From now until we publish the 2016 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times is naming 100 Tastemakers — members of our local culinary community who help shape the way we eat, drink, and think about food in Phoenix. Some you'll know, and for others, it'll be a first introduction, but each person on our list deserves a nod for helping make our city so delicious. Oh, and while you're here, be sure to check out our list of 100 Creatives.
5. Rob Berkner of North Mountain Brewing Company
Born in Scottsdale, Rob Berkner is owner and head brewer at North Mountain Brewing Company in Phoenix's Sunnyslope neighborhood. Berkner started cooking at a young age, and later traveled through Europe in 1985, getting a taste of other cultures and exploring the world of craft beer.
Berkner home-brewed his first batch of beer in 1994 — an Irish stout — and completed the Siebel Institute International Diploma in Brewing Science in 2007, which included training at the Doemens Brewing Academy in Munich, Germany. Before opening North Mountain Brewing Company in March 2013, Berkner ran two local small businesses, Edsa Medical Uniforms and Performance Applications, a vinyl sign installation company.
Today, he dishes on his beer-related pet peeve and why Sunnyslope is a great place to open a business.
My go-to place for buying music in Phoenix is Zia Records. I've been going there for ages, just walking around, cruising the aisles of music; sometimes I get the music I was looking for, and sometimes a random CD that caught my eye. Yes, I do still buy CDs.
The best-kept secret in Phoenix is the area we chose to open our brewery: the Sunnyslope area. With Dreamy Draw Park to the east and the Phoenix Mountains Preserve (with well-known Trail 100 and the secrets of Spiral Man) to the north, the area is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Add the fierce pride and sense of community found in Sunnyslope, mixed with a growing artist scene and area revitalization, and you'll see why this is one of the hottest housing markets in Phoenix. But to the majority of Phoenix residents, the unique culture of the area is unknown, waiting to be discovered.
Right now I'm totally obsessed with getting to the high country and getting a good hike in during the fall colors and totally over summer. Do you sense a trend here?
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My beer-related pet peeve is finding myself in a place with no real beer selection to speak of. It's a great time to be a craft beer lover, but there are still a couple holdouts that don't offer anything to get excited about.
The most interesting beer I've tried lately was Belgian beer in general. My real introduction came in 2007 while in Chicago at the Siebel Institute. Some of them I really enjoyed, and a few were just way too funky for me then. But Belgian beers have so much going on, so many different flavor components coming from both the ingredients and the yeast that work so hard to make us happy. Ask me the same question in another nine years, and I will probably give a similar answer: There is so much to learn from these beers.
The 2016 Tastemakers so far:
100. Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis and Phoenix Public Market Cafe
