December 21, 2011

What Does CBS Outdoor Have Against Sun Up?

April 2011
In April of this year, the CBS Outdoor billboard in the Sun Up parking lot was the subject of a "Where in the Phoenix Beer World?".

The billboard once featured the Los Bomberos wine bar which closed it's doors on March 6th. It's also had PBR and Dundee Honey Brown as advertisers which seemed to be a slap in the face for a place that makes it's own beer (and very good beer at that).

Still, one imagines that advertising alcohol to brewpub going patrons is not a stretch and granted there have been other billboard ads here that have come and gone.

This month began a new campaign and now I think CBS is just being mean. There is a Castle Boutique next door and a Trails, but seriously? This??
Meth and Craft Beer. Advertising Gold.

Related: Where in the Phoenix Beer World?

December 14, 2011

The Great Divide

This menu tells me that this business knows nothing about beer or is so cynical about it that they don't want my money or yours.

Here's an idea. Charge me $6, $8 and $12 for the kinds of beers that  less pretentious bars and restaurants  offer.

December 5, 2011

Invitation: The Role of the Third Place

The 78th Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition is today and the occasion warrants reflection on the impact the Noble Experiment has had on the Beer Culture in the US. Unfortunately that reflective discussion won't be happening here, (time is the tyrant these days). I can offer you some interesting reading via Jeff Alworth over at Beervana , who earlier this month compared and contrasted the pub/bar/tavern/cafe experiences in Britain, the US, and Belgium. Play close note to how the differences in each culture's experience with alcohol subtle play on language and the social contracts inherent in navigating the simple act of grabbing a beer and perhaps a bite to eat.

Our post-Prohibition and Puritanical upbringing remarkably causes the obfuscation of the name of the place where we do our beer drinking, Alworth argues:
I suspect our system reflects America's conflicted relationship to booze. We've ended up with so many euphemisms because, as a culture, we've never been comfortable with alcohol. Someone's always trying to inhibit its consumption, and others are trying to consume. So we have a system of oblique signals that shield the offended from the activities of the offenders. There's an old tavern down in Westmoreland--or used to be, anyway--called the Semaphore. I've always thought it was a perfect tongue-in-cheek nod to the issue.
These types of social influences are at the heart of my fascination with beer culture. It is what separates beer drinking from beer living. It is the culture! I've tried to focus on what makes our Phoenix beer culture succeed and fail and have attempted to refine my answer after Andy Ingram's Beer Culture piece in the Arizona Republic. I've discussed beer blogging, touched on walkability (which merits a series of posts) and the impact of local urban thinkers. But there are many more topics to write about and many more conversations that you and I will have to make. Please read on because there is an opportunity this week towards that discourse.

In 2012, I'll complete a series on, "Who will Lead Us" in our journey toward a more robust beer culture. There will be pieces on Brewers, more bloggers, more urbanists and Publicans and other leaders that will shape our beer futures. Big picture things like this should not be daunting, to that end I'd like to invite you to an event that figure into the success of our local beer culture and the growth of Phoenix in general.

Levine Machine - Site of the TEDx salon.
On Wednesday, December 7th, downtown preservation advocate, Jim McPherson and CenPho supporter and social media wonk, Andrew Knochel are moderating a TEDx salon on Urban Placemaking: Design of Third Places. There are four notable local guests that will explore the role of Ray Oldenburg's Third Place and the design that makes these places successful as businesses and community social hubs. The location is an amazing space well worth the price of admission.

If this all sounds like heady (or even stuffy) mumbo-jumbo, allow me to break it off into a few tangible bite-sizes pieces. Third places are where you and I like to drink beer and enjoy meals, but more importantly engage with others, speak freely about issues of the day with old friends and new acquaintances. They are our favorite places. We accept that these places don't always have the best food or beer or maybe even service (but they certainly can be best in all respects) but we keep coming back. We feel as though the building itself is a partner in our sense of social warmth. Though not defined by Oldenburg as such, it has a touch of the Gemütlichkeit one finds at a German Biergarten.

Oldenburg, in his book The Great Good Place, notes that much of our time is spent at home (first), at work (second) where there is an isolated and rigid social structure. Oldenburg's third places are the coffee houses, pubs, cafes where people gather to engage with one another in an atmosphere of equal footing. Circling back to Alworth's piece, third places in England are the (rapidly declining) pubs which were historically the extension of one's living room. In Belgium, they are the cafes and in the US... well we have somewhat of a fractured experience with that. There is a chasm a mile wide when it comes to a generic US bar/restaurant and perhaps our finest beer examples of third places in metro Phoenix. Let's find out why and what can be done.

Join me Wednesday so we can speak the same language and finish off with a downtown beer.

November 9, 2011

What We Don't Know

The ACBLG provisional logo
with the Franklin glurge.
I've been public about my disdain for Facebook and my preference to Twitter. Twitter is like a river of information. I can grab bits and pieces of news, gossip and distraction that eddy into my purview. I can cast out opinion like flat rocks skipping briefly only to be subsumed by the ceaseless deluge. I can converse, but the interaction is self-limiting.

Facebook seems to be somewhat of a swamp. Lethargic. Of the past.

I've tolerated Facebook recently because of the conversation in the Arizona Craft Beer Lovers Group (ACBLG)- a few hundred or so beer appreciators, homebrewers, beer bar owners, pro brewers and distributors. I was skeptical that this group would be of value to me and I still reserve the right to remove myself from the group (or be removed, one imagines). So far I'm learning things that I did not expect to learn.

Despite the concentration of knowledgeable beer people, I'm struck as to how much this group doesn't know about the business of beer (that has nothing to do with beer), distribution, packaging, the slim margins that the industry faces, the legal landscape, barriers to entry and basic customer service. I'm learning what this beer community doesn't know about each other. I'm finding out that they have expectations that go unmet. There's talk of favoritism, blind localism, "you owe us", "the beer needs to be". Some of the most appreciated figures in the valley feel under-appreciated or misconstrued or come off as quarrelsome. The voice of a few sometimes seems to be the roar of many, when in fact it's just one person's opinion and a "like "thumbs up. It either passed a weakly rebutted challenge or everyone else just gave up.

I include myself in the group that has much to learn on all of these topics. I have made missteps. I have put on the "know-it-all" hat.

I have strong opinions and I have a history of working forums like this for information well before (Remember BBS?) there was an internet. I'm going to share things that I know and my vehemence on some things is somewhat of a challenge to others because I want the best answers to come out. I like to be right, but I also like to be helpful.

The biggest frustration of the whole thing is, frankly, we all don't know how to get along with one another in a social media environment.  Some of the more awkward moments develop because a good number of people don't know that there are a number of industry people lurking in the group. Say something that probably should be handled in private and suddenly in swoop the distributors, or the publicans or the brewer or the beer clubs. The flatness of hierarchy in the "expertism" meant initially that your opinion stood on its merits and encouraged some candor. These days it can be downright cringe-worthy to click on a thread. I wonder how long some of the industry people will keep tuning into discussions that have such a low ratio of signal to noise. It must be frustrating since their time was tight well before this group came around.

