Wren House Brewing Co. / Pueblo Vida Brewing Co. / Tombstone Brewing Co.
The I-10 is the bane of the existence for every Arizonan with a daily commute, but it does have one virtue: It provides a route to all three breweries that collaborated on this imperial IPA. And any beer geek who considers himself a hophead should make that drive; Wren House (based in Phoenix), Pueblo Vida (Tucson) and Tombstone (Tombstone) are producing some of the best IPAs in the country between them. Their powers combined resulted in an 8% ABV hop monster with a pungent aroma merging watermelon, juicy peach and bubblegum then drizzling the concoction with honey, sprinkling it with grass and layering it atop spongy pound cake. The malt flavor and sweetness are bold—the outcome of brewing with flaked oats, honey and Arizona-grown Khorasan wheat, an oversized wheat type also known as kamut and prized for its rich, nutty flavor. Citra, Comet, Loral and Mosaic hops impart more melon and grass to the sip, then slap on grilled pineapple just before the finish of ruby red grapefruit and slightly smoky wildflower honey. While the concluding bitterness is more aggressive than we’re used to, the hop flavors are bright, bold and, most importantly, interesting.
Chef’s Choice No. 1
Three Magnets Brewing Co.
While we’re on the topic of beers that are interesting: Chef’s Choice is the first entry in a series of culinarily inspired beers that will, according to Three Magnets, “explore subtle complementary and contrastive flavor profile combinations of craft beer and food.” In this case, the beer is an 8.2% ABV rye porter. And the food? Vanilla beans and black garlic, a version of the vegetable made by heating whole bulbs over the course of several weeks, which gives the cloves a sweet, rich, earthy, almost truffle-like flavor and turns them a lovely shade of onyx. ; luckily it’s mostly present in the nose as a funk-and-soil accent to the base notes of sweet cocoa and maraschino cherries. On the tongue, huge vanilla notes combine with sweet chocolate and toffee like swirled self-serve topped with a dried cherry. Swallows of the soft, chewy brew finish dry, with a lingering bit of toasted wheat slices. Black garlic isn’t subtle; to incorporate the pungent ingredient with such a soft touch shows remarkable skill.
Hopewell Brewing Co.
It’s summer, it’s hot, and you just need a good, clean, flavorful lager, dammit. First Lager balances the best of pale, bready malts (lightly dusted kettle corn, warm baguette slices, dried sourdough crumbles) with hints of red apple skin and grassy hops, and there’s a welcome chomp of Wonderbread sweetness just before the grass-and-peppercorn finish. It’s characterful yet crisp; a lager that you could sip and ponder slowly, or pound six of in a single sitting. Whichever the weather calls for.
Other Half Brewing Co.
It’s invigorating that in a world of endless IPAs, you can still encounter a flavor combination you’ve never experienced before. In both its flavor and aroma, Space Diamonds combines Walla Walla sweet onions, spearmint, honeydew and cilantro for a character like melon salsa, then plops the unique blend atop a base of fluffy, vanilla-sweet angel food cake. That all of these unique flavors were derived from a single hop—Galaxy—is even more impressive.
Drops of Jupiter
Noble Ale Works
Tell us, Noble, did you sail across the sun? Did you make it to the Milky Way to gather all the prismatic Galaxy hops you used in this imperial IPA? It sure seems that way, since the flavor’s big and bright enough to fill the night sky: Diced garlic, lemon zest, honeydew, just-pulled-from-the-earth purple onion and even a little mint sparkle with each sip. As it warms, the pastrylike malt base becomes more prominent and the lemon becomes sweeter, so the finish is like a bite of honeydew and pie crust-bottomed lemon squares. Heaven may be overrated, but this beer isn’t.