Bartering won't be mainstream any time soon, but one local commodity is gold among craft beer fans across Tucson and beyond: Pueblo Vida Brewing Company cans. (Full ones, that is.)
Craft beer aficionados across the state have been setting their alarms for Pueblo Vida's can releases since the wildly popular second anniversary beer "2" was released last November. The highly-acclaimed beer sold out in quick order.
"I had a lady call me a couple hours after the release to ask if we still had both cans in stock," said Pueblo Vida server Lauren Gariepy. "[They said] we are driving down from Phoenix and if we show up at 9:30 p.m., we want to make sure that you are still open and don't close early."
Pueblo Vida's beer can success can be attributed to several factors. With an active outdoor community in Tucson, the portability factor is one of the most obvious benefits.
"We love being outdoors and Tucson is the perfect place to spend time outside," said Linette Antillon, co-owner of Pueblo Vida. "Whether you're a a barbecue with friends, on a hike, or laying out by the pool, we wanted a way to enjoy our beer during our outdoor activities and make that available to our patrons."
Cans have become a trophy of sorts with patrons utilizing the hashtag #BestEnjoyedOutside and #PuebloVidaOutdoors to share photos of the beautiful cans in the wild across the country.
While the Pueblo Vida Brewing Company cans set in scenic landscapes evoke romantic imagery, the images on the cans themselves are another contributor to their success.
"I truly get excited about the unknown," said Tim Case, beer enthusiast and Tempe resident. "The releases are spontaneous and so the hype builds. When you get a can in your hand with their sleek designs, you know what's inside has just as much quality."
The can designs are the passion product of local Tucsonan, Ryan Trayte of Saywells Design Company. Trayte has worked with Pueblo Vida Brewing since early on and has designed all of the cans for the brewery. Trayte explained that each can has a unique feel and design, although they are all closely related to the outdoor theme and the style of beer which comes in the can.
"It's a collaborative effort with [co-owners] Kyle [Jefferson] and Linette," Trayte said. "Either they come to me with an idea and we come up with the name or they already have the name and we come up with an idea together keeping with the outdoorsy brand identity."
Other local breweries have had success with canning their year-round beers such as Dragoon Brewing Company's IPA and Borderlands Brewing Co.'s Citrana Southwestern Style Gose. However, the limited, one-off Pueblo Vida Brewing Company cans have gotten people motivated to go out of their way for the purchase.
"It’s been a very fun and successful project for us," Antillon said. "Due to the popularity of the cans, we started releasing two cans a month instead of one and are working to be able to do more as we move forward."
Additionally, you will have to to get yourself to the brewery only for these highly sought-after works of art.
"Due to the increase in demand, it caused us to have to let go of our wholesale accounts and only sell beer [cans] out of our taproom," Antillon said. "We have a limited production capacity and had to decide what works best for us and our customers."
"We constantly get calls asking about the availability of the the current cans," said Harley Brenton, beer server at Pueblo Vida. "We just started selling them and people are coming from all over to get their hands on them."
Now releasing two specialty beers about every month, Pueblo Vida's two newest beers are already gone. The Outburst sold out within a five days, while the Rice Cream was gone within 10 days.
The Rice Cream is the latest in the long line of India pale ales brewed by Kyle Jefferson and head brewer, LJ Combs. Though an IPA, the flavor profile on this creamy ale defies descriptions of traditional IPAs with big flavors of lime and coconut. Brewed with jasmine rice, Kaffir lime leaves and lactose, the Rice Cream is then conditioned (or fermented) over coconut to further infuse the flavor. The final touch is added from double dry-hopping with Simcoe and Citra hops for an extra tropical taste and smell.
The Outburst is a big, tropical, double IPA clocking in at a standard 8.0 % ABV. The beer gets its name from its predecessor, the Microburst Pale Ale, which is a reasonable 5.9% ABV. Both beers are brewed with malted oats and exhibit a big tropical flavor and floral bouquet due to being double dry-hopped with a trio of Mosaic, Ella, and Simcoe hops.
When brewers typically use hops, they boil them with the water and malt to make a wort. The high temperature extracts the oils from the hops and adds to the beer's bitterness. Dry-hopping is a process wherein the hops are added almost as an infusion prior to canning or kegging the beer. This allows the hops to impart their flavors to the beer without adding any bitterness. Double dry-hopping is a second round of hop addition.
While certain beers age well, Pueblo Vida Brewing Company cans have been on the hoppier side. Unfortunately, most pale ales and IPAs are highly perishable, so you won't want to leave these cans sitting around for long. If you get your hands on one, make sure to enjoy ASAP, outdoors or not.
Pueblo Vida Brewing Co. is located at 115 E. Broadway Blvd. For more information, call (520) 623-7168 or visit pueblovidabrewing.com.