From wilderness to Wilderness

Believe it or not, bottle collecting and breweries are not my only hobby.  I also quite enjoy getting myself out into the wilderness from time to time. No camping or anything, but I do really enjoy a good nature trail. Phoenix presented some definite possibilities.  But, being May, it also presented 104 degree temperatures in the heat of the day.  The only way I was going to get to a nature trail was if I got up pretty damn early and got out there before the heat of the day.  Good thing for me that didn’t really interfere with any of my other Saturday plans.  I wanted to hang out with friends who certainly weren’t dumb enough to go out in the heat or get up early on a Saturday, and I wanted to visit breweries that most definitely weren’t open on a Saturday morning.  So, there was nothing standing between me and heading off you know, to a distant land.  An hour’s drive from downtown Phoenix was the Hieroglyphic Trail.

Hieroglyphic Trail

Up in yonder canyon, at the end of the trail, you can still see petroglyphs left by the Hohokam Indians.  Yup… I know… you don’t need to say it.  Petroglyphs on the Hieroglyphic trail.  Somebody somewhere was confused.

Petroglyphs on the Hieroglyphic Trail

Hieroglyphics Trail 04 #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

I’m used to Florida nature trails that are flat, flat, flat.  Climbing up to the petroglyphs was an interesting challenge.  But, then I got to enjoy the nice down hill walk back.  I was better able to pay attention to the wildlife around me and even spotted a cactus that looked like it had boobies.

Boobie Cactus

I didn’t see much in the way of wildlife (outside of nasty, nasty insects) while I was on the trail.  But, as I was driving away I saw a bunch of cars pulled over to the side of the road gawking at a snake.  They asked if anyone was willing to chase it away so no one would run it over.  I got out to take a picture and it diligently ran away.

Snake in the road

The hour drive to the trail, several hours on the trail, and an hour back to Phoenix.  Somehow, I managed to time things just right to be in brewery land right around 11am when they were all opening up.  But, what is the right brewery to stop at when you’ve spent all morning in the wilderness. Believe it or not, there is a definite correct answer to that question.  It’s Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. exterior

There is a big tree decoration in the center of the main brew pub.

Tree decor in Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.

Beyond that, the wilderness decor is pretty low key.  For the most part, it looks quite a bit like a brew pub.

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. tap room

I had worked out my wilderness mojo for the day, so I was definitely good with seeing brewing equipment instead of boobie cacti and snakes.  There were still lot’s of wilderness themes coming my way in the beer names.

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. brewing equipment

I got myself a Baboquivari Belgian Blonde named for the Baboquivari Peak Wilderness Area. I was getting ready to start asking to interview someone to get more information, when the first of my friends started getting active for the day and asked me to join them for lunch… in 10 minutes.  I weaseled my way into 20 minutes and took the time to get myself a growler of Aravaipa Abbey Dubbel to enjoy later in the hotel.  Before I left, I stopped into the smaller tasting room and discovered that I could have had a much larger selection of bottles and crowlers.

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. tasting (and swag) room

C’est la vie.  I’m really glad I got to squeeze in the trip here, even though it was far too short.

Do you think the owner might like cycling?

All of the research that went into the Phoenix trip is paying off in spades. My own need to get out into the desert to see some petroglyphs combined with the crazy schedules of my friends has resulted in a lot of travel around the Phoenix/Tempe/Scottsdale area.  As I try to fit brewery visits in around everything else, the research list lets me know which of the closest breweries at any given time might be worth a visit.  I went to lunch with a group of friends, shopped for bottles to take back in my checked bags (ask any unfortunate soul that’s been stuck with me when I do this, it takes forever) and I think I have time to squeeze in a brewery before meeting up with friends again for dinner and, of course, another brewery in the evening.  Then again, I have a trunk full of 2 cases of beer and it’s 101 degrees.  I have to really debate as to whether I should take my limited time to return to the hotel with the beer before dinner, or squeeze in the extra brewery and risk ruining the beer in the car.

A quick check of the list and Google Maps shows that the closest brewery with the maximum potential is Pedal Haus Brewery in down town Tempe.  The phrase “down town” can be scary or not depending on how large the area is.  Somehow, I didn’t picture down town Tempe, AZ as being a huge mass of monstrosity buildings that is often accompanied by my least favorite inner-city crap-fest, the lack of parking.  But, despite the general lack of monstrosity buildings, there was no parking to be found out of the streets.  The cheap bastard in me was going to have to suck it up and shell out for a parking garage and then walk to the brewery.  It does make me feel better that the parking garage is cooler than street parking and the beer in the trunk is probably much safer.  But having to walk is not good when I have a very limited amount of time to begin with.  Along with the lack of parking, I’m now envisioning a potential congested down town area brewery with extremely limited space.  In my head I’m picturing a hole in the wall with a small bar, a few tables, and little in the way of decor.  I’ve rarely been so happy to be so wrong.  As I approached Pedal Haus Brewing, the first thing I came across was a little park with some cool rabbit statues.

Rabbit statue park next to Pedal Haus Brewery
Another rabbit statue at the park next to Pedal Haus Brewery

Then when I get to the brewery itself, it’s huge.  There is a domed area out front that I walked through to get to the main building.

Pedal Haus Brewery outside dome #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Domed area outside the main building at Pedal Haus Brewery

And there is a little patio outside decorated with different sized bike wheels.

Pedal Haus Brewery bike wheel patio #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Bike wheel decorations at Pedal Haus Brewery

Inside the brewery is just as impressive.  There are light fixtures all over the place that turned out to be re-purposed brewing equipment.

Brewing equipment light fixtures
More brewing equipment light fixtures

There were plenty of barrels for aging.

Barrels for aging

Brewing equipment.

Brewing equipment

And a bizarre offshoot room with crazy lighting that seemed to have a funky bee hive feel to it.

Funky offshoot room at Pedal Haus Brewery

Let’s take a walk through the place, shall we?

But here’s the best part.  The manager, Michael, sat down with me to answer some questions.  Pedal Haus Brewery has been open for about 2 years and currently operates on a 100 barrel system that is located exclusively at the tap room and restaurant area.  A 100 barrel system is pretty big, but they don’t yet have plans on mass distribution.  They hope to reach that point, but starting up the canning/bottling process is a major expense and they want to be sure they are well prepared.  They chose the down town Tempe area because they like the cultural feel of the area, and because the owner, Julian Wright, is well known as a cyclist in the area. The main style focus for brewing goes to eclectic European styles.

So, the trip was a big win for me.  I got to squeeze in an extra brewery in a busy day, got to experience a place with a truly distinct style, had my million and one questions answered, and walked away with a growler.  Sometimes a little extra effort goes a long way.