I am a lot of things, but two things I certainly am not are a beer drinker and a vegan. I often wish I could be both! Life – especially concerts, dive bars, festivals and my alcohol budget – would be so much easier if I loved beer. While I can find merit in a porter or stout redolent of chocolate, coffee or caramel, or in a fruity light beer like Papago Orange Blossom, I’d always rather skip the brew in favor of more food. Beer fills me up too much, and I like eating too much. Liking eating too much is the same reason I’m not a vegan. If my moral fiber were stronger than my cravings for fried chicken, I would 100 percent forego all animal products. Alas, I am currently still too selfish and driven by my tastebuds.
This week’s happy hour gave me an opportunity to peek into the worlds of hops and alternative cheese for the benefit of this blog. Some of you are vegan, I’d wager, and many (most?) of you like beer. Fortuitously, my friend, Niki, and her girlfriend, Erica, are beer-drinking vegans! When we discussed HH destinations, Niki suggested Pedal Haus Brewery in Tempe, which boasts a ginormous patio, a huge beer list and a dedicated vegan menu. I settled back in a metal chair overlooking a fountain surrounded by giant rabbit statues – fitting sentries for our vegan noshing.
Happy hour brings $2 off select starters – everything except the chicken wings, our server told me. No matter. The only “wings” my party was interested in were the cauliflower ones (regularly $5 for a half-pound; $9 for a pound). We ordered a full pound, which allowed us to choose two sauces – Buffalo and Carolina-style barbecue sauce (other option: chipotle barbecue). The cauliflower florets were tasty and the sauces were zippy and flavorful, with the Buffalo’s substantial spice tempered by ultra-creamy vegan ranch. My only wish was that the cauliflower had been crunchier.
I got my crunch wish in the piled high nachos (regularly $12), a generous heap of tortilla chips covered in vegan cheese sauce and topped with black beans, smoked corn, fresh jalapeños, radishes and cilantro. We gilded the lily with a scoop of the fresh guacamole ($3). I couldn’t get over how gooey and cheesy the faux cheese sauce was. These were as satisfying as any nachos I’ve had, and a bargain for the amount of food you get.
Lastly, we ordered a side of fried Brussels sprouts ($5) in lieu of the popular non-vegan starter of Brussels sprouts with goat cheese and honey. Super yum! Erica remarked that the crispy leaves that had fallen off the sprouts were better than kale chips, and I agreed. Brussels sprouts chips should definitely be a thing.
Additional vegan appetizers include a large Bavarian pretzel with mustard (regularly $9.50), smashed guacamole and Haus salsa (regularly $10), shishito peppers with lemon, garlic, smoked salt and nutritional yeast (regularly $9), and a Mediterranean board loaded with hummus, baba ganoush, baby carrots, roasted cauliflower, cucumbers, radishes, marinated olives and gluten-free pita (regularly $16). Seven vegan entrees and five vegan side dishes provide heartier options if you want to linger for dinner. You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy these plant-based dishes.
Select “Haus” beers, well drinks and margaritas are all $2 off. House wines by the glass (a red blend, a white blend and a rosé, all from Lab) are $6 each.
Niki went with the Bière Blanche Belgian Wheat (ABV 4.98, IBU 11.2; regularly $6), which won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2018. It’s a traditional Belgian witbier whose fruity, herbal notes are enhanced in the brewing process by Moroccan orange peel and coriander. Erica chose the malty amber ale (ABV 5.68, IBU 41.3; regularly $6). It was a little hoppier than your average amber ale, she reported, so keep that in mind when ordering (hops heads partial to IPAs may enjoy this amber more than others; hops-sensitive folks might do better with another selection).
I mulled ordering a beer, but in the end, I had to be true to myself. My vegan fare paired quite nicely with my chilled rosé.
Happy hour runs Monday-Friday from 3-6:30 p.m.