Kirsten Eccles at Taste of Tops

​The adjacent liquor store, Tops Liquors, stocks hundreds of bottles of tequila, vodka, rum and the like, but Taste of Tops (403 W. University Drive, 480-967-5643) doesn't serve any of that. 

In fact, ask for a pint of Bud on draft and you'll be laughed out of the place. Taste of Tops is a craft beer bar, with more than 200 bottled beers and 24 taps pouring specialty kegs from around the country. 

It's the perfect place for Kirsten Eccles, who moved from working in the liquor store next door (her father Greg is part owner) to being the bar's manager when it opened in fall 2009. Surrounded by delicious beer daily, she gets to talk beer, drink beer, and build up a vast knowledge of all things sudsy -- which is good, since she's studying to be a Cicerone (the beer equivalent of a sommelier).

Would you rather work in a beer bar or in a bar that also serves liquor?
A beer bar, definitely. The clientele is more mellow. I love beer and I love talking about beer. Plus, beer is a better drink. The variety, all the different flavors. People who are drinking beer can usually hold their own a little better than when they're drinking liquor. It's just good. You know -- beer saved the world!

Has working here changed your tastes in beer at all?
I'm more adventurous now. I used to just be an IPA kind of girl, but now I love all beers equally. My favorite style right now is Berliner Weiss -- it's very sour. I'm also really into stouts right now.

You guys get easy access to every tap in here -- do you ever play around and mix different beers together?
You mean like a suicide? We'll do them for people's birthdays sometimes. One time I gave one to one of the other bartenders. He said, "Just give me whatever." I poured something from every tap and mixed it all together -- and he drank the whole thing. I think he liked it!

What was your most memorable night here?
Probably the first night we opened. I had never bartended before, and it was just so hectic and busy. But I had so much fun. Suns games were fun last year, too. For some reason, we became the neighborhood Suns bar. People would come to watch games, and the place would be packed! It was a lot of fun.

What do you like most about working behind the bar?
Talking about beer. Just being around it. I love my regulars, too.

What's your least favorite thing?
I don't know -- waking up early? Do you count three o'clock as early?

3 p.m.?

No. I hate you. 
Ha! Sometimes I'll wake up earlier, like 2.