Arizona Summer Beer Spectacular

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Trio of brews at Walter Station Brewery; Photo by Josh Taff
Trio of brews at Walter Station Brewery; Photo by Josh Taff

Triple-digit heat getting you down?

Never fear. Our seasonal overview of Arizona craft beer is here to lift your spirits tout de suite. 

Bonus: Our exclusive PHOENIX magazine summer six-pack.

By Jess Harter, Craig Outhier & Christianna Silva
Photography by Angelina Aragon & Josh Taff

5 Summer Beer Trends

(And Where to Find Them)

What do Arizona’s leading tastemakers have boiling in their collective kettle? Read here to find out.

by Jess Harter

Brut IPAs

The onslaught of New England-style hazy and juicy IPAs for the last two years has prompted West Coast brewers to counter with a new Champagne-inspired IPA style. Typically made by adding an enzyme called amyloglucosidase to the wort, which helps the brewer’s yeast consume all the available sugars, brut IPAs are bone-dry, highly effervescent and perfect for summer. Consider this the Tupac versus Biggie cross-country rivalry of the craft beer world.

Try these: Fate Brewing Co. Sub Zero, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. Brutal Nature, Goldwater Brewing Co. Hoppy Brut, Freak’N Brewing Company Brut Me Baby One More Time, Four Peaks Brewing Company Brut IPA, Granite Mountain Brewing Tumbleweed Juice

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Photo courtesy Huss Brewing Co./MMPR
Photo courtesy Huss Brewing Co./MMPR
Low-Calorie Beers

In recent years, health-conscious consumers have been eschewing big-name light beers in favor of fast-growing Michelob Ultra, which has even fewer carbs and calories. Sensing an opportunity, craft brewers are experimenting with light lagers and pilsners that offer ultra-low calories without sacrificing as much flavor.

Try these: Pedal Haus Brewery Day Drinker, Huss Brewing Co. Arizona Light Lager, 12 West Brewing Co. Zona Pilsner, Dragoon Brewing Co. Can Crush, The Perch Brewery Burd Light, SanTan Brewing Company 1920 Lager

Cannabis-Inspired Beers

North America’s $10 billion cannabis industry is predicted to quintuple over the next decade, and craft brewers want a piece. While most creations to date have been dank beers reminiscent of (but free of) cannabis, Flying Basset Brewing in Gilbert and Harbottle Brewing in Tucson have introduced beers with cannabidiol (CBD) – the non-psychoactive compound in marijuana that some users hail as a cure-all.

Try these: Flying Basset Brewing Charlie Bravo Delta Blonde, Harbottle Brewing Company Joint Effort IPA, Goldwater Brewing Co. MoonRocks IPA, North Mountain Brewing Company Happy Seed Hemp Ale, Pueblo Vida Brewing Co.Parallels IPA

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Pastry Beers

Behold, the scourge of beer purists – one of their many scourges, anyway. Though reviled by the intelligentsia, so-called pastry beers are proving to be a favorite of casual beer drinkers more attuned to doughnut shops than bittering hops. From s’mores to pecan pie to banana bread, there are pastry beers to satisfy just about any
sweet tooth.

Try these: Historic Brewing Company Piehole Porter, Goldwater Brewing Co. Imperial Blueberry Coffee Cake Stout, Mother Bunch Brewing Oh Fudge Imperial Pastry Stout, Wren House Brewing Co. Happy to Donut Stout, Borderlands Brewing Co. German Chocolate Cake Porter, State 48 Brewery Graham Cracker Porter

Photo courtesy Goldwater Brewing Co.
Photo courtesy Goldwater Brewing Co.
Non-Brewery Taprooms

The proliferation of small-scale U.S. craft breweries has created cutthroat competition for shelf space at grocery and liquor stores, but the emergence of small, non-brewery-owned taprooms, often also operating as bottle shops, is giving breweries much-needed distribution outlets as well as providing convenient neighborhood gathering spots.

Try these: The Whining Pig (six Valley locations), Irene’s Tap Room (Phoenix), Scapegoat Beer & Wine (Scottsdale), The Sleepy Whale (Chandler), Pour Wine & Taproom (Mesa), Ground Control (Litchfield Park)

Tony Fatica, co-owner of The Sleepy Whale; Photo by Josh Taff
Tony Fatica, co-owner of The Sleepy Whale; Photo by Josh Taff
The Sleepy Whale

290 S. Arizona Ave., Chandler
480-758-4979, facebook.com/sleepywhalebeer

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Trophy Case

Honors won by Arizona breweries since we last checked in.

