Posts Tagged ‘Arizona breweries’

Oof, nothing like getting home at midnight after seven-plus hours of driving, struggling to fall asleep due to copious amounts of caffeine, and then you wake up the next morning and have 20 things to do in little to no time. So as much as I would like to crank out a story on the ABQ Brew Dash or the Duke City Pedaler, I would also like to give those stories a more proper treatment. So instead you all get a quick recap of the breweries I visited in Arizona over the weekend. A total lazy cop-out on my part? You better believe it.

The flight at Oak Creek. Loved the mini-mug glasses, but not the lemon on the hefe. Fruit does not belong in beer!

The flight at Oak Creek. Loved the mini-mug glasses, but not the lemon on the hefe. Fruit does not belong in beer!

Oak Creek Brewery, Sedona

Rather than stop in Flagstaff, I took Highway 89 south into Oak Creek Canyon and hit the tourist trap, er, lovely town of Sedona. With the help of Google Maps, I finally found Oak Creek’s brewery and grill in the midst of enough gaudiness to make Santa Fe blush. Located on the top floor of an art deco retail/business complex, Oak Creek was packed with lots of hungry/thirsty people. Luckily, traveling solo I was able to snag a spot on the patio bar top in between two couples who figured I was probably sad and lonely or something. Eh, whatever, I’m used to that. I could focus on my sampler tray of beers and a rack of ribs. Viva being single!

So the beers on tap, save for some Mandarin Ale that was off limits due to allergies, were Micro Light, Gold Lager, Pale Ale, Hefeweizen, Amber Ale, Nut Brown Ale, and Pullman Porter. The Micro Light (hard to miss in the photo, isn’t it?) was a beer that wasn’t really there. No flavor, no body, no idea why they would make such a thing except tourists. I guess. The lager was fine and should suffice for an introductory beer for non-craft beer drinkers. The pale was a surprise, actually packing a little bit of a hop kick. Most Arizona breweries go for drinkability over hopiness, so this was a pretty good outlier. The hefe and amber were average. I had the nut brown before in cans, kinda liked that batch better. The nutty bite wasn’t there as much, nor the overall strength in the body. The porter was similar in the lack of mouthfeel, though the roasted flavor was prominent up front. It just disappeared quickly.

I skipped getting a pint (had to resume driving, plus $5.95 for an average beer was a tad steep). The food was good and the setting was nice, though I would recommend not taking a big group down on a weekend. It was packed. Overall it was worth the one visit, but I doubt I will ever go back.

There was a rustic quality to the flight at Arizona Wilderness.

There was a rustic quality to the flight at Arizona Wilderness.

Arizona Wilderness Brewing, Gilbert

A couple years ago this brewery was all the buzz, snagging some national awards for best new brewery and even best brewery overall. It was still jammed with people on a Saturday afternoon, though by arriving right at the 11 a.m. opening, I was able to snag a good seat at the bar. Located in a strip mall along Arizona Blvd. (Highway 87) and Guadalupe, it’s essentially in a weird stretch where the suburb of Gilbert juts westward in between the suburbs of Mesa to the north and Chandler to the south. Gilbert is normally the southeastern-most suburb, but Wilderness is not the easternmost brewery in the Phoenix metro area.

Anyway, while noshing on some Bavarian pretzel sticks and later a pulled pork sandwich, I got a flight of eight beers, though two I was unable to drink as their wit was made with orange peel and their saison was infused with lime. Ah, well, still had six beers to try: Bear Wallow Berliner Weisse, Refuge IPA (their only regular beer on tap at all times), DC Mountain DIPA, Aravaipa Abbey Dubbel, Rincon Red, American Presidential (Imperial) Stout.

You all know I am not a sour fan, but their Berliner was drinkable for the style. Noted sour fan Phil Lopez has had it in the past and loved it, so you can take his review better than mine. The Refuge rivaled Tucson’s Dragoon Brewing’s IPA as the best of the style in the state. It packed a good hop wallop with a solid mouthfeel behind that. The DIPA was trying to have a malty backbone to balance out a big hop profile, but instead the hops came off a little muted and the malts were more dry than sweet. The Rincon was a middle-of-the-road red, not sweet like an Irish or hoppy like Marble. It was a bit dry, kind of mild, with a flavor that disappears fairly quickly. The Aravaipa was an average dubbel, fairly smooth without too much Belgian yeast flavor. The imperial stout was nicely barrel-aged, with a fair amount of vanilla prominent from the bourbon barrel. It was nearly out when I went, but I could see why. It was good, maybe just a tick below Marble’s Imperial Stout. As per usual, the mouthfeel came up a tad short of the thickness you would normally expect from the style.

Overall, I would not call Wilderness the best brewery in the country, but it is one of the best I’ve had in Arizona. If you are in the Phoenix metro area, it is a brewery you need to visit.

Late-night brewery find at Dubina in Glendale. The monster (14.2%) Barley Wine is on the far right.

Late-night brewery find at Dubina in Glendale. The monster (14.2%) Barley Wine is on the far right.

Dubina Brewing, Glendale

Driving back from the Penguins-Coyotes game, I stumbled upon this new brewery near the corner of Bell Rd. and N. 67th St. Another shopping mall location, it has a spacious interior and a nice bar area. There was food on the menu, but it was late and I just wanted a quick flight before calling it a night.

The little bio about the brewery online said the owners wanted to nail the Czech styles as they are of Czech descent. Their Zizkov Kolsch tasted like a hybrid between a German kolsch and a Czech pilsner. It was sweet, smooth, and a good way to start. Next up was Wee Little Pale, which was a wee bit too light in all aspects. There was no mouthfeel and the hops were barely tangible. The bartender working that night was recently allowed to brew a beer in the back, but in an “oops” moment he used the wrong yeast on their regular brown ale. Thus, New Kid on the Block was tapped, a brown ale base with Belgian yeast. The yeast flavor overpowers any nutty notes. It came out like a dark strong that wasn’t very strong. Dubina also had a Sahti, a Scandinavian style made with juniper. The flavor profile was all over the place. There was not much juniper, but a little bit of a piney hint on the edges. A sort of nutty flavor was there. The beer was thick, with a strong mouthfeel. If I had more time I would have gotten a second sample just to figure it out. The final beer was a Barley Wine that check in at a stunning 14.2 percent ABV. This beer was big, super sweet, boozy, and kind of mean. It earned me two badges (Sky’s the Limit, Hopped Up) on Untappd that were my 499th and 500th. I would have loved a pint (or at least a 10-ounce) of this, but I had to drive back to the motel and not be dead.

Dubina is a young brewery, but they are definitely trying to be a little different and fill a creative niche in the metro area. It does not hurt that the west side of Phoenix is pretty much vacant of breweries, so they have a chance to build a loyal fan base.

The Fate flight featured a hefe (top left), session IPA (center), stout (bottom left), a guest IPA (bottom right), and one weird saison (top right).

The Fate flight featured a hefe (top left), session IPA (center), stout (bottom left), a guest IPA (bottom right), and one weird saison (top right).

Fate Brewing, Scottsdale

Located on Shea Blvd. north of downtown, Fate is another place in a nondescript location. Like their brethren in Wilderness and Dubina, Fate has shined despite the mediocre exterior. On the advice of beer lover Tony Calder, I stopped in when they opened Sunday at 11 a.m. and snagged a flight of four house beers and one guest beer (Dragoon IPA, woots!).

The interior features a long bar running north-south, with a pizza oven in the back, the brewery to the side, and some communal tables that reminded me of Marble’s renovated taproom, only smaller and more brightly lit. On tap while I was there were Bamberg Hefeweizen, Shift Pint Session IPA, Droppin’ Beetz Saison, and American Stout. The Bamberg was definitely true to the German style, as in it was not cloudy. Yes, that’s right, hefes in Germany can typically be seen through. The flavor here was solid, not too much wheat or anything. The Shift was a pretty hopped-up session, with a good bite and flavor profile that most sessions lack. The American Stout was a rarity for Arizona, at least in terms of its hefty mouthfeel as a proper stout should have. The roasted, smoky profile was there, with a lot of smoothness and a creamy finish. Stouts aren’t common in Arizona, but Fate hit it out of the park with this one.

