done well for themselves in recent national competitions.
Saddle Mountain Brewing Company
At the Oscars of brewing – i.e. the Great American Beer Festival – the Goodyear brewery won gold in the Scottish-style ale category for its Taildragger Clan-Destine. The same beer took silver at the 2018 World Beer Cup in Nashville, making it the state’s de facto most celebrated brew.
McFate Brewing Co.
At World Beer Cup in Nashville, the Scotts-dale brewery won a gold medal in the Chile Beer category for its Hatch Chile Gatos.
Pedal Haus Brewery
The Tempe outfit won silver for its Pedal Haus Light Lager at the GABF.
Four Peaks Brewing Co.
The Tempe juggernaut won bronze for its Four Peaks Golden Lager in the Other International-Style Lager category.
Jon Lane’s beloved brewery playground also took bronze for its 89Ale in the American-Style Amber Lager group.
Scottsdale Beer Co.
Won bronze for its Cannonball Australian-Style Pale Ale in the international-style pale ale group at the GABF.
Goldwater Brewing Co.
Another bronze-winner at GABF, this time for its Machine Gun Teddy in the American-style brown ale group.
5 ARIZONA BEER TRENDS FOR 2018
“Juicy” or cloudy IPAs
Like brewers all over the country, Arizona beermakers have wrapped their arms around New England-style IPAs, an unfiltered iteration of the India Pale Ale, often made with citrusy, less-bitter hops like Galaxy and Citra. Top Arizona versions include Mother Road Brewing Co.’s Tower Station, Borderlands Brewing Co.’s Toole Avenue and The Shop Beer Co.’s Church Music.
The Arizona Craft Brewers Guild promotes an all-female collaborative beer every year or so – in 2018, it was an oatmeal IPA called Murder She Oat – to highlight the good work of women in brewing. And more women are having an impact on the state’s craft beer scene, from Christina Wolfe at Wanderlust Brewing to the female-owned, in-the-works Greenwood Brewing.
Return of the pale lagers
If juicy IPAs are the long-form programs of brewing, lagers are the compulsories – tests of orthodoxy, where precision and purity are key. Lightly malted with few adjuncts or add-ons, pale lagers don’t give brewers the luxury of concealing mistakes. As such, many of Arizona’s top brewers are returning to them, like Pedal Haus’ award-winning lager (see page 129).
One of the blessings of brewing is its repeatability – beers can taste the same from one year to the next, irrespective of climate, blight, etc. One way to inject excitement into the equation is to invite a second round of fermentation, or simply age beer in barrels. One example: Huss Brewing Co., which will release its Divide & Husstle Imperial Chocolate Porter collaboration in a vertical series of barrel agings. ETA: 2019. It’s gonna rock.
Hanging a second shingle is all the rage among Valley craft brewers these days – particularly for suburban outfits seeking a presence in the city core. On the heels of SanTan Brewing Company’s new location in North Central Phoenix, State 48 Brewing opened a second taproom (on the Van Buren strip), while cult favorite Arizona Willderness Brewing Co. has a RoRo outpost planned.
JOHN SCARBROUGH THAT BREWERY
“I’m just fascinated by fermentation in general,” says John Scarbrough, explaining his recent move into the world of professional brewing after spending the previous decade and a half as a winemaker with Arizona Stronghold Vineyards and Page Springs Cellars. Certainly, the Verde Valley native’s passion for turning sugars into alcohol via the miracle of anaerobic conversion has paid dividends for Pine-based THAT Brewery, where he serves as head brewer. Scarbrough brings a winemaker’s sensitivity to the job, not to mention actual wine barrels – like the old Sangiovese staves he used to create the brewery’s superb, limited-run Wild Wild Strawberry sour ale (see pg. 129). So yeah, fermentation is fun for Scarbrough. “Who knows? Maybe whiskey will be next.”
WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES – AND SIMILARITIES – BETWEEN MAKING BEER AND WINE ?
“I would say there’s a little more cleanliness and creativity with beer. Wine is a little more structured – no adjuncts, less experimentation. Beer has more fluidity and creativity. But one of the jokes I make is that it takes a lot of beer to make a little good wine. Winemakers are always drinking beer. Ultimately, both are about appealing to the human palate.”
YOU CREATED WILD WILD STRAWBERRY BY MUTATING THE BREWERY’S STRAWBERRY BLONDE ALE WITH FRUIT AND YEAST. IS THAT A TREND IN BEERMAKING? TURNING FLAGSHIPS INTO ZOMBIE BEERS?
