Culturally diverse Southwest valley metropolis offered three disparate brewpubs, January ‘05. Outside main district, mall-based THUNDER CANYON BREWERY’S velvety purple terra cotta stucco exterior cloaked centralized bar extending to patio, leftward glass encased brew tanks, and menu of wraps, sandwiches, brewhouse burgers, and recommended wood-fired pizza.
Casual fare such as fizzy wheat-husked dry-bodied lightweight Sandstone Cream Ale, malt-sinewy nectar-honeyed mainstreamer Deep Canyon Amber, and polite citrus-barren corrosive Windstorm Wheat were OK.
Surprisingly soft-bodied darker brews included gently hop-spiced red-orange-fruited blueberry-soured tongue-tingler Thunderhead IPA, sullen mocha-roasted coffee-dried Obsidian Porter, lemony orange-peeled dry-spiced mineral-grained Nothin’ Greator Doppelbock, and nutty maple-sapped espresso-tinged oatmeal-backed serenity Blackout Stout.
Distinguished dry-bodied cherrywood-scented rye-breaded tobacco-leafed peat-mossy Catalina Pale Ale intrigued.
Hoppy honey-glazed blueberry-soured persimmon-cherry-pear-dabbed digestif Beers ‘N’ Berry may’ve topped them all.
Just outside the main gate to University of Arizona, popular campus pub GENTLE BEN’S BREWING (operating since 1970) boasted “Best College Bar” status, but the red-bricked adobe-styled tavern had mostly soapy brews, January ‘05. Antique beer trays lined dining walls; upstairs patio area supported collegiate patrons; and menu featured finger foods, burgers, sandwiches, plus specialty drinks such as T. Rex Cosmo and Rum Bomb.
Unique metal-tiered candleholder sampler held dry-honeyed grassy-hopped Tucson Blonde, metallic yellow-fruited sedation Copperhead Pale Ale, blandly caramel-chocolate Red Cat Amber, fizzy seltzer-like raspberry-soured lemon-candied Taylor Jayne’s Raspberry Ale, minor berry-fruited whiskey-tinged Ben’s India Pale Ale, and sticky perfume-spiced macadamia-bottomed Beer Down Nut Brown.
Peerless alternative, Mocha Java Stout, piled on bittersweet dark chocolate dryness, roasted coffee depth, and toasted oats reliance, making this a top notch alternative.
Off-the-beaten-track industrial-bound dead end oasis, NIMBUS BREWERY, may be Arizona’s greatest brewpub, selling bottled versions locally.
Visited for an entire January ’05 afternoon with wife, Karen, we met some wild, crazy people at Nimbus that were marvelously entertained. Head brewer Scott Schwartz brings in Lexus yuppies to scooter trash with an excellent assortment.
A capacious warehouse, its high ceilings, spacious dining area, finely wood-carved bar, and rear brew tanks mark the generous interior. Had ‘lite pub eats’ alongside wondrously divergent mesquite-honeyed cherry-berry-honeydew-fruited floral-spiced Dirty Guerra (Blonde) Ale, lemony orange-embittered clove-spiced Belgian White Ale, grapefruit-soured lemon-peeled currant-embittered Nimbus Pale Ale, brown-sugared maple-sapped dark-fruited English strong ale Old Monkey Shine, and alcohol-licked pineapple-enticed orange-bruised grape-tannic dry-bodied Double Weizen.
Darker fare included prune-stewed cherry-dried mocha-etched Nimbus Brown Ale and wood-charred grape-dried cherry-parched cocoa-buttered coffee-roasted Oatmeal Stout.
Better still, black cherry-fueled sherry-dried Nitrogen-Pushed Oatmeal Stout coddled vanilla, Baker’s chocolate, and espresso undertones.