Sun Up Brewing
The 13th Annual Arizona Strong Beer Festival returns to Steele Indian School Park tomorrow, Saturday, February 16. The best beer festival in the Southwest called Central Phoenix home for the last four years. For at least a little while, the Beer Culture center of gravity moves out of the East Valley and we all get a glimpse of what life might be like with a few more breweries in the central city.
Beer is ordinarily the star at the fest, with each local and regional brewery bringing something to showcase the kick-off of Arizona Beer Week (Feb 16- 23). This year, however, the top story is the number of new breweries pouring this year. Eight Arizona breweries will be making their Strong Beer Fest debut. Their struggles and successes provide insight as to the future of beer in Phoenix between 7th Street and 7th Avenue.
Cosmic Beer out of Flagstaff began as a distribution company that contract brewed with the now defunct Mogollon Brewing Company. It has been recently reported that Cosmic lost its bid to buy Mogollon’s brewing equipment. If this is true, Cosmic will have to find another brewery to brew its line of beer. Saturday may be our first chance to find out the answers to both the Earthly and Cosmic concerns.
Flagstaff’s newest brewery, Wanderlust Brewing is headed by Nathan Friedman. More to the point, it is literally a one man operation. Wanderlust represents one of the two nanobreweries pouring at the festival. Nanobreweries have brewhouses that are generally under 3 barrels. By way of comparison, Four Peaks has a 40 barrel system in its 8th Street brewery and a 60 barrel system in its Wilson Street facility. There are some that believe that Phoenix could support dozens of nanobreweries, however most of the nano-operations are not sustainable in the long haul. Friedman compares his brewery to a journey and so it seems likely that he and the brewery may need to evolve as his opportunities open. Alternatively, it seems, Friedman is happy and appreciative about the moment. That’s something that many downtown business owners share. Zen from the High Country.
It was quite a shock to some when Desert Eagle Brewing announced that it would set up shop in downtown Mesa. It’s already considered a major driver in Mesa’s nightlife revitalization plan. Believe it or not, there were two other breweries looking to locate in Mesa. Mesa seems to have plenty of right-sized and right-priced buildings to support smaller production breweries. Something that Phoenix should consider when the wrecking ball cometh.
Tucson’s Dragoon Brewing just missed last year’s festival. Both Tucson and Flagstaff have seen enormous growth in the last two years. I’m really looking forward to tasting the Mesquite Smoked Porter. This ex-homebrewer team has already produced Tucson’s favorite IPA and many of their offerings make it to Phoenix.
Fate Brewing may very well provide a blueprint for a smaller brewpub that could fit right in on Roosevelt Row or on Central. The Scottsdale brewpub is small by design. A woodfire pizza oven keeps everyone fed and all beer brewed is sold on premise. The godfather of this “wee humble brewpub” concept is Tom Hennessy of Colorado Boy Brewing in Ridgway Colorado. Hennessy started two of his own GABF award winning breweries and has mentored a total of three Arizona start-ups. Ideally, an existing restaurant or bar is purchased and then a brewery is shoehorned in. This strategy allows a brewery to start-up with less cost than a traditional brewery. Fate founder, Steve McFate built the restaurant on Shea (off Scottsdale Road) from scratch. His higher end concept has attracted that neighborhood’s crowd and attracts the Valley’s Beer Geek contingent.
Tamara and Steve Morken of Pine’s THAT Brewery also learned brewing operations from Hennessy. The Rim Country brewery distributes kegs here in the Valley, which runs counter to the sell-beer-across-the-bar-only strategy. It will be interesting to see if Mischief Brewing (the third “wee humble”) will follow start-up plan to the letter. Mischief is still in the building phase, but plans on locating in Peoria.
Though not a disciple of the “wee humble” school, OHSO nanoBrewery certainly has some of the elements that a downtown Phoenix brewery would need to thrive. It has a great selection of beers, interesting food and a comfortable indoor-outdoor feel. Even without the brewery, the business has the chops to remain a vital part of its Arcadia neighborhood. OHSO is currently making small batches of beer on what might normally be a large brewery’s pilot system. Generally adhereing to the no-distribution-sell-it-all-on-site mantra, an OHSO-like enterprise could very well work in the 7th Avenue and McDowell neighborhood that borders Willo and Encanto-Palmcroft
North Mountain Brewing may not be able to bring their beer to the dance this time around as they only recently became federally and state licensed. You can be sure that Brewmaster Robert Berkner will be at the festival, so it will be a good time to ask him how his Sunnyslope neighborhood brewery is shaping up. Berkner took great aims to find a neighborhood that he could support. Let’s see if Sunnyslope is ready to give back.
One other new brewery, Freak’N Brewing Company, is not yet licensed but will be represented by a beer that they collaborated on with Sun Up Brewing in the Central Corridor. Double Black IPA contains twice the hops of Sun Up’s Trooper IPA and just enough roasted malt to darken the color. Freak’N Brewery is currenly awaiting approval for its Peoria brewery.
