12 Things You Didn't Know About Mother Road Brewing Co.

Zach Fowle
Beer: Open Road
Brewery: Mother Road Brewing Co.
Style: English Summer Ale
ABV: 5.8 percent

Critiquing a beer's appearance, aroma and flavor can tell you much about that particular brew, but little else. No, to truly know a beer, one must travel to the place it was brewed, see the people who made it and learn their stories. How convenient, then, that I was recently invited -- along with several other Valley beer aficionados -- to travel up to Flagstaff on a balmy 85-degree afternoon and tour Mother Road Brewing Co. This job does have its perks.

While poking my head around the brewery, I learned some things about Mother Road you won't find on a beer label. Here, 12 little-known facts about one of Arizona's own.

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Wals Ipe & Sao Francisco: What Makes Brazil Winners Still

Zach Fowle
Something for Braziliians to celebrate.
Beers: Belo Ipe & Belo Sao Francisco
Brewery: Cervejaria Wals
Style: Quadrupel & Dubbel
ABV: 11 percent & 7.5 percent

I'd like to kick this week's review off with a few contrasting images of Brazilians. The first is brought to you by the 7-1 blitzkrieg the German national squad delivered to team Brazil during last week's World Cup semifinals. Behold:

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Papago Oude Zuipers: A Belgium-Brewed Local

Zach Fowle
Beer: Oude Zuipers
Brewery: Papago Brewing Co.
Style: Tripel
ABV: 11 percent

"Daar zun meer oude zuipers dan oude dokters."

Translation: There are more old drunks than old doctors. It's an old Flemish phrase you're likely to find hanging on a sign or printed on a stained glass window in bars and breweries throughout Flanders, Belgium. Travel to the city of Ertvelde, in East Flanders, and you'll find another iteration of Oude Zuipers -- one that has an Arizona connection.

Ron Kloth, owner of Papago Brewing Co. in south Scottsdale, is a frequent traveler to this part of Belgium, and in fact once led tours of the country's breweries for beer-interested tourists. These expeditions always included a stop at Brouwerij Van Steenberge, where well-known ales like Piraat, Augustijn Blonde and Gulden Draak are made. Through these visits, Kloth and Van Steenberge's owner Jef Versele built a friendship -- and, as we know, friendship is best sustained through mutual inebriation. So there the two were, drinking awesome Belgian beers in Gent, when Kloth proposed an idea.

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Xingu Black Beer: Change Your Mind About Dark Beer

Beer: Xingu Black Beer
Brewery: Cervejaria Sul Brasileira
Style: Schwarzbier
ABV: 4.7 percent

I'm not sure how it happened, but somewhere along the line casual beer drinkers got the wrong idea about dark beer. Every day, all across the land, you'll find drinkers turning down black-colored brews because they think these beverages are too heavy or boozy. Misconception abounds.

That's why the presence of soccer on my TV machine this month, though not completely appreciated, is nonetheless appropriate, for I too have a GOOOOOAAAAALLLLL -- changing minds about dark beer. That the beer to do it comes from Brazil -- host of the 2014 World Cup -- is all the more fitting.

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Dragoon Sarcosuchus Does Not Suck

Beer: Sarcosuchus
Brewery: Dragoon Brewing Co.
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 10.5 percent

Hanging on a wall in Dragoon Brewing Co.'s Tucson tap room is a small chalkboard, and on this chalkboard employees have drawn a pair of animals: a hippopotamus and a crocodile. These creatures were drawn out of boredom, but rather they serve a very important purpose: helping the denizens of the tap room determine which one would win a fight to the death.

This animal death match debate has occurred many times before, but never has the debate been so heated. Some staff members are positive the croc's superior jaw strength would lead him to victory; others bring up the fact that hippos regularly kill crocs in the wild. Internet search engines are booted up. Stats are compared. Voices are raised. Tears are shed. Eventually, the deliberative staff comes to one conclusion: The crocodile would win, but only if it was Sarcosuchus -- a reptile the size of a school bus that lived during the Cretaceous period and regularly ate dinosaurs for lunch.

Around the same time this conclusion is reached, Dragoon's new, as-yet-unnamed batch of imperial IPA finishes fermenting. The name they have to give it is obvious upon first sip: Sarcosuchus.

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On Lagunitas IPA and Destination Drinking

Beer: IPA
Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.2 percent

When you work around craft beer, the most common question people ask is, "So, what's your favorite beer?" I'm never able to answer -- I freeze up like I've been stumped at the spelling bee and usually mumble something unintelligible about imperial stouts. To me, it's an impossible question. There are more than 2,700 breweries operating in the U.S. alone, many cranking out dozens of different brands. How can I pick just one?

