A simple, declarative sentence to start: I like beer.
I don’t have the beer bona fides of my friend Mike, whose beer acumen can be seen all over this site, who has brewed beer for years, whose beer blog-creation total is two more than mine (he has two), whose beer-tasting collection on Untappd overlaps mine by closer to three times than two times.
And right up front, I’ll declare that my palate is unsophisticated. Without knowledge beforehand of what I’m drinking, I can’t verbally identify a Kolsch from a Hefeweizen, an American Pale Ale from an India Pale Ale upon tasting.
But make no mistake: I like beer. Consider me uneducated but enthusiastic.
(And a shoutout here to the creators of Untappd, an app that allowed me to quantify my affection. At the urging of my older son, I joined the Untappd brigade in October 2016 after I retired. I’m also a stat guy and it’s been fun watching my totals grow.)
With that as a preamble, what follows is recap of a nine-day tour as my wife, Barbara, and I went from our home in Bartlett to the Phoenix/Tempe area for a wedding. We spent nights in Weatherford OK (1), Albuquerque NM (2, one in each direction of the trip), Tempe AZ (3), Flagstaff AZ (2) and Del City OK (1).
Sampling craft beers as we went was not the intent, but neither did I shy from that notion. I just didn’t realize how those beers would pile up. So what follows is a trip of more than 3,000 miles, three time zones (Central Daylight, Mountain Daylight, Mountain Central) and all the beers in between.
DAY 1, LUCILLE’S ROADHOUSE, WEATHERFORD OK
The details: Leave Bartlett, arrive at Weatherford OK, about an hour west of Oklahoma City.
What we found: Lucille’s Roadhouse, 1301 N. Airport Road, Weatherford OK.
What they have: A nice variety of area beers, although a few too many national brands.
Recap: I’ll admit to a rookie mistake right up front. I looked at the tap list, saw 401K by Vanessa House Beer Co. and ordered it, instead of asking if they had flights. It was excellent (4.25 was my Untappd rating), but midway through that and while I mulled my second beer, Barbara asked why I hadn’t asked about flights. Oooops. So I asked about flights. Sure, we have them, I was told. Back to the tap list. In came Stonecloud Nite (Stonecloud Brewing, 3.0), Cast-A-Line Kolsch (Cabin Boys Brewery, 4.0), NDN Time (Skydance Brewing, 3.75) and Arjuna (Anthem Brewing, 4.0).
(SIDE NOTE: Stonecloud has some great names, including a team-up with OKC Mayor David Holt to benefit a nonprofit with the product called Holt My Beer, and a cold IPA called Lawn Chair Larry. I appreciate great names like Coastal Evacuation from Cape May Brewery in New Jersey. If you like them too, please click on the Stonecloud link and go through their many pages!)
Day 1 total: 5
Trip total: 5
DAY 2, RIO BRAVO, ALBUQUERQUE NM
The details: Leave Weatherford OK, arrive Albuquerque NM.
What we found: Rio Bravo Brewing Co., 1912 2nd St. NW, Albuquerque
What they have: About 15 Rio Bravo beers.
Recap: Having recovered from my rookie mistake, my first question was about flights and it was rewarded with an “of course.” Barbara isn’t much of a beer drinker but does like the occasional sour. As Rio Bravo had a couple sours on their list, we ordered TWO flights, all brewed on site. They were American Pharos (Wheat, 4.0 rating), Esp Amber (Bitter – Session, 3.75), Spring Bock (Bock – Single, 3.75), Gingerbread Brown Ale (Brown Ale – American, 3.0), Honey Ginger (Blonde Ale, 4.25), Brewski (Lager – Helles, 4.0), Hot Chocolate Stout (Coffee Stout, 2.5), Double Stuffed Cookie Stout (Stout, 2.75).
Actually, the last one was what intrigued my wife. We had visited Sammy’s Craft Burgers & Beers in the Cincinnati suburb of Blue Ash last year. On the list at the time was a seasonal from Grainworks, an Ohio brewery, called What’s In the Middle. It tasted like an Oreo cookie. We never found it for transportable sale in the area, which was a shame since my wife loved it. So when we saw Double Stuffed Cookie Stout at Rio Bravo, it was enough to get her to get a second flight, just to see. This one didn’t measure up. It was fine, but not what she wanted.
