Well beer fans, it’s that time of year again. When the air smells of that sweet, romantic fragrance. When your favorite bartender or server blushes and gives you a little flirtatious smile when he or she accepts your order. When you make the most important of plans to make that special somebody feel extra-special. The season of love is upon us.
Yep, February is nearly here and that can only mean one thing: Arizona Beer Week.
And we here at Beer Buzz understand what that means. Some of you are going to finally pop that 120 Minute IPA that you’ve saved for that special occasion. Or maybe you and your special somebody are sharing a couple-night stay at the closest resort next to your favorite brewery.
So throw on the Barry White, break out the 2015 barrel-aged Narwhal, and let’s jump into The Abyss -- rye or cognac!
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Let’s lift a pint to Sentinel Peak Brewing for making it to their second year of existence. Just don’t light too many candles for these guys because they’ll have no problem extinguishing the flames.
Owners Jeremy Hilderbrand, Taylor Carter, and Matt Gorden are local firefighters who have started a wildfire within the midtown Tucson area with their craft beer and pub cuisine. Since their humble homebrewing beginnings three years ago, the trio have brought a much-needed craft beer scene to a craft-beer-starved community near the Grant and Swan roads area.
After winning the people’s choice award at the Thunder Canyon Brewery’s Top Hops Challenge three years ago, the three decided to spend that extra time when not helping save people’s lives to brew beer.
And it’s worked out pretty well since then. After opening the brewery, Sentinel Peak has already expanded, engulfing the shuttered massage parlor next door. With the additional space, the brewery has increased production and given their chefs a little more room to cook their popular bar cuisine.
Despite the expanded space and additional exposure, the Sentinel Peak boys are still holding firm to their roots. After a few growing pains, they have solidified their place in the area -- and in the local craft beer scene.
“We keep it simple. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Hilderbrand said. “We want our beer to taste great, but we want it to taste great consistently.”
While their beers are not extraordinarily complex, that doesn’t mean their creators won’t step out on a limb. Their Overhaul Chili Bear -- named for all the work firefighters have to do after putting out a fire -- is brewed with Jalapeno, Habanero, Serrano, Anaheim, Poblano, and Ghost chilies.
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I tried it two months ago. I can still taste the burn.
Looking forward, the Sentinel Peak guys are hoping to expand into new markets. Already servicing a “thirsty” midtown community, they hope to bring their beer to the entire Tucson area and possibly a certain metropolis to the north.
But no matter what, the three Tucson natives will not forget their roots.
“This is our town and our community,” Gorden said. “We love it here.”
Ten Fifty-Five Brewing has established a reputation for being innovative and nimble in creating their small-batch, hand-crafted brews. To celebrate that milestone, they will be holding a Third Anniversary Celebration early next month and invite all of Southern Arizona to join them in slaking their thirst.
The celebration gets started at 2pm on Saturday, February 6 at Ten Fifty-Five Brewery at 3810 East 44th Street and goes until 10pm, making use of their large parking lot to accommodate fans, friends and family.
Reilly Craft Pizza's Tyler Fenton and Brandon Dillon will be present whipping up porchetta sandwiches along with Blacktop Grill food truck and their gourmet hot dogs. In addition, Ten Fifty-Five will be tapping into two new brews at the event; a cherry version of their iconic Sugar Skull Chocolate Milk Stout and a Shaw Pumpkin Ale.
“Ten years ago, we were just two guys who enjoyed home brewing and, of course, drinking craft beer,” said Ten Fifty-Five head brewer and co-owner John Paul “JP” Vyborny. “But we loved it so much that we took a leap of faith by starting our brewery, which is why the first beer we created was called Leap Pale Ale. As we celebrate three years of experimenting, creating and innovating some unusually exciting suds, we’re also humbled to be part of this growing community of great brewers and those who know and appreciate craft beer.”
Tucson natives Travis and William Miller, owners of Serial Grillers at 5737 East Speedway, will open the doors to a new 700-square-foot craft beer bar connected to its main dining area in the next month. With construction nearly complete, the two expect the additional bar to add a new dimension to the already wildly-popular, horror-movie-themed, pizza, sandwich, and burger joint.
“It’s a blank canvas for us,” Travis Miller said. “We make exceptional, unique pizza. We want our beer to mirror that.”
Slated for 40 draft lines-- all designated for craft beers -- the Millers plan to expand on their already robust beer selection from the current restaurant. The Sabino High School graduates consider themselves fans of craft beer, but not “beer snobs.”
“We love good beer and good food,” Travis Miller said. “We know our customers feel the same.”
The additional space comprises of the business directly to the east of its location on the Speedway Boulevard strip mall. The bar, named the Serial Grillers Taproom, will house a six-person bar, a few four-top tables, two 70-inch televisions, and a shuffleboard table.
Although separated by an open walking space between the restaurant and bar, the new area will take on a more mature feeling. Yes, the Millers will slightly continue its popular horror film motif, but the new bar area will take on a more stripped-down, industrial look.
While construction is nearly complete, the two are currently filling bartending positions. As craft beer connoisseurs, they aren’t looking for somebody to fill the void behind the bar. They are looking for some well-seasoned, craft-beer-loving bartenders who are ready to mirror their own love of beer.
I was a Boy Scout for much of my early life. Yeah, that surprises people for some reason. But no really, I’m not only an Eagle Scout, but I can actually still fit into my uniform.
But you know what I hated about being a Boy Scout? Trying to raise money for our philanthropic events at the same time as the Girl Scouts.
Seriously, how can you compete with cookies?
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A few years back, the Girl Scouts teamed up with local breweries to pair their cookies with beer. Whoever decided on this deserves the Girl Scout Gold Award for brilliance -- and should be arrested for profiteering from people’s weaknesses.
The Girl Scout Cookie-Beer Pairing event has spread nationwide, and Tucson is now consumed in its grasp. No longer will you have to fend off these cookie monsters at your local grocery, or within the confines of your office breakroom, but now, you can find their goods in your local craft beer bar.
Here is a roundup of upcoming cookie and beer pairings:
With 16 breweries and more than twice the amount of craft beer bars in town, Arizona Beer Week 2016 in Tucson will be the biggest to date. And for most of us -- be honest now -- it hasn’t been that long since we had no concept of craft beer. So while it seems like there is a new brewery opening every month in the Old Pueblo, let’s raise a glass to the original brewers who have laid the groundwork -- and filled the potholes -- of this ever-growing Tucson craft beer scene.
Here’s what’s in store for Arizona Beer Week in Tucson: arizonabeerweek.com/tucson-events/