Thursday, April 1, 2010

Beer in Phoenix

Wherever I go in this great beer-saturated country of ours, I try to sample the local malted beverages. So it is with Phoenix. I recently visited there with a couple of comrades for a long weekend of spring training baseball.

Baseball and beer go very well together. It's a rather leisurely game, which fits the American psyche well. And now with cup-holders in most stadiums, it's easier to balance a scorecard and a beer than ever before.

Arizona isn't quite the beer state that Colorado is, but it's not half-bad. I'd have to say the beer-related highlight of the trip was Papago Brewing in Scottsdale, a brewpub that doesn't bogart its own taplist.

Papago is in the middle of an unassuming strip mall, and if I hadn't been looking for it, I definitely would have missed it.

We went on Sunday after watching the A's and Rockies game end in a 6-6 tie (they do that in spring training, apparently). Papago was dark, with a tap-filled bar and a wall lined by refrigerators.

Patrons are welcome to take bottles from the fridges and drink them on-premise. No establishment in Durango does that, so I figured I owed it to myself to give it a shot. The 80-degree weather led me to Ommegang Hennepin, a crisp saison that is a personal favorite.

Of the 30 beers on tap, Papago supplies six of its own. In the spirit of trying the local flavors, I went with a mandarin hefeweizen. It was sweet and malty, with a strong vanilla note laid over a gentle mandarin taste. It was tasty, but the sweetness became challenging after awhile. I'd give it a B. The hefe was served in a tall, slender glass with a substantial false bottom, making its volume difficult to estimate.

One of my friends opted for Papago's Oude Zuipers, a Belgian strong ale (pictured). A little taste I had was quite promising.

The rest of the taplist is beer-geek-friendly, with choices like Bell's IPA (sold out, unfortunately), The Bruery's Two Turtle Doves and Chimay. Papago was also pouring Pinstripe Red Ale; perhaps you've heard of it.

As I often do when I visit an excellent bottle shop, I left with a box full of beer. I chose some Belgian classics, like Cantillon Kriek and Rodenbach, that are not readily available in Durango.

Another great beer bar is Taste of Tops near the A.S.U. campus in Tempe. It's smaller than Papago, but its beer list is easily as good, if not better. We had to wait for a table, and unlike Papago, there were no darts to toss.

Staying with the Belgian theme, I cracked open an Orval from the bottle fridge. Orval is a joy to drink. If you haven't had one, Star Liquors in Durango typically stocks it.

A patron sitting at the bar was sipping from a can of Ska E.S.B. I'm telling you, Ska is taking over.

More pedestrian but no less tasty were the Blue Moons pouring at Maryvale, the Milwaukee Brewers' spring training stadium. Some beer geeks knock Blue Moon because it's a Coors product, but on a hot day, it's a damn good beer, especially when the other options are Coors Lite and Miller Lite. Don't hate.

Blue Moon also gave me the courage and wit to heckle Dave Bush, a hapless Brewers pitcher who got knocked like some high school pitcher.

Finally, no Tempe stop is complete without a visit to Four Peaks Brewing, also near the A.S.U. campus. Four Peaks has a solid if unimaginative lineup of ales. I went with a hefeweizen and then an Eighth Street, a pale ale. Both were admirable examples of their styles.

As with any trip, there were surely good places I missed. But there's always next year, especially with the Rockies moving to a new spring training stadium in Phoenix.


  1. Dave Bush used to wear a pretty good, bushy beard.

  2. Howdy Chuck,
    I just wanted to alert you to my latest blogpost which gives a shout out to our hardworking Durango brewers.
    Thanks and happy chugging,

  3. Thanks for the link, Rachel. You're a growler person, eh?

  4. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post..!!That beer looks so delicious,hopefully I could visit those place that you mentioned on your blog..!!Like your blog.

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