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Southwestern Thirst

by Pete Ricks

     Southwestern Arizona was treated to some fine English-style beers at the Yuma Heritage Beer Festival, held February 15 on Main Street right outside of the Monarch Brewery in beautiful downtown Yuma, Ariz. Although not as large as the Scottsdale Strong Ale Festival, the Yuma event had some great beer and food to be sampled. New Belgium rep Jeremy Walker was there serving Fat Tire and 1554. Love that 1554! Monarch was pouring an interesting IPA called Worthog and some ESB too. Sonora sent over some kegs of Amber and Top Down, and Four Peaks pitched in too with some of its award-winning 8th Street Ale and Kiltlifter. When in Yuma, Monarch Brewing is a must-visit!

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     Another great Arizona beer event coming up as this issue hits the streets is the Great Arizona Beer Festival in Phoenix. Scheduled for March 29-30 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Arizona Center, this event draws a wide craft-beer selection from all over the Southwest and Southern California. Speaking of Arizona craft beer, check out the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild at www.azbrewguild.com for a complete list of fine craft breweries and brewpubs located throughout the Grand Canyon State.

     I recently took a swing through the metro Phoenix area, and I'm happy to report that there are some great beers already on tap or soon to be tapped. At BJ's Brewery in Chandler, Derek Osborne has some very interesting and flavorful selections for craft-beer lovers, including a freshly tapped Imperial IPA. The beer was brewed with over 106 pounds of hops in what started out as a 15-barrel batch. Talk about hop-head heaven! Derek reports that the kettle was so full of hops, he only yielded nine barrels. BJ's is located in the southwestern corner of the Chandler Fashion Center, and it is well worth a visit when you're in the area.

     I also visited Greg Scharrer down at his new gig on Mill Avenue. Greg has taken over the brewing duties at Gordon Biersch, and he is already off to a great start. The soon-to-be-tapped Blonde Bock is showing great promise, and Greg's pilot batches of Export and Märzen were also right on target. Greg reports that he will be brewing a Czech Pilsner soon, so that will be another great reason to visit 5th and Mill in Tempe.

     Yet another reason to visit downtown Tempe is the Mill Avenue Beer Company, right down the street. Rio Salado owner Tim Gossack reports that he has recently purchased the establishment and will be serving his fine Rio Salado lagers there. If you are in Tempe, you must stop over at Bandersnatch and have a pint or two of Joe Bob Grisham's fine ales. He's really talking up his latest porter.

     To end my beer journey, I visited the Sonora Brewhouse on 3rd Street and Camelback for a great burger and some of Uwe Boer's latest batch of Inebriator Imperial Stout. It was worth the drive, too! Sonora owner John Watt reports that once the stout is all gone, the brewery will be putting on its first-ever double IPA.

     In Rock Bottom news, Jeff Yade will be leaving the assistant brewer slot at the Desert Ridge location to fill Greg Scharrer's spot at Arrowhead. Rob Rodriguez comes over from Rock Bottom Ahwatukee to replace Jeff. I had a chance to stop by the Rock Bottom Shea location, and Charlie Billingsly had a great Czech Pilsner that will be on tap soon. Very Saazy! Down in Tucson, Gentle Ben's will be putting a double amber on tap called NCAAle for, you guessed it, the NCAA Tournament.

     Not to be outdone by the Arizona Strong Ale Festival in January, New Mexico hosted a Big Beer Rodeo on February 4-5. This year's Rodeo was split between two locations, with the Blue Corn Cafe & Brewery in Santa Fe hosting the event on February 4 and Milagro Brewing in Bernalillo hosting the closing night on February 5. For $25, attendees were treated to six five-ounce pours, four courses of food and access to a sampling session with New Mexico professional brewers. Keep an eye out for the IPA festival coming up in July. Blue Corn has a few locations in New Mexico, and you can learn more about them at the Blue Corn Website, www.bluecorncafe.com.

     You have to love a brewery that has a Web address of www.getplowed.com, which is the site of Tractor Brewing in Los Lunas, N.M. Not that we want to advocate drinking and driving heavy machinery! So how does a brewery get a name like Tractor, you might ask? Brewer Mike Campbell reports that his partner, Herb Pluemer, collects and restores antique tractors. There are currently 15 full-size tractors on the premises, varying from restored to brand-new states, three of which are inside the building. Tractor Brewing has more than 230 models of tractors up on the walls inside the brewery, along with a 12-foot carousel hanging from the ceiling which also carries 32 models. Tractor also serves up some tasty BBQ, root beer and cream soda. Of course, beer is served too, and the regulars consist of Haymaker Honey Wheat, Sodbuster APA and Double Plow Oatmeal Stout. Seasonals include Farmer Brown Ale, Half Acre Hefeweizen, O'Red Irish Ale, Harvest Fest and the popular Inebri-ator Double Bock. Hey, Mike, I'm a sucker for any beer that begins with "Inebri," so please send some of that stuff down to the desert!

Pete Ricks is a fanatical homebrewer of eight years and the creator of www.beerdude.com, a craft-beer collaboration Website designed for fellow craft-beer lovers. He can be reached via e-mail at pete@beerdude.com.

Copyright 2003, Celebrator No material herein may be reprinted without permission of the Celebrator Distributed On the W3 For personal, non-commercial enjoyment and use only. Cheers!

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