One presumes that beer's shared amid our conversations in a friendly pub environment would smooth out the rough edges. There is some talk of meeting in real life. That day could not come soon enough for some.

November 4, 2011

The Session #57: Rob's Beery Confession

This month’s Session, hosted by Steve Lamond's Beer’s I’ve Known, has the topic “beery guilty secrets.”
I'd like to know your beery guilty secrets. Did you have a particularly embarassing first beer (in the same way that some people purchase an atrocious song as their first record) or perhaps there's still a beer you return to even though you know you shouldn't? Or maybe you don't subscribe to the baloney about feeling guilty about beers and drink anything anyway?
I guess I have unsubscribed from baloney for quite some time now. In the age of when I can say that I have been married 67.8 Kardashians and just about anyone who is anyone has a sex tape, the last thing we need to be embarrassed about is beer. Here is the closest thing that I can come up with.

In 2007, my wife Brenda and I did a beer bar only tour of Belgium hitting Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges. It seem silly to think that our guide of great beer at the time was not the internet, but was something that we affectionately called the Scheidt List. The list was given to my by Don Webb- homebrewer, beer tale teller, dear friend and now one of the owners of Seattle's Naked City Brewery and Taphouse. He obtained the hand written from memory list from Don Scheidt who wrote for Celebrator Beer News. The flip side is the bold type faced phrase, "Beer had Good Value but Food has No Beer Value."

The Scheidt list
So over the course of 9 days we hit every place listed on the handwritten stream of beer conciousness put forth by a PACNW beer legend. I focus on Trappist and Belgian classic styles, Brenda stuck to sours, lambics and guezue. Wake. Train. City tour and off to the beer bars from 11am to 2 with an occasional peek outside for a waffle or chocolate. The beers- amazing, bursting with flavor! Even the subtle wit and Belgian Pales exercised the palate in new and interesting ways. The food- rich, wonderful and savory! Moules. Frites. Waterzooi. Stoofkarbonaden. The experience was a sensory explosion day after day, night after night.

On the tenth day it became ridiculous. Taxing. I wanted no more of it. That night we found the most American style pizza joint. We ordered cheese pizza and Jupiler, the number one selling beer in Belgium (is there shame in that?). It is a weak pale lager. I remember more about that evening than the 1984 Chimay Blue I drank the night before at Kulminator

Jupiler. Exhibit A

Cheese Pizza. Exhibit B.


November 3, 2011

Exclusive Announcement: Rare Affair - Hot Scotchies

The Arizona Society of Homebrewers (ASH ) have announced today that they will be bringing hot first runnings of a brew day mash to the Rare Affair on Saturday Nov 5th. so that guests can sample the Hot Scotchy or Brewer's Cocktail. First runnings are the unfermented and unhopped malt building block of beer. As a tribute to today's International Stout Day, David Schollmeyer's GABF contending Bucket Hugger Russian Imperial Stout grain bill will be used.

Designated driver guests will be able to sample the drink without alcohol. All other guest will be invited to add some of the available spirits at Rare Affair to mix their own cocktail from among the following available to both Non-VIP and VIP.

  • Tullamore Dew Scotch- Various
  • Belveniw 12 yr Scotch
  • Equador Highland 10 yr Scotch

The author and Oak Creek's Jim Strelau
I was introduced to the Hot Scotchy a few years ago by Oak Creek's brewmaster, Jim Strelau. when I had the good fortune to brew with him on the brewpub's 7BBL system. Sick as a dog with a permasmile on my face, I watched Jim arrive with glasses of Scotch and fashion a ladle out of a cup and string. He pulled off a few draws out of the Elderflower Pear Bier De Garde that we were brewing and mixed up the perfect elixir.

Mentioned briefly here and much more extensively by Beervana's Jeff Alworth, the history of the cocktail is as murky as un-vorlaufed wort. It may or may not have anything to do with the Sternewirth Privilege- the unwritten and perhaps mythic law that requires one to drink while brewing. Jeff smiths it out better than I can and if this doesn't convince you to read the rest of his column and desire a cup of warm comfort at Rare Affair, nothing will.
What happens is nothing short of mystical. Mash runnings are very sweet and flabby--there's no definition to the flavors. The addition of Scotch somehow reverses all this. Like an electric current, the Scotch animates the grains so that you can taste them in HD. The Scotch is likewise a very clear note, but not sharp or aggressive. It has all the flavor of a straight shot, but it's floating amid Mom's comforting malted. Insanely beguiling.
It's been a brewday staple for me ever since and is now an ASH tradition at our brewouts. I'm not aware of it being sold anywhere ever in Arizona. The likeliest places that would have done this would either be Four Peaks or Santan, holders of spirituous liquor licenses. Nothing in recent valley memory serves.

Take heart, should you miss out on this as you can always join the motley band of homebrewers. Once the weather has truly turned into brisk wet windy nights, look for an ASH events during February's Arizona Beer Week. ASH will be serving Hot Scotchies in a few valley locations in partnership with select establishments including Citizen Public House and Moto.

You hear that Richie, Vince? We're doing this right?

UPDATE: I spoke with Doc from BJ's Brewhouse. We'll be getting 4 gallons of Red Goliath first runnings as well. Blustery evening be damned!

November 2, 2011

The Best Way To Enjoy Beer...

A couple of weeks ago I did some beer judging for ASH and followed that up a week later by judging beers home brewed by employees of Crescent Crown. I enjoy beer judging very much, but the process is actually very hard work. It's satisfying work and pleasiong, but it is not drinking beer for personal enjoyment. I wrote this to try and flesh out the differences. In the process, I can see some crossover to explaining how some monster tastings that occur at festivals or the result of a beer club trade or personal cellar openings can skew beer opinions and create some unwarranted beer geek hype. These are my guidelines, I'd like to hear yours.

Drink In Situ
Drink a beer in its place of origin. Trot down to your local brewery and you should have the freshest example. The brewery has complete control of the beer as they place it in its final vessel. You won't have to worry if the beer was treated well; that it wasn't out in the hot Arizona sun or sat on a dusty shelf.

If you are fortunate enough, travel to the town of a style's origin. Have a Pilsner in Plsen. These days, with some small exceptions, any style of beer can be made in any brewery in the world. It's fun to wrap your head around why a style sprung up from the ground (water), or the air (yeast) or any number of natural or man-made circumstances. The scarcity of some beers and the imperfect world of post prohibition distribution makes traveling for beer one of life's few authentic experiences. It's much more pleasant to be handed a draft beer from a publican than it is to pull one out of a suitcase or swaddled in bubble wrap.

Learn the Brewer's Intent
Brewing is compromise and there are literally dozens of things that have to happen for the beer to get into your glass. The brewer tries to control as many of these things as possible and often has to do something at the expense of another. These decisions impact the beer's flavor profile. Great beers often have great stories but even absent one as told to you by the brewer or the brewery staff, you should be able to piece a narrative together based upon the style or description. Did the brewer intend to hit the top end of the IBU threshold or was she looking to create a beer with sufficient bitterness with a hefty malt backbone? It's quite possible that the beer is not suited for your tastes by design.

