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Old 12-26-2010, 06:09 AM   #1
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Default Places for good beer in Phoenix and Tucson?

I live in Reno but will be on a trip for work next month. I'll be in Phoenix and Tucson AZ for 3-4 days and I'm wondering if there are any good microbreweries and/or brew pubs any of my HBT friends could point out to me.

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Old 12-26-2010, 01:14 PM   #2
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Four Peaks in Phoenix is good they distribute Kiltlifter and 8th street Ale. They have the largest distribution of all Arizona breweries. I've never been there, but I've heard it has a good atmosphere and the seasonals are great. There are other places, but I've never had their beers since they don't distribute and I haven't heard good reviews.

My favorite in Tucson is Barrio Brewery. Reasonably priced and very laid back in a warehouse district so it has some fun architecture. Some of the beers need a little work, but most are good and a few are great. They also do a 'Rail Pint' special where when the train is passing by the pints are $3. There's also Nimbus, but I've never really cared for their beers. I think Thunder Canyon is very cookie cutter. Nothing wrong with the place really, it's just not my cup of tea.

There's also 1702 which is just a pizza place/bar. But it has 50 taps plus bottles and they try to create a wide assortment of choices.

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Old 12-27-2010, 12:57 PM   #3
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I actually liked Thunder Canyon a lot...they had a *great* IPA when I was there (to be fair, was a couple years back). I also thought Gentle Ben's (near the University) was pretty cool...a little more like a college bar (I hesitate to call it dive-y, but it's borderline...) Regardless, they had pretty good food and great beer.

Barrio must be new since I was there...Nimbus was OK (didn't care that much for them either), but not nearly as good (for me) as Thunder Canyon and Gentle Ben's...

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Old 12-27-2010, 01:47 PM   #4
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Agree with the assessment of Nimbus, although they make an oatmeal stout that is close to perfect, the rest of their offering are "meh".

Barrio Brewing is a spin-off of Gentle Ben's so you'll get the same beers offered at both locations. I have yet to be disappointed by one of their beers. The former brewmaster at GB's opened a LHBS on Speedway, Brewer's Connection. He is a wealth of knowledge

Have fun!

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Old 12-27-2010, 03:34 PM   #5
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Oh, let's see

Four Peaks: I love Four Peaks. Four Peaks is in Tempe, and is AZ's biggest brewery, and IMO the best. Kiltlifter is their flagship brew. It's one of the better Scottish Exports i've ever had, and has really caught some traction in bars and grocery stores all over the state in the last couple years. They also make a fantastic English best bitter (8th street ale), and one of, if not the, best IPA i've ever had (Hop Knot). It's extremely floral and citrusy without being too bitter (about 47IBU). I absolutely love that beer. All their beers are well balanced, and consistently great. The brew pub is a cool atmosphere, built into an old 19th century brick warehouse. And the food is really, really good. (The carne adovado will knock your socks off. Actually pretty much the entire menu is killer, including the specials.) If you only have time for one, go to four peaks.

San Tan Brewery: San Tan is down in Chandler, and pretty new(opened in 2007 I think). They have a pretty cool little brew pub in the historic distric of Chandler. They make a good Pale ale (Devil's Ale), a good IPA (HopShock), and have a great seasonal winter warmer on tap right now. Food is pretty good, but I still favor Four Peaks kitchen. Good beer though, definitely worth the stop if you have the time. They also have some awesome tulip glasses that are mouthblown, and made for them by the glass shop down the street. They're pretty sweet.

Nimbus Brewery: If you're going to hit a brewery in Tucson, Nimbus is a must. Great beer. I've only been once a couple years ago, so I don't remember too many details, but I remember both their blonde, and their stout being fantastic.

Papago Brewery in Scottsdale is pretty good. They have lots of regonal micro-brews on tap other than their own beers.

Sun-up Brewery: I hate to admit, but I've never made it up there, although i've been meaning too.


If you ask me, Four Peaks and Nimbus would be the two must visits. San Tan, if you can find the time.

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Old 12-27-2010, 03:56 PM   #6
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The nice thing about hitting 4 peaks is that you'll have a great meal to go with your beer. Personally I think a lot of their beers taste gravely similar, but the one's they've fine tuned (kilt lifter, 8th street, and hop knot specifically) are distinct and great. They also do a pumpkin porter that goes on sale in October and sells out before Halloween.

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Old 12-27-2010, 04:02 PM   #7
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Depends on when you are here too.

There's not a heck of a lot of events going on right now, but you should check the calendar that azhomebrewers.org put out for the PHX area. Next ASH event is a brewout on Jan 8.

If you are interested in beer culture in the valley, check out http://beerphxation.com.

Disclaimer: I'm heavily involved in each of these projects.

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Old 12-27-2010, 04:21 PM   #8
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In Tucson-

Nimbus - My favorites are the Red and the Oatmeal Stout. As twd000 said, the stout is pretty much perfection. Nimbus has 2 locations now, the original, where they brew the beer, and their newer "hipster" location, which is really more of a restaurant with a really good beer selection. I prefer the original.

Barrio - My favorites are their IPA, and the Copperhead Pale Ale, which I think is a seasonal. I don't really go to Barrio or Gentle Ben's (same beers) often, but only because I live about 3 minutes from Nimbus.

Thunder Canyon - I've only been there twice, the first time I was very impressed with their beer, the second... not so much. It was about a year and a half between visits, so I'm not sure if my taste changed or their beer changed. Haven't been in a couple years now.

There are also 2 BJ's "Brewhaus" locations in town, neither of which brew in house. All the BJ's beers in Tucson are trucked down from Phoenix.

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Old 12-28-2010, 12:03 AM   #9
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Nimbus is good. I've never been to Gentle Ben's or Barrio but I have heard good things. I don't care for the "house" beers at BJ's but the one on Oracle has a pretty decent bottled beer selection, including some nice Belgians.

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Old 01-02-2011, 05:31 AM   #10
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I will go to bat for Thunder Canyon... They have the biggest selection of the 3 breweries in town and most are quite good. If I were to recommend a place in town that would be the one purely on a beer quality/selection basis. The atmosphere is pretty generic though, you will feel like you are in a replica of a Rock Bottom or BJs.

Barrio and Gentle Ben's (GB's beer is brewed at Barrio now) are good but I think they are pretty unremarkable beer-wise. I work at the University so I go to Ben's fairly often with coworkers and everything is enjoyable, but you won't go home thinking about how you can recreate one of their brews. Their reuben and spinach artichoke dip are amazing IMO... Barrio has the best atmosphere in town and the rail pints gimmick is cool.

Nimbus has 2 locations - the newer location on Tanque Verde has good food but is definitely more restaurant first and much less of a beer shrine. The older location is more fun and casual. Their beer is good but a lot of locals complain that it is inconsistent. In the handful of times that I have gone there I have enjoyed the beer and had a great time.

We also have the 2 BJ's locations. But meh, whatever...

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