Archive for July 28, 2017

The beers at Helton Brewing were on point once again!

Editor’s note: AmyO submitted this one a while ago, we’ve just had so many other stories with a time element leapfrog it in the queue. We decided it was time, especially as we get toward autumn, when it is no longer as hot as Hades in Scottsdale. — Stoutmeister

Faced with a serendipitous four-day holiday weekend (my employer unexpectedly decided to give us Monday before July 4 off!), my honey and I got in the car and drove to Scottsdale. Yes, we are pretty much nuts. We were complaining about the heat here and then went somewhere 10 degrees hotter. However, the hotel rates at the nice resorts there can’t be beat in the height of summer. A large suite with great air conditioning at a property with two pools, free breakfast buffet, and custom-made eggs or omelets, and a nightly reception with free drinks and snacks didn’t actually sound bad at all. And it wasn’t; it was great. In fact, on a couple of nights, the free beer on tap was an Uncle Bear IPA. It was great and we had two lovely hours to drink it at no cost.

We limited the time we were outdoors at all, even getting in and out of the car, so it wasn’t a very brewery-heavy trip. We did visit a couple of our favorites. We also went to a new taproom from a previously-visited brewery, one new brewery, and one that is fairly new and new to us. I wanted to share a little bit of information on them as well as a few pictures.

The new “play room” at Helton Brewing will be great in less scorching times.

On our last visit, I discovered Helton Brewing Company on Indian School Road and proclaimed it my favorite Phoenix-area brewery. It’s still doing very well, and the place was pretty busy for a Sunday midday when we stopped by for a pint. To our surprise, they added what can be described as a “play room” on the east side of the building. It’s covered, but open-air, so there was no way I was spending any time out there in July. Some folks did venture out there for a while. Oh, those crazy Phoenicians!

No trip to Scottsdale is complete for us without a visit to McFate. (I still have a hard time adding the “Mc” to Fate, because it will always be Fate to me.) As always, we had good beer and good times here. On Mondays, the pizzas are all half-price, too, and their pizza is really good.

The only tough part about visiting McFate Brewing is remembering the Mc on the front end.

Phoenix Ale Brewery recently opened Central Kitchen on North Seventh Street which was good news for us because the actual brewery location was really way too hot to enjoy the last time we visited. The Central Kitchen taproom is a very comfy spot and they have some great daily beer and food combination specials.

As for new places, we stopped by The Shop Beer Company on West First Street in Tempe. It’s an adorable place with a great patio, just maybe not in July, as it was getting full sun while we were there, and thus it was empty. Their beers tended to be on the hoppier side compared to many in this metro area, which was a welcome surprise. The staff was wonderful and knowledgeable. Groupon did offer a fun deal here, but we did not purchase it because we just wanted a couple of pints, and it was a package with flights, pints, and takeaway beer.

The sheer variety at Mother Bunch was impressive.

Also new to us, and fairly new on the whole, was Mother Bunch Brewing. They are in an old brick building, also on North Seventh Street in Phoenix. This brewery had the most styles on tap. The place is pretty funky and some of the beers reflected that. We had one that was pink because it was made from beets and rutabaga. That sounded awful to me because I hate beets, but it was so weird I had to try it, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined. I then chose a sampler and all of the more standard beers were pretty good, in particular their milk stout.

I also have to add some information about something really fun that does not directly have to do with beer. But, there is a tie-in, and the news was just literally and figuratively too cool not to share. We had previously been to the Scottsdale Road location of Sip Coffee and Beer because they have some good beers on tap. I found out that they opened a new location not far from Helton on Indian School. (By the way, among a great lineup of beers, they currently have a Marble beer on tap.) And, I had read a special secret about it. It is called Sip Coffee and Beer Garage because it took over an old oil change business. So, it has the garage bay doors and everything. But, what makes it amazing is they re-purposed the underground portion — you know, where the mechanics stand under the cars to work on them.

Secret underground tiki bar? Heck yeah!

Underground spots are great places to beat the heat. It’s only open in the late afternoon and at night. We got there 15 minutes before they opened and waited. I was like a kid on Christmas, all antsy and ready to tear into it. The small underground area has been redecorated with a ship theme and turned into a full on tiki bar. It is completely incredible. I didn’t even really care that the drinks are super expensive — and they are, but they are very well made. There were even portholes on the walls that showed pictures of other ships in them as if we were docked in a harbor somewhere. Then, when we got up to leave, we looked out again and the pictures had changed to “open water.” It’s a must-do for any tiki bar fanatic.

