Get a taste of 5 standout local breweries | By Jessica Dunham
It seems like these days every city claims to have a killer craft-brew scene. So what does it take for a pint to stand out from the crowd? A 25-year history, maybe? Beers brewed with hand-picked local grains? Ales brightened with Arizona citrus? The answer: all of the above. Check out these five local breweries making their (tasty) mark. Cheers!
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company
Everything about Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company showcases their love for our great state, from the brewery’s commitment to conservation and sustainable practices to its incorporation of locally foraged ingredients in the brewing process. Even the beer names—Salt River Saison, Manzanita Forest—pay homage to Arizona’s natural lands. Since opening its flagship location in Gilbert in 2013, Arizona Wilderness has fast become the most awarded brewery in the state, including earning RateBeer.com’s top spot for best new brewers in the world in 2013. Nothing can prepare your imagination, or your taste buds, for these insanely inventive beers. The wood-fermented Salome Saison features Arizona lemons and ancient farro grains. And the Baboquivari, a Belgian blonde, sports notes of local honey. Hungry? All burgers on the food menu use locally sourced buns along with responsibly raised pork or a brisket blend, or you can upgrade to Arizona grass-fed beef for an additional charge. Visit the brewery’s original digs in Gilbert, or stop by the recently opened beer garden in Downtown Phoenix.
Four Peaks Brewing Company
When it comes to the history of craft brewing in Arizona, it all starts with Four Peaks Brewing Company. In 1996, nearly 20 years before the microbrew craze overtook the nation, Four Peaks brewed and sold its first keg out of an old ice factory turned creamery turned brewery. Since then, Tempe-based Four Peaks has paved the way for younger, newer Arizona breweries to launch and grow. Four Peaks is often considered the grandfather of craft beer in the state, and its brews stand the test of time. The beloved flagship, Kilt Lifter—a Scottish ale launched in 1997—remains as popular as ever, racking up gold medals, national awards, and new fans every year. Other brews that boast cult followings include the earthy, balanced 8th Street Pale Ale; the fruity, golden Peach Ale; and the spicy, seasonal Pumpkin Porter. Four Peaks has pub locations in Tempe, Scottsdale, and at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, plus an additional tasting room in Tempe open only for special events.
Mother Bunch Brewing
The jovial energy inside Mother Bunch Brewing, housed in a restored brick building in Downtown Phoenix, lifts your spirits as soon as you step inside. Here, bartenders know your name, the food menu whets your appetite, and the beers delight your palate. Owners Julie Meeker and her husband, Jimmie McBride, opened Mother Bunch in 2014 as a microbrewery that features taps from other Arizona breweries, as well as their own beers. Mother Bunch’s 4-ounce, 10-ounce, 16-ounce, and 32-ounce pour options mean you get to sip and sample before settling on a beer. Fans of sours will love the Gothic Beach (sweet up front with a tart finish); those looking for rich and full-bodied should try the Mounds Stout (creamy and coconut-y); and for something crisp, there’s the Lightning Fast Light Lager. Plenty of share plates and meat-and-cheese boards dot the menu, but if you’re hungry for a belly-filling meal, do not miss the mac ’n’ cheese with housemade cheese-and-beer sauce.
SanTan Brewing Company
SanTan Brewing Company’s founder, Anthony Canecchia, brewed craft beer before it was cool. (Or perhaps we should say before it was trendy. Brewing beer has always been cool.) As an Arizona brewer in the late 1990s, Canecchia approached the art of making beer from a unique perspective—pairing it with food in complementary ways. When he opened SanTan Brewing Company in Chandler in 2007, his lineup of beers reflected that approach, and it still does today. The bright citrus notes of the HefeWeizen go beautifully with mild cheeses and dishes with a hint of sweetness, while
the apricot and peach nose on fan-favorite HopShock IPA tastes great with spicy foods. Visit one of SanTan’s two Greater Phoenix taprooms to sample other brew offerings, such as the full-bodied, hazy IPA Juicy Jack or the refreshing blond Arizona-
style lager 1920. Or, pick up a variety pack of cans—SanTan was at the forefront of the craft-can revolution, packaging their beers in cans starting in 2009.
State 48 Brewery
Initially focusing on ales, IPAs, and hefeweizens, State 48 Brewery’s rapid growth steered them in new directions, specifically to that of sours and barrel-aged beers. At the brewery’s 18,000-square-foot Glendale location—called State 48 Funk House—you can go all in on the funky brews while also gaming it up at the on-site bowling alley, billiard tables, and shuffleboard lane. With its proximity to State Farm Stadium, where the NFL Arizona Cardinals take the field, State 48 Funk House offers a prime spot to toast a pint (or two) before a football game. If you decide to skip the sours, then try the Dust Devil Brown Ale, the West Coast-style Rough Rider IPA, or the Van Buren Belgian Blonde. Salads, sandwiches, and burgers round out the menu. Insider tip: Take a break from the beer to check out the bold graffiti art that adorns the walls at the other three State 48 taproom locations in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Surprise.
With cooler weather comes some great fall festivals—especially Oktoberfest! Here are a few Oktoberfest celebrations around town where you can raise a toast to the season. Lederhosen optional.
Brat Haus Oktoberfest, Scottsdale • Live music, stein-holding contests, firkin tapping, German menu • $10
Fountain Hills Oktoberfest, Fountain Hills • Live music, family-friendly activities, German food, beer • $5
Haus Murphy’s Oktoberfest, Glendale • German beer, food, contests,
live entertainment • $3
Downtown Phoenix Oktoberfest, Phoenix • German beer, live polka, Bavarian dance floor, beer maid costume contest • $10–$30
Four Peaks Oktoberfest, Tempe • Live music, carnival rides, brats, beer • free admission