Great American Beer Festival
Pedal Haus Brewery

Gold, Belgian-Style
Witbier Bière Blanche

Saddle Mountain Brewing Company

Gold, Scottish-Style Ale
Taildragger Clan-Destine

U.S. Open Beer Championship
Huss Brewing Co.

Silver, Golden Ale
Scottsdale Blonde

Grand Canyon Brewing Co.

Silver, Specialty Wheat
Expeditions Wheat

Best of Craft Beer Awards
O.H.S.O.

Gold, American Fruit Beer
Boom Dynamite

O.H.S.O.

Bronze, Baltic Porter
Lost Viking

Wren House Brewing Co.

Gold, American Pilsner
Big Spill Pils

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Summer Beer Experiences

Festivals, tappings, special releases and the like.

Real Wild & Woody Festival
No one has ever made better use of the Phoenix Convention Center than this Arizona Craft Brewers Guild event, which showcases barrel-aged brews and other specialty releases – in air-conditioned comfort. July 27. realwildandwoody.com

The Grand Canyon Brewing + Distillery’s Lock, Stock & Barrel Series
The Williams brewery’s seasonal line includes these limited, large-format, barrel-aged, always de-lish beers. Current release: Wild Saison, a tart, tannic lipsmacker aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels, with a zesty, lemony finish. grandcanyonbrewery.com

Wren House Brewing Co.’s Las Frescas Series
Essentially a fermented fruit smoothie, these session stunners are tailor-made for hot weekend drinking. All summer. wrenhousebrewing.com

Mile High Brewfest
Mark your calendar for Prescott’s top beer festival, featuring high-country brews (Mother Road, Lumberyard) and national brands. August 10. milehighbrewfest.com

Brewer Spotlight

David Arnce & Dylan DeMiguel of The Shop Beer Co.

David Arnce (pictured below, far right) always has something brewing. After five years as a co-owner of Tempe-based Cartel Coffee Lab, he left the nationally recognized roaster-retailer to spin off the company’s fledging beer-brewing operation. The result was The Shop Beer Co., a craft brewery, taproom and beer garden that Arnce launched with Dylan DeMiguel (his brother-in-law and marketing chief, middle) and Jason Calhoon (head brewer, left) a few blocks west of Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe in 2016. We recently caught up with Arnce and DeMiguel while enjoying a pint of their flagship Church Music IPA.

If someone asked you to describe the current state of the Arizona craft beer climate, what would you say?

Arnce: “If I had to use a catchphrase, it would be ‘bursting with potential.’ Things are moving really fast. There’s a huge community of people literally cheering on all of the people that are brave enough to venture off into these crazy experiments, trying to make a living brewing beer.”

How has The Shop Beer Co. changed since opening its brewery near Tempe Town Lake?

DeMiguel: “I think we’ve become more experiment-oriented. We have a lot more seasonal products, specialty products. From a beer perspective, we’ve really grown – in our knowledge, in our variety of styles. From a brand perspective, we’ve gotten more creative, [like] in terms of can art.”

What’s the most interesting story behind one of your beers?

Arnce: “We made a beer called Golden Doodle. It’s a gold can with little kid-like drawings all over it – but those drawings are the artistic efforts of our staff. Every employee has one doodle on there… I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked a bartender, ‘Which one’s yours?’ And they’ll spin the can around and point, ‘That’s mine right there.’ And they kinda glow for a second.”

What don’t people know about your brewery that you wish they did?

Arnce: “We’re a family, and everyone contributes. All of our photography and merchandising? My wife, Mikel, does that. I do all the digital artwork. Dylan is our only outside sales rep. Jason is our head brewer. We don’t hire outside contractors. There are other ways to do it, for sure, but the way we want to do it is the best we can do it.”

Which Arizona beers, other than your own, are you drinking  and enjoying lately?

DeMiguel: “I think there are a handful of breweries that are trying to push the envelope as well, and we always like to see what they’re doing – breweries like Wren House, Tombstone, Pueblo Vida, Goldwater. It’s cool to see the evolution of other breweries trying to push the limits.”

— Jess Harter

Photo by Josh Taff
Photo by Josh Taff
The Shop Beer Co.

922 W. First St., Tempe
480-477-9212, theshop.beer

New Kegs on the Block

Staying current on the burgeoning local brew scene can be difficult, what with the number of licensed Arizona breweries recently crossing the 100 threshold, according to the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. Find these sudsy startups – i.e. brewpubs and taprooms – here in the Valley.

