Located at 2050 Yavapi Dr, Sedona, AZ 86336
Open Mon-Thurs 4p-Close; Friday-Sun 12p-Close
I know that a lot of people equate Arizona with sadness, racism, regressive politics and sadness. And I can’t deny that any of those things are valid. Even someone as devoted to this state as I am can sometimes wonder what the hell he’s still doing here. Walk into most bars in Phoenix wearing a suit, tie and matching pocket square and just say the word, “Obama,” out loud and you’ll quickly start going online to figure out how much it costs to move to southern California. Like, you know it’s crazy expensive to live there but maybe you can live in the areas where the Mexicans without papers live? That can’t be too expensive, right?
Wrong! You’re too poor to live anywhere else, you loser. So you’re stuck here crying over your Fine Arts degree and wondering what you did to deserve such a torturous existence!
But just when I think this state and its public drinking and indecent exposure laws can’t bring me down any lower I discover something about it that makes me think there’s nowhere I’d rather be. The town of Sedona is such a thing. It’s located two hours north of Phoenix and less than an hour south of Flagstaff. I doubt this blog would even exist without the town of Sedona and the microbrewery that is the subject of today’s post. I’ll explain….
Believe it or not, it’s been less than a year since I became the beloved internet celebrity that I am now. There was a darker time in The Classy Alcoholic’s past that was marked by dozens of empty cans of Tecate strewn about his studio apartment and dozens or probably hundreds of ex-girlfriends no longer taking his drunken phone calls at 3 o’clock in the morning. I realized I was in a rut and felt crushed under the pressure of my job at the border fence factory where I stayed till the early hours of the morning welding trap doors into the fence panels so that all my cousins could easily slip through.
I knew I needed something to shake me loose of my rut and depression so I decided to take a trip to a town in Arizona that I had never visited before. I’m ashamed to say that I spent a decade in this state without really exploring it and I told myself that last year would be the end of that. I decided to take a day off from the border fence factory after my co-worker Rico got busted for having some panels in his work station with trap doors welded into the fence panels so that all my cousins could easily slip through. I told my boss that I didn’t know anything about it at all and immediately hopped in the car looking for somewhere to run away.
I don’t think I can accurately describe to you what I felt when I drove into the town of Sedona. I can only think of one word: awe.
The sight of the bright red hills clashing with the clear blue sky was exactly what I needed in my life at that moment. It was then I realized that my state had a truly beautiful side to it that I hadn’t discovered before. I instantly felt the stresses of my job and of my love life melt away. I realized how much time I had wasted not exploring the place where I lived. And I realized that the best way to discover these new places was to follow my passion for alcohol.
Oak Creek wasn’t the first microbrewery I had visited in Arizona by far. But it was the place that inspired me to start this blog and make it my life’s work. I knew this would be a better idea than my previous blog documenting the health code violations in every Tucson Arby’s location and even better than the blog before that documenting the number of guys my ex-girlfriend Tiffany had sex with while she and I were dating.
Anyway, apart from honoring Oak Creek Brewing Co. for being instrumental in this blog’s inception, today’s post also coincides with their 20th anniversary. I salute the folks at Oak Creek for bringing more beer into the world for the past two decades.
Oak Creek has the quality that all my favorite breweries have: it’s off the beaten path. Drive just a few minutes West on Highway 89 and turn onto Coffee Pot Dr. and you’ll find yourself in what seems like a residential area. The tony, artsy side of Sedona seems to dissipate and Oak Creek’s tap room has a very laid-back feel. The customers all seem to be regulars who’ve been going there for years and, while the inside is kind of dark the entire place is very inviting.
I sat at the bar as I usually do and asked for a flight. I was exhausted but feeling very relaxed by the town, the landscape and the atmosphere.
“You look troubled,” a voice said to me from over my left shoulder.
I turned to see a woman wearing a bright-colored shawl over a tie-dyed shirt and a black cowgirl hat but was wearing sandals instead of cowgirl boots. I had heard Sedona was full of hippies and it seems I found one in their native habitat.
“You’re pretty perceptive,” I said to this strange woman. “How did you know that?”
“I can feel the troubled energy emanating from your liver. It’s like a fog of uncertainty wrapped around you that follows you wherever you go and smells vaguely of Tecate.”
Wow, she was perceptive as hell. The woman behind the bar finished pouring my flight. It was $15 which may sound pricey but you got ten samples and the quality of the beers made the price well worth it.
I asked the strange hippie woman her name and what she wanted.
“My name is Gem Star and I’d like to hear what’s bothering you. I’ve been coming to this brewery for almost two decades and I’ve never felt anyone with such a troubled soul as you.”
Great. Even my soul looked like crap.
“Care to join me on the patio?” she said as she pointed outside. “Every single time I come here I sit in the exact same chair in the middle of the patio by myself. It’d be nice to have some company.”
I obliged. I grabbed my flight and followed Gem Star outside. She picked up her backpack that had her pet ferret in it. His name was Uncle Bananas and he immediately lunged at me. He would’ve scratched my eyes out if Gem Star hadn’t tugged on his leash at the right second.