Then there’s the Beetz. So yeah, it’s a saison infused with beets, then aged in a Chardonnay barrel. The result was … weird. Not just the Kool-Aid color, but the whole flavor. It was kind of a veggie-peppery-wine sweet weird mishmash on my palate. I really could not figure the darned thing out. Kudos to Fate for trying something different, but next time I’ll stick with the stout or the session.

Fate is worth the visit and it is nice to not be in the parking/driving hell that is downtown Scottsdale (especially on the days the Giants are playing in March).

Lumberyard Brewing, Flagstaff

On my way home I stopped in for a quick meal (the mac’n’cheese was solid) and snagged a pint and a sample. The sample was Dark Sky Vanilla Porter, a barrel-aged, vanilla-infused version of their standard Pumphouse Porter. Basically it was an amped-up Breckenridge Vanilla Porter. If not for the four-hours-plus of driving ahead of me, I might have gotten a 13-ounce goblet. Afterwards I might have needed to brush my teeth from all the sweetness. So with Dark Sky too heavy, I grabbed a regular Pumphouse. It was a little bolder, smokier than I remembered. It was not a sweet porter, but it did have a nice mouthfeel. It’s colder in Flagstaff, so they’re not as afraid of thicker beers as Phoenix and Tucson. Or something like that.

All right, that wraps up my AZ visit. The Penguins beat the Coyotes, the Wildcats beat Ohio State, and overall, no one was able to kill me on the 101/17/10/202/60 or any of the other bonkers freeways out there. Successful trip!

We’ll get back to the hard news Tuesday. Stories this week should include a look at Albuquerque Brewing Company’s grand opening, a recap of our Irish Red Challenge, the aforementioned Duke City Pedaler and ABQ Brew Dash, plus new entries in our NM Women in Beer series.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

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June is usually the worst month in Albuquerque and other parts of the Southwest. Temperatures hit their peak, while the monsoon rains are still weeks away from providing at least some temporary cooling. At times like this, people tend to flee to the various mountain getaways. From Albuquerque, popular destinations within a day’s drive (or less) include Taos and surrounding communities, as well as places in Southern Colorado like Durango and Pagosa Springs.

Breweries like Mother Road are making Flagstaff a destination for craft beer lovers.

Breweries like Mother Road are making Flagstaff a destination for craft beer lovers.

About four hours drive to the west, however, is Flagstaff, a lovely little mountain town that sits at 7,000 feet, more than high enough to avoid the stifling temperatures that make the rest of Arizona unbearable in the summer. Flagstaff is also a town with a bustling brewing scene, making it the type of vacation destination that all of us in the Crew can agree upon. Unfortunately, I was the only Crew member with the time off who was able to trek 320 miles on I-40 to give Flagstaff a proper review. Here is what you need to know if you, too, feel like you need to escape the heat but still want some quality craft beer.

I’m listing the places in the order I visited them. Four are within easy walking distance of one another, and there are plenty of hotels in that area. There is also one excellent, hidden beer store for on your way out of town, you can stop there and pick up all the beers that aren’t distributed here in New Mexico.

Historic is a relatively new brewery but already producing a quality product.

Historic is a relatively new brewery but already producing a quality product.

Historic Brewing, 4366 E. Huntington Dr., Bldg #2

Hours: Weds-Fri 4-9 p.m., Sat-Sun 2-7 p.m.

One of the newer breweries in town, Historic is located in an industrial area near the first exit off I-40 as you come into town traveling from east to west. Just get off at the exit, take a left onto the I-40 business route/Route 66 and head west until you get to Fanning, then take a left there, cross the train tracks, and take another left onto Industrial, which turns into Huntington as it curves to the south. Historic will be visible on the right side.

The beer selection is somewhat limited, but there is quality here. Their Everyday Special pilsner was sweeter and more flavorful than most of its genre. It almost tasted more like a Kolsch-style ale. On the inventive side, they had Funkin’ Go Nuts, a coconut dunkelweizen. It was heavy on the coconut, maybe too much so, but it was fairly unique. The Joy Ryed had a great rye aroma, but lacked flavor. The Piehole Porter, a cherry-vanilla porter, was too sweet for some, but I thought it hit all the right notes. Their popular Deer Lord altbier was out when I visited, which was a shame.

Wanderlust is a small, cozy little brewery.

Wanderlust is a small, cozy little brewery.

Wanderlust Brewing, 1519 N. Main St., #102

Hours: Thurs-Fri 4-9 p.m.

The smallest brewery in Flagstaff, Wanderlust has very limited hours, but its beer can be found at other locations (distribution is almost a requirement for breweries in Arizona, unlike in NM, where many just brew in-house). It’s a short, easy drive west on Route 66 from Historic. Just be careful not to miss it, Main St. does not have a red light. It’s between the lights for 1st Ave. and Arrowhead, just take a right and you’ll see folks on the patio that extends into the parking lot on the left (west) side of the street in a small little strip mall-type structure. There’s even a small gym next door for people to work up a thirst.

As one would expect, the beer menu was pretty small. The flagship beer is 928 Local, a saison (!) that checks in at 8-percent ABV. It has a good saison flavor without that barnyard funk that turns off many people (myself included) to the style. There was also Chateau Americana, a Belgian pale ale that’s heavy on the Cascade hops, giving it a very potent, citrus-like flavor that was a bit much for me. For dessert, get a pint of Pan American Stout, which was light in mouthfeel but had a good flavor from its coffee and vanilla elements. They usually try to keep one beer available on nitro, but the Chateau Americana’s flavor was almost completed muted when served this way.

A sample tray of deliciousness from Mother Road.

A sample tray of deliciousness from Mother Road.

Mother Road Brewing, 7 S. Mikes Pike

Hours: Mon-Thurs 3-8 p.m., Fri 3-9 p.m., Sat noon-9 p.m., Sun noon-8 p.m.

My personal favorite among the six breweries in town was Mother Road (though I recommend visiting all six, as each has one or more quality beers on tap). Mikes Pike is located right off 180, the main street that brings you up from the final I-40 exit. You can find it just off to the right side past the light for Butler Ave. (easy to pick out thanks to the seven-story Drury Inn on the southeast corner of the intersection; that’s also where I stayed and a place I highly recommend). Mother Road is just up a couple blocks on the left side of the road before it curves to the right.

Mother Road is working to start distributing its beers in New Mexico (hence their presence at Blues & Brews last month), so they were more than willing to sit down and chat, not to mention provide me with some bonus samples. They are a brewery dedicated to quality and erasing the notion that beers from Arizona are all watered down and lacking flavor. The flagship beers include Twin Arrows Brown Ale, Gold Road Kolsch Style, Roadside American Ale, and the best of the bunch, the malty-yet-still-hoppy Lost Highway Black IPA. Seasonals on tap included Drive Shaft Copper Ale and Wooden Spoke #3. They even gave me two special bombers to bring home and try with the rest of the Crew on one of those rare days that more than two of us can get together at once (don’t worry, Mother Road staff, we’ll contact you with our reviews soon).

Flagstaff Brewing, 16 Historic Route 66

Hours: open seven days a week, usually lunchtime until late

Flag Brew, as it is known locally, is an older brewery located in the heart of downtown, across the street from the train tracks near the intersection of Route 66 and San Francisco (northwest corner). They have a full menu of food and a full bar, so it’s more of a hangout place for everyone, not just craft beer lovers. I went there as my final stop of the night, so I will admit at that point I was pretty worn out and a bit past my limit (I was walking, so no one panic). It was crowded and not well-lit inside, so this is a place I’ll have to revisit during the daylight hours in the future. Luckily a friend from high school is moving to Flagstaff soon, so that gives me a perfectly good excuse to return, right?