By now, if you made it this far into this story, you must be wondering about the title. I wanted to highlight something I found unusual compared to experiences we have had on our previous trips to the area. It seems to be the beginning of an awakening of sorts. Coming from Albuquerque and visiting places like Portland and San Diego as often as we do, Phoenix never has felt like it was “into beer” as much, especially when you consider number of breweries per capita and general conversations we have had or overheard in bars. This time felt different. Not only are there some more new and interesting breweries opening, but there was also something else.

The Shop is one of many great new beer stops in the Phoenix metro area.

Driving into town, as usual we stopped by our favorite café in Payson for a snack. A nice guy who works there who has waited on us before started up a conversation that along the way landed on beer. We said we were driving in from Albuquerque and he practically begged us to let him know the next time we will be coming through and he will pay us to bring him some good ABQ beer. Most specifically, he wanted La Cumbre.

Then, when we were leaving Helton, we saw someone outside in the parking lot that we thought might be the owner/brewer. So, I asked and he said he was. I told him how much I enjoy his beer and his facility. He was very humble and grateful to hear it. He asked where we were from. When we told him, he said we should bring growlers from Albuquerque next time, and he would do a two-for-one growler exchange with his beer. Oh, you bet! We told him we would likely be back either in the fall or in December. Now, I am looking forward to it more than ever.

Cheers!

— AmyO

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Full disclosure: This is a taster of Hazillionaire, their New England-style IPA.

Fans of the distinctive, funky flavor characterized by brett beers will not have to venture far from home or wait for seasonal releases to get their fill. And, it seems that this often-experimental style may have found a perfect home base at Bow & Arrow Brewing. Cosmic Arrow, a saison and the first in their series of brett beers, debuts today (Friday) at a special tapping that begins at 4 p.m. The brewery is located off 6th Street and McKnight Avenue, just in case you still have not made it over there.

Head brewer Ted O’Hanlan set a beautiful tulip glass of Cosmic Arrow before me for tasting. The color brought muddled lemons to mind, and the beer presented itself as a classic saison on the nose. At first sip, it released fruity notes and an extremely mild tartness. The Cosmic Arrow (7.1% ABV; 27 IBU) is a very dry, very sessionable saison with only minor hints of bitterness or sweetness and light effervescence. Aged in red zinfandel barrels for three months, the beer retained traces of oak that didn’t overpower the smoothness.

The second beer that will be released today is the excellent Hoodoo Monster Imperial American Red (9.3% ABV; 50 IBU). Named for the rock spires that decorate the southwest (and including “monster” because of the ABV), this beer honestly surprised me with its sophistication. I expected something much sharper, likely due to the imperial in the name, and its deep red-brown color didn’t lead me to believe otherwise. However, I found a classic American hop profile layered over a rich caramel flavor. For such a big beer, the Hoodoo Monster is incredibly smooth and (dangerously) drinkable.

How they got here

The beer hall is often packed with customers. (Photo courtesy Shyla Sheppard)

When I sat down with Bow & Arrow owner Shyla Sheppard at the beginning of the year, she mentioned the brewery would be expanding the barrel-aged program they launched in 2016 with the assistance of the new head brewer they were bringing on in the spring (Ted). Ted and Shyla share a palpable excitement about these brews, and it’s easy to see that the match — both in terms of style and experimentation — was a good one.

Though he recently hailed from Black Tooth Brewing Company in tiny Sheridan, Wyoming, it’s worth noting that Ted used to spend summers as a child in Albuquerque because his mother grew up here. Ted was eager to join Bow & Arrow as head brewer earlier this year to put his experience and creativity to work. Before Black Tooth, Ted entered the industry at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, N.C., where he worked with barrel-aged beers. Shyla said that Ted has, in addition to brewing, a culinary background.

“I think that lends a unique and interesting perspective to the way he approaches developing new beers and pushing the envelope with unusual ingredients,” she said.

Ted O’Hanlan, head brewer, has past experience in North Carolina and Wyoming.

“It takes a long time to brew brett beers, but it’s so expressive and it makes beer really unique,” Ted said. “It’s really taken off in other parts of the country, and it seems there are one or two breweries per state that are taking on this challenge. I like the complexity, and the challenge of working with it, because you have to wait.”