99. Ross Simon of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
98. Debby Wolvos of DW Photography
97. Anibal and Salem Beyene of Café Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant
96. Bo Mostow of Uptown Farmers Market
95. Julian Wright of Pedal Haus Brewery
94. Stephen Jones of The Larder + The Delta
93. Eric Glomski of Page Spring Cellars
92. Richard Bock of Giuseppe's on 28th
91. Walter Sterling of Ocotillo
90. Daniel Sevilla of Angry Crab Shack
89. Doug Robson of Gallo Blanco and Otro Cafe
88. LaDawn Driscoll of Liberty Market
87. Jason Calhoon of The Shop Beer Co. and Side Kick Cold Brew
86. Tim and Kim Cobb of United Lunchadores Street Gourmet
85. Micah Olson of Bar Crudo and Okra Cookhouse and Cocktails
84. Paola Embry of Christopher's + Crush and The Wrigley Mansion
83. Jared Porter of The Clever Koi
82. Diane Corieri of Evening Entertainment Group
81. Erich Schultz of Steadfast Farm
80. Jeff and Leah Huss of Huss Brewing Company
79. Aaron Pool of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup
78. Diana Santospago of The Maine Lobster Lady food truck
77. Gio Osso of Virtu Honest Craft and Nico Heirloom Kitchen
76. Lauren Bailey of Upward Projects
75. Rodney Hu of Arizona Distilling Company and Yucca Tap Room
74. Jacob Cutino of Homeboy's Hot Sauce
73. Country and Sergio Velador of Super Chunk Sweets and Treats
72. Dean Thomas of Cornish Pasty Co.
71. Jennifer Caraway of The Joy Bus
70. Scott Holmes of Little Miss BBQ
69. Jared Allen of Proof Artisan Breads
68. Steve McFate of McFate Brewing Company
67. Mel Mecinas of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
66. Jessa and Dan Koppenhofer of Gilbert Farmers Market
65. Todd and Kelly Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks
64. Ryan Probst of Odelay Bagel Co.
63. Diana Brandt of AZFoodie
62. Benjamin Butler of Hayden Flour Mills
61. Jim and Maureen Elitzak of Zak's Chocolate
60. Michael Babcock of Welcome Diner and Welcome Chicken + Donuts
59. Nick Ambeliotis of Mediterra Bakehouse
58. Peter Kasperski of Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz World Wine Bar
57. Kimber Stonehouse of LGO Hospitality
56. David Tyda of EATERAZ and Arizona Taco Festival
55. Pavle Milic of FnB
54. Pat Christofolo of Santa Barbara Catering Company and The Farm at South Mountain
53. Brandon Casey of The Ostrich
52. Jonathan Buford of Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
51. Sasha Raj of 24 Carrots
50. Rob Fullmer of Arizona Craft Brewers Guild
49. Bill and Lillian Buitenhuys of AZ Bitters Lab
48. Ramona Button of Ramona Farms
47. Justin Piazza of La Piazza Al Forno and La Piazza PHX
46. Andrew Gooi of Food Talkies
45. Jason Raducha of Noble Bread and Noble Eatery
44. Ty Largo of Awe Collective
43. Christopher Gross of Christopher's and Crush Lounge
42. Heidi Lee of Into The Soup
41. ET Rivera of Tres Leches Cafe
40. Monika Woolsey of Hip Veggies
39. Bobby Kramer of The Brickyard
38. Jenna Reeves of Press Coffee Roasters
37. Sarah Chisholm of Phoenix Public Market Cafe
36. Bill Kennedy of Futuro
35. Jan Bracamonte of J. Lauren PR & Marketing
34. Erin Romanoff of the uprooted kitchen
33. Baker Mandy Bublitz
32. Tony Chanthavong of Snoh Ice Shavery
31. Donald Hawk of Welcome Chicken + Donuts
30. Krystal Bittner of Arizona Society of Homebrewers
29. Garrison Whiting of Counter Intuitive and Cowboy Ciao
28. Michelle Jacoby and Mark Lipczynski of Bite Magazine
27. Chris Osborn of Western Retail Advisors
26. Yasu Hashino of Yasu Sushi Bistro
25. Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar by Jennifer's
24. Bret Pont of Hobe Meats
23. Josh Hebert of Posh Improvisational Cuisine
22. Tracy Dempsey of Tracy Dempsey Originals
21. Andrew Fritz of In Good Spirits
20. Eddie Hantas of Hummus Xpress
19. Matt Taylor of Gertrude's at the Desert Botanical Garden
18. Sam Pillsbury of Pillsbury Wine Company
17. Tom D'Ambrosio of Aioli Gourmet Burgers
16. Randy Walters of Wimpy's Paradise
15. Urian Torres of FrinGo's Kitchen
14. Armando Hernandez of Tacos Chiwas
13. Lindsey Magee of Ollie Vaughn's
12. Travis Nass of CaskWerks Distilling
11. Nino McCurley of Nomadic Ice Cream Rolls
10. Kevin Binkley of Cafe Bink
9. Anthony Canecchia of SanTan Brewing Company
8. Chrysa Robertson of Rancho Pinot
7. Dee Logan of Arizona Community Farmers Market Group
6. Kazuto Kishino of Hana Japanese Eatery