READERS' PICK: The microbrewing renaissance in the U.S. was a decidedly basement and backroom movement, the devotees of a close-knit cabal weary of the rancid swill pumped out by commercial breweries. Unfortunately, once the economic viability of microbrewed beer was established, the corporate piranhas were quick to swarm in and co-opt the market.
So much so, that Nimbus Brewing Co. is a welcome antidote to the same old dreary sameness. Located in a real warehouse, in a real warehouse 'hood, owner Nimbus Cousin has created a relaxed, comfortable joint that's short on hip pretension and long on friendly staff, warm atmosphere, and most essentially, great beer. The latter includes the highly hopped Palo Verde Pale Ale, Rillito Red, oatmeal stout, nut brown ale, and the potent specialty brew Old Bumble (available only on Mondays). A few pints and the name takes on new significance.
Nimbus is a working brewery with brewing and bottling equipment recycled from a Vermont brew house; the decor ranges from artsy to scavenged, with the venerable D.I.Y. ethic intact. The scene, if you can call it that, spans the cultural boundaries; and the unique location means that no one ends up at Nimbus unless they're planning to go there. Open seven days a week for cheap pints, good sandwiches, and eclectic live music (the latter on three or four nights a week). The uninitiated might consider Friday evenings, where you'll find a big, friendly crowd and bluegrass young guns Degrees Plato tearing it up onstage.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Breckenridge Brewery, 1980 E. River Road