Friday, December 1, 2017

Craft Beer - Phoenix

On the first day of  meteorological winter, thoughts of warmer climes nag. While winter beers - dark, malty, and alcohol high enough to warm one's soul - beckon, the sun promises warmth of a different kind.

We recently escaped the cooler temps by fleeing to Phoenix although it was hardly a beer expedition. With over 30 craft breweries, there simply wasn't enough time. We were there to see family and friends. We also went to a NASCAR race (two day's worth) and watched the Seahawks/Cardinals game. Nevertheless, we found some time for beer.

Phoenix Ale Brewery - located near the Phoenix airport, this brewery was launched by former owners of Pyramid Brewing in Seattle. As their staff shirts helpfully point out, you can find Phoenix Ale Brewery between stops 19 and 20 of Phoenix's light rail. I tried their Cranberry Oatmeal Stout, a seasonal offering with notes of oatmeal and a hint of cranberry on the back end - an excellent way to start a visit to Phoenix in the Fall. (After all, it is still Astronomical Fall.) The flavors became smooth and mellow as the beer warmed making it a delicious pint from start to finish. We also tried the Orange Peel IPA, a west coast IPA as citrusy as the name implies. A mouthful of fruit flavor with just enough bitterness for balance. We had a taste of their flagship beer, the Camelback IPA. This one was an English style IPA which, typical for the style, had more of a malt presence than the Orange Peel providing an earthy, herbal, and dry beer. If you want a beer with a little more malt and a little less citrus, this is the one to try.

State 48 Brewery - located in Surprise, this brewery has it all - good beer, a full menu, outdoor seating, and corn hole. Plus, $2 off draft beer during Happy Hour (M-F 3-6). You can't beat that! The only criticism I can offer is their website doesn't provide any information about their beers. That makes it hard for me to recall what I sampled unless I take notes while I'm there. I remember I had their Vanta Black IPA. Dark and hoppy, it provided a mouthful of roasted malts and plenty of hops (70 IBU) for a dry pint of flavorful Fall goodness. At 7% ABV, I limited myself to one and paired it with the Roasted Beet Salad and a side of Brussels Sprouts. I don't remember what everyone else had at the table (should have taken notes) but everyone seemed happy with their selections of both beer and food. (Portions were big enough to share.) We've been to State 48 before and will definitely back.

Camera still busted...
Saddle Mountain Brewing Company - closest to where we were staying so we visited more than once and (between four of us) sampled nearly everything on their menu. Venessa, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, served us. (Seek her out.) Their 15-barrel brew house was built by Marks Design and Metal Works, located in Vancouver, Washington. My favorite was the Night Raid Schwarzbier, a seasonal offering - a dark lager with dry, mild roasted malts. At 5% ABV, it was easy to drink.

Problem Child DIPA  - at 8.5% ABV, this beer was dangerous because: A) 8.5% B) A big mouthful of sweet citrus with see A). I have an Uber promo code if you need one....

The four of us shared a Chasing Tail Amber Ale which was happily and enthusiastically consumed. From their website, "...copper in color, with a malty body that is tamed by the toasty flavor of roasted barley, keeping the sweetness in check." Entirely accurate, easily recommended.

I also liked their IFR Oatmeal Stout. It was slightly sweeter and creamier than the Schwarzbier. It warmed up nicely and is easily a gateway beer for the newly initiated. Dark and rich. Perfect for cooler temps.

Tuskegee Red Tail - deep red and malty, but not too sweet, it has a nice hop finish. At 5.5%, a nice, warming fall brew.

Both their IPAs, Ray’s Gold and Hop Snob were nearly the lightest beers on the menu, in terms of color. The lace on the glass was as beautiful as the clean, crisp brews.

OHSO Brewery & Distillery - standing for Outrageous Homebrewer's Social Outpost, they had one such outpost at the airport. Three others are located in Arcadia, Scottsdale, and Paradise Valley with a fourth to open in Gilbert in 2018.

I had the Morning Brew since it was still morning and because the description included the word "coffee." I asked the waiter about it and he said if I liked coffee and beer, this was the one for me. He was absolutely right. It's a light blonde beer, aged with coffee and vanilla beans. With 4.5% ABV, I didn't feel too guilty about drinking (slightly) before noon. Hubby sampled the 89Ale. This beer balanced caramel, toffee, and roasted malts with gentle hops (24.5 IBU). In the mood for an IPA, this beer didn't fill Hubby's desire for something hoppy but it's caramel color and balanced flavors made for a satisfying alternative that paired well with The Gobbler turkey burger - outstanding!

If you're feeling chilly, seek out something to keep you warm.  Cheers!

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