Mainstream Microbrews

Sleepy Dog Brewery, Tempe, AZ

Sleepy Dog Brewery, Tempe, AZ

Over a year ago I repented and confessed my beer bigotry. When we left Manhattan I expected to find most of the country awash in “light and refreshingly boring” American pilsners. I’ve since reformed but am still continuously amazed at the quality and variety of beer we find virtually everywhere we go.

When we rode into Tucson, Arizona, I wasn’t really surprised to find nine different local breweries. We’ve come to expect that. But one in a huge shopping mall? That was indeed a first.

After catching a rare movie at the Foothills Mall, we wandered into Thunder Canyon Brewery. In ages past, such a place would likely have served a line-up of similarly tasteless beers with various amounts of added coloring. The “brewery” a simple marketing gimmick designed to lure adults away from the food court.

No longer. Thunder Canyon is a top notch brewer,with a truly surprising depth of offerings. Their taps pour everything from light and fruity wheat beers (Strawberry Lightning) to a thick, black imperial stout (Warhead Stout). They also brew up less common varietals like a smoked Rauchbier (Up in Smoke) and experiment with unusual spiced beers (Ornamental Ale). It’s not the kind of place we expected to find in a shopping mall next to a Dress Barn.

Our challenge these days isn’t to find great brewers; it’s to choose which ones to visit with our limited time and drinking capacity. In Tucson we faced an embarrassment of riches and only had the stamina to visit about one-third of their offerings.

Sadly, many of these great places are too small to bottle and distribute. So if we miss them, we miss the boat. On the bright side, that gives us good reason to return. And you all just one more excuse for that long-overdue road trip.

Bottoms up.

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6 Comments on “Mainstream Microbrews”

  1. P. C. Zick June 19, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    This is something my husband and I enjoy as well on our travels. If you’re ever in the Pittsburgh area, let me know and I’ll point you to some fine microbreweries. We’ve also started brewing our own. IPA, Belgian, Russian Imperial Stout (bottling next week), a summer ale we need to get into bottles this week, and ingredients for an Imperial Belgian and Imperial IPA. We’re all set for the rest of summer and into the holidays, depending on how many tastings we host in our home. I lift my mug to you and your quest!

    • Brian June 19, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

      If we ever get a permanent place again, I’m definitely taking up home brewing. A hobby I can drink is a bit better than drinking as a hobby. LOL.

  2. Brigitte Nioche June 20, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    I enjoyed reading about all these places brewing beer – being German I love beer
    Since I think you live in Manhattan I just want to let you know about an exhibition at the New York Historical Society – ‘Beer in New York’ May 25 – Sept. 2,2012 it is very interesting and even has a Beer Garden where yuo can taste the beer. PROST

    • Brian June 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

      Thanks for the info on the exhibit. We’ll be back to NYC in July and it’s now on our to-do list.

  3. Atari June 24, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    Beer tourism is one of my favourite aspects of traveling. As a self-righteous beer snob, I like to try out the various sampling tours that the American craft brewer has to offer. At the top of my list is Aviator Brewing Company in Farquay Varina, NC. The entire brewing operation is housed in one-half of an airplane hangar barely larger than a two-car garage at a dirt-strip air park outside of Raleigh. The other half is divided between the “tap room” and storage/workspace for a Midget Mustang that the owner is building. Despite the small size of their operation, ABC brews enough to supply several local pubs with plenty of suds!

    • Brian June 25, 2012 at 10:39 am #

      Aviator sounds very familiar but I can’t say for sure that we’ve had it. I know we missed their brewery on our way through NC, but don’t know if we had a pint at a pub. Sounds like we need to get back there and make it official.

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