The Arizona Wilderness of Beer A sparse craft beer landscape?

Beer-wise, we certainly are spoiled in the northeast. While the rest of the country jealously pooh-poohs New England style beer as being too hazy and too modified, we just shrug and go on enjoying fantastic juice bomb after juice bomb. A recent trip to Arizona and Utah took me back in time to a craft beer landscape filled with west coast style IPA complete with crushing bitterness.

What’s the difference between a west coast and a New England style IPA? Read Here for the Differences.

First Stop: Phoenix
Beer #: 1,140
Arizona Wilderness July 11th IPA

Arizona Wilderness July 11th IPA

(C) 2018 popsonhops.com

A few weeks before our trip, a friend in Phoenix asked me about the best beer in Arizona. Arizona Wilderness was the name that came up most often in my pre-trip scouting report and on arrival in Phoenix, my friend gave me enough of their beer to carry me through my ten day adventure.

July 11th IPA is quite interesting. It’s a collaborative brew with Cycle Brewing (Florida) and this particular IPA is brewed with lactose and dragonfruit. It pours a pinkish color and is certainly cotton candy sweet over some succinct juniper hops Not quite the milkshake beer they claim it to be, but enjoyable nonetheless. In conclusion, the trip is off to a good start, 88 points.

Next Stop: Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Route 66 and Winslow.

Beer #: 1,141
Arizona Wilderness Refuge IPA

Refuge IPA by Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company

(C) 2018 popsonhops.com

Sometimes the events shape the experience. Here we were in Winslow, Arizona staying at La Posada (a must stay if you’re driving on Rt. 66 or visiting the Petrified Forest & Painted Desert). After a long day, my family was starving and we spied a little Mexican restaurant kitty corner to the hotel. As soon as we enter, Avengers: Infinity War is just starting on the restaurant television. My sons are pried to the screen the whole meal. Me, I’m partaking in some enchiladas and this west coast style IPA. Very straightforward but like La Posada, from a bygone era. 86 points.

Next Stop: Four Corners, Monument Valley and Grand Canyon
Beer # 1,142
Arizona Wilderness Headin’ West

Arizona Wilderness Headin West

(C) 2018 popsonhops.com

Rainy evening at the Grand Canyon calls for a hotel room beer. Headin’ West yields yeasty clove, spice, wheat. Tons of pine and some cracker-like grains. I’d say this Belgian-style beer is a mediocre 84 points.

Next Stop: Page, Lake Powell and Zion
Beer #: 1,143
Squatters Hop Rising

Squatters Hop Rising Double IPA

(C) 2018 popsonhops.com

After a couple days in Page, Arizona, it’s on to Zion National Park. My son’s 14th birthday so he picks the dinner spot. He picks pasta (what else) and it’s back-to-back nights at Zion Noodle & Pizza (I highly recommend).

This is a hefty 9% ABV and is certainly old-school west coast style. Filled with caramel, overdone toast, citrus rind and a boozy burn to boot. Really not bad but I’m starting to miss the juice bombs of the northeast. 86 points.

 

Beer # 1,144
Red Rock Elephino

Red Rock Elephino

From night number one at Zion Pizza & Noodle. This one is just bad. Checking the date, it’s about three months old which is borderline drain pour in my book. Oxidized hops, doughy and boozy. I call them as I have them…70 points. Luckily, my pasta dish carried the meal.

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Tired Hands Can Release Fermentaria Sorting out the complexity of Tired Hands

 

Tired Hands Brewing Fermentaria, General Store, Brew Cafe and Dispensary

Tired Hands Post Card

Fermentaria? Brew Cafe? General Store? Dispensary? Where do I go to buy some Tired Hands cans? Honestly, I was a little perplexed until I decided to go there and figure it out for myself. Hopefully, I can detangle some of your questions.

Want to buy Tired Hands cans?

