Bear down and bottoms up Tucson, It's time to appreciate the Seventh annual Arizona Beer Week and all the crafty brewers who make our town tasty.
Tucson has been a part the beer celebration week since the opening of Gentle Ben's Brewing Co. in 1991, followed by the remaining old guard—Nimbus Brewing Co., Thunder Canyon Brewery opening in the late '90s and Barrio Brewing Co. in 2006—and then Borderlands Brewing Co., which opened in 2011.
Tucson has become home to more than a dozen craft brewers with new ones popping up every year. This year, four new breweries opened—Crooked Tooth Brewing Co. near downtown, Dillinger Brewing Co. on Oracle Road, Green Feet Brewing just west of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Catalina Brewing Co. just off the highway at Ina Road.
More than 90 events will be ongoing throughout the week in Tucson with more than 200 around the state. While we can't list them all here, we'll tell you about a few of our favorites, but visit arizonabeerweek.com/events-2017 to get the full run down. Crooked Tooth
We caught up with the new brewers on the block at Crooked Tooth, which opened last November. Co-owner Ben Vernon has been working non-stop to get the brewery off the ground.
If you're going to open a brewery, "be ready," Vernon said. "It's not as simple as it seems, that's for sure."
Crooked Tooth is the brainchild of Vernon, his wife Julie, and friends Jodee and Armando Basurto.
"We still mess around and get ideas now, its just bigger scale," Vernon said. "You just have to hope whatever you pump out is going to be something people want to put in their mouth."
If you're one of the beer drinkers on the IPA-hype train then look no further than one of Crooked Tooth's flagship brews, the 18th Hour, which boasts a classic West Coast-style bitterness with a malt background.
Crooked Tooth's other brews include the Archmagus Amber and two fluctuating flagships, which for now are the Quaker with Mango and Always Sunny in Amarillo. The Quaker features varying fruits while the Always Sunny will hop from hop to hop.
The Beer Week specials include Crooked Tooth's "collabrew" with 1912 Limon Chingon, a lemon meringue Berliner Weisse, and a Vermont-style IPA called Refugees Welcome made with locally grown white wheat.
For Beer Week, Crooked Tooth is hosting Crooked Tooth and Friends on Monday, Feb. 13, with 12 West Brewing Co. from Gilbert, Wren House Brewing Co. from Phoenix, Lochiel Brewing from Mesa (who just opened their doors a few weeks ago,) and Tucson locals 1912 and Pueblo Vida.
The event is characteristic of Crooked Tooth's friendly arrival in Tucson's brew scene, which has welcomed them with open arms and helping hands.
"There's been a lot of community support," Vernon said. "It's a competitive atmosphere, but it's a friendly competitive atmosphere; it's a fun atmosphere."
Pueblo Vida demonstrated that friendliness by helping Crooked Tooth mill their first three batches after their mill broke, and that community is what Crooked Tooth is all about.
"It's people getting to drink beer, the beer that you've made or the beer you've made a recipe for," Vernon said. "It's something that kind of brings a community together."
Crooked Tooth's community tables and lack of constant television brings people together who will play cards and board games and talk to one another, especially about beer.
"That's what we want," Vernon said. "We want people to come and get to know people—make the community strong."
Crooked Tooth will also be on the air with On the Menu Live at KQTH 104.1 FM to kick off the week on Saturday, Feb. 11 at. 5:30 p.m.
Tap and Bottle
Tap and Bottle has become a favorite for beer buffs since it opened June 2013. With one of the largest selections of beers from around the globe, there's something for everyone at Tap and Bottle.
Beer Week is a breeze for owners Rebecca and Scott Safford, who have participated since the bar opened.
"There's some events we've had year after year, but we always try to do something different," Rebecca said. "Maybe we have new collaborations, maybe we have different people involved in it, but overall, we just try to think about 'What would I want to drink?,' what kind of beers do we want people to try out and showcase, and let's build some fun stuff around it."
Tap and Bottle is participating in 16 Beer Week events, starting with a kickoff event on Thursday, Feb. 9, with collabrews in partnership with Historic Brewing Co. in Flagstaff and Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. in Gilbert.
