What's your favorite beer? We at Chow Bella get this question a lot, and though it may seem a simple choice for the uninitiated, it can be much harder to answer for those who have tried a multitude of brews. Even among the relatively small selection of beers made in the Valley, with so many styles, flavor, and approaches to beer available, how does one select a single, most-beloved brew? We couldn't. So here are 11 of our favorites. Now stop asking.
11. Sirius Black -- Four Peaks Brewing Co.
A traditional Russian imperial stout with three pounds of licorice root as well as five pounds of Indian Malabar coffee thrown in, this recipe was a collaborative effort from all of the brewers at Four Peaks and first premiered as Winter Wobbler 2008, their yearly special winter seasonal. It now appears randomly at beer festivals, special events and occasional brewery tappings. Softly smoky with a blend of heavily burnt oats, cotton candy, light-roast coffee, licorice and peanut skins, the brew's worth seeking out -- and the version aged in bourbon barrels is even better.
10. Scootcher -- Sleepy Dog Saloon and Brewery
The ale formerly known as Scottie, Scootcher is a Scottish-style amber. The sturdy flavor's constructed with dark roasted malt and noble hops and tastes of bread, crackers, figs, grapes and port. Taken altogether, it's not unlike a drinkable yet inebriating Fig Newton.
9. Cherry Bomb -- SunUp Brewing Co. An occasional brew from Uwe Boer, Cherry Bomb combines flavors of tangy molasses, milk chocolate, and espresso. Oh, yeah, and cherries. Lots of cherries. It's a beautiful flavor combination, but due to the brew's sweetness, one glass is usually enough.
Check out more of our favorite beers on the following pages.
8. Oude Zuipers -- Papago Brewing Co. Belgian beers of any kind are a rarity in the Valley, so to find an authentic-tasting tripel is an even bigger treat. Oude Zuipers ("old drunk") is brewed for Papago by Belgian brewers Brouwerij Van Steenberg, makers of Gulden Draak. The flavor -- packed with bright green apples, pear juice, honey, and lilac -- will keep you drinking until you're good and zuipers.
7. Negro Nitron -- SanTan Brewing Co. Negro Nitron, San Tan's take on the black IPA, premiered in August last year and won us over immediately. The nitrogenated brew is a creamy delight in the mouth, and the juxtaposition of sweet tangerine, orange peel, and pine with to smoky pork, milk chocolate and coffee beans has us hoping SanTan brews another batch soon.
6. Inebriator -- Sonoran Brewing As we've said before, Inebriator is like a beer Highlander that's hunted down lesser imperial stouts and absorbed their color and flavor. The syrup-thick brew coats the tongue with layers of milk chocolate, hot cocoa, peanut, molasses, and burnt black malt. It's rich, tasty, and, well, inebriating.
5. Sonoran 200 -- Sonoran Brewing Brewed like a beer but certainly not flavored like one, Sonoran 200 is made with pure agave nectar -- and lots of it. The brew was fermented for four weeks, infused with even more agave, then oak-aged for six months. The result's a nearly 40-proof brew that, while pricey, is an interesting and tasty diversion from the beers you're used to.
4. Arizona Peach -- Four Peaks Brewing Co. Due to its reputation as the girliest beer in Four Peaks' lineup, Arizona Peach gets passed over by many a drinker, which is a shame. In our eyes, there are no "guy beers" or "girl beers" -- just good and bad ones. The soft touch with which peaches were added to this American wheat ale enhances the underlying flavors without becoming cloying, making it a light, refreshing ale perfect for sipping on the Four Peaks patio in the summer heat. It's the most underrated beer in the state, but we love it and we don't care who knows it.
3. Elsie's Irish Cream Coffee Stout -- Papago Brewing Stout, coffee, Irish cream -- it's all there in the name. Elsie's tastes like a mug of Joe doused with Bailey's. Named for Papago owner Ron Kloth's dog, the brew boasts a pound of Irish cream-flavored coffee beans in each barrel, giving it the Irish Car Bomb-like flavor that -- paired with its smooth, velvety body -- make this a favorite stout. It's currently only available on tap at the brewpub, but word is Elsie's will soon make it into cans.
2. Winter Warmer -- SanTan Brewing Co. SanTan's annual Winter Warmer won a New Times Best Of award in 2010, and little has changed since then -- it still rocks. To make the beer, brewers start with a traditional English old ale recipe, then spice it with 10 pounds of fresh ginger and 10 gallons of Arizona orange blossom honey, allowing the brew to showcase the unique terroir of the state while remaining a fantastic example of the winter warmer style. With notes of cinnamon-spiced raisins, caramel, plum and brandy, the brew perfectly captures the flavors of the chilly season while providing the means to warm up.
And the number-one spot goes to ...
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1. Hop Knot -- Four Peaks Brewing Co. Speaking of awards, Hop Knot recently won gold at the World Beer Cup, beating out 80 other brews in the "American-style Strong Pale Ale" catergory. Seems the rest of the world is starting to learn what we already know. Hop Knot blends four different hops added at different times in the brewing process, resulting in a piney, grassy symphony that fuses with sweet caramel malts in perfect congruity. Whether in keg or cask, bottle or can, the balance and drinkability this beer delivers every time we try it show why Hop Knot is -- and remains -- our favorite IPA.
All our favorites lists also are available on our Best Of app -- see it in action here. And check out our other lists: 10 Favorite Spots for Crepes in Greater Phoenix 11 Favorite Phoenix Beers 10 Favorite Spots for Seafood in Greater Phoenix 10 Favorite Gelato Spots 10 Favorite Burrito Joints in Metro Phoenix 10 Favorite Spots for Wings in Metro Phoenix 11 Things to Eat and Drink Before You Leave Phoenix Ten Favorite Phoenix Hot Sauces and Salsas Top Ten Spots for Mac 'n' Cheese in the Valley Three Favorite Espresso Shots in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Farmers' Markets Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Eleven Favorite Favorite Places for Sushi in the Valley Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Cupcakes Eleven Favorite Barbecue Joints in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Wine Bars Ten Favorite Phoenix Irish Restaurant & Pubs Six Favorite Specialty Cocktails in Phoenix Ten Favorite Metro Phoenix Craft Beer Bars Ten Favorite Gourmet Pizza Shops in the Valley Five Favorite Japanese Restaurants in Phoenix Ten Favorite Margaritas in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Coffee Shops in Phoenix Five Favorite Thai Restaurants in Metro Phoenix Eleven Favorite Ice Cream Shops in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Phoenix Happy Hours Five Favorite Sonoran Dogs in the Valley Ten Favorite Hot Dogs in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Desserts in Phoenix Ten Favorite First Date Restaurants Ten Favorite Burgers in Greater Phoenix Ten Favorite Downtown Phoenix Restaurants for Late Night Dining Ten Favorite Vegetarian Entrees in Metro Phoenix Ten Favorite Chinese Restaurants in Greater Phoenix