29 October, 2020, 00:46

9 Unexpected Spots For Great Beer In Tucson

I’m not a video game player. I blame my parents. They forced me to read books, magazines, newspapers, and pretty much anything with words.

Oh, the heathen lifestyle.

But my son? Well, he loves books, but he also dabbles in the gaming world. Recently, he taught me about “Easter Eggs,” which are intentional features written into the code of a video game that users seek out or run across during their time playing the game. They’re super secret, but super awesome when you find them.

Given that Easter just passed and I may be jacked up on discount Easter candy, I’ve decided to unveil some beer-related Easter eggs of my own – basically, where to get the best beer in Tucson in the most unexpected places.

Beyond Bread

3026 N Campbell Ave
Beyond Bread

Beyond Bread (Credit: Beyond Bread)

Beyond Bread has been a local favorite for years. They specialize in – get this – bread (Ed. note: and sandwiches). But they really take their bread seriously. I guess since it’s in the name, you may as well produce the best around.

But did you know that the owner, Shelby Collier, is a card-carrying beer geek? Of the three Tucson locations, two carry craft beer — at unusually reasonable prices. You can drop in, get a pint of Dragoon IPA or Barrio Blonde for less than $5, pick up a loaf of their custom-made breads, and fill a growler. As a local company, Beyond Bread is hyper-local with their beer selection, but they also offer brews from some of the most popular regional breweries like Firestone Walker and Left Hand. And yes, they fill growlers!

“Beyond Bread decided to offer craft beer because there are so many amazing craft breweries making fantastic beers and we thought, what a better way to enjoy your favorite sandwich with a pint of great beer,” said Beyond Bread spokesperson Jane Overbey.

Visit beyondbread.com

Casa Film Bar

2905 E Speedway Blvd
Casa Film Bar will feature more than 300 craft beer bottle and can selections and 20 draft taps. (Credit: Ty Young)

(Credit: Ty Young)

Now, just for my Journalism professors at the U of A, I must state that I work at the following establishment – Casa Film Bar. Now that we got that out of the way, ask yourself, “When have I rented a movie?” Then ask yourself, “When have I rented a movie, and then had the option to purchase one of more than 320 beers at the same time?”

Yes, it’s odd to find a working video rental store anywhere. But the next time you want to “Netflix and Chill,” why not “Casa and Drink?” With nearly 70,000 film titles and a constantly rotating catalogue of beers — all of which can be purchased to-go — it may be a great time to stop streaming and check out some disks.

Visit casafilmbar.com

AMPM

802 W Speedway Blvd
(Credit: AMPM)

(Credit: AMPM)

The AMPM motto is, “Too much good stuff.” As a frequent gas station sushi purchaser, I look for the best of the best when it comes to convenience store offerings. The sushi ain’t that good, but the beer selection is pretty amazing here. Why? Because they offer craft beer growler fills!

No, I’m serious. Bring in a growler and get some decent craft beer! Sure beats my usual purchase of Slim Jims and Lucky Strikes. And while I assumed that I’d just get a couple 40 ounce Olde English bottles and some duct tape, this place spun me right ‘round back into craft beer.

Find a nearby AMPM location

Daisy Mae’s Steakhouse

2735 W Anklam Rd
(Credit: Daisy Mae's)

(Credit: Daisy Mae’s)

During my time as a bartender, there were few restaurant industry staffers that I liked more than the Daisy Mae’s crew. Awesome people. So awesome that I trekked out there and had a steak — and as many Bell’s Brewery beers that can fit under one roof.

If you don’t know Bell’s Brewery, let me tell you, you’re missing out. Based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, they produce some of the best beers you’ll ever encounter.

So why is this little Westside steakhouse carrying all of their beers? Well, turns out that the owner of Daisy Mae’s — whom I have yet to meet — is an uber-fan of Bell’s. So much so, that they get cases upon cases of Hopslam every year. It’s one of the most popular IPAs to hit the market each year and Daisy Mae’s receives about a dozen cases. How do I know this? Let’s just say those awesome Daisy Mae’s staffers tend to indulge after their shifts (legally, of course) in the nectar of the beer Gods — then come to my bar and tell me about it.

Visit daisymaessteakhouse.com

PJ’s Subs

2500 E 6th St

I was in Bisbee recently and stopped off in a pizza joint that was built from a converted gas station. Super great food, super great beer. I totally thought I’d never see anything like it again.

Turns out I could have just stopped in at PJ’s Subs to buy a hoagie and an 8-month-aged Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. Are you kidding me! Seriously, go there. No really, right now. Drop everything and go there.

