Vespa Your Way Through Vietnam's Budding Craft Beer Scene
Brought to life by a duo of homebrewers, Mesa’s Beer Research Institute (or B.R.I for short) is the East Valley’s realest, most badass beer drinking destination thus far -- c’mon, the beer flights are served up in brass knuckles. And the beer, mostly Belgian and West Coast-style ales, come with hardcore names like Morning Sex (a sweet stout made with cold brew from Chandler’s Peixoto Coffee), War Paint, and Street Cred. The tap list is constantly rotating, and the kitchen is always cooking up new stuff, like the made-from-scratch hatch green chile burger and the machaca tacos. B.R.I also pours a handful of craft brews from the local brewing community, including northern Arizona’s Grand Canyon Brewing Company and Phoenix’s SunUp.
Pedal Haus first swung open its doors about a year ago, but after a brief hiatus and a remodel revamp, the Tempe brewery is now open for business. The Belgian-American gastropub operates on a state-of-the-art brew system and churns out a variety of handcrafted European-style beers, including a satisfyingly strong IPA and tasty witbier. Pedal Haus has an expansive outdoor patio fit with fire pits, as well as a German-style beer garden with rows of picnic tables and games like ping-pong and cornhole, making this a great place to kick back with friends and grab a bite (we suggest the wood-fired pizza).
This nano-brewery and taproom is located in a historic building in the heart of Downtown Mesa, and originated as a humble hobby. Owners Dave Valencia and Chuck Wennerlund brewed their first five gallons of beer from a kitchen and a two-car garage a couple years ago. And, to their surprise, the beer they brewed was actually pretty damn good. The small homebrewing operation turned into Oro Brewing Company, which currently operates on a three-barrel system that can produce around seven kegs of beer at a time.
Avondale’s first craft microbrewery -- one of only five breweries on the west side -- burst onto the scene in early 2015 and is already earning a high score among beer drinkers and old-school gamers. Owners Ryan and Krystina Witten are passionate about craft beer and video games, and designed their brewery with a heavy retro-gaming theme. Even the beers are game-inspired, most notably the flagships, Legend of Zymur Double IPA, and Hopsassin’s Creed, a session IPA with a surprisingly citrusy, hoppy finish. The brewery's 46-person tasting room is equipped with tabletop games, Super Nintendo, NES systems, and other arcade-style games, so feel free to let your inner gamer come out when you’re here. Food trucks stop by on Wednesday and Friday nights, so grab a bite and a beer for sustenance while you battle for gamer glory.
Brian Helton is at the helm of this Phoenix brewery, and with almost 20 years of experience and an arsenal of accolades, he certainly knows what he’s doing as brewmaster (he’s even a certified cicerone). Brews including the milk stout, IPA, pilsner and Scottish ale will be available year-round, but other suds -- like the chocolatey dark Munich lager or the single-hopped pale ale -- will come and go. There’s also tons of cheese on tap, from local farmers and producers around the world, which feature on a weekly rotating Cheesemonger Choice Board. In addition to cheese, Helton slings grilled sandwiches, sausage boards, and even Belgian waffles. As the brewery grows, Helton plans to start bottling its beer.
Scottsdale Beer Company embraces the tradition of early American brewing in a contemporary environment where grain is milled on-site and local ingredients are always used when available. On tap, you’ll find a variety of different brews, from hefeweizens to Scottish ales -- including the award-winning, ass-kicking Texas Tea, aged in Templeton Rye Whiskey distillery barrels, coming in at 10.4% ABV. Described as a “mad scientist,” head brewer Brad Williams has been brewing beer for two decades.
Whether you’re thirsty or hungry, you can get your fill of pub food, like made-from-scratch pretzels and brats, as well as craft beer. With 20 taps, 10 to 13 of which are dedicated to house beers, there’s always ample choices at this north Peoria brewery. One of Peoria’s first brews, the black IPA Haboob, has won over the hearts of craft-brew drinkers for its roasty, toasty, chocolaty notes. But if it’s a true chocolate flavor that you’re seeking, try the Superior Chocolate Stout -- you won’t be disappointed, but you will definitely have a delicious new craving.
It’s hard to imagine The Shop’s humble beginnings, brewing beer from the back of a Tempe coffee shop on a half-a-barrel system with just three kegs. Today, The Shop operates out of a brand-new space that supports a monster 20-barrel system. Officially in business since August of this year, the brewery and taproom have been keeping the people more than satisfied with a long list of creatively done brews. Head brewer Matt Johnson and his team use a collection of unique ingredients (think kumquats, bing cherries, basil, juniper berries, cacao nibs, papaya, and guava) to make their beer stand out.
