Arizona Beerchasing – Part II

A sunset cocktail at the Four Seasons Resort – Scottsdale at Troon North

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.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/05/14/arizona-beerchasing-the-second-chase/

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 TimesIt 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.”

We went to their Uptown Phoenix Brewpub – one weeknight for just a beer after dinner.  They now have three locations and this one was in a strip mall.

That said, it was hopping and our server, Brad, was another outstanding young man who was enthusiastic about  his employer.  He explained the good selection of 14 beers on tap.

We had a pint of the Sunspot Gold Ale and one of the Moon Juice IPA.  The good beer and Brad’s interpersonal skills negated the exterior blandness.

Moon Juice IPA and Sunspot Gold Ale

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.

A rather unusual entrance to Pedal Haus Brewing just off the ASU 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.”

Conversely, this 3/7/19 Yelp reviewer was upset and probably why one should always regard Yelp reviews with healthy skepticism – especially when they are critical – usually for nitpicks:

“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 Polo Grounds in 1913 – Rowdier Fans???

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)

Orange Peel IPA and then dinner at the pasta restaurant next door!

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.

You can see below that they had an interesting mix of beers on tap – we were curious but didn’t order the Beer Research Institute’s Morning Sex Stout but had an Orange Peel IPA.

So after splitting a pint – the good news was that during Hoppy Hour, pints were only $4 – we had a great meal of pasta at the Italian bistro next door!

Our final night in Phoenix, we went to our favorite brewery in the two trips to the desert – Craft 64:

30 Beers on Tap

“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)

Craft 64 Brew

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.

From Coalition Brewing in PDX

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.”

Beer in plastic cups and no Jennifer….

 

 

 

 

 

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.

An Oregon corporation

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. 

Another Burgerville fan..

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.”

Thunder Dan

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 hotelSo 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.

Thebeerchaser in Montana and Wyoming – Part II

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

Part I of our Montana and Wyoming trip in 2015 was posted on this blog this February.  It reviewed the wonderful bars in the city of Missoula – a great college town, but also one filled with bars laden with character and history among them Charlie B’s, the Oxford and the Stockman.

The Tetons

The Tetons

And don’t forget some outstanding breweries including Draught Works, Flathead Lakes and Kettle Mountain Breweries.  You can review the post by clicking on the following link: https://thebeerchaser.com/2016/02/12/thebeerchaser-does-montana-and-wyoming-part-1/

Eric, Cassie and Annabelle Hall

Eric, Cassie and Annabelle Hall

From Missoula we traveled southward to Helena on the way to Wyoming and Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Helena is home to our friends, Dr. Eric Hall, his wife Cassie and her mom, Candy, and their wonderful little daughter, Annabelle.

Both work for Carroll College in Helena, which has an impressive campus.  Ph.D. Eric is an Assistant Professor of Theology and Philosophy and is working on his second book.

His first book, co-authored in 2014, was entitled: Groundless Gods: Post-Metaphysical Philosophy of Religion.  Dr. Hall is an extremely intelligent and learned guy and is also a great bar companion.  (I learned a lot about Thomas Aquinas and Rene Descartes when Eric linked the latter’s advocacy of dualism to an assertion that both Budweiser and micro-brews have redeeming social value).

Caroll has an outstanding academic program of which the football team can be proud…..It was ranked # 1 in Western Regional Colleges in the latest US News and World Report collegiate academic rankings.  Cassie, the college’s Registrar, also has an impressive background, having played soccer at the University of Washington where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and then earned her Master’s Degree at Claremont Graduate University. 

And the college has also had some notable football teams in the past:Carroll_College_Helena,_MT_Seal

The Carroll Fighting Saints football team began playing in 1920 and is one of the most successful programs in the NAIA division of college football. The program has won six NAIA Football National Championships and 40 conference championships, 14 while a member of the Montana Collegiate Conference and 26 as a member of the Frontier Conference.

The team is currently coached by Mike Van Diest who in his 12 seasons at Carroll, has compiled a career record of 144–20. His winning percentage of.878 is the third highest of any head coach with at least ten seasons of experience in college football history…”

St. Charles Hall at Carroll College

St. Charles Hall at Carroll College

It certainly bears noting that on the way to Helena, along US Highway 12, we passed through Clinton and I was captivated by the signs advertising  the Annual Testicle Festival, the World’s  largest.  It attracts 15,000 people each  year and as you might expect, it is not considered to be a family-type outing.

Rock Creek Lodge, just outside of Clinton, is the home of the Testy Festy where a $20 general admission ticket will gain you entrance to:

“………the world’s largest testicle festival every fall attracting more than 15,000 fans annually to its five day event.  Tossing around its motto, ‘I had a ball at the Testicle Festival,’ the festival feeds over 2 ½ tons of bull balls to its many hungry revelers. 