I tried the hefeweizen, which was the newest seasonal on tap (or so the busy bartender thought). It was just about average, a tick below The Last Straw hefe over at Bosque. Far superior was the Blackbird Porter. Clearly porters are a specialty in Flagstaff, which shouldn’t be a surprise since it’s a skiing town in the winter. A more traditional porter than the Piehole at Historic, this one was big, thick, and malty, with smoky and coffee elements.

A brewery as big as Lumberyard needs a jumbo-sized silo.

A brewery as big as Lumberyard needs a jumbo-sized silo.

Lumberyard Brewing, 5 S. San Francisco St.

Hours: Sun-Tues 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Weds-Sat 11 a.m.-2 a.m.

The biggest brewery in Flagstaff, Lumberyard is located on San Francisco just south of the train tracks. It has a full restaurant and a nice patio outside. Lumberyard is a full production brewery and you can find many of their beers around town, including in cans and bottles in liquor stores. Technically, Lumberyard and Beaver Street (see below) are owned by the same people, so the beer is almost entirely the same at both locations, with just a different seasonal available here or there.

I grabbed a sampler of six of the nine beers they had on tap. Their flagship beers are the Flagstaff IPA and Lumberyard Red. I found both to be a little lacking in flavor, particularly the IPA. A superior IPA was their session version, the Halfway IPA. It had more of a hop bite than its “bigger” brother. The Knotty Pine Pale Ale and Hefeweizen were average. The best was, no shock here, the Porter. I almost wanted to go back to Flag Brew and pit these two porters head-to-head. Sadly, I was running out of time. I do want to recommend the food at Lumberyard. Get anything with the barbecue sauce, made with their beer, and you will not be disappointed.

Beaver Street Brewery, 11 Beaver St. #1

Hours: Sun-Thurs 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-midnight

Beaver Street is the restaurant/brewery I have stopped at many times over the years when passing through Flagstaff, usually coming to or from Phoenix to the south to visit friends and/or catch some spring training baseball games. The food is quality, of course, while the beers are basically the same as I found at Lumberyard. On this trip I grabbed another porter, as the seasonals weren’t terribly exciting. I was in a rush so I kept my visit to a minimum, seeing as how I had been here many times before. I would certainly recommend Beaver Street for your dining location (take note, Mother Road, Historic, and Wanderlust do not serve food beyond some light bar snacks). Its central location makes it ideal amid all the other downtown breweries.

Oh, Majestic Mobil, thank you so much for your awesome collection of Founders beers.

Oh, Majestic Mobil, thank you so much for your awesome collection of Founders beers.

Majestic Mobil, 2020 S. Milton Road

Now why in the world would I list a gas station? Because it’s a gas station with an amazing beer store inside. Milton is the main road that I-17 becomes as it enters Flagstaff from the south (you also connect onto Milton as you come off the final I-40 exit). Just head a little north and past the Denny’s, you’ll spot this little gem on the right side. Head on in and you might spend 30 minutes alone trying to pick out what you want. There are beers from Arizona breweries, of course, but the real awesome is all the regional and even faraway beers that are present. You can find Dogfish Head (Delaware), Victory (Pennsylvania), Founders and Bell’s (Michigan), plus Firestone Walker and Sculpin (California), even Great Divide and Avery (Colorado). There are so many great beers it can produce sensory overload, all packed into a space about one-tenth of Total Wine.

On behalf of the rest of the Crew, I picked out bombers of Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti (imperial stout) and Firestone Walker Wookey Jack (black rye IPA). I grabbed four-packs of Founders Imperial Stout and Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. Then were the six-packs of Victory Pilsner and Bell’s Stout. If that wasn’t enough, they had a mixed 12-pack of Firestone Walker beers, including an old favorite from my days in SoCal, the Double Barrel Ale. There were dozens more beers that I wanted to bring home, but I only had so much money. Once we properly divide these among the Crew (along with the beers Porter Pounder brought back from his trip to Asheville), we’ll give them their proper reviews.

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So if ABQ or elsewhere in New Mexico is too hot, or you’ve been to Taos/Durango/Pagosa one too many times, consider heading west to Flagstaff to take in the cool mountain air and all the great beer it has to offer. Just make sure to stick a box in your trunk to fill with beers you can’t buy in NM.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Hello, friends. I know, I know, we’ve kinda sucked since ABQ Beer Week ended. We went from churning out tons of content to being a bunch of lazy bastards. Well, lazy as far as the blog goes. We’ve been a collection of busy people for various reasons. Franz Solo went to Barcelona (the beer was … not good, everything else was great), Porter Pounder has been working lots of 12-hour days on film sets and also moved from house to triplex (best line from the moving experience: “He has more shelves than the Library of Congress!”), E-Rock has been playing music all over, Shilling has been decompressing after a heck of a semester back in school, and Brandon has been doing, um, something. We’re not sure what, but we’re sure it was important. And yours truly has been less Stoutmeister and more Sportsmeister of late. Between high school sports, the Lobos and the Isotopes I’ve been running myself ragged across two states.

But no more! We are damned determined to get back out there and resume reporting on the local microbrewery scene. June is going to be a busy month. It all kicks off today (Saturday) when the lovely ladies who make up the Babes in Brewland will be tapping the small-batch beer they made with Santa Fe Brewing circa 2 p.m. Yeah, they are just a bunch of overachievers in BIB, making us look like a bunch of slackers and all. (I’m kidding, of course; damn the lack of a special sarcasm font)

The folks at Mimbres Valley in Deming will be moving beer out of their colorful tap room to the Blazin' Brewfest in Las Cruces next weekend.

The folks at Mimbres Valley in Deming will be moving beer out of their colorful tap room to the Blazin’ Brewfest in Las Cruces next weekend.

The following Saturday will see Las Cruces get its first beer festival in the form of the Blazin’ Brewfest co-hosted by High Desert and Mimbres Valley. We are going to try our best to drive down there and check it out.

On Friday, June 14, is SummerBrew, the companion to the popular WinterBrew at the Railyard in Santa Fe. I know I can’t make that one (Isotopes are in town) but Shilling at least said he hopes to take the Rail Runner up and check it out.

We don’t have anything official yet, but word is that the Pajarito Mountain Summerfest will take place on Saturday, June 15. We’ll try and get confirmation.

Also on our schedule, but not yet officially announced, is The Year of Beer at Il Vicino Canteen on June 22. We’ll double-check on that one. Don’t worry, we’ll have a big preview since we promised Dark Ages trivia winner Matthew Schleyer a trip behind the scenes in advance of this event of awesomeness.

Quick brewery review: Thunder Canyon Brewing

I hopped down to Tucson for a few days to work on a couple features for MiLB.com and see some of the old college crew. I wanted to check out Ten Fifty-Five Brewing due to positive word-of-mouth amongst the locals, but sadly they were closed every day but Saturday as they’re focused more on distribution than on-site sales (something that E-Rock noted was almost an unfortunate trend among Arizona breweries).

The delicious Executioner Double ESB slayed my thirst at Thunder Canyon.

The delicious Executioner Double ESB slayed my thirst at Thunder Canyon.

My disappointment went away once I got the call to join two old friends (one of whom I had not seen in a decade) at Thunder Canyon Brewing’s new location in downtown Tucson. With most of the horrific street construction over and done with, it was just a matter of finding a parking space near the corner of 5th Avenue and Broadway. Once I dealt with that minor obstacle I headed inside and found myself in a spacious brew pub. This is the type of location that Tucson has been missing, a place the size of Il Vicino Canteen (when counting the patio, but in Tucson patios are just a dumb idea when it’s 115 degrees outside, so TCB is all indoors).

In addition to a sizable number of their own beers TCB carries almost twice that many from in-state and out-of-state microbreweries, all on tap. Heck, Santa Fe’s Black IPA was even available here (and my friend Kris gave it a big thumbs up and started talking about a trip to New Mexico with his wife; good work, Santa Fe Brewing).

