This post is the second narrative on our weeklong trip to Phoenix in March – a period of baseball, breweries and hiking. The link below will take you to reviews of the first two breweries and two bars we visited – the most notable being Arizona Wilderness Brewery in Gilbert.
I mentioned in the first post that we encountered great beer and nice people, but were disappointed by the “strip mall ambiance” of the exteriors of the establishments. That’s also the case with two of the four breweries in this post.
For example, San Tan Brewing is a remarkable success story – founded in 2007 in Chandler and has had phenomenal growth and success with its craft beer and craft food. In 2011, it was selected as the best brewery in Arizona by the Phoenix New Times. It was the first brewery in Arizona to can their seasonal beers and this 2013 press release illustrates their growth pattern:
“On the heels of a $4M brewery additon at the current location, SanTan Brewing has continued to invest in its community and has added 125 new jobs to Chandler over the last 3 years. SanTan projects similar levels of growth for 2013 and 2014.”
The next morning we went for another hike to supplement our arduous trek up Pinnacle Peak the day before. The Ringtail Trail was far less strenuous – mostly level terrain – and this 2.4 mile loop allowed us to venture through some nice desert landscape.
That evening we had another Spring Training game – this one to see our Seattle Mariners play the SF Giants. We were a definite minority in the stands in the field at Peoria Park. We decided to have a pre-game brew and meal at Pedal Haus Brewing which is located in Tempe adjacent to the Arizona State University campus.
Although it was a weeknight and during Spring Break at the university – we were seniors, in fact and not in the university class context, at the pub in comparison to the average age of the clientele. It had a nice and unique exterior – welcomed in light of what we had grown accustomed to in Phoenix and Scottsdale. The interior was spacious and their patio was immense although the weather that evening ruled against enjoying it.
Pedal Haus was named one of the twelve best Tempe bars for ASU students in 2017 by Travel Pulse (It made me wonder just how many total bars there were near my OSU campus and how the Corvallis waterhole inventory paled in comparison – both when I was there and even now…)
We had a good beer and the two salads for dinner – the Thai Peanut Steak Salad and the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Salad were scrumptious but all their food and its presentation appeared to be excellent. The following excerpt from Travel Pulse is descriptive:
“Mill Avenue’s hip brewery is ultra cyclist-friendly with ample bike racks. Pedal Haus went through a remodel and expansion in 2016, with bungalows and fire pits added to the spacious 6,000-square-foot outdoor beer garden. The patio surrounds the perimeter of the restaurant, with games like ping pong, cornhole and ladder ball. Look for more than 20 beers on tap, or try one of the signature cocktails.”
“Only thing I don’t like about this place is the bathroom setup. The men and women’s restrooms are only for toileting. The handwashing station and vanity mirrors are communal and located outside in the common area. Kind of a bummer when you have braces like me and need to pick at your teeth and swish/gargle in private – lol.” (Perhaps his or her orthodontist should prescreen this misguided individual’s choice of bars……)
Although we wore multiple layers, with a brisk wind and temperature in the forties, we were definitely cold, but we got to see Ichiro in one of his last appearances at the plate. He didn’t get on base but received standing ovations each time he came to bat and the Mariners beat the Giants soundly.
A young and somewhat intoxicated – although not obnoxiously drunk – Giants fan was aggressively trash talking the Mariners – our seats were close to the infield near first base and in about the fourth inning, he was unceremoniously removed by security. It made me think how compared to the typical fan at Ebbets Field (Dodgers) or the Polo Grounds (Giants) in the old days, he was kicked out for a relatively tame dialogue.
The last day, we hit two breweries – one that was really average and not worth returning – the Phoenix Ale Brewery Central Kitchen – marketed as an innovative collaboration with a pizza entrepreneur which purports:
“……pairing them (the craft brews) with one-of-a-kind dishes that make guests wonder why they ever settled for traditional pub fare.” (emphasis added)
Based on that description, we thought we would eat there, but I’m sorry – pizza, burgers, sandwiches and salads don’t fit my characterization of “one of a kind dishes.” If you don’t believe me, take a look at their menu with this link.
Our final night in Phoenix, we went to our favorite brewery in the two trips to the desert – Craft 64:
“Craft 64 is Scottsdale’s premier venue for local craft beer, great wine and artisan wood-fired pizza…..We use local organic ingredients and make our own mozzarella from scratch every day.
