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Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. in Gilbert: Happy Hour Report Card

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The Spot: Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. 721 North Arizona Avenue, Suite 103, Gilbert 480-284-9863 www.azwbeer.com

See also: Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.: 2014 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Culinary Arts (VIDEO)

The Hours: Happy Hour is offered Monday through Friday from 4 until 7 p.m. and all day Sunday.

The Interior: With all the buzz surrounding Arizona Wilderness Brewing, including its being named the world's best new brewery by RateBeer.com and being a Big Brain Award finalist for this year, it seemed prime time to try out the small Gilbert brewery's happy hour. The love of all things outdoorsy definitely comes through in the brewpub's décor, with hiking and camping paraphernalia prominently displayed throughout the bar. On our visit, the bar was hopping with folks happy to stand and wait for tables just to get a taste of the truly local brews coming from the taps.

The Food: The bad news is you won't get discounted food during happy hour, the good news is appetizers are priced $6 to $9 normally, so you can still get fed without spending too much cash. Kicked up artichoke dip with roasted green chilis and cayenne pepper as well as pretzel sticks with beer cheese sauce and spicy red pepper hummus are great, relatively inexpensive options to split with your drinking buddies, although most of the menu is overtaken with beef, chicken, and veggie burgers.

We couldn't resist starting with some duck fat Belgian fries covered in rosemary and thyme ($6). Next time, we'll likely spend the extra $3 for the fries topped with pulled pork and beer cheese because the untopped version was a little on the bland side. The jalapeño meatloaf sliders ($7) definitely made up for the fries in the flavor department though, with juicy meatloaf, spicy jalapenos, and sriracha ketchup. Best of all, the pretzel buns, which seem obnoxiously trendy right now, were among the best we've had -- tangy, salty, chewy, and making us consider seconds with every bite.

The Drink: Let's be honest: We really came to Arizona Wilderness to check out the beer, which is made with locally sourced ingredients and varies from week to week. Dollar-off drafts put most options in the $3 to $5 range, which isn't a bad deal. However, we really wish flights were discounted during happy hour, too, so we could try all the brews du jour without getting too tipsy.

From what we tried, which included a chocolatey stout made from cacao nibs from Belize, a boozy Belgian Tripel, and the Lil Guy Rye, we found the rye most drinkable while still being complex and full of flavor. And at $3 per beer, it also happens to be the cheapest brew of the three and the one that will most often be available at the brewery.

The Conclusion: It's always a bummer to miss out on food discounts during happy hour, but we were pleased with both the price and quality. The beer obviously was the draw, and it was inexpensive and tasty. Overall, we can see this becoming a happy hour hangout for folks in Gilbert who love their beer local and their burgers big.

Grade: B+

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