Hooch

The Eight Best New Bars of 2020 in Greater Phoenix

Shoutout to the ice cubes with the H on them at Highball.
Shoutout to the ice cubes with the H on them at Highball. Lauren Cusimano
click to enlarge Greenwood Brewing (and Greenwood Taproom) is open in downtown Phoenix. - NATASHA YEE
Greenwood Brewing (and Greenwood Taproom) is open in downtown Phoenix.
Natasha Yee
Despite you-know-what, many new breweries, bottle shops, and cocktail lounges descended upon the Valley this year. Among the best bar openings in 2020 were the Phoenix location of Superstition Meadery, impressive new bottle shops like Rift Wine + Tap, and the much-anticipated Greenwood Brewery. Here, in no special order, are the best new bars of 2020. Start hydrating.

Greenwood Brewery

425 East Roosevelt Street

This female-owned and -operated brewery, which opened its Roosevelt Row doors this summer, is modern, light, and airy, with a Santa Barbara vibe and lots of natural sunlight. It is pretty. It's also quite welcoming: Even in the summer, namesake founder Megan Greenwood likes to keep the doors open to promote airflow — and to let the neighborhood know Greenwood Brewing is open for business. Greenwood started making beer with a five-gallon home-brew kit in 2017, and before long was delivering to local breweries. She raised $68,000 on Kickstarter in January 2019 and made plans for her very own brick-and-mortar joint — which came to be on July 18. As for beer, the Essence Rosemary IPA is earthy and grassy with subtle hints of, yes, rosemary. The First Love Belgian Tripel sounds romantic, and it kind of is. It's the first beer Greenwood made, and it’s a true Belgian brewed with a hearty dose of sentimental value. — Natasha Yee

click to enlarge Rift Wine + Tap's lounge area. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Rift Wine + Tap's lounge area.
Lauren Cusimano

Rift Wine + Tap

431 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale

Settled in south Scottsdale, Rift Wine + Tap is a neat new bottle shop serving craft beer and boutique wines from 25 taps (not to mention tons of bottled and canned offerings for pickup). The shop and lounge was opened in August in a former convenience store by Damien Kanser and Jonathan Coppins. Kanser says the idea behind Rift, which directly neighbors the much-missed Rogue Bar, is to offer top-notch beer and wine selections all in one place. He says beer shops often have so-so wine lists, and wine bars offer just okay-beer menus. Rift aims to provide the best of both. Kanser and Coppins are also the same duo behind the Spilling the Truth Wine Podcast, a series of longform conversations focusing on wine culture with the goal of making it more accessible to listeners. A new studio is currently under construction at Rift, where shoppers and sippers will soon be able to watch the show being recorded behind the glass. — Lauren Cusimano

click to enlarge Five meads that just medaled at the Mazer Cup in Denver at Superstition Downtown. - CHRIS MALLOY
Five meads that just medaled at the Mazer Cup in Denver at Superstition Downtown.
Chris Malloy

Superstition Downtown

1110 East Washington Street

Turns out, mead is the drink that has set the Phoenix drinking scene apart. Yes, mead. The “honey wine.” Many wide-ranging Arizona craft drinkers know that mead can be restrained and eye-widening, just like beer or wine or sake. That’s thanks to Superstition Meadery — based in Prescott and a local craft favorite — which recently debuted a large indoor-outdoor restaurant and mead destination called Superstition Downtown. Jeff and Jen Herbert, co-owners, opened in the lavishly restored Jim Ong’s Market. The Herberts have crafted more than 300 meads. Some highlight the soul of the ancient beverage, honey, including wildflower, mesquite, ironwood, and other honey, all sourced from Arizona until this year (as newly released canned “session meads” use Brazilian honey). Other Superstition meads sculpt and bend honey’s flavors via techniques like adding fruits and spices, or barrel aging. Just this fall, Superstition won six medals at the Mazer Cup, an international mead competition — the most of any meadery. Superstition Downtown offers a wide-ranging mead-and-food pairing program and has some 35 Superstition beverages, many on the 24 taps of the long, polished, L-shaped bar topped with wood salvaged from the splintery wake of a west-of-Flagstaff tornado. — Chris Malloy


click to enlarge Shoutout to the ice cubes with the H on them at Highball. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Shoutout to the ice cubes with the H on them at Highball.
Lauren Cusimano

Highball

1514 North Seventh Avenue

Highball, touted as downtown Phoenix’s newest neighborhood cocktail bar and lounge, opened at the tail end of October 2020 in the former SideBar space (we recently gave that much-missed Phoenix bar a proper sendoff). The concept is overseen by Libby Lingua and Mitch Lyons, formerly of Barter and Shake Hospitality, but the new, sleek establishment is gimmick-free. Expect an elegant copper bar, black leather couches, and exposed brick walls at the top of those stairs (note: be sure to now enter off Seventh Avenue, old Sidebar patrons). Highball offers an eclectic craft cocktail menu via QR code and extremely helpful staff. A recent conversation went something like this: “Hello. I usually dig Palomas. What should I get?” Less than a second passed, then our masked server said, “Ah, our Amongst the Trees.” Round two: “So, I kind of like coconut.” Very quickly: “Try the Shogun Powder.” Each cocktail was very drinkable, photogenic (shoutout to the ice cubes with the H on them), and pretty effective, hint hint. The kimchi popcorn was good, too. — Lauren Cusimano

click to enlarge Tyler Goolie and Hilda Cardenas plan to open The Wayward on Grand Avenue in late October. - JUAN HODGERS
Tyler Goolie and Hilda Cardenas plan to open The Wayward on Grand Avenue in late October.
Juan Hodgers