Get a Proper Serving
Typically this is a pint, or perhaps two. If the beer has some heft, a 10 ounce snifter might be appropriate. Some of this can be divined from the brewers intent or style guidelines, but most beer is designed to be consumed in 12 to 16 ounce servings. Here is where you have to take off your festival go-er, beer ticker, beer rater or serial sampler hat. There are few beers designed to be enjoyed as a four ounce pour. Fewer to none as a two ounce pour. Brewers design beers to consumed start to finish with the hope that you entertain the possibility of having one or two more of the very same beer. Nobody brews a beer that is best served preceded by a 2 ounce pour of Russian Imperial Stout and followed up by a 1 ounce pour (that you split with your mate) of American Wild Ale. One thing you may have said to yourself  (or heard others say out loud) is, "That was intense, but I don't think I could finish a glass of it." This is very instructive. It may have some spectacular inter-galactic rating, but face it, you wouldn't enjoy it in its natural beer serving state.

Drink With Others
Beer is a social drink that is meant to be shared and enjoyed with groups of people. I often hear people say they don't have a good palate with the implication that they don't physically have the ability to describe beer. We all have the same basic apparatus, the thing that distinguishes the "expert" beer reviewer is associating vocabulary with a taste or sensation. The only way that you can learn this language is to compare notes with others. With a tiny bit of education, talking about beer with others as you drink it can markedly increase your appreciation and enjoyment. Sometimes the best beer you will have is the one that you enjoy with others in a convivial atmosphere. Not a word is spoken about it, yet you both signal your server for one more of the same.

If you can wrap up all of these elements in a beer session or maybe even a couple of them, I think you'll agree that this is the best way to enjoy beer and take part in beer's culture.

October 27, 2011

Introducing Project ZUTROB

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to judge homebrewed beer made by employees of Crescent Crown. Crescent Crown is the Miller/Coors distributor in the Valley. It is the parent company of World Class Beverages, their craft/fine beer arm. Joining me at the judges table was Uwe Boer from Sun Up, Chuck Noll from World Class beverages, Derek Osborne from BJs Brewhouse and Anthony Canecchia of Santan.
The Distinguished Panel
Tenth and Blake, makers of Blue Moon, supplied the kits to 10 teams of 4. All were given some basic instructions, an Amber Ale kit and a few pointers from your truly the week after Labor Day. The beers, for first extract batches, were good overall. There were some typical first batch issues on some, but nothing out of the ordinary. Everyone walked away with an appreciation for beer's simplicity and nuance.

All of this is to introduce an idea that I have been kicking around for over two years called Project ZUTROB: Zepto Under The Radar Office Brewing wherein I will clandestinely brew an all-grain batch of a single bottle of beer at my office. I don't know if future updates will reside here at this blog or elsewhere. I am in the midst of piloting the office as you'll see below. I haven't yet scheduled Batch 1.

The Zepto Brewhouse
For the office pilot, I am beginning to cook up some unmalted barley to introduce the office to my new "diet". I'll be cooking up different cereals so that my office denizens will become accustomed to sweet grain smells and won't notice when I switch to doughing in an actual mash. 

I'll use a mini crock pot and Ranco Controller to create the infusions to step mash. I'll use a Bubba keg to mash and sparge. The Crock pot will also serve as my boil kettle. Finally the controller and a mini-fridge will serve as the fermentation chamber.

The Crock Pot is, well a crock pot, and not very quick to heat up today's batch of Pearl Barley even on high. Maybe I  should switch to a mini Rice Cooker. Thoughts?

October 25, 2011

Where in the Phoenix Beer World?

Do you know where in the beer world this photo was taken?
How does it relate to Arizona beer?

The concept is simple. We post a picture that is relevant to the Phoenix beer scene and you try and identify it. Sometimes there will be a larger story involved, but often there will not. 

Hint: Abbott Ale is crossed off their normal list (among others) for an upcoming event.

So, for glory and a tip of the glass next time we see you.

Answer after the jump.

Beer For Brains RareAffair Releases Beer List

The Beer for Brains Foundation released a partial list of beers for their RareAffair event on November 5th. If you haven't already read about one of the best curated beer festivals in the country and the wonderful cause it supports, read about it here.

Hat tip to @lucklyss for breaking the story.

Read her analysis here:

Here is a list of highlights for me:


Cambridge Brewing Company
Great Pumpkin Ale 2011

J.W. Lees*
Harvest Ale – Calvados

Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V.
Gulden Draak Quad

English Mead

Napa Smith Brewery
Bonfire Imperial Porter

Nils Oscar*
Barley Wine

*denotes VIP Only beer.

October 18, 2011

My Rant About (the royal) You and the RareAffair™

While we are all waiting for the Four Peaks shoe to drop, let's all take some time to do the right thing.

This BeerPHXation byline is, "A local Phoenix Metro beer culture celebration and admonition." Get ready for a dose of admonishment. It's been over 2 weeks and it's starting to make me sad. A call has been made to get the Beer for Brains page 1001 likes on Facebook. That should be easy enough to do. Doing this should be it's own reward. It should not take this long to get it knocked out in a healthy beer culture.

I wrote about The Beer for Brains Off-Centered Experience last year. It was Louis Dolgoff's first event to raise money for Brain Cancer. The event had disappointing attendance given the overwhelming number of  rare beers that were to be freely poured that evening. If you've been in the beer scene for the last 2 years you know the story of Laurie Dolgoff. I'll repeat it here for those that are new:
In 2009, Dolgoff lost his wife of 30 years to an extremely aggressive form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma ultiforme - the same cancer that killed Senator Edward Kennedy. Laurie Dolgoff died shortly after her 55th birthday – 29 months after her initial diagnosis. Dolgoff, a craft-beer industry sales manager and event promoter for Dogfish Head Breweries, created the Beer for Brains Foundation because of the cutting-edge care she received at Barrow Neurological Institute. Through fundraising events like the Off-Centered Experience, Dolgoff hopes to help them find a way to extend the lifespan and quality of life for brain cancer patients.
There is another event coming November 5th re-branded as The RareAffair™. Presumably some might have scaled the event back after such a set back. Fortunately for those that have made a commitment to the  RareAffair™ the event is even bigger and the beer list it more expansive. Again, getting 1001 likes is child's play. I'm not sure where they were on October 3, but they are at 870 as I write this.

First contest is easy...It's late but we will roll it out this evening anyways. The 1001 person to LIKE our page will get into RAREaffair FREE! Tell your friends to spread the word about this great cause~

 ·  ·  · October 3 at 10:24pm · 
Again it should be it's own reward, but there is a FREE ticket to someone that is able to click a button and yet there it sits. Pathetic. We have 5 million people in the valley. If this was Philly this would have been done in a single day.


Rewarding the nth member to click isn't the best strategy because it rewards late comers. I get that, but Fuck. Go do it. Help someone else win, right. All I hear about is how craft beer people are good people. This isn't right.

