I was fortunate enough to spend a week in warm, sunny Phoenix at the end of December and ring in the New Year in sub-freezing temperatures. Yes…..FREEZING in Phoenix! While on my visit, I visited 4 breweries and an amazing cigar lounge with coolers of great craft beer selections.
Desert Eagle Brewing Company opened its taproom in October 2012 in downtown Mesa. During my visit, Scot Walker, sales and marketing manager, sat with us as we sampled beers and gave me some perspective on the unique aspects of Desert Eagle. Owner Joe Campbell pays homage to his German heritage through the style of beers brewed. Desert Eagle prides itself on using only flowering hops in its brewing process, making it one of three West Coast breweries (along with Sierra Nevada and Deschutes) to opt for whole cone hops as opposed to hop pellets.
Of the beers tasted, I was pleasantly surprised by the Black Cherry Blonde Ale and the Baja Pilsner. I generally don’t expect much from pilsners and fruity beers, however the Black Cherry Blonde Ale was very tasty with subtle hints of black cherry. The fruit was not overpowering, but it offered a nice hint of fruity flavor. The Baja Pilsner was a great summer-sipping beer. Despite the frigid Arizona temperatures, this pilsner was an excellent representation of the versatility of this brewery.
My flight at Desert Eagle. Included Main Street Blonde Ale, Golden Eagle Wheat, Dunkelweizen, Red Mountain Ale, Holiday Hooch, Black Talon R.I.S., Buzz Bomb IPA, Baja Pilsner, Black Cherry Blonde Ale Gentlemen’s Porter, Pumpkin Dunkel and Pomegranate Wheat.
O.H.S.O. (Outrageous Homebrewers Social Outpost) is indeed a unique concept! O.H.S.O. is a brewery where you brew it, name it, tap it and drink it! Where else can you find a brewery where you get to use state of the art equipment, have a brewer’s input if needed along the way, and get to tell your friends to come out and drink YOUR beer? O.H.S.O. also brews its own beer and offers a wide range of guest taps to meet all your beer-drinking need.
Owner and Director of Hoppiness Jon Lane is friendly and welcoming. He was happy to show us around the brewery and explain the brewing process. I highly recommend O.H.S.O. if you’re looking for a brewpub that offers the most creative and innovate tastes in beer. O.H.S.O. is soon opening a distillery. I can’t wait to visit that as well on my next trip to Arizona.
An example of the upcoming homebrewers and beers at O.H.S.O.
North Mountain Brewing hosted a vast array of quality beers. With 12 of their own beers on tap, it is easy to find something that pleases your palate. C.R.E.E.M. , a golden ale brewed with oats, rye, and Arizona wildflower honey, is North Mountain’s flagship beer. North Mountain’s Diogenes IPA, which uses HBC342 and New Zealand Waimea hops, is the a close second for customer favorite.
One notable beer at North Mountain is the CYRious Double IPA. Boasting an IBU of 211, this high gravity, heavy IPA is like nothing you have ever experienced. The brew is a replica of Eric Cyr’s 2013 Great Arizona Homebrew Competition best of show winner. Eric collaborated with North Mountain’s owner and brewer, Rob Berkner, to recreate this sensation.
The brewery’s menu looked amazing, however I arrived after the kitchen closed. I look forward to trying out some beer-centric foods designed to highlight and enhance the beers on tap.
The beers I sampled while visiting North Mountain Brewing included:
C.R.E.E.M.- flagship golden ale brewed with honey
Hefe Endings- a nice hefeweizen with notes of banana and cloves
CardinAle Red- a slightly hoppy red with hints of malty goodness
N’erotic Belgian-a high gravity Belgian-style beer that fits nicely between a Trippel and a Quadruppel. We will call it a 3.5!
Kaiserlich Dunkelweiss- an excellent representation of the style, boasting a 7.9% ABV, this one is great for keeping you warm on those cold winter nights
Grooving with a Pict- a Scottish ale that is sure to satisfy your love of malt and smoke
Octomalt- a unique blend of 8 malts and 4 hops make this “Mother of all Beers” satisfying and noteworthy
Diogenes IPA- called the “second flagship” by the owner, the beer was named after a Greek philosopher who carried a lantern during daytime. Diogenes blends 2 unique hops, HBC342 (an experimental hop with mild citrus and tropical notes) with New Zealand Waimea hops (known for its versitile uses and intense citrus fruit flavors)
CYRious Double IPA -described above
Barking Pumpkin Ale- a mouthful of fall goodness, brewed with a blend of pumpkin pie spices, espresso, vanilla beans, caramelized brown sugar and Belgian chocolate–how could you NOT want a taste of this fall favorite?
Spiral Man Oatmeal Stout- named in honor of the petroglyphs in North Mountain Park, this oatmeal stout’s dark smoothness was a pleasure to taste
N.I.B.-named in tribute to the nib of Geezer Butler’s pencil, check out this Black Sabbath hit and you’ll understand.
**Note….curiosity led me to look into the brewery’s description, “nib of Geezer Butler’s pencil.” N.I.B. is actually a love song written by Black Sabbath. Lyricist Geezer Butler stated in a 1992 interview that nib actually refers to drummer Bill Ward’s (whose nickname was Nibby) pencil-shaped goatee, which reminded him of a pencil nib. According to Songfacts, the band had not come up with a name for the song, so Ward’s nickname (a joke about his goatee), was deemed the song’s name.
Fate Brewing Company, a fairly new competitor in the Phoenix area craft brewing market, brews small-batch beers with a focus on unique and unusual brews. Although I was unable to dine on this visit, the wood-fired pizzas look AMAZING!! The beers were excellent, with a few notable brews. Unfortunately, my two favorites were not available for growler fills.
American Brown Ale
Nelson International Pale Ale
American Pale Ale
American Wheat IPA
Barrel Aged Golden Sour Ale
The three most notable beers were the Nelson International Pale Ale, American Wheat IPA, and the winner of the evening…Barrel Aged Golden Sour Ale.
I found the Nelson International Pale Ale interesting because it offered a unique style and flavor that is not found in many beers I have tasted. The beer was a single-hopped pale ale with New Zealand Sauvin hops, which gave it tropical notes. I am growing to love the New Zealand, tropical-style hops. This is an interesting hop that I have not experienced prior to this beer.
The American Wheat IPA was also a unique style. It had a great blend of crisp hoppiness with the bread-like characteristics of a wheat. The American Wheat IPA incorporates a well-rounded hop blend consisting of Amarillo, Chinook, Citra, and Columbus with wheat and flaked oats.
LAST, but definitely not least–the Barrel Aged Golden Sour Ale. AMAZING!! Fate definitely brewed a winner here! A kettle-soured ale with Brett Brux, refermented with Riesling must, then slightly hopped with Nelson Sauvin hops and finally aged in chardonnay barrels. Quite a complex brew that left me wanting more.
Fate also has another award-winning beer, which sadly, was not available upon my visit. The seasonal (October-December) Candy Bar Milk Stout is brewed with cocoa nibs, sea salt, vanilla bean, and honey-roasted peanuts. Move over Snickers– I can drink my candy bars at Fate!
Magnum Cigar Lounge
Tucked away in the midst of a shopping center, you’ll find Magnum Cigar Lounge. This unassuming shop is home to a wide selection of craft brews, as well as an extensive walk-in humidor filled with a vast array of stogies. The selection of scotch and whiskies is like none other.
Arizona’s craft beer scene is growing and I look forward to following the new and exciting developments in the industry!