My buddy Patrick has a better answer. His favorite beer of all time, he says, was the New Belgium Fat Tire he pulled from the still-moving bottling line during a tour of NB's packaging facility. He recalls in detail the moisture-beaded bottle; the cap, placed just seconds before, jumping off the glass lip with a combo pop-hiss; the flavors of the liquid clean and pure as diamonds. I was next to him that day and can testify that no Fat Tire since has tasted as sweet and crisp. It was sublime.

Point being: Where you drink a beer matters. Freshness and atmosphere can impact flavor, or your perception of it, as much as any other outside force. Freshness and atmosphere, however, are controllable.

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Mikkeller, Arizona Wilderness and Mexas Ranger: Denmark in the Desert

Beer: Mexas Ranger
Brewery: Mikkeller
Style: Spiced Beer
ABV: 6.6 percent

You may have heard that Mikkeller, renowned Denmarkian gypsy brewer, is making his way to Arizona this week to cook up a beer in collaboration with the best new brewery in the world. Arizona Wilderness has been discussed at depth in this space before, but we've only very briefly touched on our Danish friend Mikkel, so you may be wondering: how can a brewer from a place so far away and so different from the American Southwest create a beer that maintains AZ Wilderness' dedication to using the ingredients and capturing the flavors of the region?

I have faith. Here's why.

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Coronado Sock Knocker and the Hop Superfriends

Zach Fowle
Beer: Sock Knocker
Brewery: Coronado Brewing Co.
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.5 percent

In this bottle of Coronado Sock Knocker, there are assembled the world's four greatest hop varieties, created from the cosmic legends of the universe (and, you know, hop farmers):

  • Amarillo: a hop discovered growing wild in a Washington vineyard, with the power of orange peel!
  • Centennial: one of three wonder-triplet hops known as the "C" hops, it's also known as "super Cascade" and has the power of citrus!
  • Columbus: AKA Tomahawk, another wonder-triplet, with the power of woody, resinous qualities!
  • Simcoe: a bitingly bitter and aromatic variety released in 2000, with the power of pine and passion fruit!

Their mission: to fight injustice, to right that which is wrong, and to serve all mankind -- with flavor!

If you're missing the reference, that's alright -- you just didn't watch as many cartoons as I did as a kid. You probably had a very happy childhood running around outside and playing with sticks or whatever. Those of us with lazier parents, however, will understand that the preceding intro was lifted from Super Friends, an especially appropriate bit of source material since this week's beer, Coronado Sock Knocker, is brewed with a veritable Justice League of super-hops.

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5 Session IPAs to Try Right Now

In the previous decade, brewers pushed the envelope farther than it had ever gone in terms of alcohol content, barrel-aging and experimental yeast strains -- and beer geeks loved them for it. To peruse a list of the top-rated beers in the world was to see a list of the most intensely flavored and inebriating beer styles that exist: quadrupels; gueuzes; barrel-aged barleywines; imperial stouts; imperial IPAs; imperial anythings. But the craft beer market is still a market -- when shifted too far to one end, corrections must occur. Around 2010, drinkers began realizing that, lovely as they are for a nightcap, 15 percent ABV stouts aged in bourbon barrels are not conducive to many hours of drinking -- and they're shit to sip on the golf course. A gradual shift toward drinkable, low-alcohol beers that still maintained big flavor profiles had begun.

Today, we call these beverages "session beers." The term comes to us from across the pond, where British pubgoers began using it in the 80s to describe beer of low alcohol content (in England, strictly below 4 percent ABV) that would enable a drinker to imbibe multiple pints in an evening without getting stumbling drunk. Though big brews still reign supreme, session beer is becoming more popular in the U.S. thanks to the efforts of tireless beer geeks like Lew Bryson and his Session Beer Project (an "unorganized, unofficial effort to popularize and support the brewing and enjoyment of session beers") as well as major brewers who've begun selling low-alcohol, high-flavor versions of the most popular beer style in the country: IPA.

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Say Hola to Elevation Beer Co. and Its Imperial Horchata Porter, Señorita

Beer: Señorita
Brewery: Elevation Beer Co.
Style: Imperial Porter
ABV: 8.4 percent

In a speech delivered to thousands of attendees at this year's Craft Brewers Conference, Paul Gatza told a story about bad beer. It was at a beer festival a few months earlier, the director of the Brewers Association said, where he had gone out of his way to try newer craft breweries and experienced several stinkers. Most of the new guys just weren't up to snuff, quality-wise. There was, however, one brewery that impressed him: Elevation Beer Co.

Now that brewery is coming to Arizona.

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