For years, the running joke was that the best thing to ever come out of Tucson was the I-10. But with a growing number of outstanding brewers planting roots in the Sonoran Desert and shipping their beers north to Phoenix and beyond, that line suddenly has become hard to deliver. The city’s emerged as a gathering place for Arizona’s artfully inclined, with a local-first attitude apparent in the support for, and quality of, its beer artisans.
If the nearby University of Arizona is in session, it may be tough to find an open seat at this beloved pizza parlor-slash-beer bar; students love the place for its rotating lineup of 46 drafts (including several from on-site The Address Brewing) as much as they do for its pizza. Be sure to try the cheesy bread sprinkled with whole-cone hops, and don’t forget to grab a few for home from the attached bottle shop.
1702 E Speedway Blvd., 1702az.com
Borderlands Brewing Co.
Since coming on board in March 2016, head brewer Landon Swanson has breathed new life into Borderlands. Tried-and-true brews like the sweet and rich Noche Dolce vanilla porter still flow out of the 1900s-era brick building located in Tucson’s Warehouse Arts District, but they’re now joined by more modern takes like Starkiller Base, a Galaxy- and Citra-hopped, cloudy-as-hell double IPA.
119 E. Toole Ave., borderlandsbrewing.com
Crooked Tooth Brewing Co.
Its proximity to all-star beer bar Tap & Bottle is only one reason to visit this six-month-old brewery. A few more include creations like the gluten-reduced, zero-IBU It’s Always Sunny in Amarillo; the brewery’s intimate outdoor beer garden; and the fact that every flight of house brews is rolled down the bar to you on a modified mini-skateboard.
228 E. 6th St., facebook.com/crookedtoothbrewery
Once home to a whiskey distillery, Public’s brick-and-sheet-metal warehouse has become a neighborhood hotspot since its July 2015 opening. Regulars crowd the 14-tap bar for pours of the subtly smokey Saison Noir or citrus-forward Hoppy Poppy IPA before calling next on the shuffleboard table and Centipede arcade console.
209 N Hoff Ave., publicbrewhouse.com
Tap & Bottle
“Yay Beer!” yells the decor marking this treasured beer bar’s 650-bottle-strong cooler section, separated by style, seasonality and rarity. When the knowledgeable bartender hands over one of 21 well-curated drafts and informs you that a second location is scheduled to open on the northwest side of town any day now, you’ll be yelling, “Yay,” too.
403 N 6th Ave #135, thetapandbottle.com
Pueblo Vida Brewing Co.
Northeast-style IPAs are where this downtown brewery shines, and it shines bright: Beers like the ultra-supple, raspberry- and grass-flavored Throw Pillow pale ale are so in-demand that PV is only able to supply a few draft accounts and has a waiting list 150 bars deep. Best to head to the taproom itself, where local farmers, cheesemakers and coffee roasters rotate each week to set up shop for Monday CSAs; special cask infusions take place every Tuesday.
115 E Broadway Blvd., pueblovidabrewing.com
Thunder Canyon Brewery
Founded in 1997 at Foothills Mall in northwest Tucson, Thunder Canyon relocated brewing operations to a cavernous, brick-bedecked location in the city’s Pie Allen neighborhood last year. Grab a bowl of the gooey, chorizo-topped Canyon Mac & Cheese between games of pool and darts, chase it with a pint of GABF bronze medal-winning Dark Lightning Milk Stout, then head next door to Arizona’s popular Cartel Coffee Lab for a post-meal perk.
220 E. Broadway Blvd., thundercanyonbrewery.com
Barrio Brewing Co.
Giant projector screens and a menu of burgers, paninis and other handhelds make this WWII quonset hut-turned-warehouse-turned-brewery a great place to catch University of Arizona Wildcat basketball games. But savvy drinkers know to grab a seat outside so they can watch for passing trains—Barrio beers, like the GABF gold medal-winning Nolan’s Porter, are $1 off as long as the crossing guards are down.
800 East 16th Street, barriobrewing.com
El Rio Acres
1912 Brewing Co.
A true homebrewer’s brewery, 1912 focuses on small-batch beers made with a “why the hell not?” attitude. Cases in point: Naughty Naranja, a year-round imperial gose brewed with blood orange puree, and Demonic Chocolate, a cocoa-heavy dark ale that gets a touch of tartness via fermentation with bacteria harvested from honey vanilla yogurt.
2045 N. Forbes Blvd. Ste. 105, 1912brewing.com
Dragoon Brewing Co.
Tucson’s largest brewery earned much of its renown for its solid-as-they-come IPA, one of just two beers Dragoon packages. Quirkier creations, like the blue corn- and agave nectar-infused Saison Blue, can be found in the giant, sparse concrete taproom, which also plays host to fitness and yoga classes on weekends.
859 W Grant Rd #111, dragoonbrewing.com
Iron John’s Brewing Co.
With only six or so seats, this tasting room and brewery tucked into a corner of an industrial park isn’t much to write home about. But regular visits are required if you want to taste every one of “Iron” John Adkisson’s creations—he plans to brew more than 60 different beers this year—and to-go bottles of out-there ales like the syrah barrel-aged sour barleywine Collin’s Folly are always available.
245 S Plumer Ave. #27, ironjohnsbrewing.com