Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

OK younglings.  We’re on to my last stop for the Phoenix trip.  For my last day of the conference I chose to go to the brewery that was closest to my hotel (walking distance even) because that’s always when I’m pretty shot and don’t feel like going on much of an adventure.  I got in touch with the Phoenix cadre and had those that could make it show up at Mother Bunch Brewing for dinner and drinks.  As I walked up to the brewery, I was not really struck with an overload of impressions one way or the other.

Mother Bunch Brewing exterior

Once inside, it was much of the same.  Apart from the mural featuring a nun, Mother Bunch looks pretty much like a lot of other brew pubs.

Mother Bunch Brewing 1 #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

I know full well that there is a great story behind this brewery. There always is.  You just need to find it. One of the most difficult things for me, as a blogger who is always on travel, is to get access to the right people at breweries to have meaningful conversations. I could call in advance and try to set up interviews. But, I rarely know exactly when I’ll be able to get to a brewery (If, in fact, I can really know if I’ll make it to that brewery at all).  So much of my trips is random adventure seeking on the side as far as brewery visits go.  My paying job always comes first.  Every once in a while, I catch a break and the adventure finds me.  At The Perch Brewery I had a great conversation with a local, regular customer who ended up introducing me to the right person to get me the interview with their head brewer.  At Mother Bunch, my big break came through an avenue I’ve not experienced before.  As I was walking around the brewery taking pictures, a group of people from the conference recognized me and asked just what the hell I was doing.  Once I explained the blog to them (and gave them some coasters), one of them indicated that the unassuming looking woman sitting at the bar happened to be the one of the owners/brewers (Julie Meeker).  He then introduced me to her and she agreed to an interview.  As I expected, there is a lot more to this brewery than you see on the surface.  Check out the interview to hear the full story.

Here are some better pictures of the da Vinci like mural depicting the brewing process.  I was not able to get a great picture of it, but if you stand just the right way, the sight lines from the “grain to glass” on the wall closest to the camera should match up with the sight lines on the pint at the far end of the hall.

Mother Bunch Brewing process of brewing mural
Mother Bunch Brewing process of brewing mural

I also found out (if you can believe it) more interesting information from Julie.  The name Mother Bunch comes from the character of an alewife and storyteller in early chapbooks.  Also, the mural with a nun features Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century nun who was the first person to document the use of hops in beer in Germany.  Mother Bunch is definitely about celebrating the role of women in brewing history and in the present craft beer community. I couldn’t agree more.

Mother Bunch Brewing mural depicting Hildegard of Bingen

So, my last-night-of-travel-fatigue-laid-back brewery visit turned out to be one of the one of the more adventure packed stops on the trip.  I’m glad I was up for it.  I had a great meal with the Phoenix cadre, got a growler of Mother Bunch – Kiss my Kottbusser for the collection, and then walked back to the hotel to crash.

Mother Bunch Brewing growler of Kiss my Kottbusser

Did I miss a meeting?

Have you ever heard of yuzu fruit? I hadn’t. But, it seems it’s a Japanese citrus fruit, similar in flavor to a grapefruit. Why should you or I care? Well, last Saturday I went to my favorite bar/comic book store combination – The Geek Easy to play board games and drink beer (because what better way is there to spend a Saturday?) When I got to the The Geek Easy I did what I always do. I searched through their coolers to find anything I hadn’t had before. The first think I stumbled on was Fugli by Oskar Blues.

Oskar Blues Fugli

I know what ugli fruit is, but yuzu was certainly new.  The beer was refreshing, the games were fun, and the company couldn’t have been better.  Great day.

On the way home I picked up the new Sierra Nevada Beer Camp 12 pack.  On Sunday I had some friends over for a Corgi party.

Corgi Party

We tapped into the Beer Camp 12 pack and guess what we found?

Sierra Nevada and Kiuchi Brewery White IPA with Yuzu

Yup.  A beer brewed with Yuzu.  I laughed, enjoyed the beer and watched the corgis play for a while.  It was a good day.

Then, on Friday, I hit the company bar (yes, my company has a bar, and I have the best employers in the world).  Someone had freshly stocked it with a mixed 12 pack of Sam Adams.  Guess what I see right up in the front of the refrigerator?

