Every city has its iconic tourist draws. In Paris, you have to see the Eiffel Tower, and in Chicago, you have to eat Chicago-style pizza. These signature things define their region of origin — and it's much the same way when talking about breweries. Most breweries have one defining beer that's an absolute "must try" and for many, it's the signature beer that brings the masses into the brewery in the first place.
We took a look around Phoenix's ever-growing brewery scene, and we suggest that, even if for no other reason, you make your way to these local breweries to try the signature creations that help define who they are and what they stand for.
Four Peaks Brewing Company, Tempe
Style: Strong Scottish Ale
Stats: 6.0% ABV, 21 IBU
Four Peaks has been pleasing Arizona consumers since 1996, and once you try the brewery's signature beer, it's easy to understand why. Kiltlifter features malty sweet flavors of caramel, toffee, and light hints of roast and subliminal smoke. This beer has bucked the hops trend that's seemingly overtaken the craft beer community. Rich, caramelized flavors throughout, with only enough hops to balance, Kiltlifter maintains quite a drinkability despite its 6.0% ABV. This six-time Great American Beer Festival medalist pairs well with BBQ and smoked meats. Kiltlifter is available all throughout the state on draft, in cans and in bottles.
SanTan Brewing Company, Chandler
Style: Pale Ale
Stats: 5.5% ABV, 45 IBU
Devil's Ale is a "West Coast" style pale ale, meaning that it pushes the defined limits of a pale ale in hoppiness. It pairs wonderfully with pizza, or dishes containing sharp cheeses such as Colby or Cheddar. And, it is an absolute natural with all things bacon. Devil's Ale is built around the popular bold "C" hops: Cascade, Centennial, and Simcoe. The pine-like hops jump out of the glass, supported by a solid, balanced malt backbone that stands up to heartily-prepared dishes. The pleasantly bitter finish is a wonderful palate cleanser making this beer a good pairing with many different food options. Honorable mention from SanTan also goes out to the very popular HopShock IPA and their former seasonal turned year-round wheat based crowd pleaser, Mr. Pineapple. Devil's Ale can be found on draft throughout the southwest and in the majority of grocery and beverage stores in their signature cans.
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company, Gilbert
Style: India Pale Ale
Stats: 7.2%, 75 IBU
A West Coast-style IPA that can stand up to any from breweries a hundred times their size, Arizona Wilderness' Refuge IPA packs a hop wallop. Leading with big pine aromas that support the citrus and tropical fruit notes, this IPA is a hop showcase from the first aromatic blast through the finish of the flavor. Supporting notes of bready malt with a hint of caramel along with pleasant background alcohol warmth puts the exclamation mark on this well-balanced IPA. The brewers' unrelenting use of the best hops available shows why you don't need to travel to San Diego to enjoy one of the country's finest IPAs. Refuge IPA is available on draft at the Arizona Wilderness brewpub located at 721 N. Gilbert Avenue in Gilbert.
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Candy Bar Milk Stout
Fate Brewing Company, Scottsdale
Style: Sweet Stout
Stats: 6.0% ABV, 25 IBU
People flock to this cult-favorite beer. And while not many breweries would have the guts to have a beer release party on a Monday, that's just what Fate Brewing Company did recently due to the popularity of this "liquid candy bar" style of stout. According to Fate's website, the beer is made with honey roasted peanuts, cacao nibs, vanilla bean, and a touch of sea salt. Sounds more like dessert than a beer but one look at the various Arizona Craft Beer blogs will tell you that this beer is consistently among people's favorites and definitely a must try. The aroma is subtle while the flavor is full, loaded with delicious chocolate, with a pleasantly sweet, though properly attenuated finish. Want a twist on your Candy Bar Milk Stout? Chew a piece of mint gum while enjoying your beer and you instantly have a liquid Andes mint. You can try Candy Bar Milk Stout, while supplies last, at either of Fate Brewing Company's two locations in Scottsdale.
White Russian Imperial Stout
Sun Up Brewing Company, Phoenix
Style: Imperial Stout
Stats: 9.4% ABV
Only brewmaster Uwe Boer could convince Phoenix area residents to line up for an Imperial Stout of almost ten percent alcohol strength in the middle of the summer. But that's just what they do. Though Trooper IPA is considered to be Sun Up's flagship beer, the demand is so strong for White Russian that the brewery sometimes has a hard time keeping up with demand, according to one of the bartenders. This beer packs a week's worth of flavor into a glass, with rich chocolate, coffee, and very light roast notes. The beer is black as a moonless night with a dense, light brown, long lasting head. Some pleasant rum-like alcohol sweetness balances the chocolate and coffee. Creamy with a viscosity thick as a milkshake, this is a sippin' beer, best consumed in small quantities when taking the light rail home. Enjoy this beer on draft at Sun Up Brewing, located at 322 E. Camelback Road in Phoenix.