Arizona’s craft beer scene has been buzzing for more than a decade and as the brews have grown up, so have the bites. Taprooms go well beyond a bowl of pretzels these days, with many offering full-service restaurants with a range of menu choices that make sipping their beers all that much better.
Husband and wife team Jeff and Leah Huss helped pioneer the craft beer community in Arizona at some of the state’s first breweries before opening their own in 2013. While the original taproom in Tempe is comfortable and eclectic, it doesn’t have a restaurant or food. Instead, stop in at the Uptown Taproom where there’s a menu of small bites and noshes and a steady rotation of Huss brews.
Try the black bean nachos with the Copper State IPA. The citrusy hops play double duty with the green chili salsa by matching the flavors of the salsa and also letting the heat gradually intensify.
For a more classic pairing, need we say more than sausage and beer? Pair the sausage and pretzel board with a Scottsdale Blonde. The bright crisp Kolsch already has a natural bready flavor that pairs perfectly with a pretzel and it also sooth the saltiness of the sausage while it cuts through its fats.
100 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix
College friends Mike Conley and Dustin Hazer opened Helio Basin with food and entertaining in mind. The impressive 8,200 square foot venue is as much a community and event spot as a working brewery.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with food and beer pairings. You won’t be disappointed. The bulgogi cheesesteak brings traditional Korean flavors to a familiar sandwich with sweet, soy-marinated beef tenderloin. It comes on a house-made roll that uses the brewery’s American Pale Ale, but you’ll want to pair it with the Helio American IPA. The grapefruit and caramel notes of the beer balance the subtle sweetness of the meat and highlight the underlying spice of the marinade.
Dessert gets the same attention as the main dishes. Take the chocolate porter cake, please. Made with Helio’s porter beer, chocolate buttercream, pistachios, chocolate ganache and topped with peanut butter whipped cream, it’s all the more decadent paired with the Kohi Imperial Coffee Stout.
The guilt factor is mitigated when you know that Helio brews the stout with local veterans and then donates proceeds back to the Semper Fi Fund to help veterans and veteran families in need.
3935 E. Thomas Road, Phoenix
Find Mother Bunch Brewing in a historic building in the bustling Downtown Phoenix corridor. Some might say Julie Meeker embodies some of her brewery’s namesake. The character from a 17th-century jest book represented the leading role women had in beer making centuries ago—and the fun they had doing it.
Mother Bunch has a regularly rotating selection of brews and a menu catering to the downtown crowd. The best example of this is the Brunch of Lunch with customizable sandwich, soups and salad combos. Served Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., each dish come with a 10-ounce draft beer.
Try the grilled cheese with soup. No matter what bread and cheese combination you select, it’s sure to pair well with Mother Bunch’s Stay Tru Pilsner, a classic bohemian pilsner spiced with a light, refreshing body. Its 5.3 ABV also keeps it workweek friendly.
825 N. 7th St., Phoenix
Central Kitchen is the gastro-pub sister to Phoenix Ale Brewery, a craft brewery founded in 2009 by George Hancock and Greg “Fretzy” Fretz. Both had honed their craft beer chops in the Pacific Northwest and come to Phoenix for a bit of sun. Sadly both Greg and George passed, but their memory lives on with their beers and now an impressive pub menu to go with them.
The Kitchen is known for its black iron pizzas. The thin crust dishes are hand-formed, baked in a black iron pan and served square. There are traditional toppings, but if you’re feeling bold, tip your hat to the founders and try the Fun-ghi Fretzy with a secret cheese blend, herbed mushrooms, fresh jalapeños and house sauce. Pair it with the Camelback IPA, an English-style IPA with a good balance of malts dry hopped with Cascade hops.
For a lighter meal, the avocado toast on Wildflower 9-grain bread can be topped with an egg or applewood smoked bacon and is served with fresh fruit. It’s a good excuse to sip on the signature Watermelon Ale, a wheat beer with watermelon essence and a day-drinking friendly 4.8 ABV.
5813 N. 7th St., Phoenix
The “Outrageous Homebrewer’s Social Outpost” is a must for brunch lovers and their pups. O.H.S.O is known for its dog-friendly patios and Sunday Funday vibe, and has multiple locations around the Valley. In Arizona’s prime spring months, just follow the locals on their bikes to the original spot in Arcadia off the Indian School canal for the weekend Beer Brunch menu where every dish includes a 10-oz. pour of an Arizona beer (or a monster mimosa).
Serious brunchers won’t shy away from the chicken and waffles, a generous plate of Belgian waffles topped with crispy chicken, maple butter and spicy maple syrup. Enjoy it with O.H.S.O’s Morning Brew. This true breakfast beer defies common sense—it’s a coffee beer that’s light in color for full in aroma and coffee flavor. It’s brewed with oats and milk sugar and aged with coffee and vanilla beans with hints of almond and chocolate.
Four Greater Phoenix locations
One sure sign that Arizona has come into its own as a beer city is when five-star restaurants include local beers in their menu pairings. Kai is a chance to have that next level experience.
While dessert wine pairings are second nature for Kai’s wine director and sommelier Kevin Lewis, not so much for beer and sweets. His pairing of Kai’s Native Cactus course with THAT Brewery’s Strawberry Blonde Ale is a journey of textures and effervescence. The dish is truly a dessert with a prickly pear parfait, saguaro and wolfberry leather, nopales consommé and compressed cholla. The strawberry sweetness of the beer cuts through the acidity and adds a crisp, light finish to the course.
Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass
5594 Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Phoenix