Located at 1326 W Highway 92 – #8, Bisbee, AZ 85603
Open Wed-Sat 12p-8p; Sun 12p-6p
Before starting this blog my trips to Bisbee were spent entirely in what’s called “Old Bisbee.” This is the pedestrian-friendly hub where one can find restaurants, art galleries, bars, charming Victorian-style homes and tons of dirty hippies. It’s a wonderful place to spend a relaxing weekend and if you haven’t been you should absolutely make it a point to visit.
Historic Old Bisbee is just under two hours southeast of Tucson off of Highway 80 and, honestly, I imagine most people who go there to visit don’t have a reason to leave the general area. But during my most recent trip to Bisbee I found a reason to stray from the confines of Old Bisbee and that reason is called Beast Brewing Company. If you stay on Highway 80 you’ll come up to Highway 92 which you can then take West toward the community known as San Jose. Be aware, though, the Victorian-style homes and flurry of activity starts to dwindle as you get further away from Old Bisbee. In fact, things start to get pretty bare while driving down Highway 92. Also I would recommend you don’t pick up any hitchhikers in the area ‘cause they’re pretty much all just ghosts of the people who died in the copper mine since the early 20th century and you can’t make conversation with them for even two minutes before they start saying some pretty racist shit.
You only have to drive about ten minutes from Old Bisbee before you come to a lot that houses Beast Brewing.
At first glance this doesn’t look like a place you’d find a microbrewery. In fact, it reminded me of the storage facilities where my dad used to keep the supplies for the army of sex robots he was planning on building. Unfortunately his sex robot project went up in smoke because his homemade lube recipe ended up being way too flammable.
Anyway, as you can see from the picture below the entrance to Beast had a couple of neon signs advertising Electric Beer. Now is as good of a time as any to pause and give y’all a quick history lesson on Beast’s inception.
Electric Beer Company was Arizona’s oldest microbrewery, started in 1988. I vaguely remember trying an Electric brew several years ago, back when I was just A Classy Alcoholic. Electric’s owner retired in 2013 when the brewing company was bought out by a married couple, Amanda and Jim, hailing from Rhode Island. And yes, I know exactly what you’re thinking…I also wish the seafood in Arizona didn’t suck so bad. Oh and you’re also wondering what the hell some New Englanders are doing trying to make beer in the Southwest. Surely their snooty East Coast palates don’t know anything about what makes Arizona beer delicious, right?
Well you’re right about one thing: Arizona beer is unique and our best brews taste like the soul of the state; like the desert air at night; like the gorgeous, purple sky lit up by the sun when it’s setting behind a mountain; like the sound of the locks on your car door being engaged when you realize that you just took a wrong turn into a predominantly Mexican neighborhood. But there’s no reason to think New Englanders – or people from any other part of the world for that matter – can’t be valuable additions to our state’s craft beer community. Beer is the universal language after all. Not to mention that Arizona can stand to be a lot more inclusive as a whole, in my not-at-all-humble opinion.
So I approached the entrance to Beast and took note of the little blue creature thing on their window. I found out later that this little guy’s name was Growlie, and his image could be found on pint glasses, growlers and on a mural inside the tap room.
Growlie said hello as I was about to walk in and he seemed pleasant enough. He asked me if it was my first time visiting Beast Brewing and where I was from. I told him it was indeed my first time and told him my hometown but he got a bit defensive when I asked him where he was from. He seemed to be a very private beast and didn’t like even the most innocuous of personal questions.
“Growlie answer question when you let down walls you put up to protect who you really are!” Growlie snapped. I was taken aback. Growlie seemed to have an innate ability to look deep into my soul and really get me.
“I’m sorry,” I told him, still standing at the window outside of the tap room. “You’re right, I project a superficial image of myself because it’s easier than letting my guard down. A few of my ex-girlfriends pretty much said the same thing.”
“You no learn to love someone else till you learn to love yourself,” he said.
Wow. I had only been at this place a few minutes and Growlie already knew so much about me. He was a very insightful Beast.
I walked into the place, sat down at the bar and was in awe of the tap handles.
They were made of the real skulls of a coyote, bobcat, skunk and a kudamundi. Growlie spoke up from the image of him painted on the wall behind me and said he personally collected the skulls from each of the animals for use in the tap room.