Not sure who PJ is, but he or she has some awesome food. But the beer lineup is out of this world. Honestly, I didn’t want you to know about it because it’s my own little slice of beer heaven.

Visit pjsubstucson.com

Saint Charles Tavern

1632 S 4th Ave
(Credit: Saint Charles Tavern)

(Credit: Saint Charles Tavern)

Jumping in the way-back machine, I remember my first reporter-job. I was a public safety reporter for the Tucson Citizen. I have fond memories and lite paystubs from those days. But one of the most intriguing things was that I never wrote about South Tucson. Honestly, there was a lot going on down there, but for some reason, my editors wouldn’t let me get down and dirty with the locals.

Now I know why. It’s because there are some places in South Tucson that have freak’n awesome beer! I imagine my bosses thought I’d never come back.

Let’s drop all the stereotypes. Mexican beer is not Corona. It is not sipped by the most interesting man in the world. Nobody in Mexico puts limes in their beer.

Whew, got that out of my system.

Anyway, get thyself to Saint Charles Tavern. It may be a drive, but they have some awesome beers. Seriously, if you go to South Tucson and ask for a Belgian Quad or an Imperial IPA, everybody will point you in the direction of St. Charles.

And not only will you find amazing beer there, you will have the pleasure of meeting some amazing people. They apparently don’t buy newspapers, as I eventually gathered. But they will spin a yarn like nobody’s business!

Visit Saint Charles Tavern on Facebook.

Walgreens

4910 N 1st Ave

You have a bucket list? I certainly do. I’ve parachuted off mountains, driven monster trucks, covered the Little League World Series, and then some. But my favorite bucket list item – one that I added in the moment – was paying for my insulin prescription and my bottle of Firestone Walker Parabola. Nothing compliments Type-I Diabetes like a barrel-aged Imperial Stout.

But again, this is a Walgreen’s. In Tucson. It’s a Walgreen’s that receives the same allocations as the most prominent craft beer spots in town. Are you joking?

Well, the back story on this is that the owner of this Walgreen’s franchise is the only Walgreen’s  person to get these allocations in the Tucson – and possibly Arizona – market. Somehow, he has been given the keys to the beer castle, and honestly, I am happy he has them.

By the way, I’m running low on insulin and Parabola is hitting Arizona later this week. Time to refill.

Driftwood Pub & Kitchen

2001 S Craycroft Rd
Driftwood October 2015 Beer Lineup (Credit: Driftwood Facebook Page)

Driftwood October 2015 Beer Lineup (Credit: Driftwood Facebook Page)

Oh man, do I miss college. My friends and I would drop into every dive bar in Tucson as often as humanly possible — and we were more human than human.

One of my favorites was Driftwood on the Southeast side. Not sure why, but I seemed to always end up over there, slamming a Bud Light, Lime, Heavy, Ice, you name it.

Fast-forward 10 years and Driftwood is no longer a dive. In fact, they have some pretty wicked beer over there. Brothers Eric and Nik Corrales purchased the bar in 2011 followed by their parents partnering with them in 2014 and adding a kitchen. I love it. But that only goes so far. Those many Driftwood regulars who guzzled domestic beer and nothing more? Well, they’re learning about craft beer whether they like it or not. But, seriously, domestics are still available to the patrons that favor that swill, ahem, I mean, beer.

Visit driftwoodtucson.com

Whole Foods

5555 E River Rd
Beer on tap at Whole Foods Market River Road in Tucson

Beer on tap at Whole Foods Market River Road (Photo Credit: Whole foods)

Remember when your parents took you clothes shopping. Put this shirt on, put these shoes on, let me see how these pants fit. All you wanted to do was find that chair in the store and plant your butt in it.

That’s the way I feel about food shopping. No, I’m not going to sniff and squeeze a fruit. No, I don’t know that this fish that I’m not going to buy is less fresh than the other fish that I’m not going to buy. What the hell is “fennel” and why are you bringing it into my limited vocabulary?

I’m not a religious person, but apparently, somebody upstairs was listening to my last two decades of prayers. There is a bar in a grocery store. Where were you ten years ago, when I could just leave the wife to her own purchasing desires, while I sat and drank great beer? Honestly, I blame my divorce on the fact that there was no craft beer bar in my grocery store.

Well, save your marriage folks. Head to Whole Foods and one of you park your butt in a chair while the other spends all your money. And pick up the fresh fennel. I hear it pairs well with an American gose.

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Ty Young is a freelance writer and former bartender at World of Beer and Old Chicago in Tucson. He also consults with local restaurants and bars about beer selection and menu pairing.

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