Cheers! Celebrate Arizona’s Craft Beers

By: Edie Jarolim

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August 31, 2012

Raise your glass for Arizona's locally made craft brews and the state's full calendar of beer fests throughout the year.

About the author

Edie Jarolim

Edie Jarolim

Edie Jarolim is the author of three travel guides, including "Arizona for Dummies," and one dog guide, Am I Boring My Dog? Her latest book, "Getting Naked for Money: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All," is a memoir about her career as a guidebook editor for Frommer’s, Rough Guides, and Fodor’s and as a Tucson-based freelance travel writer. Her articles about Arizona have appeared in numerous national publications, including "National Geographic Traveler," "Sunset," and "The Wall Street Journal." She is the Contributing Dining Editor of "Tucson Guide" and often writes about food for "Edible Baja Arizona."

If your idea of a perfect day includes enjoying a cold beer in the sunshine, Arizona has both the weather and the craft breweries for you. The state also devotes several lively festivals to hops throughout the year.

This is just a sampling of the many interesting spots on tap for sipping – and supping. All offer full menus.

Four Peaks Brewing Company, Tempe

Sure, a location on the main drag near Arizona State University guarantees a built-in crowd of enthusiastic beer drinkers, but it doesn’t guarantee award-winning brews good enough for bottling and distribution throughout the Southwest. Yet, Four Peaks manages to achieve it all.

Kilt Lifter, a Scottish-style amber ale, is particularly notable. Also notable: the historic red-brick building with wooden ceilings, an 1892 ice plant converted into a creamery.

The menu features creative burgers, sandwiches and pizzas with suggested beer pairings, as well as beer-oriented desserts. (Oatmeal stout milkshake, anyone?)

Barrio Brewing Co., Tucson

The younger sibling of Gentle Ben’s, a University of Arizona watering hole since the 1970s, Barrio was able to draw on decades of brewing experience when it opened in a converted warehouse near the train tracks just south of downtown.

The hearty Double IPA holds its own when matched by such bar fare as Sonoran hot dogs, and the fun of sitting outside and watching the freight trains tootle by is enhanced by the fact that special “Rail Prices” kick in whenever that happens.

The Oak Creek Brewery and Grill, Sedona

You’d never mistake the red rocks of Sedona for the thick forests of Pottenstein, Germany, but the hefeweizens and Pilsner-style lagers created by The Oak Creek Brewery’s Fred Kraus transport you to the quaint town in Bavaria where Kraus learned his brewing techniques.

Of course, Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, where the brewpub is located, is pretty darned charming too.

Upping the cute factor: The Seven Dwarfs sampler, served in miniature five-ounce beer steins.

Prescott Brewing Company, Prescott

Prescott’s historic Courthouse Square was once notorious for its rowdy bars. This friendly brewpub on the same square continues the tradition of serving spirits, but without the gun-toting brawlers.

In fact, the Prescott Brewing Company is decidedly family friendly, including dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets on a varied menu that includes everything from bangers and mash to vegetarian fajitas.

The owners won’t cite a favorite from their 52 beer recipes – 9 to 11 are always on tap – but the most ordered is the Liquid Amber Ale.

Beaver Street Brewery & Whistlestop Café, Flagstaff

Opened in 1994, this family-run brewpub is a pioneer in what has become Flagstaff’s thriving craft beer scene.

The wood-burning stoves from the original building, a 1938 grocery store – not to mention hearty menu selections like meatloaf, fondue and chili – are reminders that Flagstaff is a popular ski destination in winter as well as a summer sports mecca.

The Big Rapid Red ale, which won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival, gets top marks from locals too.

Mudshark Brewery, Lake Havasu City

When the Stocking family moved to Lake Havasu City in the 1970s, their favorite hangout was Mudshark Beach, named for the Frank Zappa song.

Craft beers such as Full Moon, Belgian white ale and the Up River lager, as well as a casual menu of pizzas and pub fare, celebrate the kicked-back lifestyle they enjoyed, while the desire to preserve their favorite spots for the next generation inspired such environmentally friendly steps as canning their beers, recycling used grains as feed and installing solar panels.

Celebrating Suds: Arizona’s Beer Festivals

The Arizona Craft Brewers Guild hosts Arizona Beer Week each February, with statewide events ranging from Kegs & Eggs beer breakfasts to Beer & Bacon dinners.

A pub crawl and beer judging are among the top draws for the Great Arizona Beer Festival, held at Tempe Beach Park in March.

Canned craft beer is the next new thing, as the debut of the Ameri-CAN Canned Craft Beer Festival in Scottsdale in mid-May attests. More than 150 varieties will be on hand.

Sample stouts, ciders, ales and more from Southwest and West Coast breweries at Flagstaff’s Made in the Shade Beer Tasting Festival in mid-June.

An international array of beers, along with snacks and music, are on tap for the Great Tucson Beer Festival held at Hi Corbett Field in October.

Fridays through Sundays for the month of October, the Verde Canyon Railroad’s Ales on Rails features beer, brats and other Bavarian treats at the depot before taking visitors out to enjoy the fall colors.

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