By Tom Scanlon | September 15, 2021
Perhaps there’s a reason Mesa rhymes with cerveza.
You could practically blow the head off your beer at the Chupacabra Taproom and hit the Oro Brewing Company, which is a stein-slide from Desert Eagle Brewing Company.
After a few elbow tilts at each of these, a little fresh air and block-walk down to 12 West Brewing Company might be in order.
For dessert? Mango Foxtrot, Blackberry Grenade or one of the other sweet, hard ciders brewed at Cider Corps.
With apologies to John Steinbeck, a couple blocks of Downtown Mesa are fast becoming “Craftery Row.”
With high-octane brews available at a half-dozen crafty pubs, it’s a good thing walking is an option, along with the light rail along Main Street and other leave-your-car-at-home options.
The pace of craft brewing, which accelerated over the last two years here, may really froth over in coming months, with the planned additions of a Pedal Haus Brewery and Beer Research Institute satellite brew pubs Downtown.
The popular Pedal Haus, which has locations in Tempe, Chandler and Phoenix, plans to open smack between Oro and Desert Eagle “soon” — “the exact date is a moving target,” according to a pub publicist.
The Tempe-based Pedal Haus plans a “biergarten” in Downtown Mesa with an indoor-outdoor bar, a 6,000-square-foot dog-friendly patio, fire pits and a live-music stage.
The academic-sounding Beer Research Institute (“We specialize in Hop Forward IPA’s and Belgian beers”) has been firing up well-respected beer at 1641 S. Stapley Drive, just south of US 60, for years; it plans to open a tasting room on Main near Robson in mid-October.
That would be just in time for the Americanized “Octoberfest,” celebrated in pubs and bars in October.
As any beer snob would tell you, the real “Oktoberfest” is celebrated in Germany in September (though this year’s big beer festival is canceled, due to the coronavirus.)
How do the hops in Mesa stack up with the rest of the Valley?
Phoenix.org asked the experts: Arizona Craft Beer Lovers, a Facebook group with 8,500 members. The site states, “The purpose of this group is to promote the ever-growing craft brew scene here in Arizona. This page maintains an ongoing conversation about craft beer, and the love we have for it.”
According to several, the Mesa beer scene is not just foam: It’s got a hearty body.
“We live walking distance to it all. We’re there at least once a week,” Von Packard says. “As a homebrewer, I haven’t found any place in Phoenix with that much quality and variety of beer within such a small area.”
Jeff Adams says he likes the chill feel here:
“It’s not as trendy as Gilbert. Not as busy as Gilbert or Chandler, and the quality of all the places in Mesa is good as or better.”
As she lives in Gilbert, you’d think Terri Lynn Timm would stay around home and enjoy the half-dozen respected craft beer places there.
Too spread out.
“We go to Downtown Mesa when we want to do a beer crawl. In my opinion, they have the most craft breweries in the same vicinity,” she says.
Kelly Reeves called Downtown Mesa’s beer scene “one of the best!”
“Downtown Chandler has good options, too, But Downtown Mesa is in my opinion the best ‘brewer walk’ at this time.”
But the Facebook beer group has some who aren’t sold on Mesa.
Jesse Johnson had two words: “Roosevelt district.”
And, Christian Chandler notes, “Downtown Chandler has plenty of walkable craft beer options.”
Local dudes, local brews
The funky little Chupacabra Taproom is run by a couple of East Valley natives: Eric Cady, who grew up in Tempe and Gilbert, and Mesa homeboy Trent Smith, Mountain View High, class of 1990.
The two met some 15 years ago.
“We talked about doing a brewery together for a long time, made beer together in the garage,” Smith says.
But then, when it was finally time to jump into the beer scene in June of 2019, the two decided to let other people do the hard part.
“It’s so expensive to open a brewery, and we weren’t the best brewers, so we figured a tap room was the best way to go,” Smith says.
The Chupacabra rotates favorites and experimental brews on its 30 taps.
Among the latest offerings, some with exotic names that sound like action movie titles: Savage Sour, a “peach/Meyer lemon sour” beer from Lead Dog Brewing; Le Seul Noir 2, an “American Wild Ale,” by Une Année Brewery; Tropical Storm Andy, a solid American IPA from Dragoon Brewing Company; Judgment Day Belgian Quadrupel, a 10.2% ABV walloper from the Lost Abbey; and Stone Farking Wheaton, an even more potent 11.5% ABV imperial, courtesy of Stone Brewing.
Those unfamiliar with craft beers should know many pack a more potent punch than typical, mass-produced, over-the-counter American beers, which are mostly in the 4-4.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) range.
The Chupacabra is pouring It’s Pronounced Yawn, a 4.9% shandy brewed by the Beer Research Institute.
But wait. Why would Smith and Cady be selling beer made by “the competition”?
“Everyone has different things to offer,” he says, adding the Chupacabra has Oro and 12 West beers on tap.
“You notice more people cycling. They’ll come to our place, then go do dinner at 12 West, then go to Cider Corps and have a cider,” Cady says.
The crafty fraternity brothers have collaborated on “beer crawls,” but nothing since COVID-19 hit.
“Everyone is in it together,” Smith says. “The whole goal down here is to build up a community.”
And what could be better than living your dream in your hometown?
“This has always been something I wanted to do,” Smith says. “I love it in Downtown Mesa, and building a tap room is my vision coming to fruition.”