Noel Garcia is the guy who puts the “bar” in Barnone — but that wasn’t the original plan.
Garcia and business partner Bryan McCormick intend to slowly renovate the space at 12 West Main Street in downtown Mesa (currently serving as an event venue) and turn it into a 30-barrel brew house and full-service restaurant for 12 West Brewing Co. in two years.
It’s a marriage of two self-professed home brewing nerds; the two met when McCormick called Garcia for home brewing consulting, and the relationship quickly blossomed into a business partnership. McCormick happens to own the 12 West Main Street building, and besides, “I’ve lived in Mesa for pretty much my whole life. This is home,” says Garcia. “When we started the brewery, it just made sense to try to stay in that area.”
Turning the event venue, that has hosted weddings and country dance gatherings alike for years, into the food and beer shrine 12 West Brewing envisions is no small feat. The spot needs a serious overhaul on both an aesthetic and functional level (it currently has no kitchen), but McCormick and Garcia have already started renovations. They hope that the two-year timeline will accommodate such a change, but also let downtown Mesa catch up to speed.
“You look at other cultural hubs like Portland or Seattle; everything is within walking distance, and we have the perfect setup in downtown Mesa for that. I want to see places where people can go and hang out and walk to the next spot,” says Garcia. He also says that Oro Brewing’s presence downtown is already helping in that regard, but, “hopefully in two years, it’s ready for something as big as what we’re planning to put there.”
It was Garcia’s passion for home brewing and a mutual friend that connected him with Joe Johnston of Barnone, Johnston's multiuse passion project in Gilbert. Garcia says he’s been making beer for Johnston’s annual Oktoberfest party for the past few years. Through some charmed timing, the invitation to join Barnone came just when Garcia and McCormick were making business plans.
If the main attraction in Mesa proves to be as successful as the Barnone taproom, we may have to start getting in line now.
“It’s been hectic, but it’s been great,” Garcia says of the Barnone’s opening weeks. “We’ve been going through beer like crazy. We’ve had to adjust our schedule to be able to have enough.”
Though 12 West is brand new, Garcia has been making beer and taking notes from pros for more than nine years. “I took home brewing really serious to the point that I wanted to become professional,” he says. A taste of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at the tender age of 20 sparked an obsession. “It got me hooked on how they do that,” Garcia says, sending him on a whirlwind of books and research, until he made his first “horrible” IPA with his own home-brewing kit.
Once he gained some brew moxie, Garcia began to reach out to the home brewing, and eventually professional communities, both in Arizona and abroad. It’s an impressive educational pedigree; he sat at the feet of local brew masters like John Lane (O.H.S.O.), Steve McFate (McFate Brewing), and Alex Phillips (Grand Canyon Brewery) who let him take notes, ask questions, and “soak up everything like a sponge.” He even worked for a time with buddies Matt Trethewey and Greg Sorrels at the Beer Research Institute in Mesa.
Now that Garcia is a professional himself, he still draws on those relationships, and is planning a series of beer collaborations with local breweries in the next year, including one with BRI later this month. He also plans to bring 12 West Brewing to the Arizona Strong Beer Festival in February.
“I enjoy making simple, mostly American-style beers, but I make minute changes and they end up coming out quite different,” says Garcia, who draws inspiration from food documentaries like Netflix’s Chef’s Table. “I look at the food world, and they’re taking the same ingredients that you get every day and they change them to be something amazing. That’s how I want to approach brewing.”