When we first saw that the American Apparel on Mill -- which had for the past several years been housed in the old Tempe National Bank Building -- was shuttering its doors, we were distraught. Where would we get our hipster glasses, unnecessary scarves, and bright pink hot pants? But then we found out what was taking its place: World of Beer.
The craft beer-focused franchise is set to open its Tempe location on July 23. We stopped by the under-construction building to talk with general manager J.P. Watts and product manager Tyler Brown about what makes this beer bar different.
It's the first World of Beer west of Arlington, Texas. World of Beer was founded in Florida and is still mainly an East Coast franchise, with 26 locations nationwide. Watts says the company plans to have 285 open by 2013, with several peppered throughout Phoenix.
You can party in the bank vault. The bar's architecture will make use of a few leftovers from the bank, including the large safe held at its center. The room will be open for seating during regular hours but can be rented out for special occasions.
They'll have beer. Lots of beer. "We'll have about 520 bottles -- 480 constants on the menu and four shelves that we'll keep open for seasonals," Watts says. "Right now we have 50 taps lined up, but I'm meeting tomorrow morning to see if we can get 70." Twelve of those taps will be dedicated to certain beers kept on as constants. Another 24 will be local drafts -- just Arizona beers. "Those will be rotated constantly -- if we have a Mudshark Hefe blow, we'll put SanTan's Hefe behind it," Watts says. Another 30-plus will rotate based on Brown's decisions. The bar will also have a beer engine, so there'll be at least one cask ale available. "Mostly, if it's craft and on tap, we'll have it," Brown says.
It's craft beer only. "We're craft beer and nothing else," Brown says. "No Anheuser-Busch, no Miller-Coors. All our beer has to get submitted, too. We want to make sure we're not selling Shock Top."
The staff will know their beer. "We pride ourselves on the beer knowledge of our staff," Watts says. "They're not just going to know beer; their job will be to educate you. Say your favorite beer is Bud Light Wheat. They're not going to judge you, but they'll offer up some other options for you. That's a Belgian-style wit, so maybe you'd like a Witterkerke or a Lost Coast Great White. And from there maybe they push you to other wheat beers, hefeweizens and the like. We just try to build up and educate the consumer." Beer knowledge isn't suggested; it's mandatory. To get the staff up to speed, World of Beer will hold a 10-day beer school for all potential employees, with 100- and 200-question tests at the end of each week. Employees have to score above 90 percent on both tests to get hired.
There's no liquor. But there will be shots. "We encourage our bartenders to experiment and make up beer shots," Watts says. "One of the most popular shots in our other stores is called the Red Monk. It's St. Bernardus Abt. 12 with a little splash of framboise in it. It's fucking delicious."
Regulars get perks. "We'll have a loyalty program," Watts says. "You get a card, you bring the card in, and you get a point for every time you try a new beer." There'll be all kinds of cool prizes to earn for meeting certain milestones, but you'll have some catching up to do -- there are people at some stores who've tried 1,500 different beers.
So do ASU students. Every Wednesday is WOB-U (World of Beer University) day, when any student or faculty member who works at any university can get half off drafts. Watts says he plans to give away a beach cruiser for WOB-U members during the first week the bar's open.
They won't make food, but you can still eat. "What we'll do is negotiate with restaurants around here," Brown says. The guys plan to fill their menu with Mill eateries like Robbie Fox's, Big Fat Greek and Monti's. You order the food at World of Beer, and someone from the restaurant will deliver it.
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It'll be a great place to watch the game. There'll be 25 TVs set up around the bar, with all the appropriate sports packages. Plus, Watts says, the bar will host the occasional free grill-out on game days.
The opening weekend, there's a lot of stuff planned. Sunday, July 22 will be a soft opening for media types (neener neener). Monday will be a party held only for people who like World of Beer on Facebook. "It ain't that damn hard to get in," Watts says. "Just like us on Facebook, and that's your invite." Tuesday will be the official grand opening.
They're hiring. Watts and Brown are holding interviews June 18, 19, and 20 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the World of Beer building on Mill. If you want to be a bartender, barback or server, get your application ready.