Samuel Adams Tropic of Yuzu

I’ve seen trends start quickly in the alcohol industry (hard root beer, sour beers, etc.). But, this is ridiculous.  To come across three beers in one week that have yuzu… somebody had a meeting somewhere to which I was, obviously, not invited.  Why the sudden fascination with yuzu? Was there a brewers party somewhere that it was served?  I really want to know.

This brewery is like a TARDIS

I often come to expect what a brewery will look like based on what I know about it.  My friends in Phoenix wanted to meet up at Goldwater Brewing Co. in downtown Scottsdale and then go somewhere for dinner.  There are some key phrases there that create expectations in my mind.  First, it’s a downtown brewery (downtown real estate tends to be pricey).  Second, it does not have food.  These lead me to believe that Goldwater was going to be a pretty small brewery.  As I pulled up in front of the brewery, these expectation were met with a small storefront space and a small (although really cool) tap room.

Goldwater Brewing Co. exterior
Goldwater Brewing Co. tap room equipment

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying in any way shape or form that a small taproom is a bad thing.  I actually really like the quiet and intimate environment that a small taproom provides.  I was perfectly happy to meet my friends in this great taproom that had a large and interesting variety of beers.  I got myself a pint of the Desert Rose cactus ale and some spicy jalapeño popcorn and then talked to the bartenders about Goldwater Brewing while I waited for my friends to show up.  The Desert Rose cactus ale description on the menu said that the beer was “20 years in the making” and I had to find out just what that meant.  Turns out it was the very first beer that one of the founding brewers made as a home brewer 20 years ago and he had been brewing it ever since.

Eventually, some of my friends arrived and the first thing they asked was “did you see the rest of the place yet”?   I shot the bartender a hurt look that intended to say “why didn’t you tell me there was a rest-of-the-place?” and said to my friends “what rest of the place?” Turns out Goldwater Brewing has three levels and two taprooms!  Let’s take a walk through to see just how big this place is.

I had been hanging out in the main tap room.  Now, we picked up and moved to the second tap room called the Goldmine Basement Tap Room where you can get specialty and barrel aged beers.

Goldwater Brewing Co. Goldmine Basement Tap Room

The basement taproom is really interesting as it was once a shooting range. There are concrete tubes down there where people would practice shooting. Goldwater was even nice enough to leave a target hanging in one of the tubes.

Goldmine Basement Tap Room shooting tube

Now, Goldwater uses these tubes to hold taproom equipment that just happens to fit really well.

Goldmine Basement Tap Room equipment

The cool factor of Goldwater Brewing definitely shot up about 1000% at this point.  And it was pretty high to begin with.

Quick side note.  I learned something on this trip. Know what you’ll find in every pretty much every building in Arizona?  A water cooler.

Arizona mandatory water cooler

I’ve been told that it is illegal to refuse anyone water in the state of Arizona, although I was not able to verify that.  But, you will definitely see water coolers everywhere.

But I digress.  I had a great evening hanging out with a group of my Arizona buddies and walked away with a crowler of Goldwater Brewing 2 Year Anniversary Barley Wine.  This visit was definitely a win.

Arizona beer cadre

Oops!

Sometime you just get lucky.  I don’t want to say where I purchased this beer as a single because I don’t want to get anyone in trouble.  I was going through a local store picking out singles that I don’t have yet for the collection.  Let’s not forget that the whole point of what I’m doing here is about the bottle and can collection after all.  I came across a UFO Sample Batch Fall Seasonal and stuck it in the cart with the rest of the singles, not really giving it much thought.

UFO Sample Batch Fall Seasonal

Once I got it home and started logging in all my new beers, I looked more closely at the label and saw that this particular little little doohickey was not supposed to be sold.

Not for resale!

I tried looking it up on line and I don’t see any information on it yet.  I suppose it’s possible that this just happens to come in the latest UFO sampler pack.   But I don’t think so.  Does anyone have any information on this beer?

Is that a cockatoo in your pocket?

