The brewing bug knows no bounds.
Back in 2010, Michael Mallozzi and Myles Stone were close friends. They'd met on the kickball field. Myles studied medicine at the U of A, with the aim of becoming a family physician. Michael had a PhD in microbiology, which he followed with research on disease-causing bacteria, also at the U of A.
Then, as if they had all the time in the world on their hands, they decided to open a brewery. One of the factors in their friendship was a mutual love of craft beer, along with a commitment to the Tucson community in which they had both grown up.
"Our first home brewing experience together was great," Mallozzi said. "It was an extract batch — those are pretty hard to screw up. Our first all-grain batch on the other hand — well that's a different story."
Soon after that first joint batch, they knew they wanted to open a brewery.
"I blame Myles," Mallozzi said. "He blames me." Whoever takes the blame or credit, Borderlands Brewing Company was born.
Collaboration is a big part of the Borderlands ethos, producing a range of what they call "collabrews." One was with Buqui Bichi Brewing of Hermosillo in Sonora, and together they came up with a Beer without Borders Brown Ale.
"Maybe it's just my instinct coming from an academic science perspective," said Mallozzi, "but collaborations are the only way to get things done. Besides that, it's a great way to solidify relationships in the industry and create something entirely new through partnership that neither of you could do alone."
Something new definitely describes the Borderlands partnership with Sentinel Peak to create a new bigger brewery facility at 330 S. Toole. Both companies will retain their identity and independence, but sharing brewing facilities has its advantages.
"We could easily double or triple production through this partnership," Mallozzi said, "which is no small undertaking."
Fans of both breweries can probably expect some more collabrews, too. But how do they square expanding with keeping on top of their regular jobs? Since they started Borderlands, Stone has worked as a family physician.
"Yes, for several months I've been working for Indian Health Services in Whiteriver," Stone said, "along with my wife Aimee, who's a nurse. We're not the only ones who are doing this. Unfortunately it's kind of a new normal, given the economics of our time. From a time and family perspective, it's extremely difficult if not impossible to keep a balance."
That's one reason expansion matters. By expanding they can afford to recruit people to do some of the jobs the two friends have been doing, simply because there was no one else to do them.
Whoever they recruit will have to believe, as Mallozzi and Stone do, in what they call Sustainable Brewing. Borderlands Brewing Company belongs to Conserve2Enhance, a Tucson-based organization which helps businesses and home-owners conserve water. The brewery also reduces its energy use through TEP's Community Solar program. Borderlands gives away its spent grain for use in composting, and even plans its delivery routes to minimize energy usage.
The whole community ethos spreads throughout the company. Their tap room is filled with work by local artists, all for sale, while outside the brewery is a huge and colorful mural.
"Our mural was commissioned by the Downtown Tucson Partnership as part of a graffiti mitigation effort, and was designed and painted by Joe Pagac," Mallozzi said.
Tucson artist Pagac's murals can be seen around the city, with the one at Borderlands Brewing Company being one of the biggest in Tucson. It's filled with desert landscapes and bizarre mixtures of animals and people. It's probably not a good idea to look too closely after several beers.
Asked which is his own favorite beer, Mallozzi again came back to community.
"Well, that's like asking which child are you most proud of," Mallozzi said. "But I'm most proud of the beers that help our community, the most recent of which was the Beat Bock Buffelgrass Beer we made in collaboration with the Desert Musuem."
Over the years Borderlands has produced some original brews, such as an Imperial German Chocolate Cake porter-style beer.
"Dan Bruner, our assistant brewer, came up with the beer for a cask we did for the Real Wild and Woody Festival a few years ago," Mallozzi said. "It was ranked the number one beer at the festival by one of the bloggers. We've been making it ever since."
Another original creation was TKMA IPA, named for the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association. TKMA puts on the annual Tucson Folk Festival, the first weekend every May, and Borderlands is the official brewer for the festival. With temperatures at the last festival hitting the hundred mark, Borderlands sold quite a few beers.
But what's their best-selling brew?
"Toole Avenue is quickly becoming our most popular beer," Mallozzi said. "This hazy juicy New England style IPA is a best-seller here in the tap room, and statewide."
With their beer now also available in Phoenix and Flagstaff, as well as throughout Tucson, Borderlands is spreading while staying proudly wedded to its Tucson roots.
Borderlands Brewing Company is located at 119 E. Toole Ave. For more information, visit borderlandsbrewing.com.