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Best of the Brews: Craft Beer in Arizona

By on April 4, 2013 9:15am EST

In no particular order and based on entirely subjective rankings, I’ll be detailing some of the best craft brews of each state in the Best of the Brews series.

I’m starting this series off in Arizona, my adopted home state and a state saturated with great craft brews. I don’t know why that is actually—it’s not exactly instinctual to make craft brew in Arizona, what with the heat and the subpar water quality. It’s here though and there are some amazing people around the state mixing grains and hops for the ultimate mouth parties. (Yep, mouth parties—it’s weird but let’s go with it!)

amber_beer_arizonaNimbus Brewery in Tucson

With brews that focus on malt characteristics, rather than the psycho-hopped IPAs coming out, Nimbus manages to shine with their heady Old Monkey Shine–an English Strong Ale–and their Oatmeal Stout, which is creamy and full-bodied without the sweetness that sometimes characterizes Oatmeal Stouts. In other words, delicious.

Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe

Four Peaks is one of the largest craft breweries in Arizona with a few locations around the Phoenix valley. The hype is well-deserved. Kiltlifter, one of their most popular brews, is a full-bodied Scottish style Ale that finishes with a dry, somewhat smoky finish. Their Pumpkin Porter, released for only a few months every year, tends to run out fast because of its rabid fan following.

San Tan Brewing Company in Chandler

In my humble opinion, San Tan is creating some of the most wicked brews in the state. It also helps that the brewery is only a short bike ride away from me. Their seasonal Sex Panther Double Chocolate Porter is a dream of malty chocolaty goodness, while the Epicenter Amber Ale stands solidly as one of the most classic, drinkable Ambers I’ve had.

motherroad_ipa_arizona

THAT Brewery in Pine

THAT Brewery is a relatively new brewery in the state, but it’s quickly picked up fans with its selection of great classic beers. Their earthy Red IPA is balanced and incredibly drinkable, while their nitro Irish Stout makes for some more easy drinking.

Mother Road Brewing Company in Flagstaff

Located along one of the lost portions of Route 66, Mother Road champions beer alongside local history. And don’t you love beer with a story? Their Lost Highway Imperial Black IPA is one of the finest IPAs I’ve had in a while. It’s a big heavy beer, rich with roasted coffee flavors that balance out at the end into a smooth finish. The Gold Road Kolsch style Ale—dry and slightly fruity—was positively made for warm summer afternoons.

What Arizona craft breweries am I missing? Which state should I profile next? 

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Nikki Steele

Nikki Steele is a freelance writer who runs BookPairing, a blog about pairing wine and beer with books, and is a contributor over at Insatiable Booksluts. When she's not writing or cooking, she's probably roughing it outside with her two mutts. Connect with Nikki on Twitter: @BookPairing.

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  • http://twitter.com/BeerNFoodLover LoveBeerLoveFoodBlog

    Have you guys checked out/heard about Fate Brewing in Scottsdale? They’re a pretty new little microbrew doing some fabulous craft beer. We found them on a recent trip to AZ and ended up going two days in a row. Fore more: http://lovebeerlovefood.com/phoenix-beer-adventures-part-3-of-3-finally/ Cheers!

    • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

      I’ve heard of them but we haven’t made it up to Scottsdale yet. Looks absolutely lovely — from what you said, will have to try to Hefe, yes?

      • http://twitter.com/BeerNFoodLover LoveBeerLoveFood

        YES! Try the Hefeweizen if they have it.

  • Sandy A.

    Great post, Nikki! Do you know about the Pinetop Brewery? I’m told they are so popular they run out of beer and have to close until the next batches are made. http://pinetopbeer.com/brews/

    Also, Josh told us about a new one that opened up recently, Can’t wait to try it. http://www.northmountainbrewing.com/

    • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

      I haven’t tried the Pinetop one yet — we’ll have to try it next time we’re up there! North Mountain is supposed to be doing beautiful things as well. There are so many great ones to choose from and so many new ones popping up every year.

  • http://twitter.com/thebeercolonel Ian Cann

    These sound ace, especially the Lost Highway Imperial Black IPA and Nimbus Beers, as much as I love a good hop bomb, a well balanced beer with good malt character is a welcome tipple and a good stout is a thing of beauty.

    • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

      I’m aching for the Black IPA right now — it was so good. Lots of depth to it and not just the standard hopslam. I love hops, but as I mentioned with the Nimbus profile, we don’t aaaalways need that much in our drinks and I love when breweries play up other characteristics.

      A good stout is a thing of absolute beauty. Every single time.

  • Alan

    Some of the best beers in Arizona get very little press. The beers from Sun Up Brewing, Papago Brewing and Lumberyard Brewing are some of the most creative and tasty brews around. Sadly I must disagree with you on Nimbus, their beers make my stomach curdle.

    • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

      Aww well each to their own. Lumberyard was thiiiiisclose to making the list, but decided at the end to stick with one Flagstaff brewer (mostly because I’ll be profiling the lot of them in an upcoming Ale Trail post).

    • Maria Christina

      +1 on Sun Up and a huge +1 on Papago. The Orange Blossom is the bomb.

  • Wendy Reese

    Former Phoenician now living in beer paradise. When you get to the other side of the alphabet and country, be sure to check out Long Trail, Otter Creek, and Wolever’s in VT. Lot’s of other nice brews here, too! However, my heart will always be biased to Phoenix Ale Brewery. We did 2 yoga and beer pairing events with them and just great beer!

    • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

      Beer paradise? Tell me more! Actually wait, yoga and beer pairing events? That sounds like heaven. Will definitely have to check those out.

  • Jon L.

    FATE, WANDERLUST, TEN FIFTY FIVE, soon ARIZONA WILDERNESS

    • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

      I’m so excited about Arizona Wilderness — can’t wait to try some of their brews.

  • http://twitter.com/clintonk Clinton Kabler

    I <3 this series. It is going to make me so thirty and jealous.

    • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

      Woot! Nope, it will just make all future road trips glorious.

  • warren

    Surprised you left out Papago Brewing. Great place, great beer, great food and great people and rated as one of the top 50 places in the U.S. by draft magazine.

    • http://www.bookpairing.com/ Nikki Steele

      There were some definitely very very tough decisions with this one. Papago was right next on the list with Flagstaff’s Lumberyard.

  • Pingback: BookPairing Friday Wrap-Up: Best of April

  • Robert Forman

    Four Peaks beers are garbage, god awful.