(SIDE NOTE 1: By the way, it was tougher than expected to find a brew pub that served food in Albuquerque. We found a few that offered food trucks, but I needed actual dinner fare. Rio Bravo was the only one we found. Guess I should have made that left turn!)
(SIDE NOTE 2: They offered several of their canned beers in a cooler near the front of the brew pub, including a couple I hadn’t tried. A discussion with one of our servers – several seemed willing to help and check on us – revealed that they had a few unchilled options in the back, so we bought two each of three different beers, which will NOT go on the trip total but instead will go on the Side Note Road Total, which stands at three.)
Day 2 total: 8
Trip total: 13
DAY 3 (PART 1), RELICROAD BREWING, WINSLOW AZ
The details: Leave Albuquerque, stop for lunch in Winslow.
What we found: Besides an iconic tourist stop, RelicRoad Brewing, 107 W 2nd St, Winslow, AZ 86047
What they have: A nice menu of area brewery offerings
Recap: (With apologies to the Eagles)
Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona,
Such a fine sight to see.
A brewpub, my Lord
(You know I won’t get bored)
Just across the street from me.
We decided to pull off in Winslow and take the backroads to Tempe. It’s a quick tourist place. Take a few pics with the two statues and the mural of the girl in the flatbed Ford and move on. But wait. Right across the street and down two doors is RelicRoad Brewing. It was time for lunch. The food was good. The beer list had plenty of options, but understand this: Despite the name, RelicRoad Brewing does not actually BREW beer. The list is populated with a variety of other great brewers, though. Such as: Grand Canyon Brewing (American Pilsner, 3.75 rating), Firetruck Brewing (Hero Dunkel, 2.75), PHX Beer Co. (Arizona Gold, 4.25) and Mudshark Brewing (Full Moon, 4.0). There were more, but it was time to move on to Tempe.
(It was right around here that I unlocked a new badge on Untappd. It said TAKE IT EASY. Either you must be sampling or really like beer! That’s 12 beers in 1 day. You know there’s an issue when a BEER app is hinting you need to slow it down!)
DAY 3 (PART 2), THE THEODORE, PHOENIX AZ
The details: After lunch in Winslow, we returned to the car and headed a back way to Tempe. The two-lane trip was intermittently slowed/stopped by a road crew painting lines and some construction, but we got through and checked in to our Tempe hotel.
What we found: We met my best friend from college, his girlfriend, and his son (the groom-to-be) at a bar called The Theodore, 110 East Roosevelt St., Phoenix.
What they have: Sadly, they have no flights, but their beer list is enticing.
Recap: We were going with my friend Wayne and his girlfriend Ann to Chase Field to see a ballgame, but we had some time to sample at the place the locals call The Ted. The evening weather was pleasant and they had a small outdoor area so that’s where we stayed. And here’s what got added: Lumino from Unsung Brewing (3.75), Sacred Space from Pure Project Brewing (3.75), Prickly Pear Gose from Greenwood Brewing, a woman-owned brewery with an impressive selection (2.0), and Lolli from Beer Research Institute (4.0). From there, it was mile-plus walk to Chase Field and …
DAY 3 (PART 3), CHASE FIELD, PHOENIX AZ
The details: We walked to the game through crowded streets because at the arena next to the ballpark, an NBA playoff game was about to start.
What we found: Disappointment. There’s a craft beer place at the ballyard, but when we got to that part, we found it closed for a private event, so we went to our seats and I tried not to sulk.
What they have: At various beer kiosks, they didn’t offer much I didn’t already have.
Recap: Mostly we chatted, got caught up and watched a little baseball, but at one point, I went and got Wayne and me the one beer I didn’t have. Stash Panda by Hop Valley Brewing, which drew a 3.25 rating from me.
Day 3 total: 9
Trip total: 22
DAY 4, CULINARY DROPOUT, PHOENIX AZ
The details: We had rehearsal dinner scheduled that night, so the day was quiet without consumption until dinner.
What we found: Culinary Dropout, 149 S. Farmer, Tempe, was an amazing place. Bars, places to play cornhole, four Ping Pong tables, small private rooms, all under one roof
What they have: The list is impressive (go down past the food to see the options), but I didn’t get a chance to sample much. We arrived before the event began so we had a round at the bar. At the actual dinner, they had a separate bar set up, so we were limited to the two beers they had available. Luckily, the two weren’t already on my list.
