Rogue Ales Puts Sriracha in a Beer

Zach Fowle
Beer: Sriracha Hot Stout Beer
Brewery: Rogue Ales & Spirits
Style: Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer
ABV: 5.7 percent

The red chiles grown at Underwood Ranches in Camarillo, California are very important vegetables. Every day, 30 semi trucks packed with peppers journey east to the L.A. suburb of Rosemead and deposit their payloads at Huy Fong Foods. The company, founded in 1980 by Vietnamese refugee David Tran and named after the ship that brought him to America, buys peppers only from Underwood -- no one else. At Huy Fong, the chiles are ground up and combined with garlic, vinegar, sugar, and salt. They're placed inside clear plastic bottles decorated with a rooster and topped with a bright green cap. They become Sriracha.

For a majority of the chiles, this is a noble end. I imagine being the main ingredient in Sriracha, a wildly popular sauce that grows in demand by its owner's estimate about 20 percent every year, is a status that makes the peppers grown at Underwood the envy of chiles worldwide. But for some, the journey does not end on the supermarket shelf. Some lucky bottles of Sriracha are sent northward, to the headquarters of Rogue Ales in Newport, Oregon to become part of a beer.

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Beer Research Institute in Mesa Takes Craft Beer Seriously -- and That's a Good Thing

I had a favorite bartender a while back who, each time I visited, drank more than I did. He was constantly drinking at work. Using tiny sample cups, he'd make his way through the draft lineup about an ounce at a time, swirling and sniffing and tasting each one. One day I finally asked him what he was up to with all the at-work boozing.

"Oh," he said with a smile. "Quality control."

Longtime friends and homebrewing pals Greg Sorrels and Matt Tretheway had a similar joke. Whenever they were out grabbing drinks at a local brewery and their wives would call to ask what they were up to, they'd say they were "conducting research." After their brewing hobby morphed into an actual business, the witty riposte influenced the brewpub's name. The Beer Research Institute was established.

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18 Things I Learned at New Belgium's "Sour Symposium"

Zach Fowle

Last Week, Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Co. held what it dubbed the "Sour Symposium. Hosted at The Yard in Tempe, the $50 session included presentations from Eric Salazar, New Belgium's cellar master, and Lauren Salazar, the brewery's sensory specialist and beer-blender; a sampling of fancy meats and cheeses; and a lesson on blending sour beers, culminating in the opportunity to taste version's of La Folie, a sour red ale, from five different foeders.

That last part may sound like gibberish to the uninitiated, but for the beer geeks in attendance it was the highlight of the event. The sour beers that New Belgium puts into kegs and bottles are actually blends of many different versions of the same base brew that have been fermented in different foeders, or giant oaken barrels, populated by yeast and bacteria that produce sour, funky flavors. Each barrel creates a unique environment for the microflora, and the beers the little critters affect can have wildly different profiles. The chance to see just how different -- and to attempt to blend these base beers into a tasty whole -- was enlightening.

Also eye-opening was the presentation given by the two Salazars, which was filled with secret stories from the brewery, explanations of the process of making a sour beer and more. Here are the best things I learned from them.

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    40 Beers You Need to Try at the Arizona Strong Beer Festival

    Zach Fowle
    Here's the good news: At this year's Arizona Strong Beer Festival, a record number of breweries (140-plus) will be pouring more than 400 different beers, the widest variety that's ever been available at the 15-year-old beer fest. The bad news: a general admission ticket only gets you 40 two-ounce tastings, meaning you need to be pretty picky about which beers you try out. Lucky for you, we've pored over the extensive list of brews available and picked out the 40 you really, really, really need to seek out. Check out our selections and plan accordingly.

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    Scottsdale Beer Co.: Febrewery Continues

    If you missed it last week, we created a new month: Febrewery. Don't let the delightful syntax fool you -- Febrewery is a serious time, made for sincere and open-hearted visitation of the Valley's newest purveyors of beer. For week two, we're taking a quick drive up to the Northeast Valley, just off the 101 and Shea, to Scottsdale Beer Co.

    The unambiguously named brewpub officially opened its doors in late January. With room for about 200, the restaurant floor is an open space, all metal beams and concrete -- "agri-industrial," the owners call the look. A sizable wall of glass separates the brewery from the restaurant; you can actually watch the brewers at their craft as if they were workers in an ant farm.

