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In the Salt River Valley desert below Cave Creek Mountain lies the city of Phoenix, a thriving pastoral southwest getaway and a peculiar cosmopolitan cowboy canyon – visited January ’05. I’d just gotten off a plane from New York with my wife, Karen, when I ventured to SONORA BREWHOUSE (currently known as SUN UP BREWHOUSE), a “charmingly intimate neighborhood” pub.

Open since ’96, the freestanding brewery (five miles from Phoenix Airport) had brick-walled central bar, outdoor patio, right side dining (Mexican food, pizza, sandwiches, entrees), and glass-encased brew tanks that served German immigrant brewer Uwe Boer’s exquisite suds.

Mildly phenol, lemon-spiced, unfiltered softie Hefeweizen, soft-watered sour-fruited malt-spiced Desert Ale, and subtle biscuit-baked, grapefruit-peeled, lemon rind-embittered Kolsch-styled Top Down Ale (perhaps Sonora’s only bottled brew) provided moderate-bodied safety.

True hopheads should discover tersely hop-bitten, orange peel-soured, crystal-malt-sugared IPA, bittersweet orange-tangerine-fruited, sharply-hopped Double Trouble IPA, and citric piney-hopped Burning Bird Pale Ale.

‘Extreme’ Cask Conditioned Double Trouble IPA (with its buttery fruit-looped resolve and everlasting spruce finish), black cherry-licked cedar-burnt coffee-roasted Midnight Porter, and cherry-prompted Cognac-warmed Barleywine were truly stupendous.

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