Yes, There is Arizona Craft Beer!
Craft beer fans, worry not. Arizona is keeping pace with the growing craft beer phenomenon. Currently, the state has more than 40 active craft breweries. Since 2011, the industry has been growing about 20% a year. There are microbreweries, brewpubs, restaurants, growlers to go, and plenty of canned and bottled brews at local beer and wine stores. Flagstaff even fancies itself the “Craft Beer Hub of the Southwest.”
Not only does Arizona brew beer, it brews some good beer. The state is home to the best new brewer in the WORLD, and four medal-winners at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Plus, for something a little different, we present Arizona’s first meadery, also known for its award-winning brewed beverages.
A Flight of Arizona Craft Breweries
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company
(Gilbert) – At barely a year old, Arizona Wilderness Brewing became a big name in Arizona beer. BeerRate.com named them as the top new brewery in the world for 2014. Partly funded by a Kickstarter campaign, Jonathan Buford, with partners Patrick Ware and Brett Dettler, opened Gilbert’s first brewpub in September 2013. Taking inspiration from the natural resources and sense of awe they encountered while backpacking in the Arizona wilderness, the brewers rely on locally-sourced ingredients, and are religiously dedicated to the craft. The American-dream rise of the backpacking window washer Buford, and his craft-beer philosophy was even chronicled in Esquire.
Refuge IPA is a house standard. It’s a piney, West coast IPA with big hops. Also of note is the Picacho Pecan Pie Brown Ale. Dry hopped with local Arizona pecans and real vanilla beans, it is sweet, malty and smooth.
Lumberyard Brewing Company
(Flagstaff) — Located in Flagstaff’s historic railroad district, Lumberyard Brewing took home the gold for their (American) Pinecone Pale Ale. (Update: It is now called Knotty Pine Pale Ale and is available in cans). They also have a Lumberyard Red (2009 GABF gold), of course an IPA (winner of multiple awards), a pilsner (approachable and malty) and a hefeweizen (2007 gold at GABF), great for the warmer weather.
Fate Brewing Company,
(Scottsdale) — Fate Brewing means wood-fired pizza and healthy rotation of small-batch beers including “modern favorites, seasonal, experimental and cask conditioned ales.” Their Candy Bar Milk Stout was a silver medal winner in the 2013 GABF specialty beer category. They also have guest taps from regional breweries and take-home growlers.
Four Peaks Brewing Company
(Tempe & Scottsdale) – Like many brewpubs, Four Peaks was founded by folks who love beer and wanted to make some to drink and share. They took home a 2013 GABF silver for one of their mainstays, the Hop Knot (an American Style Strong Pale Ale), which gets its name from the five different hops used during brewing. It’s medium-bodied with the harsh bitterness one would expect from this type of beer. As well as their Scottsdale and two Tempe locations, you can a find Four Peeks at the (Phoenix) Sky Harbor International Airport, terminal 4.
Thunder Canyon Brewery
(Tucson) – Since opening in 1997, Thunder Canyon Brewery has created more than 60 styles of beer, including their Dark Lightning Milk Stout, a 2013 GABF bronze medal winner. Their downtown location boasts one of the largest draft offerings in the city, with more than 40 beers on tap, plus their own brews and seasonal selections. The downtown location has a roomy warehouse feel and the food gets high marks too.
The TCB Warhead (Imperial) Stout, won the bronze award at the 2000 World Beer Cup International Beer Competition. Also check out their IPAs. Thunderhead is a medium-bodied ale, with an intense hop flavor and a full flowery hop aroma. Good Vibrations is also hoppy with a bitter pine end. The Old Humulus Double IPA is grapefruity and carmely.
If you are haven’t tried mead, you should. It is not a beer, but it is a fermented cousin, and definitely a craft brew. Mead (or honey wine) is one of the world’s oldest fermented beverages. Superstition Meadery, in Prescott, is the state’s first licensed meadery. Owner, Jeff Herbert is reacquainting modern drinkers with this ancient beverage, one small hand-crafted batch at a time.
Superstition’s Berry White dessert mead recently took a gold at the Mazer Cup in Boulder, the world’s largest mead competition. Their pyment [mead fermented with grape] (Aphrodisia), and traditional sweet mead (Ragnarok) took silvers.
Arizona Craft Beer Resources and Events
Arizona Craft Beer Lovers
This is the web group for those who love talking about, and of course, drinking Arizona craft beer. The mission of Arizona Craft Beer Lovers is simple – promote the Arizona craft beer scene to the rest of the world. They cover Arizona beer news, review establishments that serve craft beer and host statewide events like tastings, pub crawls and meet-up. Check out their web site or visit them on Facebook.
Save the Date
For more beer events, like tastings, tappings, tap takeovers, and even comedy and movie nights, see the Arizona Beer Calendar.
- The official Arizona beer map, from the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild.
- Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail – a self-guided brewery tour around the “Craft Beer Hub of the Southwest.” Brewery discounts with their passport.
Then there is Oktoberfest. As the craft-beer scene grows, more Oktoberfests are highlighting more local beers. Join the more than one million Arizonans of German descent at one of the dozens of festivals around the state. See some of our favorite Oktoberfests. (Check back for 2014 updates).