Thanks to the growing number of craft breweries in metro Phoenix, there are more great beers being brewed in the Valley than ever before. And when it comes to selecting the best, we're getting pretty technical — judging flavor and aroma, of course, but also appearance, mouthfeel, drinkability, and ability to pair with food.
From what might be the most famous Arizona-made beer to a stout that's always worth waiting for, here are 10 beers made in metro Phoenix to put on your must-try list.
Grooving with a Pict Scottish Ale from North Mountain Brewing
This Scottish-style ale features rich caramel and toffee malt aromas and flavors. There are no perceptible hops aromatically, and at only 21 IBU, it contains just enough hops to create balance. The beer is nicely attenuated and not too sweet, despite being a showcase for malt flavor. The 6.3 percent ABV means it's a beer of substance, but not too heavy. The name is a reference to an early, somewhat obscure Pink Floyd song, which would be a great listening accompaniment while enjoying this flavorful beer.
Devil's Ale from SanTan Brewing Company
This American-style pale ale leads with a beautiful bouquet of hop aromas projecting pine, grapefruit, and citrus. A combination of Simcoe, Cascade, and Centennial hops produces a fresh, clean, and refreshing flavor — but by no means is this just a hop showcase. A solid backbone of fresh, bready malt with caramel flavor gives the beer balance, and makes it a great beer for pairing with food. The malt used to produce the beer is a nice complement to pizza's flavors, while the resiny hop character helps to cleanse the palate and make every bite.
Cane and Ebel from Two Brothers Brewing
Two Brothers Brewing originated in the suburbs of Chicago, but recently opened a brewpub in Old Town Scottsdale. Cane and Ebel is the brewery's flagship offering, a rich, robust, hop-forward beer, reddish in color and full of flavor. A fairly heavy-handed hop bittering regimen packs a punch, and keeps the beer crisp and dry, while a symphony of hop flavor intermixes with layers of malt. Caramel and lightly toasted bread malt flavors play alongside the hops with the rye, giving this brew additional flavor as well as crispness on the finish. This beer is flavorful, complex, and should be enjoyed slowly, as it packs a punch at 7.0 percent ABV.
Street Cred Black IPA from the Beer Research Institute
Street Cred pours black, resembling a porter or stout; however, aromas of pine, citrus, and a hint of black licorice quickly let you know this beer is all about the hops. A front-of-the-palate citrus bite blends into chocolate, toasted, and roast notes. Some resiny character accentuates the crisp, dry finish and acts as a perfect counterpoint to the richness of the chocolate flavor. Medium body and carbonation provide a somewhat creamy feel, and a slight, pleasant hint of alcohol warmth provides some complexity along with the dark malts and the hops, helping to make this the definition of a balanced beer.
Pride of Nottingham ESB from Mother Bunch Brewing
This beer is the star of Mother Bunch's lineup, and can definitely be consumed in quantity. ESB stands for "Extra Special Bitter," which could also be considered a British Pale Ale. Earthy hops and toasted biscuit notes in both the aroma and flavor provide a lot of flavor up front while remaining light on the palate. Outstanding attenuation and just the perfect amount of bittering hops make this beer finish pleasantly crisp. This beer can compete with any ESB made this side of the Atlantic.
Kiltlifter from Four Peaks Brewing Company
This beer makes the list on reputation, consistency, and its indelible mark made on the Arizona beer scene for the better part of the past two decades. Kiltlifter features malty sweet flavors of caramel, toffee, and light hints of roast and subliminal smoke. This beer has bucked the hops trend that's seemingly overtaken the craft beer community. With rich, caramelized flavors throughout and enough hops to balance, Kiltlifter maintains quite a drinkability despite its 6.0 percent ABV. This six-time Great American Beer Festival medalist pairs well with barbecue and smoked meats. And though some might argue that this isn't even Four Peaks' best offering, it is unquestionably their most popular. It's found a way to appeal to all types of beer drinkers, and can be found virtually everywhere in Arizona, making it an essential part of any list pertaining to Arizona-crafted beers.
Kolsch from Wren House Brewing Company
A fairly new addition to the Phoenix brewing scene, Wren House produces a classic Kolsch-style ale that showcases biscuity and lightly toasted bread malt flavors. There's no perceptible hop aroma, with just a hint of noble hop flavor provided by the Saaz hops. This brew finishes crisp and clean, thanks in part to the nontraditional addition of honey malt, which adds a hint of pleasant sweetness that dissipates into the finish. At 4.8 percent ABV, you can definitely knock back a few of these brews — which is perfect, since it's easily Wren House's finest offering.
White Russian Imperial Stout from Sun Up Brewing
Only brewmaster Uwe Boer could convince Phoenix-area residents to line up for an Imperial Stout of almost 10 percent alcohol strength in the middle of the summer, but that's just what he does with White Russian Imperial Stout. This beer packs a week's worth of flavor into a glass, with rich chocolate, coffee, and very light roast notes. The beer is as black as a moonless night, with a dense, light-brown, long-lasting head. Some pleasant rum-like alcohol sweetness balances the chocolate and coffee. Creamy with a viscosity thick as a milkshake, this is definitely a sipping beer, best consumed in small quantities when taking the light rail home, since the 9.4 percent ABV will catch up to you pretty quickly.
Candy Bar Milk Stout from McFate Brewing Co.
Call it fate or call it "McFate," but either way, people flock to Scottsdale for this cult-favorite beer. The name says it all — this beer drinks like a liquid candy bar. According to the brewery website, this stout is made with honey-roasted peanuts, cacao nibs, vanilla bean, and a touch of sea salt. The aroma is subtle, while the flavor is loaded with chocolate and a pleasantly sweet, though properly attenuated. finish. At 6.0 percent ABV, this beer is by no means light, but still manages to drink easily. And now that McFate Brewing (formerly Fate Brewing) offers two locations on the north and south ends of Scottsdale, it's easier than ever for fans to get their Candy Bar fix.
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Refuge IPA from Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
Imagine a relaxing drive through the northern Arizona forests, where you experience a sensory overload of aromatic pine. Well, the vibrant hop bouquet of Refuge IPA, made with Chinook and Simcoe hops, provides a similar experience. Cascade and Columbus hops give it additional aromatic complexity with notes of grapefruit citrus and a hint of tropical fruit, while malt provides sweetness with notes of caramel, giving the beer a nice depth of character. Simply stated, this is not only the metro Phoenix area's best IPA, but arguably the best beer made in the state. And we're not the only ones who think so. Besides awarding Refuge IPA an extremely respectable score of 98, RateBeer.com proclaimed Arizona Wilderness "The World's Best New Brewery of 2014." Best of all, you can get this excellent brew in cans for extra portability.