Just back from Spring Training in Arizona, which is awesome for the baseball. For the beer? Meh. At least at first.
Of course, Arizona is full of mostly Minor League stadiums, so the ballparks themselves wouldn’t boast the kind of sudsy superstars you find at PetCo or AT&T Park. The best those fine beer vendors could do in Arizona was Dos Equis Amber on tap, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in iced-up tall boys. Seriously.
And, while the surrounding area did provide better beers, Arizona was not a hot-bed of brewing wonder.
Four Peaks was the first brewpub on our list. Perhaps the most famous of the Arizona-based labels, their offerings were not terrible. We went to the brewery in Scottsdale or Tempe — seriously, it’s hard to tell one strip mall from another — and maybe the real issue was not the quality of the brewery as a whole, but the quality of their offerings on tap at our location.
By Beer Advocate, their best-rated beers are the Bourbon Barrel Aged Kilt Lifter, Bourgon Barrel Aged Sirius Black, the Sirius Black, and then the Hop Knot IPA. Only the Hop Knot was available to us. While it did the business, the Raj IPA was not worth ‘writing home about’ and none of our crew was taking mental notes for later consumption.
Then came a few bars — one seriously offered Peroni on tap as their ‘craft’ alternative to the Big Beer swills — of which only Crescent Ballroom was memorable for a good reason. They had Odell IPA on tap, which I liked better than anything from Four Peaks. But does Arizona get a ton of credit for one downtown honky-tonk bar with mediocre hamburgers and a decent beer from Colorado on tap? Unsure. I really enjoyed it because I was fresh off a long day at work, but I’m unsure Arizona should get all that much credit.
Just an excellent, excellent beer bar. They had some 30 great beers on tap, just all great stuff from San Diego to Boston. Even better — especially for my sour-loving companion — they had an entire wall of refrigerators with added selection. All of their proprietary beers consistently rate as excellent, and the only difficulty you’ll find is picking which beers you’ll have before your wallet runs dry or your liver conks out.
But yeah, it’s in a strip mall too.
Postnote: I love hiking in Arizona, and my mother lives in Sedona which is beautiful. There are no Spring Training parks in downtown, so I don’t know it that well. But all of the Phoenix I’ve seen traveling to the various ballparks… well, I don’t need to say it again. But of course that doesn’t mean it’s all bad.