Secondly there is an individual, Cara, on that page giving away her ticket for a convincing post:

Hey everyone! I have won a ticket to RAREaffair and do not need it because I am already VIP! I am giving my ticket to the person who tells me why they deserve it here on The Beer For Brains Page. Tell me why I should give it to you! I will pick the winner on October 21st. :) Happy Posting~

Bless her, but there are 9 posts. Most of them just to tell her thanks. Additionally the post is up on the private Arizona Craft Beer Lovers page, a group with 250 some odd members. Many of them are going, I'm sure, others are in the industry, but these are supposed to be beer taste makers. (That's market speak for people who are supposed to influence others.) There are a handful of responses in that post. There are more posts on where to find Angel's Share.(Crisis Averted! He found it.) Somewhere deep in the bowels of that group in a post I pointed out that there is a big difference between showing up and doing something. Cara is doing something. Lots of others are just showing up.

I have challenge the members of the Arizona Society of Homebrewers (ASH) to have 100 members come to  the RareAffair™. We are over the halfway hump and I still believe they will come though. Once they hit 100, I am doing a raffle to pay one member's money back even if it is a VIP ticket. I've been using the bully pulpit in the club and everywhere else. As President of ASH, I often tell people that I have to be a dick to everyone as a group and love everyone individually. I imagine that people are tired of listening to me. That's OK. Listen to these people. Don't take it out on Lou or the RareAffair™.

Take it out on cancer.

October 16, 2011

Four Peaks to Announce New Brewery Location Tomorrow [Final]

Tomorrow, Four Peaks will announce the location of the new production facility that will supplement the 40BBL brewhouse on 8th Street in Tempe. Four Peaks has brewing almost around the clock to meet production and has been searching for a second brewery for some time now. An announcement was expected at the end of August, however, the diligence process took longer than expected.

The location will feature a larger brewhouse and a simple beer only taproom and no restaurant. The taproom was the final negotiation point to work through. That hurdle was cleared last week.

Although the location has been known to a few industry people, we'll wait for the Four Peaks announcement. We can definitively say that the Mesa location written about in the Arizona Republic was ruled out as well as a site in Chandler which would have required the use of heating oil to fuel the brew kettle.

A Four Peaks insider officially referred to the site as the "Annex", but unofficially called it FPWTBS or "Four Peaks Without the BS" because there will be air conditioning, ample parking and fewer college students.

Want a hint? Give your Regards to ... to Teddy, and also Ted Golden.

Four Peaks currently has a taproom in Scottsdale which does not have brewing capability.

UPDATE: Nothing has changed as of today, October 19th. The information is still solid. We await the official word from Four Peaks.

UPDATE 2: Several ASH members reported that they were told the location last night at the ASH Peaktoberfest. Membership has its benefits.

UPDATE 2.5: I'm told that a press release has been drafted and its release is expected soon. Four Peaks Brewsletter comes out tonight? Fingers crossed.


Here is the presser-

Four Peaks Brewing Co. Selects Second Brewing Facility Site

TEMPE, ARIZ. – Oct. 19, 2011 – Sometimes, all roads lead to home.

After an exhaustive search for a second brewing location, Arizona’s largest and most popular craft brewery leased an industrial property in Southern Tempe and will be brewing more of its ever-popular beer by next summer.

But Four Peaks isn’t closing the door on potential new restaurant sites throughout the Valley.

“We scoured the Valley for a historic production facility with quintessential Four Peaks character and the infrastructure necessary to be operational in the timeframe we needed,” said Four Peaks Co-Owner Jim Scussel. “There were a number of properties in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Mesa on our short list, but unfortunately remediation of every one of the historic properties would have taken longer than was possible for us.”

Four Peaks’ craft beer popularity and its position as Arizona’s favorite local brewery accelerated the search. In fact, demand for Four Peaks’ craft beer will reach 40,000 barrels in 2012, which is capacity at their facility in the historic creamery at 8th Street and Dorsey in Tempe.

“We simply need to make more beer, ASAP,” said Co-Owner Andy Ingram. “This second location gives us the room to be creative and experimental, and add new varieties to our award-winning lineup.”

Four Peaks Pumpkin Porter has amassed a cult following. More seasonal and specialty beers will be introduced after the second production facility is operational.

“We are happy to have the new Four Peaks brewing facility in Tempe and will work with Andy and Jim to find new ways to continue the outstanding partnership with this hometown brewery,” said Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman. “We consider Four Peaks to be a part of Tempe’s vibe and a great corporate partner.”

The new facility, located near Broadway Road and Hardy Drive, will initially create 20 jobs and will cost more than $3 million when complete. The lease was signed Oct. 17.

“To accommodate Four Peaks’ aggressive timeline, we moved quickly to negotiate a lease and have already begun improvements to the building,” said Mike Sacco, Vice President of EastGroup Properties, which owns the building. Four Peaks was represented in the ten-year lease by Anthony Nocifera, Principal with Abitare Realty Advisors & Investment Corp. EastGroup was represented by Curtis Brown and Bob Crum of Ross Brown Partners.

As background, Four Peaks issued a request for proposals for suitable sites. More than 25 sites were submitted, including Downtown Phoenix warehouses and the famed Sunkist Facility in Mesa. Four Peaks toured the preferred facilities in Summer 2011 and sought the advice of adaptive reuse experts to determine the scope of the renovations necessary.

The new Tempe facility, though not a historic property, had the shortest development timeline and from a logistical standpoint, works well with the current facility.

“Tempe is home,” Scussel said. “We’re proud of our history in Tempe and look forward to additional opportunities.”

And here is the precise location.

Want a hint? Give your Regards to ...[Broadway]  to Teddy [Roosevelt] , and also Ted Golden.

EDIT: 2401 W Wilson Not the building above, Tucked in the Industrial Park.

October 7, 2011

The Session #56: Thanks to the Big Boys

In the 56th occurrence of The Session, Reuben Gray of The Tale of the Ale asks us to consider the contributions of and thank the large breweries.
I want people to pick a large brewery or corporation that owns a lot of breweries. There are many to chose from. Give thanks to them for something they have done. Maybe they produce a beer you do actually like. Maybe they do great things for the cause of beer in general even if their beer is bland and tasteless but enjoyed by millions every day.
If you honestly have nothing good to say about a large brewer, then make something up. Some satire might be nice, It will be a Friday after all.
I thought I would approach this post by recalling my earliest memories of "big" beer before I was a consumer (legally). Along the way my relationship moved from being a fan of the products made by these awesome faceless and monolithic enterprises to a period in which I hated them for being awesome faceless and monolithic enterprises. In the present, there is a mix of personal feelings. Inevitably what you get is a haphazard and complicated mix of praise, snark and disdain. I think most of the beer people I interact with feel similarly.

