One of the best developments in the brew world over the last decade is the explosion of top-notch breweries across the United States. Since 2009 we have seen an almost 400% increase in craft breweries with close to 9,000 now open and operating across the country. That’s fantastic news for anyone who leaves the safe and soaked environs of Colorado for spots that were in the past barren. No longer do you have to hunt and search for a great place to sip some suds when traveling.
Recently I found myself in Phoenix, Arizona for a long weekend. Between soaks in the hotel pool, bike rides across the baked backcountry, and hikes to the top of the infamous Camelback Mountain I found myself wanting to belly up to a bar and sample some of the local brew offerings. A quick post online asking where I should head came back with an overwhelming shout of Arizona Wilderness Brewing. “Transcendent” and “Out of this World” were a few of the descriptors people attached to this place. I knew I had to head there.
The nearest location was their original location in Gilbert, one of the small communities making up Phoenix proper, there is another newer location downtown. I jumped in the car and headed over their home base nearby. Tucked off a major street in a small shopping area the brewery is simple to miss, just another spot in the seemingly endless grid of roads and parking lots that seems to make up this city. Luckily for me Google Maps made sure I did not drive by.
From the moment you walk up you can tell that this place is a local’s favorite. The parking lot was packed with dusty trucks and cars, most of them with Arizona license plates. Two large outdoor decks complete with water misters to ensure the desert sun does not overwhelm were packed with families and friends happily sipping and snacking.
Known for using local ingredients the brewers at Arizona Wilderness have been garnering accolades from the moment they first set up shop in 2013. They were named the best new brewery in the world by RateBeer.com and word started getting out about this oasis in the middle of the desert. Well known breweries from far and near started reaching out to collaborate with them. It became a spot for beer lovers to add to their bucket list.
Saddling up to the large wooden bar I asked for the beer list. They were pouring 24 beers that day, including one made with Creature Comforts out of Athens, Georgia. Since they are in the middle of the desert a large portion of their list focused on beers that work in warm temps. Numerous Saison’s, Lager’s, and such were available. Their Bear Wallow Berliner Weisse was exquisite and Manzanita Forest a wood-fermented red ale was something special. I could have spent a few hours there and had to of been poured into a cab to get home, but I only had an hour, so I tasted to my heart’s delight, grabbed a few for the hotel room, and made a promise to head back to Phoenix aging soon, if only to visit this brewery again.
Their two locations are the Brewpub in Gilbert at 721 N Arizona Ave, Gilbert, AZ 85233 and the Downtown Beer Hall at 201 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85004. Both offer a wide array of beers and full menus.