Since it was stupid hot outside (dry heat or not, it sucked) I opted for something lighter on the palate to start. My idea of lighter was the Executioner, a double ESB that checked in at 7.8 percent ABV. This is the type of ESB that the guys up at Second Street would be proud of. It was big but not overwhelming, offering up a nice balance between the sweetness and dryness that one comes to expect from an ESB. It was very smooth and did not have the watered-down feeling that a lot of Arizona brews seem to suffer from.

The Blackout Stout at Thunder Canyon in Tucson was so good it went quickly.

The Blackout Stout at Thunder Canyon in Tucson was so good it went quickly.

For my second beer I had to go with the Blackout Stout, which a number of patrons were enjoying despite the nearly 100-degree temps outside. This is a good year-round stout, with a thick mouthfeel that nonetheless does not feel overly heavy. You do not have to chew this beer. It has a strong roasted quality with hints of coffee and dark chocolate. This is probably the best stout I have ever had in Arizona that was not a specialty seasonal (like the Irish stout at Dragoon, whose name I heard a lot this visit, showing me that Tucsonans are beginning to learn about good beer the way Burquenos learned several years ago).

I also had samples of the Good Vibrations IPA (worthy of a NM-based brewery) and the seasonal rye beer they had on tap (it did not kick me in the face with rye-power, but was instead a nice, slow-sipping comfort beer).

Thunder Canyon is definitely worth the visit if you’re ever in Tucson. It’s close to the UA campus if you’re waiting until football or basketball season to make a visit (which is also after the temps drop back below thermonuclear). There is also the original Thunder Canyon location in the Foothills Mall in the northwest part of town, if for some reason you’re stuck up there.

I would rank Thunder Canyon as 1B to Dragoon’s 1A atop the list of Tucson-based breweries.

Quick brewery review: Mimbres Valley Brewing

This one will be really quick since I only had time to stop in Deming for one beer. But hey, at least I finally stopped. I’ve been driving by Mimbres for years when I was getting off I-10 to take the Hatch Cutoff to I-25. Rather than stop for fast food I headed to MVB for what turned out be some good grub served up by a very nice staff in the non-peak hours of the day.

Only had time for one beer, so of course it was the Pancho Villa Stout.

Only had time for one beer, so of course it was the Pancho Villa Stout.

Rather than go fancy (still had three-plus hours to drive) I just snagged a cheesburger and fries, but it was as good as any gourmet burger I’ve had recently. I won’t say it was as good as the Owl Cafe, but it did remind me of that NM institution and was a heck of a lot better than anything up the road at Burger King or McDonald’s.

This is a beer blog, though, so my choice was (get ready for it, I know you’ll be stunned) the Pancho Villa Stout. I’ve had it before in small samples at Septemberfest but never a full pint. The PVS is a light stout in terms of mouthfeel, but much like Thunder Canyon’s beers it does not have any elements of being watered down. Simply put, it’s a stout brewed for warm weather. The flavor is a little mild, with more strength from the roasted malts at the front of the palate that give way to a very smooth finish at the back end.

I wish I had more time to sample Mimbres Valley’s other beers, but driving 250 miles through some pretty desolate areas on a full bladder was not exactly an idea I was keen on. The good news is that MVB should be at Blazin’ (they’re co-hosting, after all) and if all else fails, they should be back up in ABQ at Septemberfest.

* * *

All right, that’s more than enough rambling from me for now. Hopefully Brandon will get us a Saturday Night Sixer (we know he drank the beer, at least, we hope he remembered to write things down) and we should have more in advance of Blazin’ plus some more news from the ABQ area as we get back out there and start doing our civic duty as beer bloggers.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Stoutmeister wraps up his short trip through Arizona with a visit to the just-opened North Mountain Brewing in Phoenix and a quick stop by SanTan Brewing in Chandler. Despite all the beer and baseball, he should come home to ABQ soon.

The only unfortunate thing about where my friend Chuck lives in the north end of Phoenix is that he is so, so far from any of Maricopa County’s microbreweries. Or, should I say, he WAS far away. Just 10 days before my visit, North Mountain Brewing Co. finally opened its doors on Dunlap, just west of 7th Street in the Sunnyslope neighborhood.

A brown, an ESB, a blonde, a pale ale, a hefe, and a stout are the debut beers at North Mountain Brewing in Phoenix.

A brown, an ESB, a blonde, a pale ale, a hefe, and a stout are the debut beers at North Mountain Brewing in Phoenix.

Let me just say that NMBC (not to be confused with those of us in the NMDSBC … hmm, maybe I’ll skip the acronyms) went all out. I felt like I was visiting the lovechild of a standard brewery and a high-class restaurant. The menu is aimed at the “foodies” out there, but with enough traditional foods to please the average man (or woman). I won’t review the food, that’s for other folks, but all I will say is that they could use bigger portions. Beer drinkers are hungry people. Or maybe that was just me.

Anyway, onto the beer. I was provided with generously-sized samples of North Mountain’s first six beers — James Brown Ale, Griffin ESB, Soiled Dove Dirty Blonde Ale, Patience Pays Pale Ale, Mit Hefe, Sunny Slope Stout. The Stout and the JB Ale were my personal favorites, but I always lean toward the darker beers. Like most Arizona breweries, even North Mountain’s darker beers tend to be lighter in texture so they can fit the ultra-warm climate. They still have flavor, but the mouthfeel is thinner than what you’d normally expect from brown ales or stouts or porters in New Mexico.

The Mit Hefe was a fairly standard wheat beer. It’s not my genre, but it’s drinkable enough even for a guy like me, so take that for what it’s worth. North Mountain’s idea of a blonde is a little different than most golden ales. It’s a little thicker, more bitter in flavor. I was told it did not quite turn out the way the brewer had intended. For a burlier beer drinker, it’s fine, but when the weather passes “surface of the sun” hot in June, they might want to make it a little lighter, a little sweeter.

The pale ale lacks the hops we have in New Mexico. I’ve come to realize that with a few exceptions (Colorado, California, Oregon) most states don’t embrace hops on the same level. I was told that North Mountain is working on an IPA; hopefully that will make up for the lack of hops. The rest of the beer was fine, about what you’d expect malt-wise from a pale ale.

The back fields at Dodgers spring training in Glendale; do not look for glamor here. Just hard-working minor-league players (and reporters) looking to prove themselves.

The back fields at Dodgers spring training in Glendale; do not look for glamor here. Just hard-working minor-league players (and reporters) looking to prove themselves.

If there was a disappointment, it was the ESB. It just did not taste like an ESB, at least not one I’ve had. I’ll stick with the ESB at Second Street. In contrast, the James Brown Ale was quite good, offering up some malty sweetness and a little bit of a nutty undertone. It was Chuck’s favorite, so I have a feeling locals will embrace it. The stout was, like I said, something that came off good at the forefront of the palate, with strong roasted flavors, but the back end almost lightened out too much. It could stand to be a little tougher and meaner, but in Arizona, it’s all about the light and breezy. (Also, did I mention I stood in the Arizona sun for three-plus hours Tuesday watching the Dodgers’ minor-league players face off with their Reds counterparts on a back field at Camelback Ranch? So if you’ve ever wondered “is Stoutmeister deep down a really insane person?” you now have your answer.)

All in all it was a nice debut lineup from North Mountain. They have all the makings of an ambitious, driven brewery, with a little bit of adventurous nature to make their beers stand apart. Throw in the artisan food, and I have a feeling they’ll find an audience, and not just among the close-by folks like Chuck who lacked a neighborhood brewpub, but also by people throughout the Valley of the Sun.

* * *

SanTan's Sex Panther: sixty percent of the time, it works every time (to satisfy your craving for a double chocolate porter, that is).