  • Thanks for the hummable catchy tunes, "If you've got the time, We've got the beer" and "When you say Budweiser, you said it all" which the Wisconsin Badgers appropriated so nicely.
  • Thanks for Rodney Dangerfield, Bob Uecker and Boog Powell. Thanks for making funny commercials. Thanks for the "Great Taste/Less Filling" arguments that you inspired in the 70's in my grade school lunch room. 
  • Thanks for building industry in my hometown of Milwaukee. Thanks for the brewhouse cathedrals you built in my Grandfather's and Father's time.
  • Thank you for underwriting the Superbowl? 
  • Thanks for the many tours we used to take at Pabst and Miller whenever we had a rain out as a Lifeguard at the County Park Pools.
  • Thank you Guinness for making a murky, mysterious and flavorful beer at a time before there was craft beer. Thank you for making people believe you were potently alcoholic when you were delightfully sessionable at a time in college when I abandoned my Gin and Tonics for you.
  • Thank you for making most of your beers with an SRM of less than 6, so I can instantly discern a table full of drinkers and be polite and non-condescending when talking about the beer that they enjoy.
  • Thank you Pabst for helping me re-understand marketing. Thank you for the mural campaign.
  • No thanks for swallowing up all the regional breweries, but thanks for bringing some of the brand name back. Thanks for Primo, Sixties recipe Schlitz. Thanks for Tenth & Blake Batch 19. Still waiting for Andeker and Blatz Culmbacher.
  • Thank you for throwing around meaningless brewing ideas and insincere marketing mumbo-jumbo such as cold brewed, vortex bottles, triple hopped, cold tasting and venting. Irony makes me happy. 
  • Thank you for your canned beer R&D dollars. I can now drink this beer at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and this one while I clean up.
  • Thanks for making some terrible commercials lately.  
  • Thank you for Mitch Steele and Charlie Bamforth.
  • Thank you for freighting kegs of Pilsner Urquell and Czechvar into my desert to compete against yourself.
  • Thank you for making us aware that you have a legal team. Thank you for being synonymous with evil. Thanks for being the boogeyman. Thanks for not letting that get you down. Thanks for the recent multi-national merger drama and the impending sequel.
  • Thank you for pairing so well with ennui. 
  • Thank you to your distributors for encouraging employees to learn to homebrew and partnering with ASH here in Phoenix.
  • Thank you for making this a difficult question to answer.
Cheers Big Boy Breweries of all sizes!

October 6, 2011

Where in the Phoenix Beer World? And Who? And Why?

Do you know where in the beer world this video was taken? And Who? And Why?
No cheating by going to YouTube or other Social Media, you either know it or you don't. Hint: It's not in Phoenix, but all of the people are from the Valley.

The concept is simple. We post a picture that is relevant to the Phoenix beer scene and you try and identify it. In this case it's a video. Sometimes there will be a larger story involved, but often there will not. So, for glory and a tip of the glass next time we see you.

October 3, 2011

Awards, Accolades, Explanations and Announcements

Awards & Accolades
Back from Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and there's much to talk about. If you want a local's first hand account go check out Patrick here. For a recap of the Arizona winners go here and here. All of the 2011 winners deserve congratulation, but we should remember that last year Arizona breweries racked up 6 medals including 3 golds as compared to this year's 4 overall and 1 gold.

I'd like to talk about some of the Arizona beers that won and a little about strategy. After all, this is a competition!

The first question I was asked by everyone was if I had ever had SanTan's Mr Pineapple Wheat, winner of a silver in the Fruit Wheat category. The answer is no. I'm not aware of anyone that has, although I haven't asked my cadre of SanTan regulars yet. An entry for the beer was created on September 1st on Untapped yet there are no check-ins for it.  It does not have an entry at Beer Advocate or Rate Beer. The BA clearly states that that each entry must be commercially available as named:
All beer brands entered in the Great American Beer Festival must be commercially available exactly as entered by brand name. “Commercially available” means the entered brand has been available for sale at retail under the exact brand name as entered on the GABF entry registration form prior to the competition entry registration deadline. Source: GABF
So what gives? Was there some funny business??? No. I don't believe so. SanTan is known for its small batch experimentation using a homebrewer's set up. This is all speculation on my part, but a batch or two may have been made by the brewery in anticipation of Maui Brewing's arrival after the Ameri'CAN' Beer Festival in Chandler at the end of May. In any case, there is this photo taken by iTappd on June 18th which was the same day as the SanTan Luau. Case Closed.

When I tweeted that Four Peaks has won a bronze for Hop Knot, several people wanted to know who won the IPA category and who had a better IPA than Hop Knot? Well, technically all 176 American-style IPA entries. The winners of that category were:

Category: 51 American-Style India Pale Ale – 176 Entries
  • Gold: Elevated IPA, La Cumbre Brewing Co., Albuquerque, NM
  • Silver: Deviant Dale’s, Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, CO
  • Bronze: Head Hunter IPA, Fat Head’s Brewery, North Olmsted, OH

Hop Knot won the bronze in a different category, American-style Strong Pale Ale.

Category: 50 American-Style Strong Pale Ale – 103 Entries
  • Gold: Pako’s Eye P.A., Snake River Brewing, Jackson, WY
  • Silver: AleSmith IPA, AleSmith Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
  • Bronze: Hop Knot, Four Peaks Brewing Co., Tempe, AZ

So even though Hop Knot wears an IPA banner on every can, it's not an IPA as seen in the eyes of Brewers Association and the brewers at Four Peaks wisely decided to enter it into the proper category. Not an IPA you say?

If we look at the specs for Hop Knot we the following:

  • Hop Knot's Color (SRM) is 8 which fits into both styles as they have the parameters 6-14 SRM.
  • In terms of bitterness, Hop Knot has 47 IBUs. Its not bitter enough for the IPA category which requires 50-70 IBUs but it tends toward the higher side of the scale for American Strong Pale which ranges from 40-50 IBUs. 
  • The alcohol range measured in ABV for American Strong Pale is 5.5% to 6.3% whereas for an IPA it spans 6.3% to 7.5%. Hop Knot is 6.7% which technically places it in the IPA range but not by much.
I'm making a broad generalization here, but Hop Knot fits the American Strong Pale Ale category strategically better because it hits the high end of the IBU range and it also exceeds the alcohol percent (imperceptibly so). It's common for brewers to hit either the high end of specs or the low ends to stand out from the crowd. With an American-style, you always want to hit the high side. That's the prevailing theory.

I had the La Cumbre Elevated IPA, Dale's Deviant (brewery only, not in a can) and the Alesmith at the GABF. I don't prefer one over the other over Hop Knot given that I'm not judging it to style. The Alesmith is available in Phoenix, so a side-by-side comparison would be a fun exercise.

There is a good deal of hype surrounding Four Peaks Pumpkin Porter. It's a popular beer that despite the breweries efforts, sells out much quicker than everyone would like. Just take a moment and consider that BJs Brewhouse in Chandler took a silver at GABF for its Pumpkin beer. It's a good time to head over to the brewery and give brewers Derek Osborne and Jeff Huss a tip of the pint.

I'm not sure how many of you are aware that Draft Magazine is headquartered here in Phoenix. Chris Staten, Draft Beer Editor, and a number of anonymous ASH members judge the beers at the back of each issue. Chris writes a nice post GABF piece on re-focusing the palate with a comfortable local (and solid) choice.

Speaking of ASH, the homebrewing organization drew a few notices from the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix New Times. ASH was named Best Underground Beer Society and was among the Top Ten Oktoberfests in Arizona. Some of the copy in those two links are not accurate, so please check out the ASH Oktoberfest information from the source.

