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.