By Christianna Silva

CENTRAL PHOENIX

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
Opened: February 2019
A longtime favorite of East Valley beer geeks, the eco-obsessed brewery scored a choice piece of Roosevelt Row for its new Downtown Phoenix beer garden, featuring its own woodsy brews plus a stand-alone taproom with guest handles.
201 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, 480-462-1836, azwbeer.com

State 48 Brewery
Opened: September 2018
Gotta love the jackpot location – next door to the Van Buren music venue. But location isn’t all you’re getting: There’s also a nifty small-plates menu to go with roughly two dozen taps fed by the brewery’s 20-barrel brewing system.
345 W. Van Buren St., 602-254-4848, state48brewery.com

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.; Photo by Josh Taff
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.; Photo by Josh Taff
Walter Station Brewery; Photo by Josh Taff
Walter Station Brewery; Photo by Josh Taff

Walter Station Brewery
Opened: January 2019
This brewery bravely mixes alcohol and open flames to give guests an afternoon of beer and wood-fired pizza every day on its giant outdoor patio – set next to a converted fire station, naturally. It’s no wonder Walter’s slogan is “Where beer, friends and fire meet!”
4056 E. Washington St., Phoenix, 602-368-8402, walterstation.beer

Grand Avenue Brewing Company
Opened: May 2019
Step inside a 1940s sheet metal warehouse with exposed wood trusses – it’s been a tire distributor, a syrup company and a series of garages before peddling the sudsy stuff. The taproom is not only one of the coolest buildings to grab a bright draft beer, it’s a conversation starter on its own.
1205 W. Pierce St., Phoenix, 602-670-5465, grandavebrew.com

Phoenix

Lovecraft
Opened: March 2019
Lovecraft isn’t just an ale house – it’s also a bottle shop and smoke kitchen dedicated to “all things craft,” from craft beer and wine to food, art and design.
3128 E. Cactus Rd., Phoenix, 602-237-5046, lovecraftphx.com

Edelweiss Biergarten
Opened: August 2018
At Edelweiss Biergarten, you can get your favorite beer with a side of wienerschnitzel. This family-run restaurant specializes in German and Hungarian cuisine, and on Thursdays, guests are treated to an accordion show.
2625 E. Bell Rd., Phoenix, 602-404-5919, edelweissphoenix.com

Fountain Hills

Bone Haus Brewing
Opened: May 2019
If you read Bone Haus and thought “Hmmm, I bet this brewery is trying to imitate a catacomb,” you would be correct. We hear its craft brews are to die for.
14825 E. Shea Blvd., Fountain Hills, 480-292-9541, bonehausbrewing.com

East Valley

Pour Wine + Taproom
Opened: March 2019
Along with beer and wine you’ll find panini and light nibbles  like the Berry Spicy flatbread with fresh blackberries, blackberry preserves, bacon, feta and sliced jalapeños.
2905 S. Ellsworth Rd., Mesa, 480-354-7687, facebook.com/azpourwineandtaproom

Craft 64
Opened: May 2019
If you’re looking for AZ-centric taps, hurry to his East Valley bookend of the original Old Town Scottsdale spot. Same focus on cicerone-approved Arizona beers, same artisanal wood-fired pizza.
68 W. Buffalo St., Chandler, 480-247-3002, craft64.com

Transplant City Beer; Photo by Josh Taff
Transplant City Beer; Photo by Josh Taff
West Valley

Transplant City Beer
Opened: March 2019
Transplant City Beer Company owners Justin Egbert and Paul Power don’t lack creativity. If you’re feeling adventurous, give their Habanero IPA a try, or sip on the OREO Stout.
107 W. Honeysuckle St., Litchfield Park, 623-535-3911, transplantcitybeercompany.com

Brewer Spotlight

Alexander Phillips of the Grand Canyon Brewing + Distillery

Alexander Phillips loves Old Bill Williams, the founder of Williams, Arizona – the town The Grand Canyon Brewing + Distillery calls home. “He was known for being cantankerous, surviving the harsh, unforgiving land of [the Arizona high country],” Phillips says. “So [he’s my] personal spirit animal.” Like Williams, Phillips – who guides marketing for GCB and functions as its R&D guru – is a modern-day frontiersman, helping The Grand Canyon Brewing + Distillery lead the way in Arizona craft brewing.

What are the pros of brewing in a small city?

What’s great about small towns is that they move slower… We’re not trying to rush you in and out. We’re not trying to make sure that 100 different people can get served the beer that day. You know, there’s plenty of room. It moves slow, it gives us time to work on big projects. We’ve got that hyper-locality.

What are the cons?

The cons are obvious. Freight is a nightmare. It’s taken us years to forge relationships that we can trust in shipping. Relevance is hard to maintain when you’re out of everyone’s eyesight. We have some really amazing beers, but it’s sometimes a quest to find us… When we get people out here, they’re blown away. But it takes some effort to get them here.