Finally, I've written a column for Food and Flourish Magazine called, "Hi Wine, Beer Here". It was written for   an audience that values it's food flourish as you can well imagine. I think you'll recognize some of the elements I've been harping about-- for most of you this is well traveled ground. Share it if it speaks to someone you know. It's on digital page 36, if the flash technology is supported by your computing rig. Otherwise, the html version should suffice.

September 28, 2011

And an Urbanist Shall Lead Us

This is not the beer culture we were looking for .
As someone studying the whys and what-fors of beer culture, I've been doing some catch up work on reading some of my favorite Phoenix urban bloggers. I've often said that our beer culture's development corresponds to the same reasons why there is a Walgreens, Water Store and Nail Salon every 2 square miles in the newest "master planned" developments. The conveyor belt of strip malls and Power Centers is a reflection of our preference for the automobile. As a commuter city that favors the personal mobility of the car, we've made some obvious trade offs when it comes to enjoying beer. The most obvious negotiation is the tap-dancing that we do when we take up the wheel after enjoying alcoholic beverages.

Car favoritism influences our disconnected beer culture in subtle yet profound ways too. We used to have dozens of warehouses in the sports districts that now are home to US Airways Center and the Chase Ballpark. Phoenix was a way station for the fruits and vegetables that made their way from California's Imperial Valley and Yuma's Lettuce Belt on their journey east. With the gradual move from rail cars to trucks as the preferred means of moving produce and with the mistaken belief that the sports complexes needed more car parking, warehouses gave way to parking lots.

There's famously no parking at Wrigley, Fenway or Madison Square Garden and that doesn't seem to stop fans. There is certainly much more before and after game nightlife at those places then there is outside of Chase Ballpark. A downtown Phoenix property owner can turn over a great deal of cash in the short term on a parking lot at the expense of perhaps incubating some mixed use businesses in a funky warehouse. Restaurants, bars, breweries, retail all put a high value on such spaces, but we have too few of them here. Have you noticed the extreme efficiency the city undertakes to whisk you and your car out of downtown after a game?

There are people here in the Valley that are devoted to resisting such things. They know about walkable distances, curbscape, and the effect parking lots have on disrupting the connective tissue of a community. While it may be obvious that they understand buildings and their uses, they are as interested in the spaces in between buildings. They have an eye for detail and they understand the subtle and nuanced things that make our lives better and our experiences richer.

I was struck by a post by Taz Loomins on Blooming Rock called The Life Thats' Passing Phoenix By As We Sit In Our Cars. I've met Taz. She does not drink alcohol, let alone craft beer (and I hope that she won't be offended by the context) but she so vividly describes the deficit driving in the city creates when compared to walking.
In contrast to the exciting energy of walking in the city, I noticed this morning how isolated I felt in my car.  I was in the very same spot as when I was walking, but my experience of the city was completley different.  In fact, I hardly experienced the city at all, other than the necessary awareness of my surroundings required to drive safely.  The sounds of the city were completely silenced within  my sealed, air-conditioned vehicle.  I could not smell the city smells or hear the sounds of cars outside.  It felt as if I were in a bubble, as if I were by myself, when in fact I was sharing the road with many other people, who I’m sure, also felt as if they were alone.
This is the kind of experiential deficit that happens in Phoenix because we are such a car-centric city.  The visceral experience of walking in the city is a world that seems unavailable to us Phoenicians as we’ve become so addicted to the convenience of cars.  Today, such a hot summer day, may not be the best day for a post like this.  But the heat is just an excuse that we use to forgo the connective experience of city walking in order to lead convenient, easy, anonymous lives in our cars.
I sought beer culture because I felt that same experiential deficit. You are reading this because you know of the richer experience that I am talking about and you sometimes feel for people that have yet to even understand what they are missing. If you are a lover of  good beer you have to be a fan of walking a city and engaging all of your senses. If you are one of my urban friends, think about walking into a bustling vibrant pub and selecting the least objectionable beer they offer. You've just selected the automobile of beers and you are driving away from the full sensory engagement that beer can offer you.

Please read what Taz has to say. She asks that you perform an exercise in walking in the city. You could easily take one of her points into consideration when thinking about beer or urban living, "Take note of what’s missing."

Here are just a few blogs that I read that inform my opinions on Phoenix life. There are many others. I hope that some of them will chime in and correct any mistakes I've made.

If you're coming at this blog from the beer side, I hope you take the time to check some of them out. If you're an urban enthusiast, please take some time to introduce yourself to us, let us know who to read and I'll be happy to tip a beer with you.

September 20, 2011

ASH: My 7 Point Plan for Beer Happiness.

It will cost you either $30 or $70 if you decide to have a World Class 3 course meal tonight.
If you are any kind of craft beer enthusiast, you will come out ahead and help support the local AZ beer scene.
  1. Join ASH $30 tonight via Paypal.
  2. Arrive early to the September General meeting. We'll be there at 5:30.
  3. Get ASH card printed. Head a few doors down to AZ Wines and get an immediate 10% discount. Buy beers or if you are a homebrewer, bring beer. Other discounts here
  4. Optional. Take advantage of AZ Restaurant Week at Atlas Bistro ($40).
  5. First Course Choice of: 
    Porcini Gnocchi, Chanterelles, Black Garlic, Cauliflower, B.M.R. Chevre  
    Smoked Salmon, Crispy Potatoes, “Everything Bagel” Cream Cheese 
    Corned Beef Tongue, Housemade Sauerkraut, Pommes Frites 
    Sweet Chile Veal Sweetbreads, Creamed Corn, Cilantro, Sesame
    Second Course Choice of:  
    Head Lettuce, B.M.R. Feta, RazzCherries, Pecans, Sherry Vinegar 
    Baby Romaine, Rainbow Valley Fried Egg, Anchovies, Capers, Raisins
    Third Course Choice of:  
    Viking Village Scallops, Mussels, Italian Sausage & White Bean Broth 
    Niman Flank Steak, Red Fingerlings, Toasted Almonds, Pepperonata 
    Pork Porterhouse, Yams, Butternut, Spinach, Honey Ginger Aioli 
  6. Head back to the meeting for speaker, Robert Berkner of North Mountain Brewing. Find out about the next Phoenix brewery
  7. ????
  8. Profit. You have your Ticket for the Oct 22nd ASH Oktoberfest! The best all inclusive fest in AZ. BBQ, Bands and Beer all part of the membership.
Disclaimer. I serve on the Arizona Society of Homebrewers Board. 

September 16, 2011

Papago Hopageddon - Sept 17

It's not a big secret, but we'd like to mention Papago Brewing's Hopageddon's tap list. Hopageddon begins Saturday, September 17th at Noon and runs until close. There is no telling when your favorite might be on. Some of the kegs are slims, so they will go quicker.

Of local note is Phoenix Ale Brewery's debut Camelback IPA, Papago's Red Menace--their GABF Pro AM beer and my personal favorite, the AZ Brewers Guild Motley Brew RYEPA.

AZ locals bolded.

