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AUG/SEP 2006 | REGIONAL | SOUTHWEST

Southwestern Thirst
By Ron Kloth

Since this issue happens to feature travel, I decided to rack up some road miles myself. One of my trips was to the land of enchantment, New Mexico. I journeyed there primarily to help judge at the Radical Beer Open and the Enchanted Brewing Homebrew Challenge.

The Radical Beer Open was for commercial breweries. It was based on Randy Mosher’s book Radical Brewing and was a unique contest, as beers were matched up not by style but by alcohol content or exotic character. There were some really top-notch craft beers entered, just the kind I love, all considered extreme beers in one form or another. I was asked to judge the wild beers category, where Tomme Arthur from Port Brewing (aka Pizza Port) took the gold medal for his Woody beer. Some of his beers (but not the Woody) are finally available in Arizona!

The Southwest did have two breweries win medals in the low-alcohol category. Chama River from Albuquerque took a gold medal for its Wit Beer, and Papago Brewing in Scottsdale took the silver medal for its Orange Blossom hefeweizen.

On the homebrew side, I had to judge the “specialty” beers. “Specialty,” in homebrew terms, can be very unusual, to say the least, and the ones I had to judge were definitely unique, such as the Smoked Cicadas barley wine. Why anyone would deliberately add insects to a beer is beyond me.
Aside from the competition, I did get a chance to visit a number of breweries in New Mexico. That state’s beer scene is similar to Arizona's in a lot of ways — in the number of breweries, their type and their size. Chama River is a nice, upscale brewpub with some great award-winning beers. Ted Rice, the brewer, isn't afraid to try new things, including new and different brewing methods, such as using the recently introduced Belgian liquid candi syrup.

I also visited both the Il Vicino tap house, located in Nob Hill near the university, and the Il Vicino brewery, located in an industrial area of Albuquerque. The actual brewery has a “locals” type atmosphere and a selection of beers not available at the different tap houses. Head Brewer Brady McKeown taps a cask weekly that gets consumed pretty quickly by the thirsty locals. The tap house itself is fairly small, but the food and beer are both good. The size of the calzones is mind-boggling.

Another interesting place is Kelly's Brewery. Kelly's is a brew-on-premises establishment where you can make your own beer, but 19 beers are also available to drink. The atmosphere is unusual; Kelly’s is in a converted car dealership, and there’s a great patio that’s good for people-watching.

Turtle Mountain in Rio Rancho is about to undergo some significant changes. The brewery is getting ready to move about half a mile up the road into a brand-new standalone facility that Nico Ortiz hopes to have open later this summer. The current location will be converted into a sports bar tap house.

The beers I had to judge were definitely unique. Why anyone would deliberately add insects to a beer is beyond me.

In Santa Fe, I had just enough time to visit two places, Second Street Brewery, which had a really good Strong Belgian Ale (and a great bowl of green chili), and Santa Fe Brewing. Santa Fe just started distribution in Arizona and in Austin, Texas, and will be rolling out its Chicken Killer Barley Wine in September. Brewer Brian Lock is excited to be putting the new bottling line to work and will be distributing in other Texas cities by the end of the year. State Pen Porter will also be added to the bottle lineup in the fall. This is an imperial robust porter of about 7% abv. The porter will be released in New Mexico in October, with plans to enter the Arizona and Texas markets by 2007. In addition to having the largest brewery in New Mexico, Santa Fe Brewing has a great-looking pub also with a patio that features live music.

The folks at Tractor Brewing in Los Lunas are having some pretty wild Friday nights where they are showing UFC fights on the big screen and seven regular screens along with offering food specials and $2 Tractor Pints.

A great way to see New Mexico is to use the services of The Vineyard Express, which conducts limo coach tours of New Mexico’s wineries and microbreweries. Contact thevineyardexpress.net or call 888-501-2665.

Two Southwestern breweries will be participating in the Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am competition this September in Denver. The competition features commercial breweries brewing up a recipe from a local homebrewer. From New Mexico, Il Vicino will be brewing Brian Ausderau’s Munich Helles recipe. Brian is president of the Dukes of Ale homebrew club and is better known as “the King.” The beer brewed will truly be close to homebrew, as a number of members of the Dukes of Ale had to help pitch in and donate their brewing systems in order to be able to do a decoction mash.

In Arizona, Papago will be brewing Barry Tingleff’s Hop Dog American IPA. Barry is a longtime homebrewer who was one of the founding members of the Arizona Society of Homebrewers. As I am somewhat of a hop-head, it isn’t surprising that Papago chose a pretty hoppy beer to brew.
Two Arizona breweries, Papago Brewing and Four Peaks, sent beer to the San Diego Real Ale Festival. At the fest there were 45 different real ales. A super-hopped-up cask of Papago Hopfather was off the lupulin scale and was by far the hoppiest beer there. Believe it or not, even I thought it was out of control. But people liked it and quaffed it down pretty fast.

