10 Arizona Beers to Crack Open for Winter

By David A. Bowers
December 29, 2016

It's hard to believe that 2016 is still lingering—and still taking its toll.

Thankfully, there's beer and plenty of it. With new breweries seemingly popping up on a daily basis across the country, it can be quite daunting to seek out something that isn't only enjoyable but also supports the local community.

Here's a list of 10 of the best Arizona beers to warm you up on a chilly desert night or mild winter's day.

(Disclaimer: These are merely one man's selections and tastes vary as well as style preferences. Please use these selections as a jump-off point as you forage into the vast selection of fine Arizona brews.)

Nut Brown Ale

Oak Creek Brewing Co.
Oak Creek Brewing Nut Brown Ale
Oak Creek Brewing Nut Brown Ale

A mainstay of the Arizona craft beer scene, this 5.5 percent English Brown Ale has all the essence of an Arizona winter including a hearty nutty flavor with some lingering spices on the mouthfeel.  Oak Creek Brewing's flagship beer has won both a bronze and gold medal from the North American Brewers' Association.

For over 20 years in the same location in Sedona, Fred and Rita Kraus have brewed beers from their native Germany and delighted locals and tourists alike at their Taproom in Sedona as well as their bar and grill in the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village. The beers are also available for sale statewide at various bars, restaurants, bottle shops and grocery stores. They are however only available in Arizona.

More info at oakcreekbrew.com.

Sweet Devil Stout

College Street Brewhouse

One of the most easy-drinking stouts from Arizona, if not the country, this beer can sneak up on you. This American Stout packs a devilish punch with an ABV of 6.66 percent that pours a deep, dark black with an attractive tan head and incredible lacing. The smell of chocolate and coffee leads one to believe that this beer will be a thick, espresso-style beer but it goes down as easily as a blonde or pilsner. There are no hints of the high alcohol content or hops, only chocolate, milk, coffee and a tinge of chili at the end.

Located in the another tourist location, College Street Brewhouse is actually on College Drive a couple miles north of the famed London Bridge in Lake Havasu City. College Street brews are available throughout the state.

More info at collegestreetbrewhouseandpub.com.

Barkley's Peanut Butter Cup Porter

Uncle Bear's Brewery
Flight of Uncle Bear's Brewing (Credit: Uncle Bear's)
Flight of Uncle Bear's Brewing (Credit: Uncle Bear's)

It's a well-known fact that dogs love peanut butter. I have two Golden Retrievers myself and the mixture of peanut putter and a Kong in my house is the sure sign of a good time. Uncle Bear's Brewery, in Phoenix's southern neighborhood, Ahwatukee is named after one such canine. Bear was "a fun loving good fella, of the Labrador mix," and thus the dog theme was borne.

The Peanut Butter Cup Porter is also fun-loving and pours a lighter-than-anticipated brown with a khaki head. This 5.4 percent American Porter has a strong peanut butter cup aroma and tastes of nuts and semi-sweet chocolate. Barkley's hits the nail on the head with a great beer that delivers exactly what it says it is going to deliver although it seems a little light for a porter.

Follow Uncle Bear's Brewery on Facebook.

Wht Chclt Ale

Sonoran Brew Co.

If you have asked anybody if they have had this local treasure, you will either draw a blank stare or an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response of how much they loved it. This light-colored pale wheat ale is like no other wheat beer you have ever had and yet like no other chocolate beer at the same time.

Another veteran of the Arizona craft beer scene, Sonoran Brew Co. has recently undergone a complete re-branding after joining forces with Phoenix Ale Brewing near downtown Phoenix after brewing in north Scottsdale for 15 years.

More info at sonoranbrewing.com.

'Lost Highway' Black IPA

Mother Road Brewing Co.

You might think listing an IPA as a "cold weather beer" was a mistake, but you would also be very wrong. Let's not even get into why some brewers call a dark or pale beer an "IPA" which are pale by definition. Lost Highway pours a deep dark black and is the stout with the heart of an IPA. Clocking in at 8.0 percent ABV and 100 IBUs, it has all the qualifications to be listed as an imperial IPA but still thinks it's a stout. A strong malt backbone balances this beer with flavors of orange, chocolate and caramel to allow drinkability—even at 8.0 percent.

