Tag Archives: craft beer

The New Brewery on the Block: Wanderlust

Jay with Wanderlust brew master Nathan Friedman

Jay with Wanderlust brew master Nathan Friedman

Yes we have not visited and written about a brewery in a long while. It’s not that we have not been going to breweries… they just don’t seem blog worthy when they’re in your backyard. And truth be told we have a lot of local breweries: Beaver Street, Flag Brew, Cosmic, Mother Road, Lumberyard and Mogollon. They even put out some good beer.
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Thankfully, Wanderlust has come to us to solve that problem of not having something new to blog about.

Last Saturday was a long anticipated event for Flagstaff beer lovers. The grand opening of Wanderlust. Wanderlust is a little different, their emphasis is on distribution. They do not have and have no interest in getting a kitchen. They are a one man show and the ring leader is  Nathan Friedman. The brew master Nathan is a long time home brewer taking the plunge and going professional. His specialty is Belgian beers. I suspect this is not only because he is good at them but is also what he likes to drink.
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I had one major fear for the kick off of Wanderlust – running out of beer. Sure it sounds crazy, but this is a crazy town and running out of one or more beers is standard fare for this town. Wanderlust is the smallest of the Flagstaff breweries, so the fear was even more real.

Sharon and I had the Belgian Pale ale and the Oatmeal Stout as well as the Local Farmhouse. The Belgian Pale Ale was a stand out for me. I have had a few different Belgian IPAs that all tend to be over flavored with different very strong flavors competing for dominance. This beer was flavorful, unique, well balanced and easy to drink, well at least for those of us who like hops.  We got our growler filled with the Belgian Pale Ale for $12.
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The Farmhouse is smooth, not too dark and has lots of subtle flavors that suggest it’s more mild than it really is. It hides a 7.5% ABV punch.

I look forward for good things to come from Wanderlust.

Made in the Shade Beer Festival

This weekend was the 20th Annual Made in the Shade Beer Tasting Festival. The alcohol fueled shenanigans are actually for a good cause. This festival is one of three in the state that raise money for Sun Sounds of Arizona, who provide access to information to people who cannot read print because of a disability such as low vision. I had a few volunteer roles at the festival, managing the Facebook page, assisting with the brewers breakfast, and MCing the costume contest. I also donated a framed photo for the silent auction. The highlight was helping with the brewers breakfast. I made chair covers out of plastic tablecloths (too much reading of wedding blogs) and worked with April to create fabulous fruit trays. It was also fun to meet the brewers in a casual environment.

Here are some photos from the festival:
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Made in the Shade Beer Festival

Some of the folks at the 2007 Festival

In two months, the 20th Annual Made in the Shade Beer Tasting Festival will come to the Coconino County Fairgrounds.  The MITS Beer Tasting Festival is the annual fundraising event for Sun Sounds of Arizona.  When I moved to Flagstaff in 2006 I got a job as the Marketing and Outreach Coordinator for Sun Sounds.  The manage a radio station that broadcast news and information for people who can not read because of a disability (such as vision loss).  It was Sun Sounds vision statement, “the inability to read print will no longer be considered a disabling condition” that inspired me to promote their services.  I thought of a disability like vision loss as being something that would permanently close a lot of doors.  But imagine if through technology and a redesign of how we get news and information, if we could open doors and make vision loss less of a disabling condition.

Where the volunteer readers read at Sun Sounds

Where the volunteer readers read the news at Sun Sounds

All of that is to say that you can feel good about buying your ticket to the Made in the Shade Beer Tasting Festival.  I mean, I know you will feel good at the event tasting a wide variety of brews, but now you can start feeling good before the event as you purchase your ticket!  Speaking of which, tickets are available ONLINE; general admission is $40 and VIP tickets are $80.

This year I am helping out by administering the Made in the Shade Facebook Page.  I hope that you will like the page.  I will be posting updates on which breweries are coming with which beers and of course keeping everyone up to date about all the details of the event.  If you have attended the festival in the past, I encourage you to post a picture to our wall.

