Tucson's big craft beer boom doesn't seem to be slowing down, and all of the recent additions to the scene, whether it's new bars or breweries, serve as proof. Although the last year saw a surge in the popularity of specific varieties like sours and goses, one fact remains strong: local, craft brews are king here in the Old Pueblo. With all of the growth that the city's beer community has seen in just one year, you might have a hard time keeping up with all that's new in town. Well, never fear—here are some of the best new spots to grab a beer.
- Rebecca Noble
- The relaxed neighborhood atmosphere at Public Brewhouse distinguishes it from other bars on Fourth Avenue.
- Rebecca Noble
- Public Brewhouse focuses on manipulating yeast strains to get a wide array of flavors in their craft brews.
209 N. Hoff Ave.
Hours: Monday through Thursday: 4-10 p.m., Friday: 2 p.m. - 1 a.m., Saturday: noon-1 a.m., Sunday: noon-10 p.m.
Open since Aug. 1, 2015
Number of taps: 14
The brewing crew at Public Brewhouse isn't afraid to admit that they get a little geeky and a lot technical when it comes to crafting the beer that populates their 14-tap bar right behind Ermanos—another new standout in the craft beer and wine bar world. In the six months since opening, owner Mike Gura estimates that they've brewed 40 to 50 different recipes, averaging about 24 full kegs per month. Since their beer is almost exclusively sold at the brewery location, which was where Hamilton Distillers first made Whiskey del Bac before moving to a much larger production facility, that means almost all of their beer is bought at their bar.
On any given night, you'll find a busy house, populated with grad students, beer nerds, families and young professionals playing shuffleboard or taking advantage of the bar's arcade games.
"It's not your typical Fourth Avenue college bar at all ...It's become a neighborhood bar for Ironhorse and Armory Park," Gura says. "That was the vision, and it's nice to see that actually happened."
What keeps those already loyal regulars coming back is the ever-changing list of beers brewed in house. Though Gura says their focus is on IPAs and Belgian styles (they make several different saisons, all of which have been very popular for them), he says experimentation, specifically with a mind for manipulating yeast strains to develop complex flavors, is the name of the game.
Still, with co-owners-and-brewers Cody Van Haren, Don Rubino and Gura working day jobs, finding time to make all that beer can be tricky.
"There's not really a free day for me right now," Gura says. "Sometimes I'll start a beer in the morning and Cody will finish it when he gets off work."
Despite being so busy, the brewery is planning to expand in the next year, adding six taps and increasing their production capabilities on the back end. Gura says they're also partnering with a friend's vineyard in Wilcox, Sierra Bonita, to bring the ultra limited release wine into Tucson.
"I still can't believe it happened," Gura says.
- Rebecca Noble
- David and Jessie Zugerman offer many kinds of experiences in their beer bar.
Tucson Hop Shop
3230 N. Dodge Blvd.
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday: 2-9 p.m., Friday: 2-11 p.m., Saturday: noon-11 p.m., Sunday: noon-8 p.m.
Open since Sept. 22, 2015
Number of taps: 20
Hanging out in the Tucson Hop Shop beer garden on a sunny day almost doesn't feel like you're in Tucson at all. Husband-and-wife team David and Jessie Zugerman made sure that their bar was the kind of place you'd want to linger, and with that welcoming spirit in mind, Tucson Hop Shop has quickly become a staple for Tucson's beer fanatics.
In terms of ambiance, the bar is more like a café—it's bright, open and offers a large dog-friendly patio for lounging and drinking. You can sit in the loft, at the bar or outside, tasting your way through 20 constantly rotating taps and several hundred more bottled options.
"It was our dream to open a place where you could wander around if the vibe didn't suit you," Jessie says.
Having a whole bunch of beer and creating a space where people want to drink it isn't all this spot—located in the gorgeous multi-purpose Metal Arts Village—is offering, though. Collaborations with local bands and record store Wooden Tooth Records has provided the space with special musical events, local food trucks like Mr. Cookmans and Blacktop Grill provide the food, and local artists and writers offer sketching and writing workshops.
"I like that we have an emphasis on different things," Jessie says. "Some of the non-beer events are my favorite."
Of course, beer is still number one at the Hop Shop. The Zugermans take pride in training a knowledgeable staff, collaborating with local breweries and offering beginner-level beer making kits for homebrewers. Keeping their back stock small also means they can adjust to changing and seasonal tastes—whether that's accounting for the explosive popularity of sours or offering more porters when the weather gets chilly.
"We can make turns easily—like a Corvette," Jessie says, laughing.
"Yeah, we're just like a Corvette," David says, jokingly.
And, really, you'd expect no less warmth, openness and joy from the couple that opened a place like Tucson Hop Shop.
- Rebecca Noble
- Husband-and-wife brewing team Allan and Alicia Conger of 1912 Brewing Co. brew in small batches.
- Rebecca Noble
- 1912 Brewing Co.’s draw is their unique, culinary brews.
1912 Brewing Co.
2045 N. Forbes Blvd, Ste. 105
Hours: Thursday: 4-9 p.m., Friday: 3-10 p.m., Saturday: noon-10 p.m., Sunday: noon-6 p.m.
