Monday, July 18, 2011 at 11:38 a.m.
The beer: Fretzy's Unfiltered Ale
The brewery: Phoenix Ale Brewery
Style: English Pale Ale
ABV: 5 percent
Imagine there's a new restaurant in town. The owners and chefs are well-respected in the industry, so you're excited to visit. You sit down at a table, open the menu, and find the only dish they serve is a turkey sandwich.
The Phoenix Ale Brewery is that restaurant. The owners have a solid pedigree -- sales manager Greg Fretz managed the Southwest market for Pyramid Breweries as well as Deschutes Brewery, while general manager George Hancock is one of Pyramid's founders. The brewhouse is brand-spanking-new and fairly large, a 15,700 square foot building housing an automated 20-barrel system and tasting room just a few miles east of downtown Phoenix. The tasting room should be open to visitors in July, and brewery tours will be available later.
All well and good. But at the moment, you'll only find one beer bearing the Phoenix Ale name: Fretzy's Unfiltered Ale, so titled in honor of the founder. If it seems odd for a brewery to open with only a single beer, that's because it is -- and it's even worse for the sole offering to be so lackluster.
Fretzy's is an English Pale Ale (Phoenix Ale specializes in traditionally-brewed English-style ales) and shines a clear honey-orange with perfect clarity. A small head of off white froth fizzles away quickly, leaving jagged horizontal streaks of lace on the glass. It's not a bad-looking brew.
What it is is boring. The aroma -- seasoned with whole cones of Cluster hops -- shows notes of orange and lemon peel overshadowed by toasted biscuits and a bit of honey, but it's fairly muted. A sip exposes even more malt, with flavors of flaky-crusted breakfast biscuits, sweet caramel and a tiny bit of bubblegum blending with mild bitterness and spice imparted by Nugget hops. Searches for more flavor and depth are fruitless -- Fretzy's is a picture book, easy to figure out and over with quickly.
To be fair, the brewers say they plan to produce eight different styles of beer along with seasonals and limited edition ales -- eventually. You can also currently buy bombers of Fretzy's at Chase Field, where it shines among giant, expensive cups of mass-produced lagers. But when compared to beers produced by Arizona's more established brewers, Fretzy's is severely unimpressive. Wake us when they add something besides the turkey sandwich to the menu.
Food pairing suggestions
English pale ales -- especially maltier versions like Fretzy's -- are great with aged cheddar cheese. For a bigger meal, pair the beer with another English classic: fish and chips. The flavor of the beer is mild enough that it won't overpower the fish, the sweet flavors found in both will harmonize, and the light citrus of Fretzy's hops will mirror the zest of lemon juice or tartar sauce. Pour some of the beer into the batter you use to fry the fish for an even more intense pairing experience.
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