By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Michael and Alissa Marquess’ full-time jobs were making them miserable. Michael was a real estate appraiser, while his wife worked in an office. Both were experienced in the hospitality field.
Everything changed during a quiet, evening road trip on a two-lane highway with their sleeping children. The couple decided they would hunker down and do what they love: brew beer. From it came Flagstaff’s Mother Road Brewing Co., a moniker reflecting the lore of Route 66.
“We always talk about that road trip,” Alissa says. “We were driving that night. The kids were asleep. We needed to change something to live the way we wanted to live.
“Mother Road is about finding joy in the adventure. We love the community, taking road trips and talking about Arizona. We thought, ‘What could bring some of this together?’ We thought ‘Route 66’ and ‘Mother Road’ would bring together all these things.”
Creating beer is a family affair that doesn’t begin and end with Michael and Alissa.
“Remember the Dunkin’ Donuts’ ‘time to make the donuts’ commercial?’” Michael says between swigs of his IPA. “When we used to brew at 4 a.m., I would arrive for my brew shift with my son. He would look for the comics in the paper, and we would go across the street for warm cinnamon rolls.”
The Marquess children—ages 7, 10 and 12—grew up in the brewing business. In 2011, they placed their hands in the wet cement outside of the building. Six years later, they repeated.
“They’re all very good at talking to grownups,” Michael says. “They belly up to the bar, get a soda, as for an opener, and chat up whoever will talk with them.”
The last 12 months have been exciting ones for Mother Road, whose bar was constructed by Alissa’s brother. The original, now-experimental Pike Brewery and taproom paved the way for the Butler Brewery, which produces beer and is also a tap room. They fall under the Mother Road name but are casually referred to by their locations.
The Pike Brewery is relaxing, with a small library and board games available to guests. Children and families are encouraged to visit inside, or outside on the dog-friendly patio.
The 20-barrel Forgeworks brewhouse at the Butler Brewery gives patrons the opportunity to see their beer being made. It, too, has board games, along with complimentary pretzels and small snacks available for purchase. Food trucks are listed on Mother Road’s events page. Mother Road Butler does not allow pets, but trained service animals are welcome.
“It’s been in the planning phase forever,” he says. “We needed the space. It’s incredible what the team managed to crank out in this space. We hit the wall. They have been brewing our mainline beer, but we needed the capacity to meet demand, yet have the flexibility to play.”
Both rooms serve Mother Road’s specialty ales, which are also found throughout Arizona and New Mexico, in places like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Bashas’, AJ’s Fine Foods and Bevmo.
Tower Station IPA, with its 7.3 percent ABV and 70 IBU, is inspired by the hospitality of Tower Station, a stop along Route 66 opened in 1936. This unfiltered India Pale Ale boasts a copper-orange hue and white head, and it releases aromas of tangerine and pineapple. Pilsner and pale malts balance the hop-derived flavors of grapefruit peel and pine.
With 4.3 percent ABV and 19 IBU, Kolsch-Style Ale is colored like champagne, and yields pear and lemon flavors. It finishes with a mild biscuit malt.
Even stronger is Lost Highway Double Black IPA, 8 percent ABV and 100 IBU. Michael describes it as having an espresso-colored head above flavors of orange zest and roasted malts. Hints of bitter orange chocolate balance with notes of dark caramel to round out the adventure.
“One of the things she really loves are posters advertising National Parks,” Michael says of his wife. “We wanted our artwork to look like that. They have that vintage feel; they’re retro a little bit.”
The Mother Road project has been a lifesaver for the family. Michael says the work-life balance has improved.
“The stress level is 10 times higher,” he says with a wide grin. “It’s a good stress—at least it’s something we’re both passionate about.”
The Mother Road success story is a team effort that spills over into the community.
“I think the thing that makes me most proud is when I say, ‘I own Mother Road,’ I so often heard the comment that they felt welcome here. There was just something about that place,” she says.
“I’m so humbled to hear that and grateful we managed to keep it up,” he adds. “Radical hospitality is one of our goals.”
One thing it didn’t do was bring down the stress level, Michael says. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“The stress level is 10 times higher,” he says with a smile. “It’s a good stress—at least it’s something we’re both passionate about.”
Mother Road Butler Brewery, 1300 E. Butler Avenue, Suite 200, Flagstaff, 928.774.0492; Mother Road Pike Brewery, 7 S. Mikes Pike, Flagstaff, 928.774.9139, motherroadbeer.com. Tours are available.
For more local and out-of-state breweries, visit our attractions page.