Flagstaff Ale Trail

This weekend I had the chance to meet Geoff, one of the creators of the Flagstaff Ale Trail.  As we have written about before, Flagstaff is a craft beer hot spot and there are several breweries and tap houses within an easy walk of each other.  Get a hotel room downtown, acclimate to the high altitude, and you’ll be set for a weekend of tastings!  Well, Jeff capitalized on this unique drinking scene by creating a signature pint glass and paper passport that are sold as a package and then get you discounts at each of the breweries.

I had the chance to hold one of the “silipints” that comes in the passport package.  They are flexible, made of silicon, and unbreakable.  Unbreakable is cool, but it’s even more novel that they bounce (without beer of course)!

The Flagstaff Ale Trail has been hugely successful already.  It feels like it’s always been here.  I think that must be the measure of a great business idea, that people quickly come to recognize the product or service as something that belongs.  How long will it be before Flagstaff can’t imagine itself without an Ale Trail!

When Jay gets home we will have to hit the trail and get our passport stamped.

Oak Creek Brewery, Sedona, AZ

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While riding in Sedona, Sharon and I thought it would be a good idea to visit the local brewery after our ride.  I am glad I didn’t judge this brewery by its bottles.  Going back a few months, I bought Oak Creek Nut Brown Ale in bottles and discovered that their bottling process is not good.  Out of a six pack, two were flat and one tasted terrible. Thankfully the beer fresh out of the tap at the brewery is nothing like that experience.

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Sharon really enjoyed trying there winter warmer which I also found tasty. It’s yet another high alcohol beer that does not taste boozy. I also enjoyed tasting their IPA, which was a great example of a beer conforming to a style well.

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In the picture above I am enjoying the porter.  This porter had great dark roast flavor with a strong coffee taste.  Of course in the end we filled the growler with the crowd pleasing beer that put this brewery on the map, the Nut Brown Ale (pictured above in the glass on the table).  It’s really terrific and I am so glad I didn’t let a few bad bottles put me off of it.  (Yes, the bad bottle incidents happened with more than one six pack from more than one store).  If you get the chance to have this beer out of a keg don’t miss it. I will still pass on bottles however.

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The Nut Brown Ale from our growler was rich, smooth and offered a complex flavor.

Colorado Breweries 2 of 2: Western Slope and Salida

On Tuesday we covered the breweries on the Front Range.  Today we turn our attention to the Western Slope of Colorado and the breweries they have to offer.  There’s isn’t as high of a concentration of people or breweries on the Western Slope, but we still managed to find plenty of great beer.

Amicas Pizza and Microbrewery, Salida

Sampler at Amicas

Sampler at Amicas

I really enjoyed our visit here. It would be very hard to go wrong with pizza and beer and this place gets it right.  Delicious pizza and a nice range of beers.  I was a little sad that they could not fill a growler due to some ongoing trouble with equipment.  I wish I could remember all that we sampled as many of them were not the beers listed on their website.  I do remember having a very good stout, a porter, as well as a good IPA.  If you are going through Salida at lunch time, make time for Amicas.

Horsefly, Montrose

A fairly new brewery, Horsefly is already very popular with the locals.  We joined a couple of guys for drinks after our volunteer work on the pump track and were pleasantly surprised by the flavor of these brews.  Sharon’s favorite was the Agave Brown Ale, in fact, she would rate it in the Top 5 Fall seasonals that we have tried.

Jay preferred the Highland Cycles Scottish Ale and the Extra Stout Ale, both strong flavorful beers that were well balanced and just plain delicious.  Horsefly is a great happy hour spot to grab a drink and catch up with friends.

Palisade, Palisade

Palisade Brewing

Palisade Brewing

Palisade Colorado is known for wine and peaches, but their brewery is notable for having the most well-crafted beers in that part of the state.  While we were there they had a High Desert Imperial Red on tap.  We sat next to the brewmaster and he explained that with that red he was hoping to push the boundaries of what would be considered a red ale.  This beer did exactly that with a great outcome, a very drinkable, strong flavorful ale.