Recap: About 40 attended the event. The buffet-style dinner was filling. But you’re not here to read about that. At the main bar, I tried Two Little Birds from a much-recommended brewery called Wren House. The Wheat Beer drew a 4.0. At the little bar, I got a Warrior Hazy IPA (Greenwood Brewing, 3.75) and a Papago Orange Blossom (Huss Brewing, 3.75).
Day 4 total: 3
Trip total: 25
DAY 5 (PART 1), FOUR PEAKS BREWING, TEMPE AZ
The details: The wedding was at 6 p.m., but we had the earlier day to ourselves. After a visit to the Arizona Heritage Center, we went looking for lunch and found a winner.
What we found: It was only a mile or two from the hotel and it’s called Four Peaks Brewing, 1340 East 8th St., Tempe.
What they have: See for yourself, it’s a good list. And they are generous. One of their new beers is Iron Horse, named after Lou Gehrig. A portion of each price of an Iron Horse is donated to help find a cure for ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which took the life of the famed Yankee slugger of nearly 100 years ago).
The recap: Four Peaks has much seating inside and a nice outdoor patio. We ate inside and enjoyed the food. The flight helped matters and the server brought me an extra taste because I was asking about a particular beer. Here’s how it went down, with all beers brewed by Four Peaks: Iron Horse (maybe the best beer of the trip, 4.5), Kilt Lifter (3.5), Joy Bus WOW Wheat Ale (4.0), Golden Lager (4.0) and Peach Ale (3.5).
(SIDE NOTE 1: I was puzzled by Four Peaks’ exclusion from hopculture.com’s Best Breweries in Phoenix list. Oh well, the list was short. I’m sure the others were good too. And my friends RAVED about Wren House, which was No. 1 on the list.)
(SIDE NOTE 2: On our way from Four Peaks to our hotel, we stopped at Total Wine & More. Yeah, it’s mostly wine, but they have a beer aisle that featured what must have been 400-500 individual options in single cans and bottles. Paralyzed by choices, limited by time and space in the car, I purchased two variety sixes, bringing the Side Note Road Total to 15.)
DAY 5 (PART 2), DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN, TEMPE AZ
The details: The wedding and reception were at the Desert Botanical Garden in Tempe. We didn’t explore the garden much. And it was REALLY hot.
What we found: It would definitely be worth exploring, so here’s the website.
What they have: This was a catered deal for food and alcohol.
The recap: The open bar had two beers, one of which hadn’t found its way to my list, so I added Tower Station IPA from Mother Road Brewing in Flagstaff, which got a 3.0 rating.
Day 5 total: 6
Trip total: 31
DAY 6, THE LUMBERYARD, FLAGSTAFF AZ
The details: With the wedding and reception – the actual purpose of the trip — now memories, we packed up (with the added baggage of a six-pack-minus-one of Kachina Throwback Ale from Grand Canyon Brewing, gifted to me by my friend’s first-ex-wife’s brother, a self-described South Georgia country lawyer from Donalsonville) and headed for Flagstaff.
What we found: The Lumberyard, 5 S. San Francisco St., was about 5 minutes from our hotel and came recommended.
What they have: Besides a full menu, their beer offerings were varied and their flights came in muffin tins.
The recap: Our server, a friendly young man, had knowledge of the choices and, while everyone boasts different tastes, having some local knowledge is invariably helpful. My choices and ratings: First Light Lager (4.25), Backcountry Blonde (4.25), Red Rock Raspberry (3.25), Humphrey’s Hefe (4.0), Railhead Red (3.5) and Hazy Angel (3.5).
Day 6 total: 6
Trip total: 37
DAY 7, BEAVER STREET BREWERY, FLAGSTAFF AZ
The details: There’s a big hole in the ground about an hour from Flagstaff and we went to see it. I thought having a beer from Grand Canyon Brewing was sufficient, but was quickly disabused of that notion, so we spent the day exploring the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. You haven’t read this far to get a travelogue description, but breathtaking isn’t descriptive enough. We spent about six hours there, then returned to the Flagstaff HQ and discovered dinner. And even more beer.