“That’s a good analogy. And yeah, you see that happen[ing] a lot more. It’s a trend-driven industry, and people are always trying new things, staying ahead of the curve. And it’s a pretty low-risk thing to take a beer that you already have a lot of, and play around with it. If it doesn’t work, it’s not like you lose a whole vintage or something.”
WHAT ARE THE DRAWBACKS OF BREWING IN THE HIGH COUNTRY? WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES?
“Well, the world of brewers is very supportive and helpful. But there aren’t any other breweries in Cottonwood [where THAT is bottled] or Pine. So I can’t go down the street and get a bag of hops if I run out. Or bounce ideas off other people. That’s the drawback. But [the advantage] is, it sets us apart. That helps sell the story and helps sell the beer.”
10 SEASONALS TO SEEK OUT THIS SUMMER
Our summer picks for the aspirational Arizona beer-drinker.
- Bone Haus Brewing’s Black IPA
India Pale Ale/5% ABV/55 IBU
“I can’t tell you how many people are happy we have stout beers in the summer,” says Bone Haus head brewer Andy Weiner. Though Weiner and co-owner Keith Chapman say they have a long list of ideas for beers that more precisely fit into the “summer seasonal” category, they are happy to continue serving their signature black IPA all summer long. A lot smoother than its bitter coffee color connotes, this one’s best consumed while sitting snugly inside the new AC-cooled, catacomb-themed brewery.
Tap It: 14825 E. Shea Blvd., Fountain Hills 480-292-9541, bonehausbrewing.com
- The Shop Beer Co.’s NEONIC (Passion)
Sour/4.9% ABV/9 IBU
NEONIC is The Shop’s series of sours, each one as fruity and neon-colored as a fresh fruit paleta. The (Passion) is a bright marigold, resembling mango juice or liquid sunshine. Thick and cloudy, featuring tropical passionfruit notes that mellow out the sourness, this one should be sipped poolside. Keep an eye out for other flavors in the NEONIC line this summer as the family-run brewery experiments with different wild fruit, like guava in the (RED).
Tap It: 922 W. First St., Tempe 480-477-9212, theshop.beer
- McFate Brewing Company’s Oh My Gatos
Golden Ale/4.5% ABV/23 IBU
Perhaps the most stalwart summer brew of this bunch, the Oh My Gatos is a refreshing cream ale with America-grown corn and hops. Light blonde, crisp and as balanced as a cat on a windowsill, the Oh My Gatos is super clean tasting. So much so, we can imagine pro athletes still being able to do wind sprints after downing a pint. This summer, pretend you’re a pro, too, by sipping this while sinking bean bags on McFate’s cornhole field.
Tap It: 1312 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale 480-656-9100, mcfatebrewing.com
- 12 West Brewing Co.’s Cranberry Shwifty
Wheat Ale/3.8% ABV/12 IBU
From the prolific tinkerers at 12 West inside the Barnone “maker space” in Gilbert comes this delightfully doctored version of the brewery’s “Shwifty” Bavarian wheat ale. Brewer Noel Garcia adds fresh cranberry purée to the beer post-boil, creating a volume consumption summer beer that’s fruity but surprisingly dry and restrained. We found it at Craft 64, but it’s a good bet you’ll find it at the source.
Tap It: 3000 E. Ray Rd., Gilbert 480-404-9699, 12westbrewing.com
- Black Bridge Brewery’s K-Town Weiss
Wheat Ale/4.7% ABV/IBU N/A
“K-Town” is hip-speak for Kingman – that beverage oasis of the Great Arizona North, home to rum distillers, winemakers and, now, one of the state’s top up-and-coming breweries. Better known among Arizona beer geeks for its 14 percent ABV “wheat wines,” BB also brews this sane, sessionable, slightly tart wheat ale. It boasts the faint, lovely banana esters you expect in wheat beer, though little of the clove and other sharper aromatics. The upshot: a brutally effective starter beer to jumpstart your night out in K-Town. Woo-hoo .
Tap It: 421 E. Beale St., Kingman 928-377-3618, blackbridgebrewery.com
- Wren House Brewing Las Frescas
Sour/5.9% ABV/10 IBU
The hottest beverage ticket in town? It might be this line-out-the-door series of fruit beers, poured every Saturday morning by brewer Preston Thoeny. “We offer it to go as growlers for the first 40 people… and it usually sells out within an hour,” says Thoeny, who creates the elixir by spiking his sour witbier with fresh fruit purée and aromatics. The result: a velvety shandy ideal for brunch, poolside lazing and cocktail mixing. (One recent offering: Nobel Peach Prize with vanilla and cinnamon, mated perfectly with bourbon.) “It’s more like a smoothie than a beer sometimes,” the brewer says. Color us problem smoothie drinkers.