The Fermentaria is the main hub and that’s the place for can releases. The Fermentaria also has a full menu of food and drafts. If you want the flag ship pale ale, Hop Hands, it’s a six minute walk or three minute drive to the General Store from the Fermentaria. The Brew Cafe is right next door to the general store. Think coffee shop except with beer. The Dispensary is the brew house, except the location is unadvertised.

Tired Hands can release

Your first stop is to follow Tired Hands on Instagram. Like most of Instagram, it’s hard to decipher the time of the post. From what I’ve seen, releases occur mid-week on Wednesday or Thursday at the Fermentaria, typically at 5 p.m. and of late it has been three different beers. I’ll also note that some (non-milkshake) beer will be available into the next day. So, if you cannot make it for the 5 p.m. release, be sure to get the Fermentaria around opening on the next day (they open at noon seven days a week).

Fermentaria: 35 Cricket Terrace. 484.413.2983. There’s a decent amount of parking right in front. I’d guess about fifty metered spaces. I parked a block away on the street and fed the meter. Don’t worry, it’s a city grid town and you’ll find a spot and a sidewalk.

General Store: 20 Ardmore Avenue. 484.413.2978. No limit on Hop Hands. They may move some cans from the Fermentaria to sell after release day. They also have some bomber-size bottles of Saison for sale along with typical t-shirts, hats and decals. Parking is rough. There’s a dirt lot, but most of the spaces there are permit only. If it’s a nice day, bring a suitcase trolley and make the six minute walk from the Fermentaria. It probably took me 15 minutes to drive there and ultimately find an open spot.

BrewCafé: 16 Ardmore Avenue. 610.896.7621. Site of the original brewery. It’s small and opens up at 4 p.m. No cans, but drafts and a cafe menu.

My Haul

Tired Hands (l to r) Alien Church, Hop Hands, Ergot, Gatherer and Hand Bier

(C) 2018 popsonhops

Tired Hands (l to r) Alien Church, Hop Hands, Ergot, Gatherer and Hand Bier.

Alien Church
Beer #:1,136

If Hop Hands is their flagship pale ale, I guess Alien Church would be their flagship Imperial IPA. Wonderful fruit, lemon, mango along with a pithy bitterness. Really nice 92 points.

Hop Hands: I’ve had Hop Hands 89 points before but a first in cans. Actually, I enjoyed the can version better than the growler experience. If I had to go it over, I might push Hop Hands up a couple ticks to 91 points.

Ergot:
Beer #:1,137

Massive ABV of 14%. Made with cacao, honey and then refermented/conditioned atop cacao pods, fruit juice and then conditioned further on cacao nibs. Think pineapple and vodka creamsicle. Interesting beer, one is enough…91 points

Gatherer
Beer #: 1,138

Tired Hands teams up with 18th Street Brewery (maker of a stout called Hunter) on a seemingly related stout called Gatherer. In the Tired Hands version, it is a brew made with locally foraged items like: Appalachian all spice; wine berry leaves, This one is very interesting but overrun with the all spice. Like a pumpkin stout. As it warms is does open up to some interesting coffee, roasted flavors. I’ll say 90 points.

Hand Bier
Beer #:1,139

A sessionable ale…just 4.5% ABV.  It’s typical with big hop profile, not much balance behind it. Nothing wrong with taking a break from the high ABV beers and nothing wrong with this beer. A respectable 87 points.

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Witch’s Hat Night Fury Imperial Stout The image of a Halloween witch began with what else...beer!

Witch's Hat Night Fury Imperial Stout made with Molasses and Lactose, 10.2% ABV

(C) 2018 popsonhops

Witch’s Hat Night Fury
Tasting: July 21, 2018
Style: American-style Imperial Stout made with molasses and lactose
ABV: 10.2%
Beer #: 1,135

Women, Ale Wives, Witches and Brewing

For thousands of years, women were the primary brewers of beer. Makes sense, as the traditional roles had men doing the hunting and women doing the cooking and everything else.

