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Suds Coming

Tucson is on the cusp of a local-beer renaissance

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Perhaps Tucsonans should start preparing for the inevitable pretzel shortage.

A microbrewery is opening soon downtown; another on the westside should be operational by year's end; and a popular university-area brewpub will eventually offer its homemade beer alongside the hundreds that it already serves.

In downtown Tucson, the owners of Borderlands Brewing Company stand in the massive warehouse that the brewery shares with Dinnerware Artspace at 119 E. Toole Ave. The bar is already in place in the century-old tasting room, and details are being worked out for the beer garden out front.

Myles Stone, a University of Arizona medical student, and Michael Mallozzi, a microbiology research scientist at the UA, spawned the business plan over batches of homebrewed beer. Blake Collins, who holds a day job at brewing store Brew Your Own Brew, signed on as brew master shortly thereafter.

Borderlands Brewing Company will create beers suited for the desert heat, and heavier brews with more flavor. The owners say they also have a few favorite recipes discovered while doing "research" (read: brewing and drinking lots of beer) that they'd like to see in production someday.

Mallozzi, Stone and Collins are committed to keeping the operation sustainable. They're looking into harvesting rainwater to offset the brewery's water usage, among other things—and they want to participate in the revitalization of downtown in any way possible.

"We're not just looking to open a microbrewery in Tucson; we're looking to open Tucson's microbrewery," said Mallozzi.

The artwork for Borderlands Brewing Company's labels, signage and T-shirts will be created by local artists, and will be handled by the adjoining gallery. The fresh, cold beer may also be available beforehand to attendees of the long and varied list of events and classes that David Aguirre, owner of Dinnerware Artspace, plans to hold in his half of the warehouse.

"I told them early on that there would be modern dancers dancing on their bar, and that I hoped that would be OK, and they were completely all right with that," said David Aguirre. "It's going to be wonderful, and it's going to be unusual, and nobody else is doing it. Nobody else is crazy enough to do it."

They emphasize that the brewery will not be a bar, and that the tasting room is for sampling and special events only. They will be busy selling kegs to bars and restaurants, not competing with them.

The beer plans include a German-style lager, a vanilla porter made with Sonoran vanilla, an amber and a traditional stout. There's also talk of a prickly-pear wheat beer, and maybe even a signature beer for the annual All Souls Procession. The first beer could hit shelves by early September.

The story of another microbrewery setting up shop just west of Interstate 10 and Grant Road starts years ago, when a father passed a bit of brewing inspiration down to his son.

Dragoon Brewing Company—currently under construction in a warehouse at 1859 W. Grant Road—is owned and will be operated by Bruce Greene; his son, Eric Greene; and Tristan White.

Bruce Greene brewed beer first, but it wasn't long before his son caught the brewing bug, too. The hobby stuck, and the younger Greene eventually headed east to complete an American Brewers Guild apprenticeship at Mass Bay Brewing Company in Boston, before returning to Tucson to brew professionally for Nimbus Brewing Company.

Eric Greene says the company's initial plan calls for the production of about 1,000 barrels per year, with two types produced year-round, and other varieties available seasonally.

Dragoon Brewing Company will be a production brewery and will not serve food or have a bar. It will, however, have a tasting room with regular hours.

The beer: An extremely hoppy India pale ale, and a lighter, low-alcohol "sessions-style" beer. Special beers made with ingredients such as agave syrup, mesquite-smoked malt and other regionally inspired ingredients will be released seasonally.

Back in midtown, Austin Santos, co-owner and founder of beer-and-pizza joint 1702, at 1702 E. Speedway Blvd., got his brewing license in April and is busy finalizing the details for his new in-store brewing operation.

The original plan was to brew one to two barrels at a time, but Santos now plans to push his brewing capacity as far as it can go. He's currently working with his landlord to see how much room he has to work with, and is looking at a system that could brew from seven to 10 barrels at a time.

"We're going to try to put together the largest brewing operation we can," said Santos.

Santos says he has friends at notable breweries across the country, especially in Colorado and California. He's looking forward to working with several of those friends to create beers once his operation is up and running.

Tucson will have to wait a bit for this one. Once Santos figures out how much room he'll have, it'll take at least four months to get the equipment made. Then the beer has to be brewed and bottled, which will take longer still.

There's no word yet on what kind of beer Santos will be brewing. For the time being, the 50 some tap beers and many more in bottles that 1702 currently serves will have to do.

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