SanTan’s Sex Panther: sixty percent of the time, it works every time (to satisfy your craving for a double chocolate porter, that is).

Following my day in the sun, I drove across the metro area to Chandler to revisit one of my favorite breweries in Arizona, SanTan. They had the absolutely wonderful Sex Panther (Double Chocolate Porter) on tap again this year. It’s an awesome sweet-but-surly porter, finding that proper balance that other chocolate beers have struggled to find (looking at you, super-sweet Odell’s Lugene).

I would have tried some other SanTan beers, but there was nothing new seasonal-wise beyond what I had last year, plus I was really, really tired and just wanted my porter and a burger and some time to catch up with another friend while the Dominican Republic beat Puerto Rico 3-0 in the World Baseball Classic championship game on the TVs above the bar.

This short visit did not offer me enough time to visit some other new breweries like Desert Eagle in Mesa or Fate Brewing in north Scottsdale, but that plus the neverending fun of spring training should keep me coming back in springs to come.

As you read this, I’ll be heading up I-17 to I-40, with a (very probable) stop in Flagstaff at one of their breweries. It’ll probably be Beaver Street again, just because they have food, but we shall see. From there, it’s back to New Mexico for some relaxation in these last two weeks before the Isotopes’ season begins on April 4. And plenty of that relaxation will involve beer at NM breweries, as it should be.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Stoutmeister went back to Arizona for a little post-state high school basketball tournament vacation. He earned it.

The possibility of a third-round NCAA Tournament game between New Mexico and Arizona does not excite some of us. OK, probably just me, since that pits my hometown team versus my alma mater, meaning I have to choose between my two favorite squads. Plenty have asked which one will I root for, but at this point it is hard to say. I want the Lobos to reach the Sweet 16 finally, while the Cats have just been frustrating me pretty much since they started Pac-12 play. So I could say go UNM, but damn it, I went to Arizona, and the night the Cats won the national title (I was but a mere freshman in 1997) was still one of the craziest in my life. Ugh, dilemmas.

Dragoon Brewing in Tucson is a simple taproom, no frills, just beer and places to sit and drink it.

Dragoon Brewing in Tucson is a simple taproom, no frills, just beer and places to sit and drink it.

At the very least, dilemmas in terms of beer are easier to sort out. I have been spending the weekend back in Tucson, Albuquerque’s sister city to the southwest, checking out breweries, spending time with old friends (though in such a short visit, I missed more people than I actually saw), and watching a whole lot of basketball. And hockey. My friend Will rivals Brandon and I in terms of hockey fanaticism.

Before I head up to Phoenix today (Monday), I figured I should share some of my beer experiences here, considering we have all pretty much been on vacation and there has been no new content on this site since E-Rock put up The Week Ahead in Beer seven days ago.

I only hit two breweries this time around in Tucson. It was retro night on Friday, my arrival day, with trips to Frog & Firkin to watch the game, followed by mellowing out at Danny’s Baboquivari Lounge, a classic Tucson dive bar. At least Danny’s had Mudshark (Lake Havasu City) Brewing’s Scorpion Amber on tap. Anytime you get to try a new beer is nice; avoiding having to actually go to Lake Havasu is even nicer. The Scorpion was a bit of a bitter amber, nothing like say, the Rio Chama at Chama River. It was far from undrinkable, it was just different than what I’ve come to expect from most ambers.

Anyway, Saturday was beer day, so I set off in the afternoon to visit one of Tucson’s newest establishments, Dragoon Brewing. It is a small place, not terribly easy to find, but it is definitely worth checking out. Dragoon is located off W. Grant Road (one of Tucson’s major east-west arteries). If you take Grant west of I-10, go past Dragoon Road itself (there’s no light, just one of those flashing crosswalk signals) and cross over an arroyo bridge, take the first left immediately after that. Drive straight ahead (south) past the first warehouse building and then take a left (east) behind the second building. Dragoon is located in the first part of the warehouse directly on your left. It might not look like much, but once inside you find yourself in an immaculate little brewpub.

All of Dragoon's brews in a row (L to R): Stronghold Session Ale, Collaboration Saison, St. Pat's Stout, Scout Porter, Biere del Bac, IPA, and Ryelander.

All of Dragoon’s brews in a row (L to R): Stronghold Session Ale, Collaboration Saison, St. Pat’s Stout, Scout Porter, Biere del Bac, IPA, and Ryelander.

Dragoon is a small operation, so they tend to run through a lot of specialty/seasonal beers while only keeping a few regulars on tap. Upon my visit, there were an impressive selection of seven brews on tap: Stronghold Session Ale, E. River Collaboration Saison, St. Pat’s Stout, Scout Porter, Biere del Bac, Dragoon IPA, and Ryelander. For just $7, I purchased a sampler of all seven. These are not tiny little samples, either, but rather enough beer (roughly three ounces, by my guess) to help you properly experience each style.

The Stronghold was a baseline beer, offering up a decent mix of mild hops and malts. It is colored like a brown ale, but lighter in texture/mouthfeel than, say, Il Vicino’s Slowdown Brown. Despite its darker complexion, this is a good starter beer, much like golden ales/pilsners/kolsches tend to be at most breweries. The Saison was what one would expect, extremely sweet at the outset, but it mellows after a few sips. It’s not my personal favorite among beer genres, but I guess I’m either getting more used to it, or Dragoon was just good at creating a sweet-but-not-too-sweet Saison that anyone can handle.

The St. Pat’s Stout was an obvious seasonal. That’s a shame, because it was the best of the bunch and should be on tap at all times. It is a dry stout, with mild hints of the roasted malts, but not too smoky. It manages to be both a stout that is strong in flavor, yet light in mouthfeel. It does not have the thickness you would experience in many stouts. I did not mind this at all, though some hardcore stout drinkers might find it a tad light. But hey, that’s Arizona, where just about all the beer is geared to be enjoyed even when it the temperature hits thermonuclear outside.

The crowd began arriving in numbers at Dragoon as the day went on. Being Arizona, everyone was wearing shorts.

The crowd began arriving in numbers at Dragoon as the day went on. Being Arizona, everyone was wearing shorts.

Now if it’s smoked flavor you’re looking for, grab the Scout Porter before it runs out. This is a roasted little beast, also light in texture, but boy oh boy does that charred element grab you at the front of the palate. It is essentially the opposite of the Saison, but much like its opposite it mellows as you drink it. The Biere del Bac, a powerful (9.3 percent ABV) Belgian quad, also offers up an almost totally different profile. This beer has the thickest mouthfeel; it is sweet, but not at the level of the Saison. In many ways I would label this one dangerous, since you could drink it for a while and not realize the alcohol content. One pint only, please.

For the hopheads out there, Arizona is seen as a step below New Mexico in what it usually offers up. Dragoon is seeking to change that perception, unleashing a hyper-hopped IPA and the beastly Ryelander. The IPA has a strong hop profile with a smooth, clean finish. It definitely owes its origins/inspiration to one of the bigger Southern California microbreweries, like Stone or Green Flash. The Ryelander is another ABV monster (9.2), with a strong rye backbone that tackles the back of your palate and wrestles it to the ground. The rye is by far the dominant flavor, but it never comes across as overwhelming, at least not for a seasoned beer drinker. For rookies and college kids, stick to the lighter fare.

Overall, I would rate Dragoon as one of the best breweries in Arizona. It may not be on the level of La Cumbre or Marble, but if this is the direction Arizona beers are headed in, it won’t be long before they start to catch up.

* * *

Located on the north side of downtown in a nondescript warehouse, Borderlands is worth a visit.

Located on the north side of downtown in a nondescript warehouse, Borderlands is worth a visit.

Though I was somewhat short on time, I had to make a return trip this year to Borderlands Brewing. Located in construction-saturated downtown Tucson, specifically near the corner of Toole Ave. and Sixth Ave., this warehouse-based brewery has expanded its production and increased its taproom hours since I visited a year ago. Back then, there were only one or two beers on tap at a time, so when I saw they were now open more than two days a week and they had multiple beers available, a return trip seemed in order.

