Eat & Drink

Tour This: Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail

In "Tour This," we show you how to enjoy a guided culinary exploration of Arizona. We're highlighting the popular Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail, which introduces beer drinkers to northern Arizona's craft brew scene, taking you from crisp ales to local lagers.

The Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail makes a bold claim by stating Northern Arizona is the craft beer hub of the Southwest.

While beer aficionados in Phoenix and Tucson may balk at such a statement, it's one that Northern Arizona can back up. Here, the enthusiasm surrounding hometown brews is as palpable—and palatable—like the scent of pine trees in the air.

And the Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail Passport is your golden ticket to fully experiencing it.

Purchase this self-guided tour of local craft breweries in Flagstaff, Sedona and Williams for $6 and you'll receive discounts at 10 breweries and pubs in the region. You can complete the tour in whatever length of time you want and whenever you want, but below is a suggested course of action.

Stop 1: Hops on Birch

Hops on Birch is a craft-beer bar with 34 rotating taps, including dozens from local breweries (and fellow Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail stops). The vibe here is cozy, with a big bar where bellied-up locals welcome out-of-towners and share recommendations. Bring your pup to join the bar's other four-legged patrons—this a dog-friendly brewery.

PASSPORT PERK: $.50 off a pint of any local brew

Stop 2: Beaver Street Brewery

Beaver Street Brewery and its sister-brewery, Lumberyard Brewing Company, are staples in the Northern Arizona brew scene. Opened in 1994, Beaver Street Brewery was the only brewpub in historic downtown Flagstaff for years. As such, the beers are time-tested and beloved. Beaver Street has a classic feel with its checkerboard floors, big wooden bar and lots of odes to the nearby train tracks. The Railhead Red Ale is a reliable, caramel-malted and full-bodied beer, also a Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal Winner.

PASSPORT PERK: $1.50 off a pint

Stop 3: Mother Road Brewing Company

You can thank John Steinbeck—who proclaimed Route 66 the "Mother Road" in his literary classic The Grapes of Wrath—for this brewery's name. Opened near a stretch of the route in 2004, this popular spot has expanded to two locations a little more than a mile apart: the original Pike location in downtown Flagstaff and the Butler location in a more residential area. Mother Road's legions of fans come from near and far for a taste. Best to book a room nearby after a pint of midnight-colored Lost Highway Double Black IPA, a robust beer at a whopping 8% ABV that's a blend of espresso, chocolate and orange.

PASSPORT PERK: $2 off a pint of Lost Highway Double Black IPA or $1 off a 10 oz. glass

The interior of Flagstaff

Courtesy of Grand Canyon Brewing Company + Distillery

Stop 4: Grand Canyon Brewing Company + Distillery

You'll know you've arrived at Grand Canyon Brewing Company, in Williams, by the gigantic beer silo that marks its location—think of it as a welcoming beacon after a day of North Country exploring. This is exactly how Grand Canyon Brewing Company thinks you should be spending your time. Beers here are inspired by outdoor adventures at nearby landmarks, including the Horseshoe Bend brew, which includes grapefruit and tropical flavors with an undercurrent of caramel. The brewery even organizes rafting trips through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River—and there's a beer that captures the spirit of a refreshing, roaring rapid (Grand Canyon Expeditions Wheat Ale), which is perfectly fine to enjoy on dry land.

Stop 5: Historic Brewing Barrel + Bottle House

You'll find more than a dozen housemade beers at both of Historic Brewing Barrel + Bottle House's locations (20 taps in Flagstaff and 16 in Williams). And reading about the brews is almost as fun as tasting them. Creative names include Deer Lord, Piehole Porter (a customer favorite) and Joe Rye'd, with kegs rotating often. Plus, for the vine-inclined, there's wine from sister-company Grand Canyon Wine Co. Grab a flight of six beers or wines, served on a book (the vibe at Historic is a bit hipster), or try every single tap for $40.

PASSPORT PERK: $10 growlers

Take it to go

Stop into McGaughs Flagstaff for regional-based canned and bottled craft beers, including tons from local breweries. Growler fills, too!

About the Author

Ivy Morris

Ivy Morris has lived in Tucson for the past five years. If you happen to sit next to her at a bar and mention you're from out of town, prepare for recommendations on where to eat and what to do.