  • CASKS-Odell Dry Hopped IPA- Port Mongo 
  • Redstone Nectar of Hops Mead
  • Epic Hopulent 
  • Troubador Magma 
  • BJ's IPL 
  • Breckenridge 471 
  • Bear Republic Racer 5 
  • Rogue I2PA 
  • ODell Myrcenary 
  • Sierra Nevada Longstem (rosehips and lavender)
  • Lumberyard Black IPA 
  • Bells Two Hearted 
  • Squatters Hop Rising 
  • Moylans Hopsickle 
  • Stone 15th Anniversary 
  • Thunder Canyon Big Red Vibe 
  • Great Divide 17th Anniversary Oak Aged IPA 
  • He'Brew Lenny’s RIPA 
  • Ballast Point Sculpin 
  • Bear Republic Mach 10 
  • Four Peaks Hop Knot 
  • San Tan Nitro IPA
  • Stone Double Dry Hopped Ruination 
  • AZ Brewers Guild Motley Brew RYEPA 
  • Dogfish 120 
  • SanTan Count Hopula 
  • Ballest Point Habanero Sculpin 
  • Ska Modus
  • Port Brewing Mongo 
  • Green Flash West Coast 
  • Bridgeport Hop Harvest (fresh hop) 
  • Deschutes Horse Ridge IPA 
  • New Belgium Belgo
  • Phoenix Ale Camelback IPA 
  • Papago Double Red Hop Tamale
  • Papago Red Menace
  • Firestone Double Jack 
  • Lagunitas Maximus 
  • Lagunitas Hop Stoopid 

September 14, 2011

Brewery and Valley Re-defined by the AZ Republic.

From the Arizona Republic comes a list of Beer Breweries in Arizona. Written--or perhaps aggregated is a better word--on September 9th the list begins with this confusing intro paragraph:
"Whether you'd like to try out the newest microbrew or enjoy an old-fashion handcrafted ale, these Valley breweries are sure to make any beer lover happy."
It's confusing because it kicks off with Barley Brothers located 188 miles from everyone's definition of the Valley. Most of the time lists about beer are notable for their omissions. This time around The Republic added a few places that never received a bag of grain nor tossed a hop into the boil.

The list:
  • Barley Bros. Brewery
  • Barrio Brewing Co.
  • Beaver Street Brewery
  • BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse
  • D'Arcy McGees
  • Flagstaff Brewing Co.
  • Four Peaks Brewing Co.
  • Gentle Ben's Brewing Co.
  • Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant
  • Mudshark Brewing Co.
  • Nimbus Brewing Co.
  • Oak Creek Brewery and Grill
  • Oak Creek Brewing Co.
  • Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Co.
  • Old World Brewery
  • Papago Brewing Co.
  • Pinnacle Peak Patio
  • Prescott Brewing Co.
  • Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery
  • SanTan Brewing Co.
  • Silver Spur Saloon
  • SunUp Brewhouse
  • The Keg Steakhouse and Bar
  • Thunder Canyon Brewery
So just how many problems can you find with this list?

Answers after the jump.

September 12, 2011

Our Beer Ohrwurm - Make it stop.

I'm sorry to put this Ohrwurm in your head this Monday afternoon, but I think it's the only way to remove this insidious word from our beer vocabulary. If you hit the main page then you can avoid some pain by not taking the jump. If you got the direct link, prepare thyself for some 80's self-importance.

September 7, 2011

Where in the Phoenix Beer World?

Do you know where in the beer world this photo was taken?
How does it relate to Arizona beer?

Blurred for Challenge
The concept is simple. We post a picture that is relevant to the Phoenix beer scene and you try and identify it. Sometimes there will be a larger story involved, but often there will not. So, for glory and a tip of the glass next time we see you.

Answer after the jump.

September 1, 2011

Are Beer Blogs important? Part 2

Yesterday, I posted the thoughts that beer blogs aren't very important in the grand scheme of things, but beer blogs are useful. Beer blogs, of course, tell us about events, trends, new beers and the happenings of area breweries. Blogs can also tell us about the health and vitality of the larger beer culture. I argued that that there are several quality beer blogs in Portland and their Wikio rankings suggest that they are highly influential. I maintained that the PDX bloggers interact, collaborate and impact one another much in the same way that other actors in the larger beer community do. Portland's beer culture is thriving and interactive and so are it's bloggers. Blogs reveal us. If you have some time, please check it out.

In June, Andy Ingram asked me what I thought of the beer culture here. Among my answers was that Phoenix was too spread out. Since we're dealing with an intoxicant, the most ideal situation to enjoy beer is have walkable neighborhoods with a good mix of beer bars and restaurants around breweries and brewpubs.  In cities of 1 million or more, Phoenix ranks among the worst in walkability. Though Tempe fares better than Phoenix with walkable streets, likely few of us has walked to Four Peaks, Sleepy Dog and surrounding bars and restaurants. Each of us probably has a dozen favorite places to enjoy beer, but each of them is separated by a  15 to 20 minute drive. Accessibility is a problem.

As Andy further suggests, because Arizonans come from many other places and since we have access to a dizzying amount of great beers from Colorado, California and Europe our first beer choices aren't always local. It's a local disconnect. All the focus on somewhere else doesn't really further the conversation of where we are.

Our local award winning beers and characterful breweries don't get the love sometimes. Who doesn't like drinking a Hopsquatch in an open air mission style dairy? Who doesn't marvel at the larger than life German brewer that squeezes into the tiny Sun Up Brewery to make delicate English cask ales? A brewer working out of a converted bank, spearheads a spectacular Canned Beer festival-- Hell yes! Papago, arguably one of the best beer bars in the world with the likes of Flanny's, Taste of Tops and Hungry Monk nipping at its heels... we got that! A 28 tap grocery store? Yep!

In short, while we do have several things to celebrate here, our beer culture seems incomplete and disconnected. The areas of success don't seem to have a spillover effect. We've also had a fair number of beer endeavors start and end. Stan Hieronymus wrote about our beer scene at the close of 1999. Bandersnatch, Rio Salado, Copper Canyon, The Timber Wolf... it's sad to see how many breweries and beer bars have gone, but that is our lot.

If you're still with me, here's how our beer blogs in Phoenix reveal us. I can't claim that I've done an exhaustive search, however, if you are a regular Phoenix beer blogger and I've missed you, then you've done a horrible job at getting your message out. Drop us a line because we intend to create some networking opportunities.

There are several people writing great stuff here. No two ways about it. A central issue is accessibility and that problem seems to surround writers that work with print media. Beer PHXation frequently references Andy Ingram's Beer Buzz hosted on AZCentral. I'd refer you to a collection of his posts, but it doesn't exist. AZCentral does not have a landing page for all of his posts nor does it have a RSS feed. One has to search all of his posts and then select from a google listing of posts that are presented in no particular order. Similarly, Cicerone Chuck Noll of World Class Beverages writes for Zane Lamprey's, but there is no home for his content and no RSS feed. James Swann, the energetic beer monger at Whole Foods Chandler writes a print column for AZ Weekly, but there is no web copy. James' work will soon be appearing on Jess Harter's Mouth by Southwest. Jess writes about beer occasionally, so we look forward to this addition. Zachary Fowl (also a Cicerone) writes a Beer Review column for the New Times blog Chow Bella. To read his post,  you have to decide if you want only his beer review columns or all columns written by him or just beer by all Chow Bella writers. I am not making this stuff up.

