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 DrinkingMadeEasy.com, 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.
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.