I have done all the legwork to prep for my trip to Phoenix and the big day has finally arrived.  I land at 12:30 pm (Arizona time) and can’t check into the hotel until 4 pm.  What, oh what, am I going to do with my time while I wait?  Fortunately, I’m a man with a plan.  I get my rental car and head straight to the brewery that looked best for getting pictures.  Those that know me know that I am an animal lover.  However, those that really, really know me know that I’m not really a bird person.  I’ve had dogs and cats who’s owners claim to hate everyone just saunter right on up to me and have a grand old time.  Birds, on the other hand, just don’t seem to like me.  Except for cockatoos.  No idea why that particular exception exists.  Parrots and parakeets bite at me.  Cockatoos put their head down and get close to the bars of the cage so I can scratch their neck.  But I digress.  Regardless of my personal attitude towards birds, The Perch Brewery in Chandler, AZ is a definite must see and a place that I had to bring the 360 camera.

Cockatoo at The Perch Brewery
Slew of other birds at The Perch Brewery
Fancy outhouses at The Perch Brewery

Turns out I made a fantastic choice for the first brewery to hit up on my trip.  Not only did they have a great beer selection, they also had some really interesting food choices.  I got the “Pig Wings”  which are beer marinated pork shanks, dry rubbed, fried, and then grilled.  They look like chicken wings and taste incredible.

Pig Wings at The Perch Brewery

But the real treat was still to come.  Even though I came to The Perch to see the wildlife, I found out that they are super serious about being a cutting edge brewery.  I got a chance to speak with one of the brewers who showed me their stone fermenter.  The Perch has the only stone fermenter in Arizona, and there are less than 10 stone fermenters anywhere in the country.  This is going to give The Perch a great opportunity to play around with some really unique flavors.  My only regret is that their first batch wasn’t going to be ready until just after I had to leave Arizona. What a shame.

Stone fermenter at The Perch Brewery

After all that excitement, I scored what I’m always there for.  I got a growler of their Belgian Peach ale to add to the collection.

Perch Brewery growler of Belgian Peach

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.

How to prepare for a trip

I thought it might be nice to show a different side of the process today.  I’m getting ready to take a trip to Phoenix, AZ and that means that I have to do some prep work to figure out which breweries I want to try to get to while I’m there.  Here’s what I do.

Step 1:  Get a list of breweries in the area from BeerAdvocate.  There are 33 breweries listed on this page.  Definitely have to start culling down.  If you look close, 2 of these breweries are Gordon Biersch and one is a BJ’s Brewhouse.  Nothing against these places, but they are national chains and I can visit them anywhere.  They get culled down right away.

Step 2: Go to the website of each of the breweries on this page.  Check out the beer selection and try to cull out places that don’t look like they are either closed or not open yet.  In this case, the very first brewery on the list (Cartel Brewery) comes up with a dead website and is listed as permanently closed on Google Maps.  Better to find this stuff out ahead of time.

Step 3: How does the place come off based on their website?  Do they have a good beer selection?  Do they look like they might have some interesting twist that would make them good to talk about on the blog?  When you look at 30 or so brewery websites, it can get extremely repetitive.  Even I can lose interest after a while.  So, I try to find distinguishing things like odd beer styles or something that makes the brewery stand out.  In this case, there were two notables.  The first is The Perch Brewery.  On the down side, I can’t find any information whatsoever on their website about their beer.  Not a good sign.  But they have a collection of tropical birds that I’m sure will make for an interesting blog post. So they will sit high on the list.  The second place that stands out is Helton Brewing.  First, they have a 1 year anniversary party on a night that I will be in Phoenix. That’s a good sign.  Second, they have a really interesting video on their site that tells me they have a fantastic sense of humor.

Step 4: Does each place serve food?  This is a way for me to sneak in extra brewery trips (or sometimes any brewery trip at all) when I’m on travel.  I tend to travel with other people.  If I have a list of breweries that also serve food, I can suggest them when the group is looking to go to dinner. For this trip, I am traveling alone.  But I’m attending a conference and sometimes a group at the conference will want to go to dinner.  Same trick applies.  Not having food doesn’t take a brewery off the list or count in the rack and stack phase.  It’s just something that I can reference when I need to find a place fast that has food.