Tap It: 2125 N. 24th St., Phoenix 602-244-9184, wrenhousebrewing.com
- Helton Brewing Company’s Boysenberry Sour
Sour/5.9% ABV/10 IBU
This summer, it’s all about the sour. Millennial (and millennial-adjacent) brewers are hopping on the sour trend like it’s the latest iteration of iPhone. Ironically, sour beer is one of the oldest styles of suds in the world, since all beer used to be pretty puckering before the dawn of pasteurization, when yeast and bacteria ran wild during fermentation. At Helton, Indiana farm boy Brian Helton embraces this ethos with his Boysenberry Sour, back by popular demand. Acidic and high-alcohol with a “massive amount” of tart boysenberries, Helton says this sour is a “great palate cleanser… so you can keep drinking.”
Tap It: 2144 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix 602-730-2739, heltonbrewing.com
- Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co,’s Boilgeist
IPA/6.5% ABV/IBU N/A
The Valley has only a handful of true “event” beers that aficionados schedule their lives around, and it seems like this Gilbert brewpub has about half of them, from its Picacho Pecan Pie Brown Ale in the fall to its star-studded collaborative brews. A possible summer addition to the list: this odd-fellow IPA, part of the brewery’s no-boil series, featuring highly aromatic – but not bitter! – Grungiest and Styrian wolf hops. Essentially, it’s a sous vide beer, with a doughy malt base that delivers notes of “strawberry shortcake,” the brewers promise.
Tap It: 721 N. Arizona Ave., Gilbert 480-497-2739, azwbeer.com
- THAT Brewery’s Wild Wild Strawberry
Sour/6% ABV/20 IBU
First poured at the Strong Beer Festival last spring, this sour sipper is a true brewing unicorn – an ultra-elusive specialty beer you have to actively seek. Brewmaster John Scarbrough adds fresh strawberry purée to THAT’s flagship Strawberry Blonde ale and initiates a second round of lactobacillus fermentation, aging the brew in Sangiovese barrels left over from his winemaking days. The result is scandalously good – a Jolly Rancher with backbone. Find it only at the Wild and Woody Festival on July 28 in Phoenix.
Tap It: realwildandwoody.com
- North Mountain Brewing Company’s Purplesaurus
American Wheat/4.3% ABV/13 IBU
Earning its name from the mixture of raspberries and blueberries that make it the color of plum jam, the Purplesaurus is a fruity wheat beer lover’s fever dream. It’s also 100 percent vegan, says North Mountain Brewing owner Candy Frogozo, since they don’t put any lactose in the mix to pump up the creaminess. Still, it’s plenty thick and super carbonated and tastes like a mixed berry pie on the Fourth of July.
Tap It: 522 E. Dunlap Ave., Phoenix 602-861-5999, northmountainbrewing.com
PM TOP FIVE PILSNERS/PALE LAGERS
- Pedal Haus Brewery
3.5% ABV / 10 IBU
The downtown Tempe brewery makes several excellent lagers in various styles, but this one earned a silver medal at last year’s prestigious Great American Beer Festival.
- SunUp Brewing Co.
Copper Dome Pilsner
5% ABV / 40 IBU
This former seasonal, which offers a touch of spiciness thanks to German Tettnang noble hops, recently was promoted to the Phoenix brewery’s year-round lineup.
- Lumberyard Brewing Co.
Diamond Down Lager
5% ABV / 40 IBU
The Flagstaff brewery counters the noble hops with traditional Munich and Pilsner malts for its well-balanced Bavarian-style lager.
- Helton Brewing Co.
4.9% / 12 IBU
Believing pilsners are deceptively complex beers that reveal a brewer’s true skills, Phoenix brewer Brian Helton made this crisp, Czech-style pilsner his flagship offering.
- The Grand Canyon Brewing Company
5% ABV / 25 IBU
The Williams brewery’s Bohemian-style pilsner is slightly sweeter and maltier than its German-style cousins.
NEW BREWERIES AROUNDTOWN
Arizona has yet to be nationally recognized as a craft brew mecca akin to its neighbors Colorado and California. But that’s blarney. These days, it seems you can’t drive more than a few miles without seeing a new brewery. We profile six newbies who are putting Arizona beer on the map.
Copper Brothel Brewery
Opened: March 2018
The Jesser family moved from craft beer haven Colorado to open its own brewery… in Arizona wine country. Head brewer Samantha Jesser brings several years of homebrewing experience to the place, where she focuses on “drinkability” for a wide range of palates, including winos who maybe need a crisp kölsch and pulled pork sandwich (made by dad/pitmaster Robert) after a day of wine tasting.