Four Peaks sent my favorite Four Peaks brew, Hopknot, and I enjoyed a pint or two. There were quite a few good beers and a really good crowd — so good, in fact, that every single cask of beer was drained and the fest ended early. One of the beers that I thought stood out was from Green Flash, a double IPA that has made its way to Arizona in a very limited release.

Besides attending the fest, we managed to make our way to the Liars’ Club in Mission Beach and O'Brien’s in San Diego for some good brews. Both places recently made the list of the top 50 best places to drink beer in the United States as ranked by BeerAdvocate.com. O’Brien’s was ranked as number 8, just getting edged out by the only Arizona or New Mexico place making the list, Papago Brewing, in 7th place. If you make it to San Diego this summer, be sure to stop in. Trust me, they know beer and will treat you right.

The last stop on our trip was at Stone Brewing for a special party called the Wall Party. It was held at the new brewery in Escondido. The facility is one of the best-looking craft breweries I have seen, and it isn't even done yet. The plan is to have the restaurant open in late August. The Wall beer served at the party will not be released; it was a limited-edition 12.4% barley wine, and you had to donate at least $100 to their charity cause to get it. Stone Brewing is also sponsoring a competition for Arizona homebrewers to see who can make the best clone of its 06/06/06 vertical beer. E-mail ron@papagobrewing.com for additional information about the contest.

Back in Arizona, the 14th annual Made in the Shade Festival will be on July 22 in Flagstaff. This year, Tractor Brewing from Los Lunas, N.M., will be making an appearance at the fest as a part of a whirlwind fest schedule that includes the San Juan Brewfest in Durango on September 2 and the 13th annual Telluride Blues and Brews Festival on September 15–17.

Derek Osborne of BJ’s in Chandler has been having quite a challenge balancing his time around getting married, going to England for a Fuller’s apprenticeship, and keeping all the Arizona BJ’s pubs full of beer. Somehow he managed to brew a new seasonal, a weissbock. And, in addition to brewing a batch of his double-medal-winning Nit Wit, he is going to brew a dark version called Dim Wit.

It must be wit season, because Papago Brewing just released a new seasonal called Wits End, an imperial wit at 7.5% abv. Four Peaks in Tempe released two seasonals, Sunbru Kolsch and an alt for brewer Melissa Phillips’s wedding, appropriately named the Alt Ball and Chain.

You can beat the heat this summer at Four Peaks’ North Scottsdale location, which is now featuring live music at happy hour. Four Peaks has done a great job of creating a number of food specials at both locations that go very well with the beers. Brewer Jim Roper and I will be attending a special hop class that Hopunion has put together in Yakima, Wash., in September.

Scott Yarosh at Sonoran Brewing has begun releasing a limited number of one-liter bottles of Burning Bird Pale Ale in all Arizona AJ’s stores to celebrate 10 years in business. Future bottle releases will include Inebriator Stout and Old Saguaro Barleywine.

Not to be confusing, Uwe Boer at Sonora Brewhouse and the Brewer’s Den is ready to debut his Uweinator Barleywine and a double red ale called Deadwood. There was a second grand opening party for the brewery, and plans are in the works to have a fifth anniversary party on August 25, with the last five gallons of Boer’s Triple IPA being tapped early on, along with a cask of Uweinator.
Fred Kraus at Oak Creek in Sedona, Ariz., has been enjoying his summer listening to live music almost nightly along with drinking a new batch of a Belgian Trappist-style ale and eating his wife Rita’s world championship German potato salad.

Justin West has joined Mudshark Brewing in Lake Havasu as a brewer. Justin learned all he knows about beer from working at Papago, and his most recent brewing experiences have been in Florida and Idaho. Mudshark is looking at changing the yeast is uses, so watch for future updates on the brews.

Another brewery undergoing changes is Sierra Nevada, which is redoing its seasonal beer lineup. The brewery will be kicking off its new Brown Ale on August 24 at Papago Brewing.

Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head is tentatively planning a visit to Arizona for this September, but as of press time no specific details about the visit were available.

Big Sky Brewing from Montana with its popular Moose Drool is eyeing a September 1 kickoff in Arizona.

Alliance Beverage is sponsoring the Pioneer Classic Weekend and Golf Tournament at the Wigwam Resort the weekend of September 16, benefiting the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center, the Arizona Cancer Center and Habitat for Humanity. For information, please contact Tim Hughes at 602-760-2758 or e-mail him at timhu@abdc-az.com.

Lastly, believe it or not, Oktoberfest season is just around the corner, with the Tempe Town Lake Way Out West Oktoberfest scheduled for October 6–7. Papago Brewing’s Oktoberfest is scheduled for October 14, the same day as the Great Tucson Beer Festival. Prescott Brewing is busy preparing for its annual Old West Oktoberfest, to be held on October 21.

Ron Kloth is president of Papago Brewing Company in Scottsdale, Ariz. He is on the board of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild and was a founding member of the Arizona Society of Homebrewers. He travels frequently to beer festivals around the country and leads an annual brewery tour of Europe each March. You can reach him at ron@papagobrewing.com.

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