By Madison Rutherford
Once you set foot in one of Flagstaff’s breweries, you’ll quickly understand why Arizona Governor Doug Ducey recently recognized it as a Leading Craft Beer City. The formula is simple: The city’s brewers are as committed to building a strong, supportive community as they are to brewing world-class craft beer.
Flagstaff now boasts eight award-winning breweries, which offer dozens of beers that are as diverse and intriguing as the vibrant city that brews them. Flagstaff’s passion and synergistic spirit shine in this year’s limited edition collaborative brew, Flag8, a robust, malt-driven Baltic Porter with chocolate notes. The Flag8 Morning Wakeup Edition is brewed with beans sourced from local coffee roasters.
Below you will find a rundown of who’s who in Flagstaff’s brew scene and what’s on tap for Beer Week, which continues until Sunday, February 18. But don’t worry — it’s not quite last call yet! Flagstaff’s mayor Coral Evans also designated February as Craft Beer Month, so you can celebrate Flagstaff’s burgeoning beer scene all month long.
FLAGSTAFF BREWING COMPANY
Stop by Flag Brew if you’re looking for Pacific Northwestern flair in the Southwest. And keep an eye out for the giant canoe “floating” above the bar!
As a reggae-centric soundtrack creates a laidback atmosphere, owner Jeff Thorsett waxes nostalgic about the brewing industry back in the day.
Flag Brew opened its doors in 1994, making it the first licensed brewery in Flagstaff. At the time, Thorsett was the youngest brewer in the country. Originally hailing from Oregon, Thorsett picked Flagstaff because it was one of the only major college towns in the U.S. that didn’t have a brewery.
“That was important to us; we wanted to be in a college town because it’s a little more open-minded and more accepting of the craft brew movement,” he explains.
In addition to bar seating and a plethora of inside tables, the brewery boasts an expansive patio out front, where patrons can perch with a few pints and people-watch.
Agassiz Amber: A medium-bodied, crowd-pleasing ale that marries caramel malt with Cascade and Willamette hops
Sasquatch Stout: A smooth, full-bodied black ale with a creamy brown head and hints of chocolate. The name is an homage to Thorsett’s hometown in Oregon.
MOTHER ROAD BREWING COMPANY
Mother Road’s tagline is “Finding joy in the adventure,” which seems to accurately sum up co-owners Alissa and Michael Marquess’ story. The husband and wife opened the brewery six years ago along a stretch of historic Route 66 (“the mother road”). The brewery is a balanced blend of Arizona nuance and nostalgia that aligns with the Marquess’ passion for community and craft beer.
“Our mission is to brew distinguished beers and build community one pint at a time. We love delicious beer, but that’s not the end of the story,” Alissa says. “What we love about craft beer is… it is accessible to so many and it helps us pause and slow down.”
That sentiment is palpable on Mother Road’s cozy, dog-friendly patio, which is adorned with string lights and freckled with groups of friends at picnic tables talking animatedly over pints and flights.
She continues that Flagstaff’s craft beer community is close-knit; they’ll even share ingredients like bags of malt or hops here and there.
“We want everyone to succeed; we want Flagstaff to be a beer destination and thus it benefits all of us if everyone has more quality beer.”
The next adventure? Mother Road just opened a second location — an 8,000-sq. foot, 20-barrel brewhouse on Butler Avenue.
Tower Station IPA: Mother Road’s flagship brew, featuring citrus aromas and a smooth, crisp finish
LUMBERYARD BREWING COMPANY
Built in 1890 by Flagstaff Lumber Company, the Lumberyard Brewing building is the last remaining structure from Flagstaff’s famed Lumber Era, which spanned from 1887 to 1993. The historic building has more than enough room for Lumberyard’s brewhouse, which can produce up to 11,000 barrels, or 240,000 gallons, of beer per year. Besides top-notch brew, Lumberyard also boasts an extensive and eclectic food menu that includes comfort food classics like macaroni and cheese and more adventurous cuisine such as “Irish egg rolls.”
Railhead Red: An award-winning ale made with caramel and crystal malts
Red Rock Raspberry: A light, refreshing brew reminiscent of raspberry lemonade
Snowbound Scotch Ale: A dark, full-bodied beer with a dry finish
DARK SKY BREWING COMPANY
Dark Sky’s beer selection proves that the smallest details make the biggest difference and the brewers understand the value of experimentation and strive to deliver unique quality brew with a culinary twist. With beers inspired by everything from coffee to hibiscus to peanut butter and jelly, there’s sure to be something for every palate. In fact, they’ve developed over 200 different recipes since they opened in 2014.
