Welcome to the 2018 edition of The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.
30: Orange Blossom from Huss Brewing Company
"Uniquely Arizona," reads a digital billboard across the Seventh Street Bridge from Chase Field. Right next to that description, the pixels show a familiar beer can: It's pale yellow with a Crayola-orange stripe across the center, a purple circle front and center. You have seen these colors in tap handle lineups, gas station refrigerators, and in the hands of friends at barbecues. The brew is Orange Blossom.
Orange Blossom has a warm, rolling spice that comes from vanilla. The citrus component lacks the edge and zap of freshly squeezed juice, and, from the first sip, entwines into the vanilla and disappears. The unified flavors pull the beer's flavor sideways, almost into non-beer territory. You might think of cream soda. Maybe an icy Dreamsicle you licked two decades ago.
And the orange? It's really mandarin.
Lots of things about this familiar beer come as a surprise. Orange Blossom has a long and convoluted history. It began in 2005, back when Leah Huss was managing partner at Papago Brewing. The genesis was a desire to make a beer similar to one that had been brewed at a northern California brewery that had recently closed.
Orange Blossom soon became Papago's top seller. Today, Papago is closed and Orange Blossom is brewed by Huss Brewing Company, which Leah started in 2013 with her husband, Jeff Huss.
The Orange Blossom recipe has remained the same since Huss Brewing took over the brand not long after opening. "We have done absolutely nothing with the recipe ... since the day we took it over," Leah says.
A taste brings the standard lush flavor of a wheat beer, a flavor that's more of a feeling: standing in a grain field with the wind blowing. With that flavor you get bubbles bursting on your tongue and a cool flush of orange peel and vanilla. Without thinking, you could make three of these disappear in 10 minutes.
Orange Blossom, a filtered wheat beer, clocks in at an easy-drinking 5 percent ABV.
The brew is the rare classic that can stand up to the new guard. Phoenix has seen a brewery boom in the past two or three years. Some of the new guys are doing wild things. Though not especially intricate or innovative, Orange Blossom has the uniqueness to stay on the mind even among the citrus gozes, the turbid milkshake IPAs, and the multiparty collaborations. In other words, the billboard is right.
The Essentials so far:
50: Soul food platter at Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles
49: The Bear at Short Leash Hot Dogs + Rollover Doughnuts
48: Grilled squid and other specialties at Andreoli Italian Grocer
47: I-10 Nachos at Cocina 10
46: Coffee made from ROC2 beans
45: The Haturo Sub Sandwich at Cheese 'n Stuff
44: Zookz at Zookz
43: Jade Red Chicken at Chino Bandido
42: Tasting menu at Quiessence at The Farm
41: Single-origin Papua New Guinea Bar at Zak's Chocolate
40: Green chile at Casa Reynoso
39: Brûlée burger from Paradise Valley Burger Company
38: Hand-pulled noodles from China Magic Noodle House
37: Carne adovada sliders at Dick's Hideaway
36: Crispy Pig Ear and Amaro cocktails from Crudo
35: Chile-laced specialties from Cafe Ga Hyang
34: Martinis at AZ88
33: Nooner at Duck & Decanter
32: Eggs Maximilian at Harlow's Cafe
31: Beef Tacos from Asadero Norte De Sonora
30: Orange Blossom from Huss Brewing Company
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