What we found: Beaver Street Brewery, 11 S. Beaver St., was within a block of our stop at The Lumberyard and, it turned out, was a relative of same. Both brew in the same location.
What they have: The menus are similar, as are the flight vehicles (muffin tins) and some of the beer offerings, although our waiter said similarly named beers are not identical. That’s why two of the beers from Day 6 also appear on Day 7’s list.
The recap: Speaking of the list, here’s what I had and the ratings: Beaver Street B’s Shandy (3.5), Lager Del Sol (3.75), Red Rock Raspberry (4.25, I liked this a lot better than The Lumberyard’s version; Untappd describes this as a Blonde Ale while the Lumberyard version is called a Fruit Beer), Railhead Red (3.5, this one was very similar), Hopshot Red IPA (3.25) and Big Rapid Red (2.75).
Day 7 total: 6
Trip total: 43
DAY 8, BACK TO RIO BRAVO, ALBUQUERQUE NM
The details: Leave Flagstaff, arrive Albuquerque. It wasn’t our intent to return to Rio Bravo, despite my new fondness for the place. Instead, it was to go to Sawmill Market where Paxton’s Taproom exists. Alas, it had already been a long day – including a drive through the Petrified Forest (pronounced by the disembodied GPS voice in my car as PetriFEED Forest) – and when we got to Sawmill, a place of significant size and number of merchants, we were unable to find a parking place. Frustrated but in total recall of Day 2, back to Rio Bravo (which sounds like a John Wayne sequel movie) we went.
What we found: Rio Bravo Brewing Co., 1912 2nd St. NW, Albuquerque
What they have: About 15 Rio Bravo beers.
The recap: I described Rio Bravo in Day 2, so I’ll get right to the beers and ratings, other than to note we liked the place enough that we bought three little flight glasses with the Rio Bravo name and logo on them. Joining the list: Rio Bravo Especial (4.25). Rio Bravo IPA (3.0), Freak Juice (a New England / Hazy IP, 3.5), Maple Brown (a Brown Ale, 3.75) and their newest, which had come out that week, called Lagerhoppin (3.5). This flight had five because I wanted Put the Pilsner on the Pedestal and our server had to come back to inform me that it, like my dinner choice, wasn’t being served. I made another choice and then she brought me the Lagerhoppin.
Day 8 total: 5
Trip total: 48
DAY 9, SMITTY’S GARAGE BURGERS AND BEER, DEL CITY OK
The details: Leave Albuquerque, arrive Del City OK (east of Oklahoma City). We had one more night on the road and spent it in Del City. We didn’t need to go far from our hotel to eat. Just a short walk down Main Street (the shortest Main Street I’ve EVER seen, it was literally three blocks long off the main drag; when I saw the hotel was on Main Street, my mind’s eye saw something MUCH different, but I digress).
What we found: It’s called Smitty’s Garage Burgers and Beer, 5301 Main Street, and our hotel desk clerk said it was voted best restaurant in Del City (which may be like being voted nicest guy in prison, but again, I digress). Actually the food was good. This was unlike any place I’d been. You order your food at a counter and they bring it to you. A row of booths presents itself near that area, but most of the building houses a bar and regular tables; the bartenders service the booths for customers’ alcohol needs.
What they have: Their beer menu is small and they don’t have flights.
The recap: Knowing I needed two beers to reach 50 for the trip, I was delighted to find two new ones. My additions, their source and ratings: Irish Red, Kochendorfer Brewing, Duncan OK (3.25) and Stonecloud Lite, Stonecloud Brewing, Oklahoma City (3.5).
Day 9 total: 2
Trip total: 50
And that was that. We drove back to Bartlett the next day and life resumed under normal conditions. Again I set out with no plans to add 50 beers to my list, but things happen on the beer trail.
I told a friend that, other than air conditioning, I consider beer flights to be the greatest development of the past two millenniums!
Gary Robinson had his first beer at age 18 — it was legal in New Jersey — and didn’t think much of it. But he persevered. A recovering journalist who retired from that craft in 2016, he now volunteers for SCORE Memphis, a nonprofit resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, for which he serves as chapter chair and district director for the state of Tennessee. When he travels with his wife, Barbara, he tries to add to his growing collection of beers on Untappd and will be writing occasional pieces here for his good friend and former colleague, Mike Erskine.