Nano-brewery Helio Basin follows a decade and a half of dreaming, and is dedicated to quality in every aspect of the business. Helio Basin brews a wide variety of craft beer, like the hoppy, blonde-brewed Citrus Paradisi, made with Arizona grapefruit peel. But don’t let its fruitiness fool you -- this beer has an impressive ABV of 8.5%. The American IPA, dark, flavorful Robust Porter, Hoppy Amber, and the fruity Blackberry Wheat are just a few of your options. Helio Basin also has a full kitchen so you can fill your stomach with something other than beer, including beer & ice cream flights. Yes, that’s really a thing (which you should definitely try).
Vintage meets contemporary at Phoenix’s Wren House, where the brewery makes use of a home that was originally built in 1922. While there are many modern updates here, including sleek subway tile and varnished wood countertops, you can still see remnants of the home’s historic qualities. Don’t let the unassuming exterior steer you away. The cozy taproom has a family-style table front and center, and ample seating at the bar. If you’re new to Wren House, we suggest trying out the beer flights. This way you can take your taste buds on an adventure and get a satisfying sample of everything from the hibiscus-brewed Lady Banks, to crowd-favorite Jomax, an oatmeal stout, made with Press Coffee Roasters cold brew and the uber-hoppy, unfiltered Wrenovation.
Old Town Scottsdale
Old Town Scottsdale’s family-owned and -operated brewery is a newcomer to the Phoenix-area brew scene, but the brewhouse staff is using its 30 years of prior experience to make waves. Goldwater Brewing is known for high-quality craft beers that push the boundaries of beer making, especially the flagship, the ever-so-popular Desert Rose. This beer is brewed with 100% organic Arizona-grown cactus fruit, and when it’s finished, it comes out a stunningly beautiful crimson-red color. It has a cleverly-named lineup of beers, such as a golden ale brewed with local orange blossom honey called Winnie the Brew; Scotch’dale, which is obviously a Scottish ale, and a full-bodied one at that; and Birthday Suit, a hoppy, tropical IPA.
Mother Bunch is what happens when you pair craft-brewed beer, good food, an up-and-coming restaurant scene, and one badass owner. One of Arizona’s top craft breweries, Mother Bunch Brewing is within walking distance of Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row. The brewery is headed by one of the most legit women in the Phoenix restaurant game, Julie Meeker, and the beer is brewed by a team of beer-science aficionados, including brewer/chef Holly Arguello. Here, popcorn and bacon come together as an appetizer, you can get baked French toast until 3pm, and there’s plenty of options for those who have dietary restrictions. Naturally, there’s a long list of beers brewed in-house, like the Baie Rose Saison, Stripped Copper Amber, and the Cherry Popper, a smoked cherry porter that tastes just like a chocolate-covered cherry. We also like the malt-forward American red ale, Roosevelt Red. Just check the giant chalkboard for what’s on tap.
1. The Beer Research Institute1641 S Stapley Dr Ste 104, Mesa
2. Pedal Haus Brewery730 S Mill Ave, H-102, Tempe
3. ORO Brewing Company210 W Main St, Mesa
4. 8-Bit Aleworks1050 N Fairway Dr Bldg F Ste 101, Avondale
5. Helton Brewing Company2144 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix
6. Scottsdale Beer Company8608 East Shea Blvd., Scottsdale
7. Peoria Artisan Brewery10144 W Lake Pleasant Pkwy #1130, Peoria
8. The Shop Beer Co.922 W 1st St, Tempe
9. Helio Basin Brewing Co.3935 E Thomas Rd, Phoenix
10. Wren House Brewing Company2125 N 24th St, Phoenix
11. Goldwater Brewing Company3608 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale
12. Mother Bunch Brewing825 N 7th St, Phoenix
Beer Research Institute (BRI) is a badass brewery in Mesa's East Valley: beer flights are served in brass knuckles, and the brews, mostly Belgian and West Coast-style ales, have names like Morning Sex (a sweet stout made with cold brew from Peixoto Coffee), War Paint, and Street Cred. The tap list is ever-changing and the kitchen is always creating new bites, like the scratch-made hatch green chile burger and the machaca tacos. BRI also pours craft brews from the local brewing community, including Northern Arizona’s Grand Canyon Brewing Company and Phoenix’s Sun Up.
Gone are the days of one-room, lackluster taprooms. Tempe’s made-for-groups Pedal Haus Brewery gives beer lovers a plethora of hangout options, including an indoor room with views of the brewing process, a biergarten with rows of picnic tables, and a 6,000-square-foot outdoor patio with cabana seating and fire pits. All of this sitting will inevitably rev up your appetite, so grab some of Pedal House’s bar snacks, like pretzel bites with maple butter and cheese sauce or brick-oven pizza fashioned from spelt grain leftover from brewing.
