READERS' PICK: The tap room at Nimbus Brewing Co. has changed from the spartan decor of the early D.I.Y. days to a comfortable setting with pizza and sandwiches to go along with a few pints of beer. Oh yes, the beer ... The Belgian White Ale, a wheat beer, is a slightly sweet and refreshing choice for these summer dog days. Afficionados might seek out the very hoppy pale ale, and the Rillito Red is a great, tasty copper-colored ale. Part of the relaxed charm of Nimbus is the easygoing mix of patrons from many walks of life that you likely couldn't pay to hang out together in any other setting. There are the blue collar guys from the nearby warehouses in to raise a glass after a long day, off-duty (we hope!) visitors from Davis-Monthan, the occassional curious uptown yuppie, college kids, bohos, artists, the whole mandala of diversity that makes for a more interesting evening than at a place where the beer and clientele are white-bread predictable. All this and great live music, too. You'll often find bluegrass hot shots Degrees Plato and friends on crowded Friday evenings, Big Galoot hold court on Thursday nights, and Scottish bagpipers kick off Saturday nights for a wide range of local and touring musicians. Enough to make somebody start drinking.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Gentle Ben's, 865 E. University Blvd. What best to complement a summer monsoon sunset--complete with pink and blue hues dappling on purple storm clouds? Why, nothing other than good company and a tasty microbrew! If you agree, be sure to head down to Gentle Ben's on University and cruise to their upstairs patio. Gentle Ben's blesses our Pueblo with an incredible range of beer selections. According to their web site (gentlebens.com) the staple options are the Red Cat Amber, Copperhead Pale Ale, Taylor Jane's Raspberry Ale, Nolan Porter and Chelsea Indian Pale Ale. The seasonal beers include the Beer Down Nut Brown (get it? Beer Down, like Bear Down, only with beer), Tucson Blonde and MacBlane's Oatmeal Stout. We didn't catch the name of their hefeweizen, but it was true to its name, nice and wheaty. And it is also one of their beers with the highest alcohol content. If you like heavier beers, you can't beat their nut brown, porter or the oatmeal stout. For any beer aficionado, the full flavor and the nice after-taste of Gentle Ben's brews make for a fab beer-drinking experience! And we still love that Beer Down thing.
LOOSE CHANGE: Liberty Ale, available at Zachary's, 1028 E. Sixth St. After an inexplicable and disappointing one-year absence, Zachary's has brought back the tap that gives beer hounds hope and the strength to persevere through the rigors of summer. Anchor Brewing Co.'s Liberty Ale is a beer-lover's brew--cloudy, highly hopped, but with just enough fruit/almond flavor to take the edge off. All in all, a delightful combination. Available in the gargantuan Zachary's imperial pint for the so-cheap-I'm- gonna-have-three price of $2.50., this is the best deal in town for beverage fans. And while the ride usually ends on the 4th of July, lovers of Liberty note that the special has been extended through Labor Day. Yes, the location has moved across the street, the pizza is still wonderful, Christy is still serving 'em up, and there are even rumors of impending live music; but as Shakespeare said "the beer's the thang." Live free or die.