3112 Hwy. 83, Sonoita
Corbett Brewing Company
Opened: December 2017
Corbett Brewing Company quietly opened last December just off Tucson’s storied Fourth Avenue. Minimalist with an exposed wood-beam ceiling and a huge, natural wood bar top, Corbett is the new home of brewer Cody Sexson, previously of Helldorado Brewing Co. in Tombstone. Rumor has it plans are in the works to add a pizzeria and dance floor to the space soon.
309 E. Seventh St., Tucson
Cave Creek Beer Co.
Opened: February 2018
A reincarnation of Creekers Cold Beer and Crab – a popular order-by-the-pound seafood joint in the far north boonies of Cave Creek – the new place still serves crab and shrimp boils (plus elevated pub grub) and now brews its own beers using ingredients from local purveyors whenever possible, from local honey in the Arizona Honey Wheat to chef-made candy in the Gold Rush Belgian golden strong ale.
7100 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek
Harbottle Brewing Company
Opened: February 2018
Owners Michael Figueira, Andy Schlicker and Sam Kroack ran into some trademark issues with their original brewery name, Flux – it was already taken by a Maine brewery and a California winery. The Tucson trio switched gears and named the place Harbottle for Figueira’s ancestor who helped King Kamehameha claim Hawaii’s throne in the early 1800s.
3820 S. Palo Verde Rd., Tucson
Edge of the World Brewery
Opened: March 2018
This humble brewery is aptly named: Nestled on the Arizona-Utah border, Edge of the World is the first brewery – nay, bar – to open in the town founded by fundamentalist Mormon sects. Once closed off to the rest of the world, the community was exposed to a media firestorm set off by the arrest of convicted sexual predator and former church leader Warren Jeffs. Like good Mormons, the brewery owners state their “mission” of sharing craft beer includes “bringing together a community.”
70 N. Central St., Colorado City
Flying Basset Brewing
Opened: March 2018
Named for the pair of basset hounds adored by pilot Rob Gangon and his wife, Sara Cotton, Flying Basset Brewing is a true pet project with 25 beers (some brewed in-house, others are guests) on tap, a full food menu and seating for 200. Gangon was an award-winning homebrewer for several years before making the leap. His debut beer was a caramel-hued copper ale, followed by a double IPA and a hefe.
720 W. Ray Rd., Gilbert
PM TOP FIVE SESSION IPAS
Tombstone Brewing Company
Little Baby Wyatt
4.9% ABV / N/A IBU
Brewed with Idaho-7 and Cashmere hops, this slightly peachy beer has the bold taste of a double IPA, a proper homage to the town’s famed lawman.
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
Lil’ Guy Rye
4% ABV / 40 IBU
For this copper-hued beer, the Gilbert brewery uses Nelson Sauvin, a New Zealand hop named for its fruity characteristics similar to Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
Historic Brewing Company
Eternal Sunshine of the Sessions
5.2% ABV / 45 IBU
The Flagstaff brewery marks the spring equinox with this seasonal, appropriately dry-hopped with Equinox hops, which have a green pepper aroma.
Scottsdale Beer Company
Downshift Session IPA
5.2% ABV / 65 IBU
Think session IPAs lack hoppiness? This blend of Amarillo, Centennial and Cascade hops likely will satisfy the most diehard “hophead.”
Fossil Creek IPA
3.9% ABV / 66 IBU
This “summer IPA,” which gets its citrusy zest from Citra, Cascade and Simcoe hops, is hugely popular at the brewery’s Pine and Cottonwood locations.
ANDY WEINER & KEITH CHAPMAN&NBSP;BONE HAUS BREWING
Like Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride reincarnated as a taproom, Bone Haus Brewing is certainly a black sheep in the middle of stuffy, retiree-friendly Fountain Hills. But the owners – longtime friends Keith Chapman (pictured right), brewmaster Andy Weiner (pictured left), and designer/artist David Lozeau – say they’ve received an incredibly warm reception since opening the town’s first microbrewery in April 2018. In between perfecting their signature Black IPA and scheduling food trucks to make the trek north to the brewery, Chapman answers a few questions about their dark yet warm, skeleton-strewn passion project.
WHY FOUNTAIN HILLS?
“We have lived in Fountain Hills for many years, and while the area supports a diverse blend of young families, retirees and tourists – and hosts several art fairs and music events – there was still a desire to present more destination beyond “the fountain.” We believe that Fountain Hills can be a destination location that provides locals and visitors something that doesn’t exist anywhere else, and we’re hoping that our passion encourages other people and businesses to invest, build and flourish in this town.”