Not only can you get a taste of these yummy delicious deep-fried bull’s testicles, but while you’re there, you’ll no doubt want to participate in the bull-chip throwing contest, the wet t-shirt or hairy chest competitions, and bull-shit bingo.”

Rocky Mountain Oysters -- Really!!

Rocky Mountain Oysters — Really!!

And in case you thought that Rocky Mountain Oysters were shipped in from the coast after being harvested from the Pacific Ocean, this item on the menu consists of:

“USDA approved bull testicles(used) in preparing the delicacy……also known as Rocky Mountain Oysters. The membrane is peeled, marinated in beer, breaded four times, and deep fried to result in what appears to be a fat breaded pork tenderloin.”

While attendance at this “seminal” event will have to wait for another Beerchaser road trip, we pushed on to Helena where we toured the city and visited two breweries/pubs with Eric and Cassie:

Blackfoot River Brewing Company

http://blackfootriverbrewing.com

and

Lewis and Clark Brewing Company

About Lewis and Clark Brewing Company

P1030613Blackfoot River Brewing Company and Tap Room is right in the heart of Helena and its two levels with a nice second-floor patio add to the enjoyment. The idiosyncratic Montana alcohol laws again were apparent by the sign stating:  “Montana law does however, limit consumption to 48 ounces per person, per day and only until 8pm,”

That means 8:00 PM even on weekends and meant we had to buy a ticket first and then obediently hand it to the bartender to get a twelve-ounce glass – you can’t even get a pint!   It makes one wonder why a state known for its rugged individualism and independence (which undoubtedly saw a lot of bar fights and cowboys throwing down shots at 3 AM in the past) allows a paternal regulation which doesn’t make a lot of sense. (I neglected to ask Eric what John Locke, the Father of Liberalism would think about this situation.)

Montana Tap Rooms Black River) - no tickee, no brewie....

Montana Tap Rooms Black River) – no tickee, no brewie….

Black River was founded in 1998 by three home brewers (a story Thebeerchaser has founded repeatedly in his five-year journey). It is another case of successful planning and growth as evidenced by this exerpt from their website:

“In May of 1998 the dreams of a brewery were coming to fruition in a recently vacated garage building located next door to Miller’s Crossing.

Given the bank loan, lots of creativity, loads of hard work, and help and encouragement from many friends, Blackfoot River Brewing Company became a functional brewery.   In October of 2008, after eight years of thriving in the cozy environment of the original building, the brewery moved into a wonderful new facility built on what used to be a parking lot next to the old brewery.”

 The Lewis and Clark Brewery

House in an historic building

Housed in an historic building

It is housed in a very cool, historic and expansive structure with great ambiance (considerably better than Black River if you only have time to visit one in Helena).  Part of the structure dates back 125 years.  And at least it’s open until 10 PM Sunday – Tuesday and 11:00 the remainder of the week.

“The oldest building is the Stone ‘Smokehouse’ which was built by T.C. Power in 1885 to smoke meats. Shortly thereafter the ‘Packing & Provisions’ building was built and was used as a 3 story ‘Ice-House’ with ice removed from the lakes in the winter then transported up the pass by rail and stored in caves until brought back down in the summer and hoisted up to the third floor to cool the entire building  P1030620

Montana Packing & Provisions Company closed the property (and it) could have been used as a jail (although no historical records support this so maybe the bars were installed for security), then a seed warehouse. Later it became the birthplace of Columbia Paint.”

P1030693From Helena we traveled southward to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. As a side note, since we are retired, we usually visit our wonderful National Parks while school is in session, but other travel plans precluded it and we wondered what the crowds would be like in the middle of July.     P1030694

We were pleased, however, that although there were a lot more people, it never seemed overwhelming – even at destinations such as Old Faithful. It did require, however, making reservations well in advance and we stayed in West Yellowstone at a somewhat dilapidated old motel that cost a lot more than it should have for two nights, because we could not get lodging in the Park.

Yellowstone Falls - may look like a painting but the real thing!

Yellowstone Falls – may look like a painting but the real thing!

And the first National Park in the US (dedicated by President Grant in 1872) was spectacular.   I had not visited since my family camped there during the earthquake in 1959.  (I still remember the shaking and the animals howling in the middle of the night from this 7.5 magnitude quake which killed twenty-eight people not too far from our campground.)

The scenery is dynamic – from bubbling muddy pools to Old Faithful to Yellowstone Falls to the wild animals – including the bison which roam freely and don’t seem to care about the highways and vehicles which invade their domain as the picture below shows.

This is MY territory...