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    Introducing Febrewery and Blasted Barley Orange Bomb

    Beer: Orange Bomb
    Brewery: Blasted Barley Beer Co.
    Style: Dry Stout
    ABV: 6.45 percent

    At least a half-dozen new breweries have opened up in the Valley in the past six months, and it's time to catch up. This month is no longer February; henceforward, it shall be known as Febrewery: four weeks for visiting new craft breweries in metro Phoenix.

    Our first stop is Blasted Barley Beer Co., a small brewpub that opened in November on Mill Avenue, in a spot that was once home to The Tavern. This is one location that I can be forgiven for not having visited immediately, for while the pub poured plenty of guest beers from its 30-tap setup, it produced none of its own. The first -- and still only -- beer made at Blasted Barley premiered January 8. Its name: Orange Bomb.

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    Alpine Beer Co. Comes to Arizona

    We have entered the age of beer acquisitions -- craft breweries are now buying other craft breweries. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as businesses purchasing or joining forces with competitors is actually a sign of a healthy marketplace. The problem is in perception: When a craft brewery like Portland's 10 Barrel Brewing Co. is bought by a mega-brewer like Anheuser-Busch/InBev, drinkers write them off as sellouts and bemoan the death of the industry. When a craft brewery buys another craft brewery, however...

    If you've driven to San Diego from Phoenix, you've likely passed right by Alpine Beer Co. I won't blame you for missing it; the place is tiny, just a 30-ish seat brewpub next to a small brewery tucked between trees on a mountain road. But the operation's size belies its impact -- Alpine makes some of the best hop-focused beers in the country. The brewery was founded in 1999 by homebrewer and career firefighter Pat McIlhenney and existed for three years as a contract operation, with beers made back down at sea level by AleSmith Brewing Co. in San Diego. The facility in Alpine, which opened its doors in fall 2002, today employs 20 folks and produces around 3,000 barrels of beer every year.

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    Dogfish Head Raison D'Extra Returns After 8-year Hiatus

    Beer: Raison D'Extra
    Brewery: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
    Style: Belgian Dark Strong Ale
    ABV: 18 percent

    Dogfish Head Craft Brewery -- The Only Thing You Know About Delaware™ -- is perhaps best-known for its incredibly boozy imperial IPA/barleywine, 120 Minute IPA. The strong, celebrated ale is based on the brewery's flagship IPA, 60 Minute, and undergoes the same continuous hopping process. But try the two brews side by side and their resemblance is very slight. One's brightly hopped, crisp, citrusy; one's syrup-thick and sweet as honey.

    The relationship between Dogfish Head's Raison D'Etre, a regular-release Belgian brown ale, and Raison D'Extra, is very similar. Think of D'Extra as the 120 Minute to D'Etre's 60 -- it's bigger, bolder, boozier and nothing like its little brother.

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    Why You Can't Buy the Beers You Want in Arizona

    You can't get Pliny the Elder in Phoenix. Let's just begin with that truism, since it'll be far easier to explain why not if you aren't spending this whole article wondering about the local availability of the country's most sought-after beer. Ditto The Alchemist and their double IPA, Heady Topper. And anything from Hill Farmstead, Jester King, Kuhnhenn, Surly, Three Floyds or Cigar City. You won't find any beers from any of these breweries for sale in Arizona. Not legally, anyway.

    The reason has to do with the Three-Tier System, part of the law governing the sale and distribution of alcohol in the U.S. The regulation was put in place in 1933 as a portion of the 21st Amendment -- the one that repealed Prohibition.

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    Chow Bella's 10 Best Beers of 2014

    In revisiting all the beers I drank and reviewed in this space over the past year, I realized something: we live in a golden age of beer. In 2014, the number of breweries operating in the U.S. topped 3,000 -- a threshold that hasn't been reached since the 1870s. Some of those new spots opened right here in the Valley: Dubina Brewing Co. in Glendale; Mother Bunch Brewing in Phoenix; Peoria Artisan Brewery in Litchfield Park; The Beer Research Institute in Mesa. Established breweries from across the country, recognizing the growing market for craft beer in Arizona, added our state to their distribution networks, allowing many drinkers their first taste of Founders Brewing Co., Mike Hess Brewing Co., Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, Elevation Beer Co., Lakefront Brewery and Southampton Publick House, among others. As consumers in Arizona, we're spoiled with choice. There are more world-class beers available here than ever before.

    You would think, then, that choosing favorites from this surfeit of really good beer would be difficult -- and it was. But even among the big-league brews I tend to write about, there were standouts. Some were memorable because they exemplified some aspect of this industry I love; some deftly showcased an exciting new brewery; some simply tasted really, really good. These 10 beers epitomize 2014: the best beer year yet.

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