“Growlie remove and skin head of lesser creature,” he said. “Like father do to you with dreams. You allow dreams and heart to be skinned, you deserve skinning. Growlie can’t skin what Growlie respect.”
So true, Growlie. So true.
I asked for a flight and expected the bartender to plop down a set of sample glasses like at every other brewery I’ve been to so far but Beast did it a little differently. I was handed a baby mug with each sample and the bartender gave me a quick but detailed description of what I was drinking.
He would wait for me to sip, savor and finish the sample before moving on to the next taste, which I appreciated because it made me feel like Beast was so proud of each of their individual creations that they wanted to ensure you knew how much effort they put into it making them. I’ll run through a few of the beers that stood out for me.
The Electric Beast Lager is an updated version of the old Electric Beer lager. The recipe has changed from when it was produced by Electric but the name and overall style were kept as a way to honor the legacy of Electric Beer Company. The Thunderbird Double IPA was described loudly by Growlie to me as “Most dangerous beer in world!” This is mostly because it is 9.4% alcohol but it’s so light and the hops are nowhere near overwhelming (a common issue I find in Double IPAs) that there’s no way you’d believe it has such a high alcohol content from the way it tastes.
“IPA strong but no show off!” Growlie said to me from his image on my pint glass. “You be IPA! Strong inside! Cool and collected outside!”
Growlie was right. I spent too much time trying to exude confidence while being hollow on the inside, which is the exact opposite of the Thunderbird IPA. A whole lifetime of trying to be someone I wasn’t was instantly torn apart by a tiny turquoise monster who spoke to me in real terms I could understand. If only my parents, teachers, guidance counselors, local police officers and directors of that amateur porn movie I was in back in college had half the wisdom Growlie had.
Anyway, as for the rest of the beers, the Sexy Beast Coffee Stout was made with ingredients from a joint called Old Bisbee Roasters, which gathers and roasts coffee produced by small farms all over the world that use sustainable agricultural practices. The Sandman Pecan Porter uses pecans from a grove in the nearby town of Green Valley. Beast Brewing prides itself in using as many local/regional ingredients as possible and this results in absolutely delicious beer that also supports its surrounding community. The Sandman was probably my favorite of the flight but that was nowhere near an easy decision considering how good all the beers at this place were.
And if you’re hungry, they also serve a bit of food. You can get an artisan cheese plate, hand-cut French fries made from organic potatoes as well as buffalo style chicken wings or shrimp. I opted for the latter and was quite pleased but it should be noted that the buffalo sauce was very spicy. And this is coming from someone who has a pretty high tolerance for spicy food so the faint of heart should tread lightly.
I was about to finish up my visit to Beast when Growlie yelled at me again from behind my left shoulder.
“TRY MICHELADA!” he said.
Apparently Beast offered their own specialty michelada. For those of you who don’t know what that is, a michelada is a Mexican beer recipe that combines a light beer with tomato juice, lime juice and hot sauce. There are several variations on the recipe so none of it is set in stone, which Beast uses to its advantage. Their recipe here takes the Electric Beast Lager and mixes it with a locally-made chiltepin chili water that’s branded as Tio Ceddy. Does that sound like anything your favorite, shitty sports bar can do?
Beast Brewing Company is a young, but already great, brewery with lots of potential for growth and fame in the future. Anyone visiting Old Bisbee should make a point to travel a few minutes and seek this place out. Before I left I stopped to look at the mural with paintings of Thunderbird, Sexy Beast and, of course, my new friend Growlie.
“Thank you for everything, Growlie,” I told the wall.
“Growlie love people who love themselves! Growlie here to help. Growlie come with you!”
I left Bisbee a different man from when I arrived. Ever since visiting Beast Brewing I’ve been trying to look deep down inside my heart to find the person I’ve always wanted to be but fell short of being. I’ve made great strides with Growlie’s help but there’s still more work to be done. Luckily Growlie will always be with me, ready to give advice from the confines of my closet, my desk drawer at work and the inside pocket of my suit jacket. Sure, living with Growlie now isn’t always easy. He leaves a mess, doesn’t flush and I swear that he seems to be in the other bedroom getting laid, like, constantly which is super loud and always creates more laundry for me. But my life wouldn’t be the same without Growlie’s voice there to guide me in just about everything that I do. But I really do wish he wouldn’t go about three months at a time without kicking in his half of the fucking rent.