Oro Brewing Company is a nanobrewery and taproom housed in an adobe-and-plaster building that’s stood since 1929. Co-owner Chuck Wennerlund cut his teeth in the beer industry not as a professional but as a passionate consumer, so not only does he get you, but he is also your idol. Oro keeps local brews on tap and has a 3-barrel brewing system capable of producing about seven kegs at a time. There’s no kitchen here, but you can snatch up some snacks and sandwiches from neighboring Worth Takeaway.
Nerd out at Avondale’s 8-Bit Aleworks, the nostalgic bring-your-own-snacks microbrewery that pays homage to old-fashioned gaming. Brews, which are mostly heavy and hoppy at 8-Bit, have Nintendo references like “Black Mage” stout, “Hopsassins Creed” IPA, and “Legend of Zymur” double IPA, and taps are topped with vintage controllers. Situated in an actual office park, 8-bit owns the industrial panache intrinsic to most breweries and takes it to the next level with high ceilings and big windows offering sweeping, pastoral views of a large commercial complex.
Helton is a Phoenix brewery helmed by Brian Helton, who, like us, is as enamored of brews as he is of food. A certified cicerone and winner of multiple World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival awards, Helton utilizes this 10,000-square-foot warehouse as a home for wines, craft beers, like the flagship brew Scottish Ale made with Scottish barley, and gourmet cheeses, cured meats, grilled sandwiches, and waffles. Enjoy some (or all) of the above at industrial wooden tables flanked by the brewery’s signature taxicab yellow stools.
The Scottsdale Beer Company embraces the tradition of the American brewing industry by milling all grain onsite and sourcing as many local beer ingredients as possible. Their draft setup has 24 handles, half of which feature constantly rotating local brews from outside breweries. Inside the taproom, you’ll find an exposed-beam ceiling that resembles a neat pile of pickup sticks. Below, there’s room for about 200, and if you can’t leave home without your pup, he can certainly join in the fun on the outside patio.
The Peoria Artisan Brewery is part-brewery, part-gastropub, and celebrates New American cuisine, like buffalo pig ears (a crowd favorite). The dining area seats about 70, and the bar area has a garage door that allows the sunshine and fresh air in. Of the 20 taps at Peoria, 10-13 are house-made and 6-9 are guest beers just hanging out. The black IPA Haboob is beloved not only for its mellifluous name, but also for its chocolaty flavor. You can take any brew home in a growler or wait for it to be canned.
Fans of The Shop remember its days as a small, three-keg operation in the back of a Tempe coffee shop, but now they gather inside its industrial-chic, 20-barrel taproom on 1st, where they order from an extensive list of creative brews with unique ingredients, such as kumquats, bing cherries, cacao nibs, and papaya. There's an outdoor patio, too, where you'll sit beneath twinkle lights and order from the on-site food truck serving up beer-friendly fare like burgers and poutine.
You'll have a front-row seat to the high-quality brewing action at Helio Basin, where wooden tables surround the brewhouse that's producing an extensive selection of craft beer -- from the hoppy, blonde-brewed Citrus Paradisi made with Arizona grapefruit peel, to the dark, flavorful Robust Porter. There's also the Hoppy Amber and the fruity Blackberry Wheat, to name just a few. And that's not all. There's a full kitchen to help you soak up those suds, which is cooking up plates like seared banana corn bread and flour tortillas with beer-braised pork belly. Don't leave without trying one of the beer & ice cream flights.
Old meets new at cozy brewery Wren House, situated inside a house built in 1922 that's now outfitted with sleek subway tile, varnished wood countertops, and a stacked lineup of inventive stouts and hoppy IPAs. To get a taste of everything Wren has to offer, go for a flight, which will set you up with beers like the hibiscus-brewed Lady Banks; the fan-favorite Jomax, an oatmeal stout made with Press Coffee Roasters cold brew; and the super-hoppy, unfiltered Wrenovation.
The family behind this industrial-chic brewery in Old Town Scottsdale has been in the brewing business for more than 30 years, which means the high-quality beers here are crafted with the utmost expertise, shown in both the regulars and one-offs they have on tap. Their unique craft beers color outside the lines, like with the fan-favorite flagship brew, Desert Rose, which is brewed with Arizona cactus fruit and turns out beautifully crimson. The names are clever, too, such as Winnie the Brew, a golden ale with local orange blossom honey; Scotch’dale, a full-bodied Scottish ale; and Birthday Suit, a hoppy, tropical IPA.
Owned and operated by self-proclaimed beer geek Julie Meeker and brewer Holly Arguello, Mother Bunch in Downtown Phoenix functions as both a top notch microbrewery and delicious eatery. A variety of rotating taps -- both local and national -- can be paired with refined eats like slow-roasted pork belly sourdough sandwiches, fiery three alarm burgers, and jumbo beer-marinaded shrimp.