WHAT’S UP WITH ALL THE SKULLS?
“The Bone Haus Brewing name and theme are a nod to the many ossuaries and catacombs, also known as bone houses, we’ve visited across Europe. Those warmly lit chambers contain artistic and stunning displays of skeletal remains of everyone from revered monks to common townsfolk, but those final resting places are hardly final, as they now serve as monuments for inspiration, reflection and celebration for the living. The Bone Haus Brewing taproom is, at its heart, a gathering place that beguiles the senses, with curiosities and surprises around every shadowy corner.”
ANY BREWS YOU WANT TO HIGHLIGHT FOR THE SUMMER SEASON?
“We are currently featuring our Raspberry Blonde Ale, a 4.4% ABV summer ale that is light and refreshing. It has a refreshing yet subtle fruity taste that doesn’t overpower. We also plan to prepare some special seasonal beers using some edibles harvested from the nearby desert and some more traditional, citrus-based ales. We also offer our more traditional, double-pitched yeast Witbier that has been quite popular as the heat arrives in Arizona.”
17 BOTTLES (AND CANS) OF BEER ON THE WALL
Available at most specialty beer and liquor shops, these summer-friendly Arizona crafts will look handsome on any refrigerator rack.
|Huss Brewing Co. Koffee Kölsch
Kölsch/4.7% ABV/16 IBU
Light like a lager, but rich and caramelly like an iced coffee. An energizing way to kick off a balmy #SundayFunday.
|Sleepy Dog Brewing Wet Snout
Peanut Butter Stout/5.7% ABV/18 IBU
All Americans know magic happens when you combine PB and chocolate. So, patriotism in a can.
|Thunder Canyon Brewstillery Sky Island IPA
American IPA/6.5% ABV/70 IBU
Fashioned from the IPA styles of both coasts, this one stands alone, like the mountains it’s named for.
|Prescott Brewing Company Lodgepole Light
Cream Ale/4.5% ABV/20 IBU
Super light, with very little hops flavor. Screams for a koozie and a river float.
|SanTan Brewing Company Mr. Pineapple
Pineapple Wheat/5% ABV/15 IBU
Can it even be considered a Valley barbecue if Mr. Pineapple isn’t invited?
|Uncle Bear’s Brewery Mandarin Wheat
Wheat Beer/5.1% ABV/12 IBU
Citrus hounds will dig the orange-forward flavor. It’s like a Z-pack of Vitamin C.
|Mudshark Brewery HavaBlue
Wheat Beer/4.2% ABV/15 IBU
Like drinking a blueberry muffin. Your grandma will love it.
|Sentinel Peak Brewing Co. Salida del Sol
Amber/5.2% ABV/22 IBU
Evocative of a lazy afternoon in Rocky Point, with shrimp tacos and cervezas.
|Borderlands Brewing Co. Citrana Wild Ale
Gose/4.0% ABV/0 IBU
Arizona’s first great sour beer, now in cans. Slightly funky, slightly zesty, with major effervescent pop.
|Four Peaks Brewing Co. Sunbru
Kölsch/5.1% ABV/17 IBU
Malty like a mouthful of sunflower seeds, mildly sweet like honey and very chuggable.
|Lumberyard Brewing Co. Red Rock Raspberry
Fruit Beer/4.4% ABV/20 IBU
Vaguely fruity, like Constant Comment sun tea. Staff ladies’ favorite pick.
|Dragoon Brewing Co. Stronghold Session
Brown Ale/4.8% ABV/32 IBU
Like slightly torched toffee, this dark ale is made for frigid movie theaters.
|Prescott Brewing Company Palepricot
Apricot Pale Ale/5.2% ABV/55 IBU
Tastes like a strip of apricot fruit leather and a hops bush had a baby.
|Dragoon Brewing Co. Santa Cruz’r
Golden Ale/4.9% ABV/15 IBU
Hoppier than a blonde, but crisper than a pale ale. Calls for sunblock, a bike ride and burgers.
|The Grand Canyon Brewing Company DireWolf
American Sour/7.1% ABV/24 IBU
Tart and sassy, like the big ol’ wolf-dog that guards the King of the North.
|SunUp Brewing Co. Bearded Blonde
Blonde/4.8% ABV/25 IBU
Like the Viking with the Farrah Fawcett hair on its label, this is a throwback to summer vacations of yore.
|Four Peaks Brewing Company Peach Ale
Golden Ale/4.5% ABV/9 IBU
Prim, proper, pleasant and not too sweet. She’s the debutante of the beer ball.