While we are not talking about a large Arizona brewery moving into the stadium district or Gordon Biersch taking residence in CityScape this year, there are a few encouraging signposts on the horizon. Arizona’s thirst for beer is being met ably. The Strong Beer Fest’s freshman class gives a beer fan some hope for a downtown brewery in the future.
If you’ve been following Your Downtown Beer, then you know that this is not the place for traditional St Patrick’s Day beer drinking information. I doubt that anyone will have a difficult time finding an Irish Stout, Irish Whiskey or Corned Beef. There will also be green beer, which I urge you not to drink unless you contemplate that the drink was invented by a coroner in 1914. St Patrick’s Day is an American fabrication. To that end, here are some ways to celebrate with a new kind of Green Beer – an environmentally green beer.
If we’re being forthright, brewing is not, on the face of it, a very environmentally green practice. According to the Great Lakes Water Conservation Workshop, it takes upwards of 40 pints of water to brew a pint of beer. When you factor in the water used to grow hops and malt, a pint of beer takes a whopping 317 pints. Take heart however. There are far more water resource intensive operations than brewing such as cattle ranching and citrus growing – two Arizona mainstays. An 8 ounce glass of OJ requires about 432 pints of water.
Enjoy a locally brewed Irish style.
Sleepy Dog’s Red Rover is on tap at Copper Blues in CityScape and pours a deep amber. There is a characteristic caramel hint of sweetness that finishes with low bitterness and dryness. As an American touch, Sleepy Dog adds some chocolate and darker roast malts for a deeper color and distinct flavor.
50 W Jefferson St
Try an Organic Beer.
While I am not here to tell you that I can taste the difference between an organic beer and one that is not–I can’t and I am skeptical of anyone that says they can. I do think it’s important to acknowledge breweries that take the time to source their ingredients in a way that reduces impact on the soil and water. You can get three examples of organic beer at The Lost Leaf: Samuel Smiths Strawberry Ale, Pinkus Pilsner and Deschutes Green Lakes Amber.
The Lost Leaf
914 N 5th Street
Visit a brewery on the light rail.
Phoenix is home to two rail-friendly breweries, but only Sun Up offers a Red and a full pub menu. Phoenix Ale Brewery has a food tuck schedule. Check their websites for more information.
The Phoenix Ale Brewery
3002 E Washington St
Phoenix AZ 85034
OPEN Monday – Saturday Noon – 7 pm
Sun Up Brewing Co
322 East Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85012
Open Sunday – Thursday 11:00 – 11:00
Friday and Saturday to Midnight
Drink a Canned Beer from an Arizona Brewery
Santan, Four Peaks, Prescott, Lumberyard, Mudshark and Grand Canyon are Arizona breweries that offer beers in cans. Cans are lighter than their bottle counterparts by a factor of 8 to 1. Lighter cans mean a reduced carbon footprint.
Support a distributor that uses solar.
World Class Beverages is the fine beer arm of Crescent Crown Distribution. This year, Crescent crown installed 6,840 panels on the roof of the 240,000-square-foot building near Dysart Road and Sweetwater Avenue. They also have a number of hybrid trucks. Find the beers they distribute and where to buy them using their Beerspy.
Finally, do not drink a beer from a green bottle. You’re paying a premium for a product that is packaged in a bottle that will ensure that the hops will be skunked in just under a minute in the Arizona sun. Beer in brown bottles protect hops from UV rays whereas green bottles do not. A light-struck beer is often called “skunked” as UV rays interact with hops to create a chemical compound called mercaptan. Mercaptan is the active ingredient in a skunk’s defensive spray. Green bottles from Holland on St Pats are not traditional by any stretch.
This is seemingly the culinary theme song of my tummy. Since I was keen on what I was searching for this week, only one other factor could sway my decision: presence of beer. Sun Up Brewing Co. presented just the right word to peak my interest: brew.
At first review of the parking lot, one would figure that this place was hopping, but upon entrance, it looked like the regular scene at Cheers.
As soon as my laurels rested in the booth, I was submitting my order for an amber ale. I followed this righteous decision with my order for the wordy item of the evening, the Armadillo Red Buffalo Sloppy Joe.
The amber ale was hoppier than normal, but it was beer, so how could I complain?
I have to admit that the redneck in me was excited to taste something that sounded like it came off of the RoadKill Café’s menu. Sided with Brewhouse Mac & Ale Cheese, the sloppy joe arrived looking classy. I was elated to have it in my grasp. Unfortunately, it held all the flavor of a Manwich. I, admittedly, was expecting large taste out of such a verbosely named sandwich. The best part of the meal was the Brewhouse Mac & Ale Cheese. It was creamy, delicious and riddled with diced green chiles. It held the surprise that I expected from the sloppy joe.
Sun Up Brewing does offer some tasty, hoppy beers, but the food might not be its strong suit. Go drinkin’ and leave happy.
Sun Up Brewing is located at 322 E. Camelback Rd. in Uptown (light rail station at Central/Camelback) — 602.279.8909