Beer Trippin’ in Arizona. Baseball and Beer Hunting.

My family and I are big baseball fans and every year we find ourselves heading to Arizona for a few days to take in some Spring Training games.  We got up bright and early on Wednesday morning to grab the first flight from Denver, CO into Phoenix, AZ.  As we were waiting for our bags at baggage claim, we realized that we had accidentally left the kids bag at home…  NOOO!!!

In the past, my wife and I would always share a bag with them and fit their stuff in with ours.  But, since they would be flying back to Colorado with their “Mimi” and “Pap” and my wife and I were heading to California for the weekend, we decided to give them their own bag.  Unfortunately, since we got up at 2:45AM on the day of our flight, we packed the bag and had all their things in it, but we forgot it at the top of the staircase at our house.  Not a great start to the trip.  Hey, it’s not like we pulled a “Home Alone” and left our kids behind.  Trying to stay positive about the situation, it gave us a chance to get them some new clothes and was a way to kill a few hours before In ‘N’ Out opened.

mmmm, in-n-out!

So a few hours later, after a trip to Target, they had clothes and we were off to get checked into our hotel in Scottsdale, AZ.  When we got in, everyone was tired and ready for a nap.  With not much else going on, I decided to head out for a little beer hunting.  I always try to track down new and interesting beers when I’m out-of-town.  I like trying beers I’ve never had and usually keep a mental list of things I’ve been wanting to try from different regions around the U.S.

Within a few miles of our hotel was a Bevmo! and a Total Wine.  These places are practically next door to each other.  It’d be like having Argonaut and Lukas Liquors across the street from each other back home.  Kind of crazy, but it makes an out of towner like me happy to not have to drive far for good beer.

Bevmo! was solid and had a wide variety of beers, both local and imports, but Total Wine was just awesome!  They had a sign advertising 2500+ different beers.  I liked the setup quite a bit.  They divided their beer section up by style.  For example, all the IPA’s were in one section, in alphabetical order, with notes about some of the beers and staff recommendations.  They even had a section for special releases and limited beers.  It was almost too easy.

Total Wine offers classes every month educating consumers and offering samples of different styles of beers.  They had some deep discount beers to get rid of their past seasonals.  I saw quite a few xmas seasonals for great prices.  For example, Sierra Nevada Celebration and Odell Isolation for $4 / 6-pack.  Great idea that I wish stores back home would adopt.  It prevents beer from just sitting around for months and keeps inventory fresh.

Anyway, the store was great and I got lost in their beer section for nearly an hour.  I made a mix-6 of some locals and grabbed several bombers to open during our stay or take home to the cellar.

Arizona locals.

The next day, we headed to Salt River Fields to watch the Colorado Rockies take on the Chicago Cubs.  We had perfect seats about 20 rows back behind home plate.  We were in the shade and it was 84 degrees.  Glorious!  You couldn’t have asked for a better day.  There’s not much of a beer scene at the stadium, but you can get an $8 Blue Moon or a $10 bomber of Fat Tire.  I stuck with my bottle of water and enjoyed the game.

The view from our seats. Perfect day!

Yeah, the Cubs still suck and the Rockies won 7-5.  Hey, there’s always next year Cub fans.

After the game, my parents offered to watch the kids for a few hours, which gave my wife and I a chance to visit a few local breweries.  Our first stop was at Papago Brewing in Scottsdale, AZ.  As soon as I walked in, I knew it was our kind of place.  The walls were completely covered with beer signs, tap handles, mirrors,  posters and so on.  Papago has 30 beers on tap, which featured both their beers along with a great selection of guest taps.  I decided to try their Hopago IPA and Patti went for their Oude Zuipers Tripel.  Both were well balanced and very drinkable.

An impressive tap lineup at Papago Brewing.

Oskar Blues was there doing a promotional deal with their Deviant Dale’s.  The rep, who was from Denver, spent a long time chatting with us about the Colorado beer scene and gave us some swag to take home.  I had a tough time trying to deciding on a second beer.  Papago has about 9 glass door refrigerators full of bottled beer that’s out in the bar area.  They allow you to buy bottles or make 6-packs to take home or you can pick out a bottle, bring it to your table and drink it there.  I LOVE this idea!  First, the fact that you can actually look at the bottles and not have to order from an out-of-date menu was nice, but also being able to take things to go or share with friends at the bar…  Brilliant!

They had all kinds of locals, but some nice out of state options and imports, including all sorts of beers from Dogfish Head, Epic, Marin, Ballast Point, Lost Abbey and so on.  They even had big time beers like Firestone Walker’s Sucaba, their highly sought after barleywine.  Beeradvocate.com named this one of the top 20 places to have a beer in the entire world and Papago has the beer to back it up.

I was pretty impressed and for my next beer, I went with a Three Floyds / Mikkeller collaboration called Boogoop.  This was a new one for me and is listed as a 10.4% wheatwine.  Big hops, sweet, sweet malty backbone.  I loved every drop of it.  Patti got a Bear Republic Racer 5, which is a classic American IPA from Healdsburg, CA.  You can spend a pretty penny in this place if you’re not careful.  Well done Papago.  We will be back.

Shuffleboard in the back at Papago.

Our next and final stop of the day was at Four Peaks Brewing in Scottsdale, AZ.  We got a table outside and took a look at the beer menu.  Patti went for the sampler and I ordered a Hop Knot, American IPA.  Their sampler consists of 8 different beers which range from a Peach Ale to an Oatmeal Stout.  It wasn’t anything mind blowing, but they were all well made and were pretty tasty.  They had good food and a friendly atmosphere (think Rock Bottom).  They sell growlers and bottles to go as well.

Four Peaks sampler.

Arizona is slowly transforming into a decent beer town.  Every year we come it seems that another brewery has popped up and is trying to educate the locals on choosing better beer.  Arizona Beer Week was two weeks ago and they have various beer festivals throughout the year.  It’s not exactly Colorado out here, but they’re working on it.

Today was another perfect day of baseball.  We sat 8 rows behind home plate to watch the Brewers vs. the Royals.  Spring training is tough to beat!

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and we’re heading out for a big ol’ throwdown at The Bruery in Orange, California.  This should be a pretty epic party with nearly 50 small batch, hard to get beers being poured, plus 4 guest breweries and a ton of food.  We’ll be making a few other stops along the way, so stay tuned.

Tomorrow’s schedule will consist of The Bruery, The Bruery and The Bruery!

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