Party on, Tap & Bottle
Very exciting things are brewing at Tucson’s beloved Tap & Bottle, but before we dig in, please grab a beer and your periodic tables because I’m about to drop some science.
Lesson one begins with the magnification turned way up. There are six elements on the periodic table known as the biogenic elements — carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur. Life as we know it would not exist without each one of these elements, in combination. In fact, these six biogenic elements account for 98% of the Earth’s living matter (E.Gough, 2020).
Pretty cool, right? Let’s move on.
Lesson two skips ahead about 3.7 billion years, when the primordial stew of the elements above gained thumbs, the burden of consciousness, and some other bits to make it human. It didn’t take long for these early humans to get into beer making (about 4000 BCE), undeniably scientific in its methods and with even fewer ingredients than making protozoa. Barley, hops, yeast, and water. Science is tasty.
Now, all of this time travel (and the triple IPA I’m staring into) got me thinking a little more romantically. We’ll call it science for poets. When it comes to the origin story of the Tucson beer scene, my hypothesis has always been that the opening of Tap & Bottle’s downtown location in 2013, 6000 years after the first beer was brewed, was a major catalyst for the evolution of beer in Tucson.
Yes, there was good beer to be had in Tucson before Tap & Bottle, but not a ton, and not nearly as accessible as we would have liked it. Just like making a microbe or brewing a beer, owners Rebecca and Scott Safford put all the right elements together to help make this big bang happen: Knowledge and love for craft beer, symbiosis over competition, and cultivation in the right environment — life finds a way.
What’s happenin’ at the celebrations
If you’ve made it this far through our science lesson, you will be pleased to know that recess is right around the corner, in the form of the upcoming Tap & Bottle anniversary celebrations. These are two big anniversaries to be proud of in July, namely the ninth anniversary of Tap & Bottle Downtown on Saturday, July 9, and the fifth anniversary of Tap & Bottle North on Saturday, July 16.
Both anniversary events will feature food trucks, live music, toasts, cupcakes, and of course excellent staff beer picks and special tappings. The crown jewel of the anniversary celebrations, however, is the release of a very special foursome of IPAs, each beer a collaborative effort between Tap & Bottle and another local brewery, specifically Pueblo Vida Brewing Company, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company, Wren House Brewing Company, and Tombstone Brewing Company.
That’s right, four collaboration IPAs with four Arizona breweries. It’s a massive undertaking but totally expected from the Tap & Bottle team, who has never shied away from creative ways to celebrate beer and cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with the beer makers of Arizona. Symbiosis, baby.
The four IPAs will be released on draft at each Tap & Bottle location on the day of that location’s anniversary and will be available to taste in flights of four or by the pint. However, in my opinion, the coolest way to partake in these collaborative brews is to pick up a very special four-pack of the beers. The Tap & Bottle maxim “Put Beer In Me” is spelled out across the body of the four cans, creating a drinkable work of art and announcing for us what we are all screaming internally around happy hour.
The four-pack design that makes this beer release so magical was dreamed up by the Saffords and brought to life by Dennis Fesenmeyer, the talented graphic designer behind Fezlab. Fesenmeyer has been the Tap & Bottle designer-in-residence since the bar was in its very early elemental stages (presumably just carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur). You know him from such bangers as the Tap & Bottle logo, the Tap & Bottle event posters, and the successful event poster spinoff of the Tap & Bottle wallpaper.
For this anniversary project, Fesenmeyer and the Saffords worked with each of the four breweries involved to create a unique concept for each can, which shares a unifying Tap & Bottle red theme color. As the kids would say, this four-pack is pretty epic.
Just like an Erlenmeyer flask is only as useful as the solution within it, a beer can simply cannot be celebrated fully without the beer inside it.
Here’s the delicious breakdown of what you can expect from each collaboration brew:
- Collab with Pueblo Vida Brewing Company: Cold IPA – fermented at lower temperatures than traditional IPAs, utilizing a more cold-tolerant yeast usually reserved for lagers. This IPA should be more of the “west coast” style, very crisp, but still hoppy enough to represent well within the IPA style guidelines.
- Collab with Wrenhouse Brewing Company: West Coast IPA – intense hop aroma (generally piney, resiny) and a bold bitterness stand out in this style, and for a brewery that currently has ten IPAs on its tap list, greatness is anticipated. 6.5% ABV
- Collab with Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company: Double Hazy IPA – to make an IPA a “double” brewers need to use a larger grain bill (up to double the amount). More grain used = more fermentable carbohydrates (yeast food) = more alcohol produced during fermentation. Sorry, I snuck in more science. 8.5% ABV
- Collab with Tombstone Brewing Company: Triple Hazy IPA – A. Triple. Hazy. IPA. 10% ABV
Now, if I was asked to make the commencement speech for our little graduating class of scientists, I wouldn’t just wax sentimental about the past, I would project some hope for the future. I talked with Rebecca Safford last week and asked her how she feels these days and what’s next on the Tap & Bottle horizon.
“I just feel really happy to have made it to the other side of the last several years. I feel really thankful,” said Safford.
As evolutionary biologists are well aware, there can be no growth without struggle and adaptation. Survival of the fittest isn’t necessarily about being the strongest but is about learning what works, what doesn’t, and evolving accordingly. And one of the things that works, according to Rebecca, is craft cocktails.
Tap & Bottle’s little sister bar that will not be ignored, Westbound, located in the MSA Annex has been serving up craft cocktails in addition to beer and wine since the bar’s opening in 2018. According to Rebecca, the craft cocktail program has been as popular as draft beer at this location since its opening. She credits her past and current managers Pat Butler, Liam Holdsworth, and Marissa Gatta for honing the recipes people crave, and figuring out how to scale up the formulas without compromising flavor.
It just works, which is exactly why the Saffords are expanding the program up to their Tap & Bottle North location, starting on its fifth anniversary on Saturday, July 16. The taproom will be serving at least six different locally crafted cocktails from their taps in addition to selling bottles of hard liquor in its bottle shop, all thanks to a shiny new Series Six license acquired for this location.
It’s another evolutionary leap for this locally grown family business.
Our journey from the first forms of life, to beer-making humans, to beer bar entrepreneurs with craft cocktails in their hands seems aptly summarized by Rebecca’s final reflection on the Tap & Bottle nine-year anniversary.
“I can’t believe we’ve been at it for so many years — it feels like a long time and a short time all at once,” she said.
Important anniversary info:
Tap & Bottle Downtown is located at 403 N. Sixth Ave. For more information about its ninth anniversary party, follow Tap & Bottle Downtown on Facebook.
Tap & Bottle North is located at 7254 N. Oracle Rd. For more information about its fifth anniversary bash, follow Tap & Bottle North on Facebook.