Step 5: How far is the brewery from the hotel?  If I’m stuck on a trip without a rental car, this step is critical as I’ll only be able to hit the breweries super close.  However, I will have a car for this trip.  So, it’s more of a lower key decision maker.  Do I want to drive 20 minutes to get to brewery A or 15 minutes to get to brewery B?  In other words, does brewery A looks so much better than brewery B that I’m willing to drive more.

Step 6:  Double check Google Maps. BeerAdvocate is a good site.  But, they aren’t perfect.  Often going to the general area where the hotel is in Google Maps and simply typing in “brewery” will show a few additional breweries that I would otherwise have missed.  I still have to be careful here as I can still find places that don’t look open yet, such as Grand Avenue Brewing Company.

Step 7: Get advice.  In the case of Phoenix, I know a good number of people there and can have them chime in on the list that I’ve made.  They may have insider information that I’m not aware of.

Step 8: Rack and stack.  Time to go through my list and prioritize.  I don’t like to take anything off the list at this point.  Just put them in some sort of order.  This way if I’m (for example) hanging out with people in Scottsdale or Tempe, I can look at what is close by and see what I have on the place in my handy dandy list.

So, what does the actual list look like for Phoenix?  Why, it looks much like this at the moment:

Pearch Brewery – 232 S Wall St, Chandler, AZ 85225
http://perchpubbrewery.com/
26 minutes from hotel – Have food – Have tropical rescue birds! – Interesting styles such as cinnamon honey nut brown and grilled lemon cream ale
Mon-Fri 11am -1am Sat-Sun 9am-1am

Helton Brewing – 2144 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016
http://heltonbrewing.com/
7 minutes from hotel – Have food – 1 year anniversary party May 20 – Funny beer fairy video on website – good selection of beer
Tue-Fri: 3pm-10pm, Sat: 12pm-11pm, Sun: 12pm-8pm, Mon: Closed

Sun Up Brewing Compnay – 330 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85014
https://sunup.beer/
10 minutes from hotel – Have food – Wide selection including interesting names like May The Schwartz Be With you and interesting styles like Barrel Aged Plum Barleywine
Sunday – Thursday 11:00 – 11:00, Friday – Saturday 11:00 – 12:00 midnight

Pedal Haus Brewery – 730 S Mill Ave #102, Tempe, AZ 85281
https://pedalhausbrewery.com/
16 minutes from hotel – Have food – Really interesting beer selection including Japanese style rice lager
Mon-Thu: 11am – 11pm
, Fri-Sat: 11am – 1am, Sun: 11am – 10pm

Wren House Brewing – 2125 N 24th St, Phoenix, AZ 85008
http://www.wrenhousebrewing.com/
6 minutes from hotel – No food, but allow deliveries – Historic building, “scour the earth for recipes”
Fri-Sat: 12pm-11pm, Sun: 12am-9pm, Mon: 4pm-9pm, Tue: 12pm-10pm

Beer Research Institute – 1641 S Stapley Dr, Mesa, AZ 85204
http://www.thebeerresearchinstitute.com/home.html
23 minutes from hotel – Have food – Interesting name, not sure it’s more than just a regular brewery
Fri-Sat: 11am-12am, Sun-Wed: 11am-10pm

Goldwater Brewing Co. – 3608 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
http://www.goldwaterbrewing.com/
18 minutes from hotel – No food – Interesting looking, brewing equipment off to the side of the bar – good selection (have a scotch ale)
Fri – Sat: 12pm – 12am, Sun: 12pm – 8pm, Mon – Tue: 2pm – 10pm

North Mountain Brewing – 522 E Dunlap Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85020
http://www.northmountainbrewing.com/
22 minutes from hotel – Have food – Good selection of beer including belgians and scotttish ales
Fri-Sat: 11am-11pm, Sun: 11am-9pm, Mon-Wed: 3pm-10pm

Arizona Wilderness Brewing – 721 N Arizona Ave, Gilbert, AZ 85233
http://azwbeer.com/
21 minutes from hotel – Have food – Wide range of styles – Hard to tell anything else from website
MON-THURS: 11AM-11PM, FRI-SAT: 11AM-1AM, SUN: 11AM-10PM

Helio Basin Brewing Co. – 3935 E Thomas Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018
http://www.heliobasinbrewing.com/
10 minutes from hotel – Have food – new brewery – featured in beeradvocate, but styles don’t range much
Tue – Thur: 3pm – 11pm, Fri- Sat: 11am – 11pm, Sun: 10am – 9pm, Mon: Closed