This is MY territory…

And oh yes, while it was not a highlight, since this is a blog about bars and taverns, our beer at the Wild West Pizzeria and Saloon in West Yellowstone, is worth at least a mention.

It had a bunch of Harleys out front and one young guy in the saloon said to the bartender:

“I want to thank you for kicking me out of here last night which kept me from getting the crap beat out of me a few minutes later.”

P1030640You know when the men’s john has the label seen in the picture below, that this watering hole, which has live music four nights per week in the bar, has some character.  P1030639

Their pepperoni and sausage pizza was also recently named the best in Northwest (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Utah and Colorado) in the International Pizza Competition in Las Vegas.  Had we known, we would have definitely had a pizza there!

 

2015-07-24 10.15.29While Grand Teton is less expansive than its neighboring park only twelve miles to the north, the spectacular view of this forty-mile long mountain range (without foothills because of the geological origination) rising abruptly from the prairie, has to rival Grand Canyon for its breathtaking beauty.

Jackson Lake Lodge - Amazing!!

Jackson Lake Lodge – Amazing!!

And better planning allowed a two-night stay in the Park at the marvelous Jackson Lake Lodge. Staring at the peaks while drinking a cold micro-brew and devouring a great burger in the Lodge bar, while listening to a performer’s impressive version of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” now makes me wonder why candidate Trump harps on the slogan “Make America Great Again.”       

Van Morrison would approve

Van Morrison would approve

Not that we don’t have significant challenges which need strong direction and discipline to overcome, but failure to recognize the nation’s blessings as evidenced by such visionary accomplishments as the National Park System and focusing on the negative is not the kind of leadership we need.

A raft trip down the Snake River in which we saw eagles, moose and elk, and a four-mile hike to Taggart Lake were highlights of our second day in the Park and then a stay in nearby Jackson (formerly known as Jackson Hole) was our final night before starting the journey back to Oregon. (Solitude Float Trips and our guide, Justine Evans were A+)

2015-07-24 10.59.23

Janet Williams on the Snake River

2015-07-24 12.25.35

And Jackson was hopping and home to many restaurants and bars we unfortunately did not get to visit because of time constraints.   That said we did enjoy our time at a few venues in this tourist town.

P1030735

Although we stopped in the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar because we had heard a lot about it, we didn’t have a beer.  First, there was a cover charge (although it is not advertised on their website) and secondly, it reminded us of the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau that we visited in 2012.  P1030733

Kind of garish and with little character – just a lot of bucks spent on touristy décor and an emphasis on their retail sales although it does have live music and dancing and they brag about authentic western memorabilia and features such as real saddles for bar stools…..

P1030724

We then hit a neat little brewery, however – Melvin Brewery.  It actually shares space with a Thai restaurant (Thai Me Up).  The bartender was friendly, offered a lot of samples and they had good beer – an impressive nineteen on tap.

Their Indian Pale Ale won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup earlier this year.

Melvin - impressive beer for a small operation

Melvin – impressive beer for a small operation

And dinner at Gather, a superb restaurant where, as is our custom, we ate at the bar and met some people from Boston who were in Jackson for one of the many business conventions that come to town.

Fortunately, we got there late for their “reverse happy hour” (from 9 PM till close) and I had the best gin martini on the trip.

P1030731

We left Jackson heading east for the two-day drip home to Portland.

Shortly after we left town, we passed Grand Teton Brewing Company.  Although closed, it was nice to see the home of outstanding beer we had enjoyed throughout the trip.

Two of the outstanding beers from Grand Teton

Two of the outstanding beers from Grand Teton

This brewery which claims to be, “…….the original brewery of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. We have been brewing our handcrafted beers at the base of the Tetons since 1988,” is actually located in Teton Valley, Idaho which is on the west side of the mountain range.

And the narrative from their website, although fairly bold and which might be challenged by some Oregon brewers, seemed to be validated by the excellence of their beer – even though only bottled where we could get it – especially two of their signature brews – 208 and the Sweetgrass American Pale Ale.

“Our water is glacial run-off, filtered over 300-500 years by Teton Mountain granite and limestone before it surfaces at a spring a half mile from the brewery. Teton Valley grows the world’s best malting barley, and Southern Idaho includes some of the finest hop farms in the world.”

Janet and the Bartons

Janet and the Bartons

We spent the last night in Boise, where after forty-five years, I reunited with Gary “Golden Boy” Barton, who also was an SAE at Oregon State and is an investment consultant in Boise.  We had a great dinner with Gary and his wife, Kathy.

Our ten-day trip covered a lot of miles, but the clarion call from Montana and Wyoming to return for the majestic scenery and great bars and breweries will lure Thebeerchaser back for another road trip.

Cheers to Montana and Wyoming

Cheers to Montana and Wyoming

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