His willingness to experiment is an ideal complement to Shyla’s vision of the Bow & Arrow of the future. The brewery is moving towards mixed fermentation beers overall, and will explore American wild brett style, traditional sour, kettle sour and barrel sour beers. The popular El Breakfast stout is currently barrel-aging as an imperial in rye whiskey barrels (Ted sources these barrels directly from Wyoming Whiskey, as his friend is the head distiller there), with an upcoming October release date. Four other brews hitting the barrels this month include a second round of Cosmic Arrow, an American brett pale ale in a neutral oak barrel, a quad sitting on brett in more Sheehan barrels, as well as another brett sour beer that will turn more quickly than Cosmic Arrow. They are experimenting with a method to turn a mixed culture sour beer in months rather than years.

What’s tapping next

Shyla Sheppard, owner of Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.

Ted’s past experience at Fullsteam in their plow-to-pint and foraged beer programs intersects nicely with Shyla’s original vision for Bow & Arrow. The brewery was created to celebrate community, cultural heritage, and a rich appreciation for the land. Shyla was born and raised on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, and is a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes. Her partner and co-owner, Missy Begay, was raised on the Navajo Nation. Ted’s experience with foraged beer — a community affair where community foragers were paid market price for ingredients — only underscores the vision Shyla and Missy said they share for Bow & Arrow.

This vision of celebrating what the land has to give is reflected in the next beer in their Way Out West kettle sour lineup. The first release was a dry-hopped farmhouse ale, and the second (Way Out West-Sumac) will be a Berliner Weisse brewed with locally sourced sumac berries. Sumac, indigenous to New Mexico, lends a crisp, tart, citrus taste, and Shyla attributes a long history of the indigenous people making pudding and a lemonade-type drink with the berries. The distinct aroma has transferred to the beer with a chile powder effect on the nose at first. However, when tasting it, Way Out West-Sumac (4.1% ABV; 7 IBU) is an exceptionally smooth summertime brew. At that low alcohol level, it should top your list of summer session beers.

Also, look for Bow & Arrow’s second release in their rotating stout series to be released shortly.

Where they’re headed

Shyla and Ted pose with the ever-growing collection of barrels.

From their earliest conversations, a willingness to push the envelope where brett was concerned united Ted and Shyla. Now, 36 barrels sit within full view of the beer hall behind the glass that separates it from the brewing area. Shyla just installed a sliding barn door for easy access to the barrels. Barrels holding sours are tucked under the stairs in the beer hall. It’s clear that the barrel-aged program is going to be a defining factor for the brewery in years to come.

Beyond what’s happening in the brewery and beer hall, Shyla said they are participating in more tap takeovers, and is working on increasing their distribution. Having launched with a 15-barrel system right away, they have room to grow without having to expand the brewery immediately. Bow & Arrow currently has taps at Slate Street, both Slice Parlor locations, Matanza Beer Kitchen, Pueblo Harvest Café, and Monk’s Corner Taproom. More beer pairing and collaborative dinners are in the works.

“This was a dream for a long time,” Shyla said.

After moving to New Mexico from the Bay Area, she left a career in social impact investing to launch Bow & Arrow with her partner, Missy, a physician. A hobbyist home brewer, she did the research necessary to decide that designing, building, and opening a brewery was indeed a viable business venture. She took the leap, and in their first year, they landed awards and accolades from the commercial construction industry to being named a Local Favorite by New Mexico Magazine.

The bones of the brewery are made for fostering community. Giant tables in the expansive beer hall give way to cozy nooks and large classroom-style spaces upstairs that can be rented for group events. Shyla’s passion for supporting local entrepreneurship is rooted in this brewery, and she actively seeks opportunities to help others on their business journeys.

This white buffalo head hangs above the entrance, facing the bar. Shyla told me it’s because her grandfather raised buffalo, and buffalo always face the storm. It faces the bar as a reminder to stay true to her dream, and to be the storm.

“Any startup will consume your life, and at the end of the day it has to be worth it,” Shyla said. “I’m really pleased with where we are today, and looking forward to where we’re headed.”

If Cosmic Arrow is any indication of where Ted’s skilled hand will help lead Shyla’s vision, it looks like this collaboration will be a resounding success.

Cheers!

— Julie