McFate Brewing – 1312 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85257
https://mcfatebrewing.com/
13 Minutes from hotel – Have food – Pretty sure I’ve been there before when they were Fate Brewing – Don’t have any growlers or bottles
Sun-Thurs 11am–10pm, Fri-Sat 11am–Midnight

Four Peaks (8th St) – 1340 E 8th St #104, Tempe, AZ 85281
https://www.fourpeaks.com/#/beers/mainstays/0
15 minutes from hotel – Have food
Mon-Thurs : 11AM-Midnight, Fri : 11AM-2AM, Sat : 9AM-2AM, Sun : 9AM-Midnight

Huss Brewing Co. – 5042 N 2nd St, Phoenix, AZ 85012
http://www.hussbrewing.com/taproom/
14 minutes from hotel – apetizery food
Fri-Sat: 12pm-10pm, Sun: 12pm-8pm, Mon-Thur: 3pm-9pm

Mother Bunch Brewing – 825 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006
http://motherbunchbrew.com/index.html
11 minutes from hotel – Have food – reasonable beer selection
Mon-Thurs: 11a – 10p · Fri: 11a – 12a · Sat: 10a – 12a · Sun: 10a – 10p

Papago Brewery – 7107 East McDowell Road, Scottsdale, Arizona 85257
http://papagobrewing.com/
18 minutes from hotel – Have food – Only 2 of their beers on tap, rest is other breweries
Sun-Thur: 12pm – 12am, Fri-Sat: 12pm-2am

Sleepy Dog Brewing – 1920 E University Dr # 104, Tempe, AZ 85281
http://sleepydogbrewing.com/
15 minutes from hotel – Have food – OK beer selection – not a lot of info
Sun-Mon: Closed, Tue-Wed: 4 pm – 11 pm, Fri: 4 pm – 12 am, Sat: 2 pm – 12 am

The Phoenix Ale Brewery – 3002 E Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85034
http://phoenixale.com/
8 minutes from hotel – Not sure if food or not (strange Central Kitchen link on website) – Only 4 beers (IPA, Pale, Hef, Watermelon)
Mon-Sat: 12pm-7pm, Sun: 12pm-6pm

Sonoran Brewing Company – 3002 E Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85034
http://www.sonoranbrewing.com/
8 minutes from hotel – no food – looks like only 2 beers – deliberately nearly no information about anything on their website (like hours of operation or anything useful)
Mon-Sat: 12pm-7pm, Sun: 12pm-6pm

Uncle Bear’s Brewery – web site not working, not sure if operational
17 minutes from hotel

Grand Avenue Brewing Co. – No information on hours of operation, only a nearly empty Facebook page. Think they are not open yet.

Some places were just made for a 360 camera

I’m in Pittsburgh having flown there straight from Queens.  The work is still flowing, but I find myself with an afternoon to myself in which I’m not so tired I can barely think.  This is it!  This is the day to get out to breweries.  Talking to someone at the work site, I hear tell of a church that has been converted to a brewery.  Sounds interesting.  Then, I have a talk with an Uber driver about breweries in the area.  He knows nothing about beer, and even less about why people would visit breweries.  But, he’s heard of a brewery that was converted from a church.  OK.  Now I have to see this place.  It becomes priority numero uno on brewery afternoon in Pittsburgh.  From outside, you wouldn’t even know The Church Brew Works was a brewery without looking at the sign.

The Church Brew Works exterior

When I walk through the doors, I immediately remember architecture from all those times from my youth when I actually went to church.

The Church Brew Works entrance
Stairs leading to upper level seating

Ahhhh, North East Church architecture.  But, then I walked into the main part of the church.  Holy made for a 360 camera Batman!  So much to see here!

OK. I’m calling it. The Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh was specifically designed for 360 pictures. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Wow!  I couldn’t even sit down and get a beer at first.  I had to walk all over this place and get pictures of every nook and cranny.