Borderlands is another brewery that may not look like much from the outside, but on the inside it is a charming location. The newer, bigger fermenting tanks are obvious on the way in, as is the new beer menu hanging above the live bar. With two of my college friends in tow, but time running somewhat short, I only got to indulge in one beer, the Noche Dulce Vanilla Porter. People hyped this one to me last year as Borderlands’ best, but sadly it was not on tap at the brewery in 2012. What a difference a year makes, as this time around it was available.

The elusive Noche Dulce Vanilla Porter was finally mine!

The elusive Noche Dulce Vanilla Porter was finally mine!

The Noche Dulce is a powerful beer, full of strong vanilla flavors with a roasted porter backbone. It is not overwhelmingly sweet; this is not a “dessert beer” like some might assume. It weighs in at 7.1-percent ABV, so it is not for the faint of heart, either. It has a hefty texture as one might expect from a strong porter, something out of the norm for most of the lighter fare in Arizona. The Noche Dulce may not be a big seller when it’s the temperature of Mercury outside, but in the fall-winter-spring months (AKA the best time to visit Arizona), it is perfect. Kudos to Borderlands on this beer, and to their expanded production and brewery hours.

* * *

Well, I am headed up to Phoenix today, first to be a fan and check off the last spring training stadium on my list (Phoenix Municipal for A’s-Mariners), then to do some actual non-beer-review work on Tuesday at Camelback Ranch, when I get to meet the future Albuquerque Isotopes at Dodgers camp. In between those visits, I hope to stop by the brand-new North Mountain Brewing in Phoenix (it’s the first brewery close to the house of a friend I’m staying with). Before I return to ABQ on Wednesday, I might revisit SanTan Brewing in Chandler, or perhaps seek out another of the newcomers to the Maricopa County scene, like Fate Brewing in Scottsdale or Desert Eagle Brewing in Mesa. Ah, vacations. They’re even better with beer and baseball.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

DENVER — Stoutmeister here with our final recap from the final day of the Great American Beer Festival. Yes, VALHALLA has come and gone. We shed a silent tear. Our livers quietly rejoice. And thus, the tale ends.

Sierra Blanca’s Rich Weber shows off the GABF gold medal his brewery won for its Nut Brown Ale.

So first, the news of the day involved the awards ceremony, which took place during the day before us mere plebes could enter the hall. Three New Mexico breweries took home four medals. Sierra Blanca’s Nut Brown Ale claimed gold, a major achievement for any brewery. Il Vicino’s special Milk Chocolate Cherry Stout snagged a bronze medal. Marble picked up a silver for Imperial Red and a bronze for the Double White. Considering that there were even more breweries entered in the awards categories than the 500-plus on the floor of the Denver Convention Center, this was an impressive haul for our little state. Congratulations to these three breweries and we look forward to what they will be producing in the future.

Anyway, back to us, as we walked down again around 4:30, only to find what seemed to be an even longer line than the one we faced on Friday. Things ultimately went smoothly in terms of getting inside the hall, but the crowd seemed to swell more quickly and never let up. I suppose since it was the final night things were bound to seem louder and more chaotic, but it still took us by a bit of a surprise. After a smooth run down one row of the Pacific Northwest, we suddenly found long lines and dwindling supplies of beer.

The New Mexico Brewers Guild was on hand to educate the GABF masses about our state’s craft beer.

But hey, who’s really going to complain? I did try to mix it up a bit more than Friday in terms of different styles of beer, though usually the stouts/porters beckoned me more than the rest. Right off the bat in the Pacific Northwest I snagged samples of the Midnight Cascadian Dark Ale from Kulshan (Bellingham, Wash.) and the Hudson’s Bay Cascadian Dark Ale from Mt. Tabor (Vancouver, Wash.). They were fairly different, but both good in their own way as far as variations on the standard black IPA. A more standard, but still hop-tastic black IPA was the Back in Black from 21st Amendment (San Francisco). Betsy’s Brown Ale from Naked City (Seattle) topped the various brown ales I sampled, though the brown-like Reunion Ale ’12 from Terrapin (Athens, Ga.) was also good in a very different way. It was in many ways what Tractor’s “Nut What You Think” Brown Ale was supposed to be, only with one central flavor instead of multiple elements.

There were no true red ales that stood out to me, but a pair of ESB styles would be worth seeking out. The Royal Scandal, from Peticolas, was named one of the top beers in Dallas with good reason. Even burlier than that was the Winter Storm from Heavy Seas (Baltimore), which was an imperial ESB worthy of that name. Also from Texas was the snappy, snarky Ugly Pug from Rahr & Sons (Fort Worth), which was far meatier than most schwartzbiers.

Going on the seasonal front, the top Oktoberfest of the night came from Fredericksburg (Texas) Brewing, though Cigar City (Tampa) also had a solid Marzen ale. On behalf of Cassie, I made sure to seek out some pumpkin-style beers and ended up finding three different, but all excellent varieties in an ale from Shipyard (Portland, Maine), a porter from Redhook (Portsmouth, N.H.), and a stout from Elysian (Seattle) called Dark O’ The Moon. These were three of the best pumpkin beers I have ever tasted, so hopefully they will make their way to Albuquerque if they have not already.

There were more than enough beer shirts for sale to keep everybody happy at GABF.

For the porters, the best of ‘fest included Mudshark Porter from Fish Brewing (Olympia, Wash.), the Smoked Porter from Alaskan, and the Porter Pounder, a smoked beast from Ass Kisser Ales (San Jose, Calif.). On the stout front, one of the true standouts was the sweet but tough Rurik from Steelhead (Eugene, Ore.). We of course had to try the Darkside Stout from Silver Moon (Bend, Ore.), which won a gold medal at last year’s GABF. One of the meanest, thickest, smokiest stouts was the Pike 5X Stout from Pike Brewing (Seattle). Down from the southwest, Nightlight Irish Stout from Circle Brewing (Austin) is more like to turn your lights off. The Elda Milk Stout from No Label (Katy, Texas) is a perfect example of the sweet, smooth genre. The Buried Hatchet Stout from Southern Star (Conroe, Texas) could take a chunk out of you. And finally, for my very last beer of the night, I snagged the gold medal-winning Order in the Port, an American stout with oodles of flavor from Pizza Port’s San Clemente, Calif., brewery site.

E-Rock, left, shoots a picture in one direction while Stoutmeister aims the other way as GABF came to a close Saturday night.

Once again, E-Rock hit up a lot of the same breweries, but not all the same beers. Here was his take on our second night in VALHALLA: “I made an attempt to try unique beers last night. I enjoyed a great sour beer by Avery (Boulder, Colo.) titled Oud Floris, a tasty chai amber by Rogness called the Yogi, and a dark Belgian-style brewed by Ommegang (Cooperstown, N.Y.) that was christened XV in honor of the brewery’s 15-year anniversary. I also enjoyed Ninkasi Brewing’s Sleigher (Eugene, Ore.), BridgePort’s Hop Czar, Colorado Brewers Guild’s Porter’s Pride, Hops & Grain Brewing’s Alt-eration (Austin), Russian River Brewing Company’s Row 2/Hill 56, Pizza Port San Clemente’s Order in the Port, Alaskan Amber, 21st-Amendment’s Bitter American, Oakshire’s Espresso Stout (Eugene, Ore.), Rogue Brewery’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar, Full Sail’s LTD 03 (Hood River, Ore.), Steelhead Brewing’s Behemoth, Allagash’s Coolship Resurgam (Portland, Maine), Anderson Valley’s Wild (Boonville, Calif.), Pike’s Double IPA, Deep Ellum’s Rocktoberfest (Dallas), and Jester King’s Commercial Suicide Oaked Dark Mild (Austin).”