Dark Sky introduced three new beers for Beer Week: High Country Brunch, an imperial stout aged in double oak and rye whiskey maple syrup barrels; Parallax, a bourbon barrel-aged Belgian quad; and Insomnia, a golden stout aged in Eagle Rare bourbon barrels.
The brewery, named for Flagstaff’s designation as the world’s first Dark Sky Community, has a cozy coffee shop vibe, featuring couches, artwork and a bartop speckled with little lights made to resemble the night sky.
Down by the Beach, Boi! A hoppy, tropical New England IPA with hints of pineapple
.3 Repeating: A rich, robust stout brewed with coconut and vanilla beans. This is a great beer for Girl Scout cookie connoisseurs —it tastes like a liquid Samoa!
WANDERLUST BREWING COMPANY
Wanderlust’s owner and head brewer Nathan Friedman says brewing came naturally to him, even though he had a wine-centric upbringing (his mom has worked at the same winery in Indiana for the past three decades). In fact, he didn’t even discover beer until he went to college in upstate New York and even then, he didn’t particularly care for it. It was an apricot-flavored ale — Magic Hat #9 — that changed his perspective on beer and the way it could be brewed. However, the brewery was ultimately inspired by his travels to Europe. “I’ve always been a traveler… it has a big connection to the beers we brew because we’re representative of all over the world,” he says. But he insists there’s nothing like the beers in Belgium.
Wanderlust has a slew of German and Belgian-style beers on tap, so it’s no surprise his best-seller is 928 Local, a Belgian farmhouse ale. Wanderlust is also known for its sour beers and being the only brewery in Flagstaff that regularly has nitro beers, which are brewed with nitrogen instead of CO2, giving the beer a sweeter taste and smoother texture. His Beer Week release, Desert Gold, is a saison brewed with grain from Casa Grande.
928 Local: A crisp, dry ale made with cider pressed from locally grown apples and local honey
Dunkelweizen: A dark German wheat beer with hints of clove and banana
BEAVER STREET BREWERY
Because Beaver Street and Lumberyard have the same owner, this microbrewery makes all of the same beers, but while Lumberyard distributes its products across the state, Beaver Street brews all of its suds for in-house consumption. Brewer Steve Hendricks comes from a culinary background and loves to experiment with flavors, whether it’s a sweet pecan pale ale or a spicy poblano pepper firkin. WTF is a firkin, you ask? Put simply, it’s a less carbonated, cask-conditioned beer with a silky texture and a mellow taste. Wood-fired pizzas, fondue, seafood, salads and sandwiches take center stage on the food menu.
BS Shandy: The citrus notes in this light and refreshing seasonal shandy makes us wish it was summer, but it’s perfect for any time of year.
HISTORIC BREWING COMPANY
“We push variety,” says Trevor Needle, Historic’s Director of Operations. The brewery’s colorful rotation of innovative brews range from a fruity, refreshing porter that you have to taste to believe, to an Arizona take on Mexican lager to a brown sour that will make your lips pucker with every sip. With six locations across the state (and 95 combined tap handles).
Historic is making a big name for itself in the Arizona craft scene. Their brewery and taproom is somewhat of a hidden gem among the warehouses on Huntington Drive and the Historic Brewing Barrel+Bottle House, which has 20 beers on tap and delicious pub grub, is in the heart of downtown Flagstaff.
Piehole Porter: Brewed with cherries and vanilla, this isn’t your average dark beer. Surprisingly refreshing and delicately sweet, this porter isn’t too heavy to sip on even the hottest Arizona summer day.
TRAIL CREST BREWING COMPANY
Trail Crest is the newest addition to the Flagstaff brewing family. For now, it bills itself as a “beer and burger bar,” according to co-owner Joel Gat. But this summer, he and his wife, Eleanor “Turtle” Wong will start brewing their own beer. What really sets Trail Crest apart, however, is its commitment to locally sourced products; everything from the bread to the cheese to the hot sauce to the spirits are from right here in Arizona.
It should go without saying that all the beer is local, too. Sample Flagstaff favorites from Mother Road, Lumberyard and Historic as well as Valley brews from Mesa, Tempe and Gilbert.
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