What does “summer beer” mean to you?

A summer beer to me is what we want [to drink while we’re] rafting in the river [or] hiking. And when you’re being active and you’re in the heat, hops and sugar just beat you down and make you feel lethargic. For me, I don’t like sweating out hops. I like something that when it hits my lips, it’s crisp, it’s refreshing.

What beers on the Grand Canyon menu best represent that?

Our American Pilsner, our Trail Hike IPA, and then for the summer we’re releasing a new beer called Sacred Saguaro Lager in 16-ounce cans for the very first time. And it turned out amazing. Now they’re a little more accessible for consumers to take them hiking.

In your opinion, what recent beer trend is played out?

I’m not a [session] IPA [fan]. I mean, I like drinking them on occasion, but I think it’s a bit played out. I don’t know if the volatility of the body of that beer – meaning that it’s usually best consumed as close to its production as possible, and a beer usually travels around a lot – is conducive over time. But I felt that [trend] got played out pretty quickly.

You have the most iconic Arizona name of all breweries. Is it a branding advantage?

The iconic name helps, but it kind of hurts us a little, too, because we got through a lot of trademark disputes.

—  Christianna Silva

Photo by Josh Taff
Photo by Josh Taff
The Grand Canyon Brewing + Distillery

301 N. Seventh St., Williams
928-635-1911, grandcanyonbrewery.com

Official PHOENIX magazine Summer Six-Pack

Over one furious afternoon of local craft brew tastings, the PHOENIX mag staff deemed these Arizona beers the most worthy of your summer attention.

The Method

Candidate beers were graded on a 0-100 scale factoring appearance, smell, taste, aftertaste, and drinkability. Only canned or bottled beers were considered.

Photos by Angelina Aragon
Photos by Angelina Aragon
Wren House Brewing Co.

Big Spill Pils
German Pilsner/4.7% ABV
The panel loved the fine, lacy head and clean finish of the Phoenix brewery’s flagship pale lager. “Nice, bready flavor, too.” one drinker enthuses. “I don’t get fatigued by this one. Could drink it all weekend.”

Lumberyard Brewing Co.

Humphrey’s Hefe
German Hefeweizen/5.6% ABV
The Flagstaff brewery’s hefe is perhaps the best of its kind in Arizona, with ripe-banana richness on the mid-palate, a wisp of clove and good acid balance. “This is exactly what I want, when I want a German hefe,” says one panelist.

Four Peaks Brewing Company

Brut IPA
American Brut IPA/6.7% ABV
Even haters – and we know a few – concede the excellence of the Tempe brewery’s tight brut release, which uses modest Mosaic and Hallertau hopping for spritzy melon notes. “Super, super crushable,” quoth a fan.

Santan Brewing Company

Juicy Jack
New England IPA/6.5% ABV
Similar to Four Peaks’ Brut IPA, this is the SanTan beer that even SanTan dislikers seem to like. “Big peach and tropical fruit aromas on the nose,” one panelist says. As hazy IPAs go, it’s not quite the equal of The Shop’s Church Music and Borderlands’ Toole Ave., but it’s dang good – and easier to find.

Photos by Angelina Aragonn (2); Mirelle Inglefield
Photos by Angelina Aragonn (2); Mirelle Inglefield
12 West Brewing Co.

Zona Pilsner
American Light Lager/4.3% ABV
The lightest of Arizona’s ultra-style light lagers, it has a faint straw hue and wispy head that practically scream “volume drinker.” Says one panelist: “I get a sweet grain thing on the tongue. Tasty.”

Tombstone brewing Company

Passion Fruit Berliner
Fruited Wheat Ale/4.9% ABV
Famed for its divine double IPAs, the Southern Arizona brewery is equally skilled with exotic Euro styles like this intensely tart, monstrously refreshing  Berliner Weisse. “So crisp and good, and just sour enough,” one judge says.

Beer Alternative!
Superstition Meadery

Lagrimas de Oro
American Mead/15% ABV
Arguably the most admired of all Arizona’s beverage companies – it was named the 35th best brewer in the world by RateBeer in 2018 – the Prescott meadery boasts an impressive arsenal of summer sippers. Our favorite: this ethereal charmer made from mesquite honey, light gold in color and ripping with melon flavors.

For more than 50 years, PHOENIX magazine's experienced writers, editors, and designers have captured all sides of the Valley with award-winning and insightful writing, and groundbreaking report and design. Our expository features, narratives, profiles, and investigative features keep our 385,000 readers in touch with the Valley's latest trends, events, personalities and places.