Yoga in a brewery? Ping-pong tournaments? These are just some of the quirky attractions at Dragoon Brewing Company on West Grant Road.
Hangover workouts are also popular, which is probably a good idea as Dragoon produces several quite potent brews. Their Orpheus Barrel-aged Barleywine, for example, weighs in at a hefty 11.2% ABV, while their two Russian Imperial Stouts are both 10.4%.
“We try to have a wide variety available at any given time,” said head brewer and co-founder Eric Greene. “Looking back on last year, 8 of the 32 different beers we brewed would fit that description, though not necessarily over 10%. I guess I would say that it is a little bit of column A, and a little from column B. I like to offer up a variety, and I think our customers appreciate it as well, though those stronger beers are rarely the highest-demand options we have available.”
Variety is certainly a feature of the brews Greene produces, with a penchant for barrel-aging too. As well as the Orpheus, their Biere del Bac, a Belgian-style quad, is aged in rum barrels.
Dragoon’s own barrel production increased dramatically recently. An expansion in December 2017 boosted production capacity from 7,500 barrels to about 20,000, making them one of the larger producers in Arizona.
“We hope to keep expanding at a measured rate,” Greene said. “Since we’ve opened, we’ve grown at about 30% per year, give or take a bit, and that has become a relatively comfortable rate for us. We expect that to slow down a bit as we grow, but we’re not looking to make any huge leaps and bounds. Slow and steady is the name of the game for us.”
Eric gets his brewing interest from his father and Dragoon co-founder Bruce, who began home-brewing in the mid-1990s. When Eric went to college he admits to stealing as much of his dad’s home-brew stuff as he could get away with. His own first attempt at home-brewing wasn’t a runaway success, though.
“I don’t remember what style I tried to brew,” Greene said, “but it was in 2002, while I was in college. It wasn’t very good, but I tried to drink it anyways, until finally I just gave up and dumped it out.”
Eric was hooked though, so much that he qualified as a BJCP-certified beer judge and went to study at the American Brewers Guild in Vermont. Then in 2009 he and his father met Tristan White at the Tucson Homebrew Club. All three had a desire to open a commercial brewery, and in 2011 Dragoon Brewing Company was founded, opening the following year with just two beers on tap. Their Dragoon IPA and Stronghold Session Ale are still popular today, but now the range extends to over 30 beers a year, with about 11 on tap at any one time.
So what’s the main difference when stepping up from home-brewing to running a commercial brewery?
“The mechanics,” Eric said. “Recipe development and the fermentation process remain pretty much the same, but the scale is so much larger at the commercial level that the tools available are by necessity much different. As a result, the way beer is transferred, stored, and tested for quality measures are pretty different.”
Dragoon sources most of its hops from the Pacific Northwest, and its barley is mainly from the Northern US and Canada. They use very few European hops, but this doesn’t stop them coming up with a wide variety of styles and experiments.
“Making something new is the most creative aspect of my job,” Eric said, “so it is pretty rewarding in that regard. But our customers are also generally pretty excited about new beers we are experimenting with, and that helps make it rewarding as well.”
Dragoon Brewing Co. is located at 1859 W. Grant Rd. #111. For more information, call (520) 329-3606 or visit dragoonbrewing.com.