North Mountain Brewing – Phoenix, AZ

Located at 522 E Dunlap Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85020
Open Mon-Wed 3p-10p; Thurs 11a-10p; Fri & Sat 11a-11p and Sunday 11a-9p
http://www.northmountainbrewing.com

I find Arizona interesting. It’s a vast desert with pockets of intense beauty scattered intermittently across a barren, sad, brown wasteland. The mountainous landscapes add a nice flavor to its cities and those who enjoy camping and hiking have plenty of terrain to choose from if they want to escape the company of people and the luxuries of air conditioning and HBO. If you look at any map of Arizona you’ll instantly see that Phoenix is the most prominent cityscape. It’s a mainstay in the list of the Top Ten biggest cities in the United States and often even flirts with the Top Five, the dirty slut. If you do a Free Association exercise using the word “Arizona” you’ll only ever hear people respond with “Phoenix” and “Grand Canyon” and “Blowjobs in an alley for meth money.”

What I’m trying to say is that I realize the perception of Arizona is Phoenix-centric and that I know this diminishes the wonderful parts of the state that aren’t it. The last thing I want is for anyone to think this blog is neglecting other areas of the state in favor of its biggest city. My goal is to visit every single microbrewery and vineyard in the entire state even if they’re located in the scariest, most remote areas of Arizona. And even if it takes a couple of years I will highlight every last one of your wonderful booze springs as long as my liver doesn’t launch a full-fledged mutiny against me.

But of the fifty-plus microbreweries in Arizona, there are just above twenty of them in the greater Phoenix area. There is no bigger concentration of them in any other area of the state. So this blog will, out of necessity, have a longer string of Phoenix-based breweries than it will those of other cities. But, again, this does not mean I think any less of the rest of the state of Arizona. Be patient. I will come to your city soon. In the meantime I will start my journey in the concrete ant colony that is Phoenix with a fairly small, unassuming  joint called North Mountain Brewing Company. North Mountain sits in the north-ish area of Phoenix, pretty far removed from other breweries.

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Though in Phoenix most things are pretty far removed from everything else. A friend once described living there by saying, “If I want to scratch my ass I have to get in the car and drive twenty minutes first.”  But North Mountain is worth a drive. They have friendly staff with a good knowledge of the beers. There are a few microbreweries that somehow score enough cash to open up large-scale operations and hire wait staff who have no clue what goes into the actual brewing of the beer. We’ll cover those places as the project goes on but North Mountain doesn’t feel that way at all. A Classy Alcoholic living in that area could do worse than making North Mountain their regular haunt. They have big screen TVs playing whatever local sports game is happening which I know you don’t care about because, if you’re like me, sporting events are just an excuse to drink more and you only pretend to care about the game because you know it’s socially acceptable to stuff your fat, drunk face with more beer and chicken wings for as long as it’s on.

This places calls itself a “brewpub,” which basically means they’re a brewery that also serves food. But it gets kinda tricky when you factor in bars that call themselves brewpubs because they serve food and pour nothing but local microbrews…but do not actually brew their own beer. These places are not going to be included in this blog as I’m exclusively focusing on places that brew beer onsite.

Speaking of food, North Mountain’s menu proudly states that they use local ingredients in their food whenever possible. They offer the aforementioned wings, burgers, flatbread pizzas and soup, among other things. I was happy to see soup on the list because I decided to start this project by inviting my ex-girlfriend Angie to join me at the brewery. I hadn’t seen Angie in a while but she passive-aggressively texted me pretty regularly and I always responded out of guilt. She was never a fan of my drinking while we were dating because, according to her, I had “such a hard-on for carbs” that she was surprised I still had feet.

I must admit, I felt a bit nervous while sitting at the brewery waiting for Angie. You would think the forty minutes or so I waited after the time she said she would be there would help to calm my nerves but that wasn’t the case at all. I guess she still had the same ability to keep me anticipating her entrance as she did when we were dating and she stayed out dancing with her girlfriends until the clubs closed at 6AM or so while I stayed home waiting up for her. She eventually came into the brewery looking as spectacular as ever after her third spin class of the day wearing her sports bra and tight workout pants – basically the only clothes she owned – and smelling of cigarette smoke. She greeted me warmly by looking up from her phone for a brief second and sweetly responded to me asking her how she was by saying, “It’s whatever. Order me an apple.”

I told her that the brewery didn’t serve apples and offered her the menu. I ordered a flight of beers while she was glancing at the menu in between texting. In case you don’t know, a “flight” is a sampler of each beer that’s on tap. Every microbrewery you visit should know what a flight is because it’s a common industry term and they should be arranged in ascending order from lightest to darkest beer. North Mountain’s 12 beers are a pretty high number compared to some other breweries. But keep in mind that only 8 of them are the regular flight entries while the other 4 are part of their Strong Beer Menu and cost extra  for samples.

