If you missed it last week, we created a new month: Febrewery. Don't let the delightful syntax fool you -- Febrewery is a serious time, made for sincere and open-hearted visitation of the Valley's newest purveyors of beer. For week two, we're taking a quick drive up to the Northeast Valley, just off the 101 and Shea, to Scottsdale Beer Co.
The unambiguously named brewpub officially opened its doors in late January. With room for about 200, the restaurant floor is an open space, all metal beams and concrete -- "agri-industrial," the owners call the look. A sizable wall of glass separates the brewery from the restaurant; you can actually watch the brewers at their craft as if they were workers in an ant farm.
Above their heads, a neon sign from Colorado's Odell Brewing Co. casts its pale light on the stainless steel brewhouse, reflecting in a metaphorical manner the very real impact Odell's had on Scottsdale Beer Co.'s brewers and owners. Doug Ledger, a managing partner at SBC, says his brewers often travel to Colorado to participate in educational courses offered at the Beverage Business Institute, a certification program for beer, wine and liquor industry pros offered through Colorado State University's College of Business. They've learned from and worked closely with the folks at Odell, and the neon was placed above SBC's brewhouse in recognition of all the support the Fort Collins-based brewery offered them.
"It's the only outside brewery neon we'll ever hang," Ledger says.
It is not, however, the only connection to outside breweries. Scottsdale Beer Co. has a draft setup of 24 handles, about half of which are occupied by a rotating cadre of guest breweries. The lineup produced at SBC itself is currently small -- just five of the beers available on draft when I visited were brewed on-premise -- but it's growing. Ledger and his team anticipate an annual production of about 1,000 barrels. Here's what I thought of the ones I tried:
Old Maud Vanilla Porter 6.2 percent ABV A decent porter, but a bad vanilla porter. Colored a milk chocolate-brown with a small but dense and sticky head of sandy tan, the brew exhibits aromas of toasted sourdough, espresso, cocoa and a little apple. In the flavor, charred malt is noticeable first, middle and last -- it's really all that's going on. The burnt malt provides pleasant (to me, anyway) toast and dark chocolate notes, plus substantial acrid bitterness that settles in on the tongue between sips, but complexity is lacking, as is the body, which comes in a bit thin. Subtle vanilla notes do emerge eventually, but the glass takes a lot of warming up to get there.
Easy Amber Ale 5.7 percent ABV Amber in color (imagine that) and crystal-clear, this easygoing ale displays a bouquet that's both fruity and sweet, a mix of red apple and caramel popcorn. The flavor has more earthy hop bitterness to balance before a clean, bready finish. The mouthfeel is very nice -- soft, creamy and silkily carbonated. Very drinkable.
Bee's Knees Kolsch 4.9 percent ABV Kolsch isn't an easy style to get right -- the beer needs to have the quaffability of a light lager while carrying more complex ale yeast characteristics -- but SBC's brewers did a nice job with it. From the translucent straw hue, to the notes of white bread, saltine crackers, apple and just a hint of peppery hops, the brew's clean enough for those who want something light yet complex enough for nerds like me who want to fuss over some subtle Kolsch flavor.
Claymore Scottish IPA 7.8 percent ABV This was the most unique SBC offering at the time of my visit -- an India Pale Ale bittered with resinous American-grown hops but fermented with Edinburgh Scottish Ale yeast. The result is a puzzling melding of resinous grapefruit and grass notes and pepper and tropical mango and papaya, all backed with an earthy, honey-like sweetness. In the mouth the brew has a more citrusy bent, trending toward orange peel in the front then hitting smooth honey, caramel, orange, juice, grass and pineapple in the back. It's bitter for sure -- 103 IBUs, according to the brewers -- but the finish is velvet-smooth rather than face-melting, the beer's sweetness gently subsiding and depositing bitterness like marks left by the tide. The pillow-soft medium body is a delight and enhances the fruitiness of the hops. Easily my favorite offering from this new Valley brewery.
Febrewery continues even through Arizona Beer Week. Stop back next week for another look at a brand spankin' new local brewery.
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If you go: Scottsdale Beer Company 8608 E. Shea Blvd. Scottsdale, AZ 85260 480-219-1844