Kicking off the "citizen" beer bloggers are The Brew Bros. It's a Chicago based national site with 4 Arizona writers and writers in other parts of the country. The Brew Bros focus is "attending events, sampling new brews, interviewing brewmasters, touring breweries and brewpubs and maybe even hosting ... events." If you're looking for Arizona content, it's in there, but it's all but impossible to navigate for local content. Much to my dismay, the writer's bios have been dropped making it hard for someone new to find the Arizona writers. Found it. For the Arizona content, you'll want to follow Patrick, Justin, Kenny and Alyssa. You're also going to get regional beer reviews and some travel pieces. Alyssa's content is mirrored on her Drink Better Beer Blog, a mostly local event and beer review blog and Patrick has just started a beer blog called AZBrewBro.

We're aware of about a dozen blogs that were started within the last year but have not posted anything since March of this year. There are no reliable local beer event based blogs. The most frequent beer blog topic is beer reviews. Reviews are almost a commodity since there is almost no criticism. A bright point, however are beer reviews by Alyssa and Zachary Fowle. They are notable in that they write a balance of praise and criticism.

Looking at individual posts, we see some great things, but there isn't a beer blogging community here yet. We don't often enough comment on or reference other local blogs. Carrying through with the analogy, we are doing things in isolation, we have accessibility problems, we don't give local issues enough attention and we lack walkable (readable) nodes.

There is, of course, this blog going on year 2. (We are approaching a milestone wherein many blogs cease without warning!) We write almost 100% locally focused pieces on beer culture, brewery & industry news, trends and analysis. We celebrate and admonish. We feel that we are writing the best beer blog in the Valley. We say with this with some pride and plenty of regret since we have not built a community.

You've read this. We've found each other. Let's build a community.

August 30, 2011

Are Beer Blogs important? Part 1

The byline to Jeff Alworth's Beervana blog reads, "Blogs will save us". Coincidentally, Jeff writes one of the highest ranked beer blogs in one the country if you follow such things as Wikio rankings. What sort of statement is Mr Alworth trying to make about his blog, Portland and beer blogging in general?

It turns out that the byline is the result of a jab from one of his friends-- one that Jeff has turned into a code of grounding self-deprecation. He related a corrolary of the code to a hotel conference room full of writers at the Beer Bloggers Conferernce in Portland a week ago, "A Beer Blog eh," imitating his friend's skepticism with writing about beer online, "They don't give those out to just anyone." I'm a little bit late to the game to talk about beer blogger naval gazing as some of the top beer writers have already done. None of those writers is taking the position that the Wikio rankings or even that the avocation/vocation of writing about beer is truly "important". I won't either. I will instead argue that the number of regularly well written blogs (and the haphazard inconsistent ones) coming from a local area mirror the larger beer story.

Blogs will reveal us.

If you're not familiar with Portland's beer culture, here's an unbiased overview from the Chicago Tribune. Depending on how you do the math and define the metro area, you're looking at 28 or 50 breweries. Let's not look solely at the magnitude of breweries, there are certainly interesting legal, economic and infrastructural reasons for this, but that's another post. Instead, we'll look at the way that Portland works as a community that supports beer. Portland is successful because each of the breweries, bars, writers, bloggers, restaurants, musicians and other community stakeholders work together. They plan, improvise, communicate and acknowledge each other. They share a degree of dependence and mutual fortune based upon these relationships. How else could they pull off a BenFest, an all fruit beer fest or a session beer fest? How else could they support so many breweries a mere 160 miles from the 5th largest craft brewery in the country? These are endeavors that demand advanced planning, trusted relationships, interaction and communication.

Let's take a look now at the Portland beer blogging landscape. The top 3 Wikio beer rated blogs are Portland based. Two more Portland based blogs round off the top 10. Impressive, but again, let's look at the relationships behind the numbers and how the Wikio rankings work. According to Wikio, rankings are base upon:
...the number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs. Our algorithm accords a greater value to links from blogs placed higher up in the ranking. 
... The weight of any link decreases over time. Also, if a blog always links to the same blog, the weight of these links is decreased.
In other words, the links are a proxy for influence and show the degree of communication between those bloggers with other bloggers through internal links. It's difficult for us to know if PDX bloggers link primarily among themselves, but that seems to be a logical connection to make. If you've read The New School, Beervana Brewpublic and others, you'd come to the conclusion as I have, that reading those Portland blogs is not unlike doing a PDX pub crawl or walking upon a food and beer paring street festival in the Pearl district.There is a level of integration of ideas that goes beyond the event.  Each blog is interesting on it's own, but each also carries a spirit or vibe that tells you that these writers talk over beers and discuss ideas. The blogs mirror the quality of the beer culture.

We'll take a look at things here in Phoenix in Part 2 but let's get something clear beforehand. I'm not asserting any causation here between blogging and beer culture. Bloggers and Wikio rankings did not create the Portland beer culture. The amazing number of breweries, beers and events certainly give bloggers there more to talk about, but we can't say, either, that it caused a high functioning blogosphere. It hints at some larger co-varying aspect of community that fosters relationships in both worlds.

Tomorrow: A look at Phoenix Beer Blogs.

August 24, 2011

Best Beers in America Available in AZ

Zymurgy released its 2011 Best Beers in America list back in June. It is a nationwide survey of homebrewers choosing their top 20 beers. 1,306 different beers from 433 breweries were represented in the poll. So why do I bring this up now?

When I travel, I'm often asked how the brewing scene is here, such was the case at the 2011 Beer Bloggers Conference in Portland last week. Arizonans consume a number of well brewed beers from places spanning the country as this list demonstrates (beers not available are in red-- my emphasis). By my count 11 or 12 (corrections welcome) American beers aren't available here depending on whether you count the recently departed from our state, Avery Brewing. All of the top imports are available here. There are a number of problems with list like these, which I don't intend to discuss. What I will tell you is that these beers represent a common set of reference points for craft beer drinkers all over the nation. With that premise, I'd argue that Phoenix is fluent in the language of beer.

Before you scan the list for Arizona beer (zero), bear in mind that most of these beers enjoy multi-state distribution and some are very near national distribution. But for perhaps Nimbus A-1 reaching San Diego and possibly the breweries in Havasu crossing state lines, Arizona beer is distributed exclusively in the state. This is famously so in the case of Four Peaks. So it would be rather remarkable for beers with such a limited scope of distribution to have an impact on a list like this. There are exceptions to this such as the Wisconsin-only New Glarus hitting number 16.

We know good beer in Arizona and I think my fellow bloggers were surprised at what we can get and drink here. They were shocked to hear that the best selling local craft was a Scottish style ale, that we recently had summer tappings of DFH 120 and that Papago brews specialty Porters year round. They thought the weather would make us succumb to light lagers at worst or cream ales at best. (I did not relate our deficiency in Witbier, Saison and refreshing wild ales, but we can keep that our secret.)

We speak beer geek here, but they are not familiar with our dialect.

See the list after the jump!