Brewing equipment at alter of The Church Brew Works
Serving equipment behind bar area at The Church Brew Works
Motorcycle made of bottle caps
Big rock? Fossilized dinosaur poop?
Stuff to buy
Entrance half of The Church Brew Works
Alter half of The Church Brew Workds

Ahhh, but you’re talking to me again as you’re reading.  You’re saying “but, is there more to this place than just pictures?”  Turns out there is.  I just wanted to get the pictures out of the way first as the place was just so visually stunning and photogenic.

I sat down with one of the brewers (Brian) and had a really good discussion about the story behind the brewery.  Of course, my first question had to be “Is the theme based on a highly religious background on the part of the owners?”  Turns out it is not.  The parish was going through a lot of movement and restructuring in the area and the building itself came up for sale.  The owners saw the potential that lead me to walk all over taking pictures before I even sat down for a drink and they leaped at the opportunity.  It really seemed to pay off.  I highly recommend reading the history page of the breweries website as there was a lot of painstaking work that went into the specifics of how this place looks.

Brian also had some interesting perspectives on brewers.  Specifically, he had an observation that many brewers seem to have one of two different training styles.  Many brewers are artists at heart.  Their training is in the art of brewing and they tend to focus on exploration of new and unique styles and flavors.  Then there are the brewers that have a primarily engineering background (like Brian).  They are often chemists at heart and like to focus on perfecting existing styles and flavors.  Brian’s passion is in the flavor that water adds to beer.  The flavor in water comes from stuff that isn’t H2O itself such as minerals.  When he is home brewing in small batches he likes to start with distilled water and then create flavors of water that complement the style of beer he is brewing.  Fascinating!

And, of course, I did manage to get a bottle while I was there.  They had a fantastic Belgian Tripel.

The Church Brew Works 2000 Tripel

If you are ever in Pittsburgh, you NEED to get to this place.  It is quite an experience.

That means what now?

When last we left our intrepid anti-hero, he was living it up with a trip to Queens, NY.  From there I went straight on to Pittsburgh.  I don’t mean that I went home and then flew up to Pittsburgh the next week.  I mean that I had an interesting conversation with the travel agent in which I booked a flight from Orlando to Queens, then from Queens to Pittsburgh and no flight back to Orlando because I wasn’t sure when I would be done working in Pittsburgh.  I’m sure I’m on some sort of government watch list for booking that set of flights.

Anywho… I get to Pittsburgh, I’m tired, and I need dinner.  I want to stay close to the hotel, but I have a rental car (for the first day only) and can’t resist finding a brewery a bit further out.  My research said that my best bet was to go to Heidelberg, PA and check out Insurrection AleWorks.

Insurrection AleWorks

Despite a long walk down a hallway, the actual tap room area is not all that large.

Post from RICOH THETA. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

But, as I’ve mentioned before, the size of a brewery is never indicative of how good they are.  The food at Insurrection was exactly what I typically look for.  A menu full of odd things that I just won’t find anywhere else such as Jamaican Hot Chocolate Habanero wings and a list of cheeses with such oddities as Rattlesnake.  As I would soon find out, the Pittsburgh area was going to be a mecca of interesting foods everywhere I turned.  I was even able to find bizarre and delicious food at an airport sports bar.  I’m sure I gained about 10 lbs on this trip.

But, I’m sure you’re asking in your head (because you’re like that, don’t try to tell me you’re not), what about the beer?  Isn’t this a beer blog?  Well, hold your horses, I’m getting there.  The beer menu had a wide variety of styles and I was able to put together an eclectic flight that I’m sure would make some purists somewhere cry.  But, what caught my eye for my collection was a beer called восстание.  A challenge I often face in collecting is tracking all of the beers in the collection.  In this case, I was wondering how my poor spreadsheet that I’m hoping to turn into a full blown database is going to handle Cyrillic.  Just in case, I ask the server what восстание means in English so that I can enter a backup name.  Turns out it means “insurrection”… you know, the name of the brewery.  Crazy.

So, the collection is one growler stronger, I have beer to drink in the hotel after long shifts of work, and I’ve started a trend of fantastic food.  The trip is definitely off to a good start.

My goodness the thoughts in your head right now.  You know I can hear you bitching already, right?  “But were you able to enter Cyrillic into Excel?”  Yes, crybabies.  I was able to put Cyrillic into Excel.  Now go have a beer and calm down.