Tap and Bottle will have 30 unique beers on tap throughout the week, including the collaborations.
The Historic collabrew is the Alpha Beta IPA, a New England-style IPA. With Wilderness, Tap and Bottle brewed the Dirty Tap Water IPA with a citrus twist from the rangpur fruit, which gives the beer a unique citrus taste.
Rebecca also participated in the second all-women collaboration at Barrio, during which about 75 women brewed the State Bird double IPA to raise money for women's shelters around the state.
The group hopes to raise $10,000 for the Sojourner Center in Phoenix, the Northland Family Help Center in Flagstaff, Wings for Women in Tucson and the Prescott Area Women's Shelter.
The State Bird will be available at bars and restaurants around the state during Beer Week.
Many of Tap and Bottle's events will feature local brewers like Iron John Brewing Co., Borderlands, Ten Fifty-Five Brewing and Pueblo Vida. Other events will be bar games, like the California vs. Colorado Party on Monday, Feb. 13, in which patrons can compare beers from the two states and play Pictionary with brewery representatives.
Brew of A
For a one-stop tour of Arizona beers you can head down to Brew of A on Sixth Street near the UA. The tavern-style restaurant will feature all Arizona beers on its 24 taps. Tucson beers will fill up half the taps.
Though near the University, Brew of A likes to think of itself as a neighborhood bar.
"College bars don't make any money," said general manager Jon Tuck. "Absolutely we embrace being right next to the university. Obviously the name embraces it. That's heritage, but we're a neighborhood pub."
Tuck took over only a few weeks ago, but has been learning the Tucson beer scene for the past four year.
"There's so many good beers," Tuck said. "There's not a reason to drink mass-produced crap anymore."
Tuck is most excited about hosting the Pueblo Vida hefeweizen, Iron John's pale ale, the Sentinel Peak Overhaul Chili beer and the Barrio Copperhead, just to name a few.
"I want to try to not be redundant," Tuck said. "Every brewery has an IPA. I want to pick the best example of each brewery.
Brew of A will have beer specials and pairings with food made from scratch in the kitchen.
Brew of A rebranded about 18 months back and Tuck wants to make its identity all about being Tucson's best Arizona beer bar.
"There's no reason not to drink good, local, craft beer," Tuck said. "And Arizona, even in the four years since I've been here, I've watched the beer market just explode."
Craft beer crawl
If you miss most of the week's events, don't worry, you can still get your fill of foam with the Craft Beer Crawl on Saturday, Feb 18.
Beer buffs will travel the downtown scene, stopping at nine venues—two of which are beer gardens—featuring 25 Arizona breweries and six out-of-towners.
The crawl will give you a taste of some old favorites like Thunder Canyon and Borderlands, and give you a chance to check out some new places like Public Brewhouse and Crooked Tooth. Crawlers will also stop by the familiar Hotel Congress and Playground across the street, and Tap & Bottle will host a beer garden during the inebriated tour de Tucson.
"I really love events that have a strong sense of place," said organizer Laura Reese. "It really is a way to explore and embrace downtown Tucson."
Proceeds from the crawl go to Watershed Management Group, which has partnered with the event the past three years.
"The event is really aimed at supporting the brewing industry in town and growing that industry," Reese said. "I feel that we can't responsibly grow our brewing industry without also growing our water supply."
The group is aimed at community collaboration to help increase awareness and activity to create a sustainable environment. Since brewers use local water sources, they get in on the action by hosting the beer crawl.
In its first year, the crawl attracted 350 participants and raised just under $4,000 for the group. Last year that number grew to 1,000 and raised almost $10,000. This year Reese expects they'll sell up to 1,200 tickets and be able to raise about $13,000—as much as the first two years combined.
General admission tickets will run you $40 a piece for 30 tasting tickets, each of which is worth a 2 oz. pour. If you want to kick it up a notch, then VIP tickets are available for $70 each, which will not only get you in an hour early, but also a food voucher and access to the "secret" VIP bar (it's in the back of 47 Scott) for some beer cocktails.