Two weaves of dry peppers dangle by the entrance, so long and red they seem to suck the color from the adjacent brick columns. These dusty ristra, common in New Mexico, move in the breeze together with the yellow flag of New Mexico. Inside the building, empty of natural light away from the windows, some of the couches are antiques from the 1940s. Roadhouse? Saloon? Nope. Lovecraft is a craft beer bar.
And not your cookie-cutter craft beer bar, but one with style.
The full name of the beer bar is “Lovecraft / Ale House. Bottle Shop. Smoke Kitchen.” Rebecca Golden, who opened the north-central Phoenix shop last December with her boyfriend, Ryan Castillo, describes Lovecraft as “a restaurant that sells a bunch of beer and kind of has a bar vibe.”
The food is New Mexican: carne adovada, green chile (the sauce), and red and green chiles from our eastern neighbor — some from Hatch, some from beyond. Lovecraft also has a smoker, and barbecues brisket, pork, and chicken. Behind its long bar are 31 taps. What flows cold through them changes rapidly, even by craft beer standards.
“We typically only buy one keg, so we’re rotating all the time,” Golden says. “The cans are the same way. We try not to carry the same stuff.”
On tap alone, Lovecraft carries beer, wine, mead, cider, hard seltzer, and kombucha.
A look at the ciders speaks to Lovecraft’s variety. Golden and Castillo have carried ciders from Superstition Meadery (Prescott), Cider Corps (Mesa), and the young-and-upcoming Crush Craft Cider (Tempe). Right now, from Crush, Lovecraft is pouring a hazy cider made with strawberries and plums, and another cider made with pomegranates and jasmine tea.
The draft beer selection is all over the Arizona state map, and tends to keep its reach to within a few states beyond. Recently, its selection contained offerings ranging geographically from Wanderlust Brewing Company (Flagstaff), to beers made all over the Valley (Peoria to Scottsdale to Mesa), to the excellent Tombstone Brewing Company down south.
Beers hew pretty closely to the craft mainstream and don’t venture too far into experimental style. Beers from outside Arizona are still kept mostly to the West. Golden and Castillo often stock offerings from La Cumbre, one of the great New Mexican breweries.
Lovecraft's food is a backyard marriage between barbecue and New Mexican, compatibility built on similarly deep, soulful flavors kindled from heat applied slow and low.
Using pecan wood and hickory, they smoke meat overnight, shredding chicken onto tacos, and pork and brisket into burritos. Chiles lace the menu about as tightly as the dusty ristra outside. They seem to be in everything, from pozole to queso to stacked enchiladas sluiced with various New Mexican sauces. That includes a “white,” cream-based green chile Golden learned to cook in one New Mexico chile hotbed, La Cruces.
“There are minimal ingredients in our sauces,” Golden says. “We stew them for so long that the chiles do the work.”
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In the back room, behind a moveable rope wall, there are games like foosball and giant Jenga. Some days, starting at 3 p.m., Lovecraft offers a tiered happy hour, including select $3 tacos and $3 10-ounce pours.
The expectations of geography and idiosyncrasy shaped by the flag and peppers outside carry over to the food and drink within. Service is kind, upbeat, and when you've downed a few beers and ounces of chile sauce, you can grab a Wren House lager or a Tombstone triple IPA to-go.
Phoenix is lucky to have a wealth of craft beer bars. Given this bounty and the ease of routine, you might not be inclined to try a relative newcomer. But in a craft beer climate that has gotten so capable and pervasive that nothing ever seems truly new, Lovecraft sure does.
Lovecraft / Ale House. Bottle Shop. Smoke Kitchen.
3128 East Cactus Road
Hours: 3 to 11 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday; 3 p.m. to midnight, Friday; 11 a.m. to midnight, Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday