Huss Fresh Magic: Wet-Hopped Beer from South Tempe

Zach Fowle
Beer: Fresh Magic
Brewery: Huss Brewing Co.
Style: American-style Pale Ale
ABV: 5.7 percent

A hop picked right off the vine is a beautiful thing -- conical, verdant, wonderfully fragrant.

See how pretty?

But a vast majority of the hops brewers use to make beer don't look like this. While prized for their vivid, green aroma, fresh hops (also known as "wet" hops, since the just-picked cones are about 80 percent moisture) are quite unstable. If baled and shipped along normal channels, they'll quickly develop mold and cheesy off-flavors. So most hop-growers will first dry their hops by circulating hot air through them -- a process known as "kilning" -- which drops the moisture content to around 10 percent and preserves the hops for shipping.

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Bell's Mars: Music-Inspired Beer

Beer: Mars, The Bringer of War
Brewery: Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Style: Imperial India Pale Ale
ABV: 10.1 percent

Optional musical accompaniment to this post. Listen while reading and the review will sound WAY more epic.

Like most artists, brewers draw inspiration for their work from many different sources. Sometimes the spark is found in the people and animals around them; on other occasions, they may be influenced by a particularly delicious dish. For most brewers, however, the most important muse is music.

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Old Bisbee Salut! After Thousands of Beers, This One Is Unique

Zach Fowle
Beer: Salut!
Brewery: Old Bisbee Brewing Co.
Style: ?
ABV: 4.9 percent

Not to be braggadocious, but I drink a lot of beer. Probably more than a reasonable and healthy person should, but that's an intervention I'd rather have later. Through putting together these columns, attending beer festivals, participating in judging sessions and good old-fashioned bar drinking, I've formally reviewed more than a thousand brews and have tasted hundreds more.

But never have I come across something like Old Bisbee Brewing Co.'s Salut. It's low in alcohol. It's sweetish and pleasantly funky. And, oh yeah -- it's almost perfectly clear. How? Why?

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Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin: Fruity Beer Done Right

Beer: Grapefruit Sculpin
Brewery: Ballast Point Brewing Co.
Style: IPA
ABV: 7 percent

There are generally two schools of thought when it comes to beers brewed with fruit: Hooray! and How Dare You? Given the number of examples on shelves crafted to be sickeningly sweet or brewed with more artificial additives than you'll find at Ladies' Night in Scottsdale, the partisanship is understandable. But when the right fruit is chosen -- one that enhances the base beer rather than overpowering it -- beer made with produce can produce some very happy drinkers.

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What's With All The Pumpkin Beer Already?

These are pumpkins. Seem a little out of place, don't they? Know why that is?

Because it's f-ing August.

The term "seasonal creep" has long been used to describe the way Christmas ornaments seem to start tinkling onto store shelves before the Fourth of July fireworks even get cold, but it can just as easily be applied to beer. Spring ales in January; summer brews in March -- overzealous brewers are releasing "seasonals" so far out of season as to render the term meaningless.

No other beer style exemplifies this trend as clearly as pumpkin ales, which have already started appearing on shelves throughout the Valley even though it'll be months until you see an actual pumpkin. Why the premature release?

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Green Flash Ristretto: the Coffee Lover's Beer

Beer: Ristretto Cosmic Black Lager
Brewery: Green Flash Brewing Co.
Style: Schwarzbier
ABV: 8.2 percent

This column is normally directed at beer aficionados, but coffee connoisseurs may also want to pay close attention -- this week's brew is packed with enough espresso flavor that it earned the name Ristretto.

For the un-caffeinated, ristretto is a short shot of espresso with roughly half the amount of water, but the same coffee content as a standard shot. It is to espresso as espresso is to coffee: bolder, fuller, more intense. A pour for coffee purists.

Ristretto gets its coffee flavor from several varieties of roasted malts and a dose of concentrated, cold pressed espresso. Green Flash Brewing Co. developed the brew as part of its new Genius Lab program, which enables employees -- not just brewers -- to work with Brewmaster Chuck Silva to develop new, experimental beers that are introduced at the brewery's San Diego taproom. Once these innovative releases hit the taps, they're often never seen again. Luckily for us, some extra Ristretto made it to Phoenix.

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Stone RuinTen and the Coming Invasion of Germany

Beer: RuinTen IPA
Brewery: Stone Brewing Co.
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 10.8 percent

When I was in college, I spent seven weeks studying German language and culture in the city of Regensburg, located in southern Bavaria. The experience, as those who've studied abroad are required to call such things, was incredible. For 49 days I took in all that Germany had to offer, not the least of which was a probably unhealthy amount of locally brewed beer.

Now, the beers of Deutschland are renowned for their quality -- and I can attest that each pint I had was balanced, flavorful and clean. But German beer can also be painfully homogenous. The selection in most areas I visited consisted of four beers: a light lager, a dark lager, a hefeweizen and a dunkelweizen. It seemed that the while the Reinheitsgebot (the 15-century Bavarian food purity law that states beer can only be made with water, malt, hops and yeast) had influenced the quality and consistency of German breweries, it had also limited their creativity.

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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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