The Wayward Taphouse

1028 Grand Avenue

Grand Avenue's new craft beer and wine bar, The Wayward Taphouse, opened this fall in the building formerly occupied by ThirdSpace. The spot is the brainchild of Tyler Goolie and Hilda Cardenas, who both spent about five years working behind the bar at Wren House, honing their skills and dreaming big. To drink here? Mostly Arizona beer and wine — and the good stuff. Think F.Y.I.T.M. IPA from The Shop Beer Co., My Drunk Dunkel Dunkelweizen from Dark Sky Brewing Company, Caduceus Cellars’ Queen B Bianca, and even Terp That Cider from Cider Corps. The duo has completed a lot of interior renovations, but have kept the red brick wall. They say they plan to bring area art into the space and have already installed two chandeliers by local artist Mike Butzine. The nearly 100-year-old building includes about 1,300 square feet of interior space as well as a large patio right on Grand Avenue. Customers are welcome to bring in food or order something from food trucks set up nearby. — Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge Hanging out (pre-COVID) at one of Roosevelt Row's newest bars — Killer Whale Sex Club. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Hanging out (pre-COVID) at one of Roosevelt Row's newest bars — Killer Whale Sex Club.
Benjamin Leatherman

Killer Whale Sex Club

922 North Sixth Street

When a bar has the name Killer Whale Sex Club, you'd expect it to be memorable — and maybe a little prurient. This Roosevelt Row drinkery, which cocktail industry pros Sam Olguin and Brenon Stuart opened in early March (and which we dubbed Best New Bar), delivers on both counts. Outside, the bungalow-style building is adorned with a glorious mural of a rearing Pegasus rendered in orange, purple, and turquoise. Its speakeasy-like interior has lowbrow touches mixed with high-style drinks. Gold-painted fixtures are everywhere. A collage of cutouts from nudie magazines covers one wall. The Japanese shunga print The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife hangs over the bar, where the staff serves cocktails like The Hot Seat, a hibiscus-infused take on the bourbon cherry sour. There's even merch available, including hats and shirts with the phrase "Big Daiq Energy" — just in case KWSC wasn't unforgettable enough.

click to enlarge The Beast White is coffee and booze, the best of both worlds here. - CHARLES BARTH
The Beast White is coffee and booze, the best of both worlds here.
Charles Barth

Reap & Sow Coffee Bar

2303 East Indian School Road

A Peoria craft coffee shop (Driftwood Coffee) and a Phoenix music venue (the Rebel Lounge) recently merged to create Reap & Sow Coffee Bar. It serves coffee and pastries as early as 7 a.m. Great. But in the evenings, the lounge switches to bar mode, serving cocktails till 10 p.m. (midnight Friday and Saturday) with the same craft spirit we’ve come to know from Driftwood’s Luke Bentley and Lance Linderman. Specialty cocktails include The Priestess High, The Beast White (coffee and booze, the best of both worlds here), and the Whiskey Summer (all cocktail names are inspired by song titles from former local band and Rebel Lounge stalwart Saddles). Once you’ve got a drink in your hand, can check out the slight remodel the Phoenix-famous music venue has completed in order to lounge up the joint, including new furniture, photography and art on the walls, and skylights. Expect socially distant tables, masks, and more new safety precautions to boot. — Lauren Cusimano

click to enlarge In 2020, east Phoenix got a little more tough. - TOMBSTONE BREWING COMPANY
In 2020, east Phoenix got a little more tough.
Tombstone Brewing Company

Tombstone Brewing Company

3935 East Thomas Road

There was big beer news here in October. Helio Basin Brewing Company, which had occupied a brewery and restaurant space at 40th Street and Thomas Road for four years, was closing. However, the space was being immediately taken over by another beloved Arizona beer operation, Tombstone Brewing Company. For Tombstone, the Arcadia spot is its second brewery location — the original's in the Town Too Tough to Die. As soon as the doors swung open, there were 12 Tombstone beers on tap, and the team had already begun brewing onsite. So far, beers gulped here have included a barley wine aged in Jamaican barrels, a Mexican hot chocolate stout, a couple of pilsners, and all the popular varieties of Tombstone’s IPAs. Primary owner Matt Brown said the Tombstone team were excited to see the Phoenix customers, a major percentage of their market, in person. But there’s one key difference between the new Valley spot and the original location. “I’m expecting there will be less people in period costumes,” Brown said. “Less people riding horses to the bar.” — Lauren Cusimano
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