Now, we know a lot of these beers are not available in Albuquerque or New Mexico in general, but some of them could be, so it would be worth your time if you saw a style you like to go out and search for it. Or, when you have some vacation time to burn off, trek out to another state and visit some of these excellent breweries.

The GABF has taught us, well, more like reminded us, that there is great beer being brewed all across this crazy country of ours. This event was one-of-a-kind, truly one of the epic beer festivals anywhere in the world, if not the most epic of all. Every beer lover should come to Denver at least once in a lifetime.

Do not fret, though, we will return to Albuquerque on Monday and get back to the business of focusing on New Mexico’s breweries and beer scene. We encourage everybody to visit Broken Bottle to try the new Rob Van Winkle Vanilla Stout and come Oct. 26, Bosque Brewing will be open for business. There are more breweries on the way either later this year or next year, from Noisy River in Ruidoso to Roosevelt County Brewing in Portales. This is a grand time that we live in for delicious craft beer.

That is all from VALHALLA, 2012 edition. And yes, the GABF folks have already posted that we should all come back next October. If they insist.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

Stoutmeister here. My last major stop during the Arizona spring break getaway was my old college haunt of Tucson. I attended the University of Arizona from 1996 to 2000, celebrating a national basketball championship and spending far too much time drinking instead of going to class. Remarkably they gave me a degree, and even more remarkably, the local newspaper hired me and kept me employed until the end of 2003, when I left for Southern California. Anyway, here is a review of Tucson’s two new(er) breweries.

Time is on your side at Barrio Brewing.

After trekking south from Phoenix on Friday morning, I wound up in Tucson and went on a nostalgia trip, hanging out with the immortal BJP at Bisonwitches for lunch, followed by a stop with the Sheriff at Epic Cafe for rejuvenation coffee. After this, the Sheriff and I hit the trail and wound up at Barrio Brewing. Owned by the same folks as Gentle Ben’s Brewing just off the UA campus, Barrio is located at the corner of 16th Street and Toole, south-southeast of downtown. It is a fairly good-sized place, though parking can be iffy (like most of Tucson, natch). A total of 11 beers were on tap, with their Mocha Java Stout having just been crossed out. (AARRGGHH!!)

While the Sheriff took on the seasonal NCAAle, a double-strong American ale (10 percent ABV) named for the UA basketball team (which, yes, I realize did not make the tournament this season), I opted for the less potent Scotch Ale (7%) and the Nut Brown (5.6%). The Scotch failed to compare to the small taste I had of the Highlander Scotch Ale at Old World Brewery in Phoenix. This one had a sweet opening taste, but then went largely bland. I was disappointed, but undaunted I went on to the Nut Brown which was singularly … unmemorable. It had minimal flavor, which again was disappointing. I expected more, but then again, to this day I cannot recall a beer at Gentle Ben’s that stuck in my memory.

On Sunday, I stopped by Barrio again, this time for dinner and in search of beer redemption. I had the Red Cat Amber Ale, which proved to be a tastier beer than Friday’s two varieties, surprisingly. Ambers are a very common style but in this case, Barrio did it quite well, offering up a smooth beer with good flavor and a little bite to keep you alive. After that I passed my car keys to a good friend so I could try the Nolan’s Porter, a burly, strong brew with a smoked, dry flavor. Though only 5.6%, it felt stronger, probably due to the flavor. It was worth every percent and every penny. Barrio earned some serious redemption on the second go-around.

Beer lovers hang out in Borderlands' spacious venue while the trains pass just beyond the window.

In between those two stops, I hit up Borderlands Brewing for a quick visit Friday afternoon. It was quick because Borderlands is only open 4 to 7 p.m. on Fridays. Though they advertise many more varieties on their Web site, Borderlands only had three beers on tap when I visited with another old friend from the Old Pueblo. He sampled the Wheat and Citrus IPA, the latter of which was verboten for me due to allergies. I had to stick to the Rye Lager, a strange-tasting beer that was not bad for its genre, but was not nearly what I had hoped for. Borderlands is fairly new and still working out the kinks of the operation at the old warehouse along the train tracks. I will have to revisit this location the next time I drop in on Tucson, just to see how things are progressing and to taste the Noche Dulce Moonlight Vanilla Porter that my friend Swede swears by.

I skipped Tucson’s best-known brewery, Nimbus, on this trip, due both to the fact I have had many of their beers and their location is far out of the way. There are also Thunder Canyon Brewery, located in the far northwest part of town — too far to visit, but the good news is they are opening a taproom downtown soon — and Dragoon Brewing, which will soon open off Grant Road on the west side of town.

Interstate 10 was luckily light on traffic when the snow hit in force.

Tucson is slowly playing catch-up to Albuquerque in regards to embracing the craft-brewing movement. In time it may be able to hold its own, but for now my college haunt does not measure up to my hometown.

My Monday trip home was, well, adventurous. There was snow in places that normally never see it, most of it blasting across the road horizontally. (Insert “this is fine Scottish weather we’re having”) After surviving the snowapalooza between Tucson and Benson, between Benson and the Dragoon Mountain pass, between the border and Lordsburg, and finally between Lordsburg and Deming, I finally arrived in the Luna County seat eager to try Mimbres Valley Brewing Company. Despite the fact that their Web site lists the brewery as being open on Mondays, the sign out front said “closed” for all day (the site lists a 2-4:30 p.m. gap where it’s closed, apparently they just punted on the day because no one in Luna County drinks on Mondays, or something). I was disappointed in this, but then I started to notice pretty much every business in town was also closed. It was not as weird as the snowstorm along I-10, but it was close. So unfortunately I will have to wait until MVBC brings their beers up here for ABQ Beer Week May 17-27. At least they had better be up here, that week is going to be all sorts of awesome.

Anyway, that wraps up my half of the Arizona adventure. If E-Rock finds time in between class and rehearsals, he will catch up on the other two Phoenix breweries we visited last week.

Keep an eye out for the second Beer Battle: March of the Reds, coming as soon as we can get all five of us in the same place at the same time.

Cheers!

— Stoutmeister

While E-Rock has returned to ABQ, Stoutmeister kept busy visiting spring training ballparks and stopped by some of the remaining breweries in the Phoenix metro area.

Ballparks are not exactly bastions of the craft-brewing movement. They tend to stick to the same, dull macro-brews found at convenience stores and supermarkets across America.

This very strange sculpture sits outside Goodyear Ballpark. Jay and Silent Bob would probably love it.

With E-Rock in tow, I visited Goodyear Ballpark (home of the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds) last Monday afternoon, but failed to explore the grounds for beer offerings. We got inside the stadium late and just decided to enjoy the game rather than wander around. The Web site was no help, so Goodyear will remain a mystery until next spring as far as its beer content goes.

Tuesday’s stop was Camelback Ranch in Glendale, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox. As I was working, I could not partake, but compared to other ballparks in Maricopa County, this one was actually fairly well stocked with microbrews.

Beers from Full Sail, Shock Top, Blue Moon, Kona, Sierra Nevada, and Odell’s were all available at Camelback Ranch. Even Phoenix’s own Old World Brewery (see below) was on tap here.

This was in sharp contrast to Mesa’s Ho Ho Kam Park, the Chicago Cubs’ home, that only had Old Style in cans (sacrilege!) and pretty much relied solely on Bud and Miller varieties on tap. The lone microbrew of note was Firestone’s Double Barrel Ale, which was available in bombers at a stand behind the outfield berm.

The Brewers staged their sausage race, but forgot to bring any good beer to wash down the processed meat.

The impressive Salt River Fields at Talking Stick complex (Arizona Diamondbacks/Colorado Rockies), just east of Scottsdale off the 101 freeway, was likewise free of microbrews. Leinenkugel had a few taps of their wheat and berry wheat beers available, but overall it was nothing special.

At least Maryvale, home to the Milwaukee Brewers, did not even pretend to have a wide selection. Other than Leinenkugel and the macros, even Gordon Biersch had just a concession stand but with none of their own beers on tap, just available in plastic bombers/bottles.