For a beer that everyone can love, I would recommend the Paw Print Porter.  It is a solid porter, well balanced and great for those cooler days.  The brewmaster noted that Dirty Hippie is one of his signature beers.  I though it was unique and appreciated the twist on a lager, but it was not my favorite.  Palisade is primarily a tap room, but they do sell sandwiches which were quite good so it makes for a decent lunch stop.

Sampler at Palisade Brewing

Sampler at Palisade Brewing

Kannah Creek, Grand Junction

Hop plants at Kannah Creek Brewery

Hop plants at Kannah Creek Brewery

Kannah Creek is right by the Mesa State college campus and therefore caters to the college crowd with a large patio and big tvs inside to watch the game.  Those students are lucky to have such a great selection of hand crafted beers to choose from.

They have a few seasonals that they rotate.  We really enjoyed the Strong Ale, which was one of the seasonals on tap at the time.  It was red in color, strong, but not boozy, with a geat balance of malt and hops.

Kannah Creek definitely seems to shine more when it comes to showcasing hops.  They are actually starting to grow their own hops on the patio, which is exciting since their Fresh Hopped ESB was very well done.   The Standing Wave Pale Ale is one of their award-winning beers and it deserves the praise.  If you live locally I would recommend their growlers.  They have the german styles that we have, but they have fancier fluted handles.

Ouray, Ouray

sampler at Ouray Brewery

sampler at Ouray Brewery

swings in Ouray Brewery tap room

swings in Ouray Brewery tap room

I wanted to like the Ouray brewery.  They have these amazing swinging bar stools that are meant to look like a chair lift.  Sitting at one in the bar is super fun.  Unfortunately, Ouray is ready for the tourist crowd with overpriced samplers and a very small selection of their own brew.  When we visited they had only four of their own on tap.  However, we did hear that they are expanding production at a facility on the edge of town, so maybe a couple of years from now they would be worth a return visit.

For now, just stick with a pint of the IPA.  It is really well done if you want hop flavor without a bitter aftertaste.

Durango, Durango

Sampler at Durango Brewery

Sampler at Durango Brewery

Durango was one of the best breweries in terms of a welcoming hangout for beer lovers.  To start with, they are right near the urban trail and have plenty of bike parking.  Jay and I felt comfortable riding here and locking our bikes up outside.  It was great to come via bike because I could really enjoy their large selection of brews.  I started with the sampler which comes on a hand carved tray.

It was here I found one of my favorite beers for those cold Durango days, Durango’s Winter Ale.  It reminds me of the Great Divide Hibernation Ale, but with a lower alcohol content.  It has that same dark red color, malty flavor, and warming effect.

Carver, Durango

Carver is the oldest brewery in Durango, open since 1988.  It seems more focused on the restaurant side of their operation and is a popular pub right in the  fun downtown part of Durango.  If you are looking for dinner with a good selection of craft beer to pair with it, I would strongly recommend Carver.

My favorites were the Nut Brown Ale and the Amber Ale.  They had a seasonal beer with coffee in it when we were there.  Usually that is one of my favorites, but this one was not well balanced.

Ska, Durango

Ska was on our short list of breweries to visit on this trip.  They distribute Ska in Virginia so we were already fans of the Steeltoe Stout, Cutthroat Porter, and Milk Stout.  I was excited to see what else we would be able to taste at the taproom.

We were excited to get to taste and take home two beers from their local series, the Hoperation Ivy and the Sethvleteren 8.  Hoperation Ivy is an IPA with fresh local hops.  It is bursting with flavor and is not too bitter.  The Sethvleteren 8 is a Belgian Dubbel that is the opposite of the Hoperation, with much greater emphasis on the malt and the yeast flavors.  It is almost sweet and easy drinking.   Our usual favorites were still great, however the Milk Stout on nitro was too milky.  It literally tasted like someone had poured cream into a normal stout.  A new beer to meet was the Buster Nut Brown, which I liked even more than the porter.