Flagstaff's Mother Road Brewing is best known throughout the state for its Tower Station IPA but if your in the mood for a different take on the IPA, you need to visit the "Lost Highway."

More info at motherroadbeer.com.

'Sex Panther' Double Chocolate Porter

SanTan Brewing Co.

What can be said about a beer that is illegal in nine countries and made with bits of real panther?

Oh wait...that's the cologne not the beer, ok.

'Tis the season to sit back and enjoy SanTan Brewing Co.'s winter seasonal double chocolate porter, it's smooth, creamy and magically delicious. Heavy aromas of chocolate, coffee and maple with slight whiffs of toffee and black licorice. This is nearly a milk stout as it is so creamy with a silky smooth finish.

More info at santanbrewing.com.

Koffee Kolsch Ale

Huss Brewing Co.

A photo posted by Terry Pepper (@hussbrewing) on

A relative newcomer that is making a big splash in the Arizona craft beer scene, Huss Brewing Co. has hit a home run with its Koffee Kolsch. Brewing out of a strip mall in an industrial park in south Tempe, the Husses have recently purchased Papago Brewing Co. and will produce another Arizona mainstay in Papago's Orange Blossom Ale.

The first time that I had a Koffee Kolsch, I was confused, nay dumbfounded. The beer was served in a can so I felt no need to pour it into a glass since I could smell the heavy hazelnut and coffee aroma. I know that the kolsch style is a light-bodied beer that lends to easy-drinking and is as crisp as it is refreshing.

Hence my befuddlement. I asked for a glass to see how this "dark" beer could be considered a kolsch. It poured a light, golden straw color with a creamy white head. The freshly roasted nuts and coffee were so prominent in smell and taste yet they were invisible to the naked eye. This incredibly light, crisp beer embodied all the notions of a coffee chocolate porter or stout. True brewing sorcery, indeed.

More info at hussbrewing.com.

White Russian Imperial Stout

Sun Up Brewing

A photo posted by SunUp Brewing Co (@sunupbrews) on

I visited the Sun Up Brewery a couple years back for a friend's birthday brewery tour and was impressed by their beers but nothing so much for me to seek them out here in Tucson.

I recently discovered that beer and want to share it with you.

Dismiss any and all preconceived notions of the Big Lebowski drinking "caucasians" in his bathrobe, this beer will make you want to put on your finest suit and go a-courting. Rich coffee, cream, dark fruits, caramel and vanilla blend nicely in this this 9.4 percent beer. A perfect balance of malt and hops accompanies the fruits and chocolates but the 65 IBUs remind you that there is a fair amount of hops in this brew.

More info at sunup.beer.

Biere del Bac

Dragoon Brewing Co.

A big, boozy beer is sometimes all you need to get you through the night. This Belgian-style quad will nicely fit that bill. This non-barrel-aged version is currently available at the brewery and at various locations throughout the city. Brewed with Mexican piloncillo sugar and Belgian Candi Syrup, this international compilation is the perfect complement for the cold desert winters.

The quad poured into a glass a light reddish color with a nice thick amber head and gave off the smell of a nice pour of bourbon to prepare you for the big flavor. The mouthfeel is that of dark fruits, caramel, molasses and peppery spice finishing with a drying, almost woodsy taste.

More info at dragoonbrewing.com.

German Chocolate Noche Dulce Porter

Borderlands Brewing Co.

I was fortunate enough to attend the grand opening of Borderlands in 2012 and I will be the first to admit that the offerings that evening left plenty to be desired, including the Noche Dulce Moonlight Vanilla Porter. Flash forward four years and the guys downtown are putting out consistently amazing beers. This past summer saw what I believe to be their crowning achievement—the German Chocolate Noche Dulce Porter.

The addition of praline pecans cocoa nibs and coconut take this beer to an other-worldly level that should be on everybody's beer bucket list.  Pouring a jet black with a thick, brown pillowy head, this beer oozes with decadence. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, coffee, coconut, sweet candied nuts and real Mexican vanilla. At 7.1 percent ABV, it packs a punch but doesn't emanate any boozy undertones. This is truly a dessert beer but it is a dessert that I could have every day of my life.

More info at borderlandsbrewing.com.

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