Then again, considering the price of beers at ballparks, it is probably best to focus on the games and fatten up on the unhealthy (but tasty) food and just go visit microbreweries afterward. At least that is what we did during our visit to the Phoenix metro area.

On to the breweries E-Rock missed …

Old World Brewery

Due to a sudden proliferation of car crashes in the Maryvale area, I had to abandon the direct route from the Brewers’ stadium to Interstate 10. Instead, with a little help from Google Maps, I went in search of OWB’s new location off of Van Buren, just west of the freeway and downtown Phoenix.

The menu at Old World; the Highlander arrived on tap while I was there. The Quickening followed.

Located in an old post office building, Old World Brewery has been open for about six months or so, said brewer Matt Mercer, a onetime classmate of ABQ’s own Jeff Erway of La Cumbre. The OWB utilizes beer recipes from Northern Europe, relying more on malts than hops to produce the various styles on tap. While I was there they had Dark Knight Porter, plus the 4-Leaf Irish Red Ale and a robust Highlander Scotch Ale (8.9 percent ABV). I only tried a small sample of the Highlander as I had to get back on the road eventually; it was a flavorful, powerful batch with a ton of flavors that almost, but not quite, overwhelmed my palate. There could be only one … taste of this powerful potion. Cue the Queen soundtrack!

The porter was a thick, strong elixir that felt like a massive cooling entity, one that chased away the warm baseball sun and sank me into the calm of the night. The Irish red was almost a clone of the delicious version at Il Vicino, offering up less hops than a lot of reds and more smooth flavor.

The OWB is still getting back to being a fully functional brewery. Like many of its Maricopa County counterparts, it is aiming more as a beer distributor than a direct beer seller. The tasting room is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. most days. The neighborhood around OWB is a bit run down, but during the light of day go visit the OWB, it is one of the Phoenix metro area’s finest establishments.

SanTan Brewing, a second review

My final stop, beer-wise, in Maricopa County was reviewed by E-Rock back in January. Located in what passes for a downtown area in the suburb of Chandler, SanTan is an impressive joint with a lively crowd, a friendly waitstaff, lots of TVs to watch sports, and a solid selection of beer and good food.

I snagged three pints, relying on the old friend I was staying with to handle the driving. First up was the Sex Panther, the same double chocolate porter that E-Rock tried. He was not kidding about how good this flavorful beer was. The chocolate cancels out any bitterness that is often found in porters. It is sweet, but not overly so. “A good dessert beer” seemed to be the best quote to describe this from our group (so of course it was our first beer, because who doesn’t like dessert first?).

Next up were the Gordo Stout, a regular offering that was a little too light for my tastes. It seemed almost watered down. After that I enjoyed the Negro Nitron, a flavorful black IPA made with nitrogen. It featured a strong, robust taste with a good hops-to-malt balance. There was a slight bite at the front and a smooth, strong finish. It made for a good nightcap before the trek to Tucson on Friday.

Until I reach Pima County …

— Stoutmeister

The bar was empty, but the beer was still good.

We, Stoutmeister and I (E-Rock), decided to head to Dave’s Electric Brew Pub on the first night of our stay in the Phoenix metro area.  By the time this was possible, we had already driven for over seven hours, sampled seven beers and had a large lunch at Beaver Street Brewery in Flagstaff, and met up with my family for a large dinner at a sushi restaurant in Phoenix.  Needless to say, the idea of drinking more beer was a little daunting at this time, but we were on a mission and beer drinking had to be done.

We got to the brew pub, located by the Arizona State campus, at about 10 o’clock.  The Web site advertised that the brew pub is open daily until midnight, however as we got close to the outdoor portion of the bar, we noticed that there were no patrons and the bartender was putting up chairs.  For good measure, I asked the bartender if the brew pub was still open.  He said he would serve us while he was still closing.

Seriously, ASU students, what were you doing? Studying?

Stoutmeister started with the Old Frog Grog Oatmeal Stout (shocker there).  As that was the only dark beer on the menu, I tried a variety of ales.  First up was the Trident IPA.  Again, this IPA was much weaker than I was used to. Stoutmeister attributed the bite-less IPAs we kept running into to the fact that both breweries we visited were located by universities.  He reasoned that college students were more interested in drinking a lot of beer than they were interested in complex flavors and hops.

Stout and ale, co-existing in peace and harmony.

I was pleasantly surprised by my next beer, the Industrial Pale Ale.  This beer was advertised as being complex in flavor.  Indeed, this was the tastiest lighter beer I had so far this trip with the possible exception of Beaver Street’s imperial red.  The Industrial Pale Ale turned out to be the best beer I had at Dave’s Electric Brew Pub.  I finished with the night with OK Ale.  This one had a little more bite and taste than the Trident IPA, but it paled in comparison to the Industrial Pale Ale.  With tasting done for the night, Stoutmeister and I headed back to Chandler to crash at my parents’ place and some sleep before several days of baseball and breweries.

(Stoutmeister’s stout review: The Old Frog Grog was good, but not great. It lacked any bite, but ended up a smooth batch with some calm, good flavors; it is the type of beer you would expect college kids to indulge in. Not bad, not great, just a drinkable style that is fine after a long day of pretending to be a real college student at Tempe Normal — side note, Stoutmeister is an Arizona alum; BEAR DOWN!)

Cheers!

— E-Rock

The dining room at Beaver Street. The beers served here are now brewed at the company's second location, Lumberyard.

The Beaver Street Brewery in Flagstaff, Ariz., is a family-friendly restaurant reminiscent of Chama River and Turtle Mountain.  The staff at Beaver  Street was very nice and the food was delicious.  I had the grilled chicken oven-cooked pizza while Stoutmeister had a giant hamburger. (Editor’s note: Half-pound of beef with bacon and cheese. It shortened my life expectancy but I do not care. — Stoutmeister)  We both started our beer tastings with pints of the Bristlecone Brown, one of the brewery’s current seasonal offerings.  The Brown was tasty with a hint of hops.  We soon found that most of the beers that we would try in Arizona were made to be very drinkable.  This is in stark contrast to the hoppy bite that is found in most Albuquerque brews.

After the first pint, I ordered samplers of Beaver Street’s remaining six beers on tap.  These included the Lumberyard Red Ale, the Lumberyard Raspberry Ale, the Lumberyard IPA, and the R&R Oatmeal Stout, which are on tap year-round, and the seasonal “Code 4” Cream Ale and the Big Rapid Red imperial red ale.

The Raspberry Ale was advertised as having “a hint of raspberry flavor.”  I found it to be mostly raspberry with no trace of beer flavor.  It still tasted great, but it was a little disappointing as a beer fan.  Both the IPA and the Red were medal winners in the GABF.  The IPA was very

The sampler tray plus a pint of Bristlecone Brown.

drinkable and not very overpowered by hops.  The same could be said about the Red, which is the brewery’s most popular style.  The Cream Ale was basically a pilsner with only a slight hint of cream.  The two gems of the brewery happened to be the last two that I tasted. The Oatmeal Stout and the Big Rapid Red were both very tasty.  In the end, I opted to finish with a pint of the Oatmeal Stout since it was hard to only drink three ounces of something that tastes so good.

(Editor’s longer note: I had to chime in on the R&R, since I am the Stoutmeister, after all. It is an outstanding stout, smooth and strong but minus any burnt or overly bitter flavors. It is good enough to get you through a frigid Flagstaff winter or still seem appropriate in the warm summer. Outstanding work, Beaver Street. Now if only you had the Cascadian Dark Lager back on tap this year. — Stoutmeister)

That should cover our first stop in Flagstaff. I will have posts coming up for Dave’s Electric Brew Pub (Tempe), O.H.S.O. nano-brewery (Phoenix), and SunUp Brewing (Phoenix). After that, Stoutmeister takes over as he heads south to Tucson.

Cheers!

— E-Rock