All our produce is from local farmers. Our 100% wood oven heats to over 900 degrees. We have 30 Tap handles featuring Arizona beer, extensive wine list and 50+ bottles for table-side use or to go!”
They have two locations – Chandler and Scottsdale – we went to the latter. We loved Craft 64 – one factor was the exterior – it was in a picturesque building – standing alone not in a mall – and it had a nice patio. Walking in on a Friday evening, there was a positive and upbeat murmur with patrons and staff all appearing happy to be there.
There was also a nice beer garden in the back. Most of the single tables inside were filled and we sat at a long table in front of the bar (we always try to do this anyway) and we met some interesting people – most from out of town who were there for Spring Training.
And their pizza lived up to its billing – outstanding in appearance and taste.
It can always be a little frustrating, trying to select from so many beer options, but I opted for what turned out to be the best pint I had in Phoenix that trip – Wheat the People, which also had one of the coolest labels.
Interestingly enough, it does not come close to a top mark in the beer rating services, but I thought it had a great appearance and taste. “Clean, American White Wheat Ale w/ Falconers Flight West Coast Hops and hint of citrus.” – 5.0 ABV – 15 IBU – (Untapped.com)
Also of interest is the fact that Portland’s Coalition Brewing has a Wheat the People – American Pale Wheat Ale – 4.4 ABV – 13 IBU (Untapped.com) too.
I have heard that there have been some intellectual property trademark battles because brewers are running out of names for their craft brews, but perhaps these have agreed to a peaceful coexistence……
Janet, who was a little burned out on IPA’s decided to have a glass of Reserve Pinot Noir – 2015 Santa Rita.
After dinner, we decided to hit Old Town – Scottsdale, but it was a real disappointment. Besides having to look for a parking place for at least fifteen minutes, it was essentially touristy-type shops and had no character – unlike what one finds in San Diego’s Old Town.
We did see one bar that looked interesting and we ambled into the Rusty Spur Saloon. It was totally jammed and reminded me of some of the much advertised watering holes “one just has to experience” – such as the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau or the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson Wyoming.
As with these two, we walked into the Rusty Spur, but did not stay for a brew – not the kind of ambiance suitable to Thebeerchaser’s taste…..:maybe because Jennifer wasn’t at the bar. I also assume that she, like me, has an aversion to drinking beer in a plastic cup!
“The Rusty Spur Saloon is a Scottsdale destination. Celebrities like Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Vince Vaughn, and Jennifer Anniston have walked through its swinging doors to take in the Old West décor and Scottsdale live country music. It’s located right on Main Street in Old Town Scottsdale. Look for the cowpoke in the red shirt with his lasso.”
So we stopped one night and I had an In-N-Out hamburger for $2.10 plus tax.
The chain was founded the same year I was born and although I waited almost 71 years to experience it, I was somewhat underwhelmed.
In Oregon, I can have a much better Burgerville Original Cheeseburger for $1.75 without paying any sales tax. I also know that I am patronizing a business founded in Oregon (1961) that has sustainability as a core value and partners with other great Oregon businesses.
It should also be noted that I am not the only one who came to this conclusion. As reported by Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune in an interview with Klay Thompson, who spent some of his youth in Lake Oswego before becoming an NBA star with the Golden State Warriors:
“Whenever Thompson visits the Portland area, ‘I try to hit Burgerville…’ Is Burgerville better than In-N-Out? ‘Yeah, I like it better,’ Klay nods.”
Finally, those who have watched the NBA as long as I have will remember Phoenix Suns guard Dan Majerle. He was a shooting guard who played 14 years in the NBA.
Majerle was on the US Olympic Gold Medal Team and was known as “Thunder Dan” and made one NBA All-Star Team (1992). Upon retiring, he was an assistant coach for Phoenix, a broadcaster for TNT and ESPN and also a college head-coach for Grand Canyon University’s NCAA Division I Antelopes.
He is also an entrepreneur. When only 27 and playing basketball, he started his own line of clothing including underwear – he modeled his own product. In retirement he founded his own small chain of sports bars.
Majerle’s Sports Grill has four locations, one of which was in the Desert Ridge Mall close to our hotel. So while we did not eat there, I had to go in and take a look.
The sports bar appeared to be an attractive venue and is evidently popular. I used to enjoy watching Thunder Dan play hoop and am glad to see that he has moved from underwear to the bar scene!
It’s also nice to know that he is one former pro athlete who did not squander his substantial earnings after his athletic prime.