Ska is definitely worth a visit, but there are a few things to know before you go.  First, it is a little hard to find, use a GPS or get really good directions from the brewery.  Also, in the summer they have a taco cart outside, but the rest of the year you need to either bring your own food (which they allow) or eat ahead of time.  The closest food was a tasty Texas barbeque joint where we had lunch afterwards and really enjoyed.  You could pick up a BBQ sandwich to bring with you!  If you are not looking for a meal, they do provide free popcorn to snack on while you sample what’s on tap.  Ska is a fun brewery with great style.  They sponsor the local roller derby team.  You can dress like a roller derby girl with Ska merchandise.

Steamworks, Durango

Our experience at Steamworks wasn’t great.  It was packed to the gills when we arrived and we couldn’t get a server to take our order, much less a bar stool to sit on.  I had been told that all of their servers are Cicerone certified, but we couldn’t even get one to talk to us so I have no first hand knowledge of their qualifications.  When Jay was finally able to order a flight, he came back with the beers with a handwritten list on a napkin of what they were by name.  Unfortunately we didn’t have a menu, so the name didn’t do us much good.  We were drinking blind.  This is how I ended up having the worst beer sampler of my life.  I took one sip and I felt like I had been attacked.  My tongue was in acute pain and I had no idea what had happened.  Well, it turned out this was the Prescribed Burn, a chili beer featuring Habenero, Poblano, and Hatch green chilis.  Oww!  East coast palates be warned!!  Jay of course kind of likes this chili beer which is the hottest he has tried.

After that debacle I went straight to Backside Stout for some relief.  It was nice and smooth but honestly I couldn’t taste much of anything after that chili beer.  Jay liked the Conducter, and Imperial IPA.  The other beer that I remember is the Slam Dunkel.  This was one of the first dunkels we have tried since the McKinney Brewery in Texas.  The McKinney Dunkel was AMAZING, so the fact that Steamwork’s Slam Dunkel didn’t measure up doesn’t say much.  It had too much banana taste.

 

Brewery Reviews: The Wellhead & Franconia

While staying in Artesia, NM and escaping some wicked high winds we discovered a brewery. As some of our geology/science inclined folks know, an artesian well is a geologic formation that causes the well to have pressure of its own and water rises with out the need for pumping. Artesia New Mexico likely got its name from another type of well, the oil well. It’s a town based on petroleum extraction, so the towns only brewery has an oil theme. We had a decent lunch with some respectable freshly brewed beers.Sampler at the Wellhead

Sampler at the Wellhead

The crude oil stout was our favorite and is thus pictured in our growler below.  We’ve been disappointed that most breweries do not do growler fills, so we were stoked to finally get ours filled up.

The Wellhead

The Wellhead Brewery in Artesia, NM

The next brewery has a name as German as its brewmaster, Franconia, named after the region of Germany that the brewmaster hails from. Many German immigrants have settled in Texas, and it would not have good bbq or beer without their worthy contributions. Franconia was suggested to us as a tour while attending the Wimmer-Osborne wedding in McKinney Texas.

Franconia Brewmaster

the Brew Master for Franconia brewing

brewery tour Franconia brewing

Brew master standing next to the mash ton explaining the brew process.

The brew master Dennis Wehrmann studied beer and food science for seven years in Germany and is the 4th generation of a family of brewers. All the Franconia beers are done in the German tradition with only four ingredients, malts, hops, water, and yeast. It was remarkable how much flavor the beers we sampled have given that all the great taste comes only four ingredients.

Jay at Franconia Brewing

Jay enjoying the Wheat beer at Franconia

The wheat turned out to be everyone’s favorite with a huge flavor and smooth drinkability, the dunkel and lager were also good. But that wheat was in a league of its own.

The Saturday we toured the brewery turned out to be an event for a greyhound adoption league.

greyhounds at Brewery

Greyhounds at the Brewery

Even a dog track does not have as many greyhounds in one place!  They really were remarkably calm and quiet dogs.