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When you go to a new brewery, ordering a flight is essential. You get to determine which of their beers you like best and if you’re with a date there’s nothing more charming than splitting several miniature glasses of beer. Just be sure to only take a sip or two of each sample and leave the majority of it for your date. I know the tiny glass won’t come even close to satisfying your mad hunger once the taste of booze hits your lips but don’t forget that Classy Alcoholics exude self-control in public. If your date doesn’t like the beer you have free reign to finish off the rest so it doesn’t go to waste. Also make a point to first put the sample glass pretty close up to your nose and sniff because this gives the impression that you can recognize ingredients by smell. Do it, even if you can’t. Also be sure to slightly tilt your head, purse your lips and nod approvingly, as if you’re impressed by the mere smell of the drink before you even taste it.

North Mountain’s beer was very good. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about the process of brewing beer or the ingredients required to tell you exactly what’s in each drink but I can talk about a couple of things that stood out. Keep in mind that microbreweries rotate the beers in their taps fairly regularly because they may run out of certain batches and also try to brew new flavors when possible so whichever beers I write about may not actually be on tap by the time you read this. But let’s run through a few drinks anyway, shall we?

Angie was still texting at this time.

The first beer I tried was called Time of the Saison which I enjoyed, not just because of the punny nature of the name, but also because it was light and slightly wheaty. It was reminiscent of a Shock Top beer, which I enjoy and which Angie calls “suicide by calories.” Angie ended up ordering the soup of the day, by the way, which I knew she would. At first she said she wasn’t hungry because she had a granola bar last Tuesday but I convinced her by telling her how good the food at this place was. She eventually relented but still had me pick out every single one of the noodles from the soup bowl, which I also knew she would do because she doesn’t believe in starch. To Angie a soup is basically just hot water and carrot shavings. I know, super cute, right?

There were two stouts on tap today (the Sunnyslope and the Spiral Man), which are dark, strong beers. For some reason stouts taste ashy to me. That’s a compliment, believe it or not. It reminds me of the days when I would sit out on my porch smoking a fine cigar and the smokey, ashy flavor would linger on my palate. Angie actually approved of this as she always thought smoking was a great way to speed up metabolism. The ashy flavor was so prevalent in the Spiral Man that it tasted kind of like burnt chocolate to me, which is crazy because Burnt Chocolate was actually Angie’s stripper name when I first met her. I have to admit, my heart melted when I realized Angie was still wearing the watch I got her for her birthday last year. I noticed it on her wrist after the seventh time she looked at it while I was talking and I remember she said it was a perfect workout watch because she didn’t care if she got sweat all over it.

I think Angie was about ready to leave after I tasted the Happy Kraut Festbier. It was a delicious lager but the name really upset her. Apparently she was angry that using the word “Kraut” was no longer offensive and it especially hit home because her ancestry was mostly German (and part Argentinian somewhere back across the line). She became a bit belligerent and yelled something at the staff about how the place might as well brew something called a “Greasy Guido” beer before I picked her up over my shoulder using only my left arm and carried her out into the parking lot. She left right after I gave her the $500 I owed her for the deductible she paid to fix the bumper she wrecked on the car I bought her that’s still in my name.

Overall North Mountain Brewing Company is a great, relaxed place to have a few drinks and some good food. I highly recommend it. But I’m not sure the first entry in this project was entirely successful because I realize now how little I know about how to describe the intricacies of beer brewing, the quality of brewpup food and the ambience of a place. It’s all a bit discouraging really, and I wonder if I’m even properly suited to complete this project…

No. I’m not giving up. This isn’t going to be like my previous projects. The Classy Alcoholic blog won’t end up discarded like my last two attempts at novels or the footage I shot for the stop-motion taxidermied animal movie I tried to make. I’m committed to this and I promise you that this project will be completed.  And yes, I know my knowledge of beer and wine is somewhat limited at this moment but knowledge comes from experience. That’s why I want to learn from my travels and share the knowledge with you. Let’s discover new places, new drinks and new county jails. Let’s show everyone that we’re not intimidated by lofty goals and that we can actually still accomplish something we set our minds to despite the fact that, no, we didn’t ever go to law school but we don’t care because we’re perfectly happy with the life choices we made, even if you don’t agree with them, Dad.

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New entries will be posted late each Sunday night or early Monday morning depending on how long it takes the hangover to subside.

Salud!

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