The Sumarian goddess of brewing was Ninkasi and a 12th-century German nun, St. Hildegard of Bingen is the first person recorded to have recommended hops for brewing. St. Hildegard recognized their “healing, bittering, and preserving” properties.

So, how did we get from a noble endeavor to the familiar pointy hats and cauldron stirring witches?

It is said women brewers (or Ale Wives) of the Middle Ages would advertise themselves as brewers in markets by wearing pointed hats. Published drawings show brooms would be placed outside doorways to signify that a batch was ready. Of course, much like today, cats were needed to protect the grain stores from vermin.

But how did we turn Ale Wives into spell casting witches?

I have read conflicting pieces on how the negative connotations of these witches. They range from medieval temperance, to male brewer’s mud-slinging campaigns. I can see competitive male brewers telling tales that the boiling cauldrons of their witch-like counterparts contained adjuncts like eye of newt.

Of course, there was a magic in medieval brewing.  You see, it wasn’t until Louis Pasteur’s 19th century work that solved that the tiny microbes were responsible for fermentation. Until this point, it was only known that the magic sludge (yeast colony) was needed to be transferred from successful batch to batch.

An image of Mother Louise, an Alewife in Oxford in the 1600s.

Ale Wife depiction c 14th century

Over time, men became the dominant influence in beer in western culture. It may have to do with the societal idea that young women should be pursuing more “lady-like” endeavors. In 1540, the city of Chester banned women between the ages of 14 and 40 from being alewives.

Witch’s Hat Night Fury

This Michigan beer delivers massive roasted flavors. At first, very obtrusive, muting any other complexity this imperial stout might have to offer. I do have to say that once my taste buds became accustomed and the beer warmed, it started to show some nice molasses sweet undertones and that roasted bitterness gave way to fudge and chicory. I’ll put Witch’s Hat Night Fury at 92 points.

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A Deal With The Devil Anchorage Brewing Company How much did you pay?

A Deal With the Devil Barley Wine aged in Cognac Barrels. Brewed by Anchorage Brewing Company, Alaska

(C) 2018 popsonhops

A Deal With The Devil Anchorage Brewing Company

Tasting: July 13, 2018
Style: Barley Wine aged in Cognac Barrels
ABV: 17.3% (wow!)
Beer # 1,134
Batch # 2, Bottled, December of 2014

Other Bottle Notes:

Degrees Plato: 39
Hops: Galaxy

Sticker Shock

When Firestone Walker first came to New Jersey, one of their first offerings was their 13th Anniversary Ale. I had sticker shock at the $20 price tag and vowed that there was no way I would pay $20 for a single bottle of beer. Well, I passed on that anniversary ale but just a few years later, I found myself buying two bottles of A Deal With The Devil Anchorage Brewing Company for $35 each. I couldn’t believe I was doing it…but I had to have it.

The Crossroads

The second leg of my story is the reference to the deal with the devil and the connection to blues guitarist Robert Leroy Johnson (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – 1986). Although the details of Johnson’s death are disputed, it is widely held that he was poisoned at the age of 27. He is prominently mentioned as a member of the famed “27 club” — named for musicians that died tragically at the age of 27 including Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Wilson, Janis Joplin and Amy Winehouse.

What makes Johnson so interesting is the legend of his rise to fame. According to this legend, Johnson brought his guitar to the crossroads at midnight and sold his soul to the Devil. In exchange for his soul, Johnson would create blues that would make him famous. You might remember the movie “The Crossroads”; the story of a young musician’s search for Robert Johnson’s 30th (and unpublished) song. However, Johnson’s fame came long after his death as he would have been 50 when his fame skyrocketed in 1961.

The Experience

Massively sweet and above all, filled with caramel flavor. The mouthfeel is like nectar and the barrel influence is ripe with underlying dark fruit. A Deal with the Devil Anchorage Brewing is by far the best barley wine I have had. In conclusion, worth every penny for 96 points.

Confused about terms used in this article? Check out my Glossary .

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