Open since July 4, 2015
Number of taps: 10
It's not about having a massive selection for Allan Conger, owner and brewer of 1912 Brewing Co. After all, while working during the day at Raytheon, he can only produce so much beer for the brewery on nights and weekends, occupying about four of their taps with in-house made brews and filling the other six or so with primarily Arizona brewed beer.
"Once we sold out of our beer, and someone left ... well, they came back later, but people mostly want our beer when they come in," Conger says.
Although Conger raised production from 15 barrels per month to 20 already, demand for his inventive, flavorful beers is rising along with it. Whiskey-infused chocolate coffee stouts, bières de garde, aged sours and more show the wide range of Conger's interests, while collaboration brews with other local brewers serve as a way to both share knowledge and do a little cross promotion at once.
One forthcoming collaboration with Ermanos beer manager Eric Erman and Dara McMains of Colour Fields Fermentations blended passion fruit and pineapple juices, Thai basil, toasted coriander seeds and Jacobsen sea salt into a gose that was fermented in traditional Mexican style. Conger's wife joined forces with a couple of other women to make an all-Latina brew with piloncillo, chiltepines, nutmeg, cinnamon and ancho chiles.
"We just want to make good beer. People ask for flagships, and I don't know that we've found it yet," he says. "I like to make them all."
With all those uncommon ingredients and different brewing methods, what truly sets 1912 beer apart from others in town is Conger's "blend to taste" style, using small homebrew tanks for some truly micro brews.
"It keeps it interesting," he says. "I feel we can be more dynamic and creative."
- Rebecca Noble
- Deciding which of Arizona Beer House’s 30 beers on tap you want to drink is no easy task.
Arizona Beer House
150 S. Kolb Road
Hours: Monday to Wednesday: 2-10 p.m., Thursday to Saturday: noon-midnight, Sunday: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Open since July 9, 2015
Number of taps: 35
There are a ton of reasons as to why someone would be drawn to one bar over another, but when it comes to drinking (and, I suppose real estate ventures too) location, location, location is king. For those who live on the eastside and love craft beer, Arizona Beer House has been more than a welcome addition to the area.
That's not to say ambiance and selection aren't important factors, though, and Arizona Beer House has maintained a distinct vision that's focused on the community engaging each other without the distraction of TVs. Instead, the bar offers darts, board games, Irish rings and more to keep folks entertained between sudsy sips. While owner Brian McBride concedes that they are installing a roll-down projection screen for UA games ("We're empty on game nights," he says), he assures that it will be mostly off.
With an impressive 35 taps and about 300 packaged beers on top of that, the bar has quickly gained a strong base of regulars. Of the 35 taps, McBride is dedicating about 20 to local breweries, showing that the spot really is an Arizona Beer House.
"We're trying to keep one from every brewery in Tucson," McBride says.
Should you get hungry while tasting your way through all of the brews at Arizona Beer House, the bar frequently partners with local food trucks to offer options for customers.
McBride, who opened Arizona Beer House with business partner and friend Alvin Kuenster, worked in plumbing sales before opening the bar last summer. Now, half of a year into it, McBride says he can't imagine ever going back.
"I don't know. I don't think I could [go back," he says. "I spend 60 or 70 hours a week here now and it's not even like work ... We're really lucky to be as busy as we are."
- Rebecca Noble
- Only in Tucson will you find a full craft beer bar inside a video rental store.
Casa Film Bar
2905 E. Speedway Blvd.
Hours: Daily: 10-1 a.m.
Open since Dec. 26, 2015
Number of taps: 20
One of the newest and most unique setups on the list, Casa Film Bar, is a craft beer experience unlike any you've had before. That's because the bar is attached to the beloved local video store staple Casa Video, putting both movies and beer as the focus.
What started as a growler filling station at the video store soon turned into a full blown craft beer haven, complete with hundreds of bottles of beer, two nitro taps, 18 regular taps, wine, Yellow Brick coffee, Maya tea and, of course, constant movie screenings.
"It seemed like people wanted to stay and drink here," Casa Video owner Gala Schwab says, and after some rearranging and getting rid of some duplicates, the bar was ready to open under her son Kyle's care. "We didn't actually end up getting rid of any movies. It worked out really well for us."
While the bar has partnered with neighboring Fresco Pizzeria for in-bar food delivery, perhaps the best feature of Casa Film Bar is that they offer free popcorn to guests. After all, what kind of movie bar would be complete without a bag of piping hot, buttery popcorn?
In terms of the brew selection, Kyle says he's featuring "American craft beer with a lot of local" options, which means partnering with local and national breweries on many pairing and tap takeover events.
In a time where it seems nearly all video stores have disappeared off the face of the Earth, Casa Video and its bar are thriving.
"Tucson is unique that way," Gala says. "The people really like local businesses."
In the future, the bar seeks to host nights where local filmmakers can showcase their short works, video game competitions on their newly-installed PS4, themed movie nights, local live music, Doctor Who trivia events and more.
"It's increasing weekly," Kyle says, with Gala adding, "It exceeded our expectations."