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Local breweries prepare for Arizona Beer Week and the Tucson Craft Beer Crawl

Jeff Gardner Feb 8, 2018 1:00 AM

Red exposed brick, naked lightbulbs, and cozy food trucks are common affair for contemporary breweries, but during Beer Week in Tucson, there's a lot more to be seen. In addition to the dozens of collaborations between local brewers and food pairing events, the Tucson Craft Beer Crawl takes over the city for a day.

From Fourth Avenue to Downtown, both snowbirds and locals partake in the fruits of our gastronomic hub. The northernmost brewery in the crawl, Crooked Tooth (228 E. Sixth St.) is one of the most active in the interweaving and blossoming Tucson craft beer scene.

Jeff Gardner
The cozy decor of Crooked Tooth Brewery

Crooked Tooth exhibits a new age and conscious take in much their brewing. Throughout Beer Week, they are hosting Mindful Mondays yoga and beer meetups, vegan food pairing, beer brewed on the full moon with quartz, and more.

"We try to incorporate the community and spread the love as much as possible," Julie Vernon, the co-owner, says. "We start every Saturday with yoga and pints, we have local bands and food trucks, and collaborate with other businesses as well."

Heading from Crooked Tooth Brewery, along the periphery of Fourth Ave., there is a newcomer. Although only two months old, Corbett Brewery (309 E. Seventh St.) has big plans for the future. Do not be deceived by its simple, sleek main room. The owners have plans to open it up and add in a restaurant and a dance floor.

"It's been very fun so far," bartender Kacie Munson says. "Our first day was the Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair and that first day our biggest customer base was other brewers. It's such a supportive community."

Although they only have a few things on tap right now, the little brewery is eagerly looking ahead to the beer crawl.

Jeff Gardner
The Public Brewhouse

Back out into the street, across the streetcar tracks, past the colorful characters and quirky boutiques of Fourth Avenue, the crawl continues through a quiet alley. There is a brick and wood building up ahead. Is it an artists' compound? A craft studio? No, it's Public Brewhouse (209 N. Hoff Ave.). Along with participating in the bar crawl and the Strong Beer Festival in Phoenix, Public Brewhouse is working on several collaborative beers: a cherry kettle sour, a saison with lavender, and more. These collaborations are just part of the culture of the Tucson beer scene.

"We're very much a neighborhood brewery," says Grace Hargis, general manager of Public Brewhouse. "We have a lot of walk-ins from customers that live nearby. Sometimes there are spontaneous potlucks or local bands play. We have both the feel of a neighborhood bar and a craft brewery."

Back into the street, the crawl descends through the echoes and colored lights of the Fourth Avenue underpass. As the light from the other side greets you, so do towering downtown walls of glass and steel. Lingering music and the sounds of traffic fill the air. A neon sign is to the right: Hotel Congress.

For those who don't feel like walking around too much, you can get a lot of your drinking done here. On the Hotel Congress grounds (311 E. Congress St.), the patio becomes a microcosm of breweries. Barrio Brewing, 1912 Brewing, and from Colorado, Upslope Brewing, will all be in attendance.

"It's a great way to introduce products and people," Hotel Congress bar manager Greg Fogie says. "You get to know downtown and get some great food and beer. Plus, it's a beautiful time of year in Tucson."

Right across the street, over the all-too-frequent one-way avenues of downtown, is a quiet and sophisticated spot. Through red velvet curtains lies Good Oak Bar. Although not directly part of the crawl, the Good Oak is certainly in the midst, and has plenty of special concoctions this time of year.

One of the most interesting is their "beer press." Grapefruit, gin, and ginger shrub flavors are mixed with a Crooked Tooth sour stout inside of a French press. They are also featuring exclusives with Iron Mountain and Iron John.

Good Oak also hosts a "Meet the Maker" series, where brewers both local and from around the state discuss their beers and offer free samples. Their next Meet the Maker is Feb. 7, just before the start of Beer Week.

Jeff Gardner
Where the magic happens at Thunder Canyon

Finally, through a few more blocks of downtown turf, it is time to reach the southernmost destination of the bar crawl. Opened in 1997, Thunder Canyon Brewstillery is comparatively one of the elders in the Tucson craft beer world—and perhaps one of the busiest local breweries this time of the year.

"We have a lot going on," says Bryan Miller, the "hospitality ninja" of Thunder Canyon. "We're releasing an 11 percent Warhead stout, it's a bad boy. We'll also have two new sour barrels. There will be a total of five different beers that week."

Alongside the beer, Thunder Canyon will also be serving up bratwurst from a grill some of the bartenders fashioned out of a keg. And as per usual for the scene, they are collaborating with Crooked Tooth Brewery on a pineapple beer.

"It's a really tight knit community of brewers," Miller says. "Everyone wants everyone else to succeed, which is rare in business. The competition isn't bad, it drives us all to do better... You hear 'bar crawl' and you think rowdiness, but honestly it's just fun. There's definitely no shortage of beer, but it's all good, and the sense of community is great as well."

This was just one possible route you can take for the Tucson Craft Beer Crawl. Along with the above listed venues, Ermanos Craft Beer & Wine Bar, the Playground Bar & Lounge, Borderlaands Brewing and Tap & Bottle will be participating, plus so many more collaborative brews and events. With 35 brewers across 10 venues, this year's Tucson Craft Beer Crawl is the biggest one yet. And throughout the rest of the state, from Strong Beer Festival in Phoenix to a multitude of events in Flagstaff, Arizona Beer Week will take over like its own personal holiday season.

Arizona Beer Week starts on Thursday, Feb. 8, and concludes on Saturday, Feb. 17 with the Tucson Craft Beer Crawl from 1-5 p.m. See our picks for the week.