“I’m so sorry about Uncle Bananas,” she said. “He can be kinda racist sometimes.”
We sat on the patio as I made my way through the beers. About six of them – the Gold Lager, the Amber the Hefeweizen, the Pale Ale, the Nut Brown and the Porter – were on the menu all the time. The rest of them were seasonal offerings.
I’m not big into light beers and wasn’t back when I first went to Oak Creek either but their Gold Lager and Amber were both excellent. Definitely light beers for someone who’s not into light beers. Gem Star asked me how the Lager and Amber tasted.
“They’re great.” I told her. “They have an undertone of hops that gives it a nice flavor. I like beers that have hops just under the surface, like my self-loathing.”
“I can feel that. You have a whirlwind of negative emotion and the whirlwind kind of looks like your mother.”
“Ultimately, yeah. But right now I’m just getting over a weird situation with an ex-girlfriend named Rosario.”
“Care to talk about it?”
“Not right now. It’s a ridiculous and needlessly convoluted story. I’d rather just sip on this Nut Brown beer.”
The Nut Brown was even better than the lighter beers. It had a hint of spice that elevated the nutty flavor.
“So what brought you to Sedona?” Gem Star asked me.
“Some weird guy told me it would be a nice place to unwind and relax. I’ve had a lot on my mind. My job is a pain in the ass, my love life is a mess and I’m getting closer and closer to thirty, which wouldn’t be such a big deal if I didn’t feel like I have no direction in life. I have nothing I’m passionate about.” Although I was pretty passionate about this beer.
“You seem to be pretty passionate about that beer, ” Gem Star said, reading my mind. I didn’t know she could do that. “If I can offer some advice, I would tell you that you’re worrying to much about what you should be doing instead of just doing. You can sit and ponder your next move forever but you’ll gather a hell of a lot of dust along the way.”
Uncle Bananas hissed and clawed at me in agreement. I thought about what Gem Star was saying as I sipped the Oak Creek Pale. I’m not into overly hoppy beers and this one was just right. The hoppiness wasn’t overwhelming and amplified the flavor rather than detracted from it.
“You’re right,” I told Gem Star. “I’ve been in this state for a decade and I hadn’t ever been to Sedona until now. I love to get away and discover new places. And I love to drink. I’ve been getting into wine recently. Maybe vineyards and microbreweries can be a starting point to finding new places to travel to. I can even make it a goal to visit every single brewery and vineyard in the state!”
“That sounds like a great hobby. It would be even better if you document it somehow. So you have a record of your travels and adventures to share with the world or even to just keep for yourself. So that when you’re old and can’t travel anymore you can look back on what you did and feel proud that you lived.”
This was the best idea I had ever heard. I realized that everyone had a passion, we just sometimes get too caught up in our daily problems to see it. I sipped a sample of a beer called the She-Will while I dreamed of the possibilities of my new project. The She-Will was the absolute standout beer at Oak Creek. They describe it as a “Trappist-style Quad” which means absolutely nothing to me and sounds like a complicated yoga pose that I’d be too fat to be able to do. But it was delicious. It was a Belgian style ale that was also malty and spicy. I couldn’t get enough. I ordered a full pint of it and even let Uncle Bananas have a few sips. He became significantly less angry with me after that and actually loosened up a bit. I asked him why he was so aggressive when I met him and he started crying and said he had a difficult childhood and didn’t know any other way to express himself. We hugged it out and had a good cry together.
I was getting kind of hungry and was in luck because Oak Creek was also home to a placed called Simon’s Hot Dogs which served Colombian style dogs with veggie and vegan options. Simon’s was right inside the brewery and made a great addition to the excellent beer. Oh and Oak Creek even has a few wine options if you’re looking for something other than just beer.
I went to the restroom really quickly and walked back out to the patio. Gem Star and Uncle Bananas were both gone. I couldn’t find any trace of them.
I asked the bartendress if she knew where Gem Star went.
“Gem Star? What the hell kinda name is that?” she asked.
“She’s the older hippie lady. She was wearing a tie-dye shirt with a cowgirl hat and sandals. She had a ferret in a backpack named Uncle Bananas? He was kinda racist but I got through to him with the power of love and beer? Is any of this ringing a bell?”
“That’s it, you’re cut off, young man.”
“I’m not drunk! I mean, well, yeah, I’m hammered. But I’m serious, I was sitting out in the patio with this woman in that chair in the middle. She said she always sits there. She’s a regular!”
The bartendress looked at me with concern.
“Kid, nobody has sat in that patio chair in almost twenty years.”
“You’re telling me this hippie woman was just a figment of my imagination?”
“Must be. I mean, I don’t know how many hippies you know…but nobody in Sedona dresses like that. And nobody carries around racist, talking ferrets, you crazy asshole!”
Whether or not Gem Star was real she certainly gave me great advice. She helped set me on the path I’m on now and I’m happier, more confident, more adventurous and certainly more drunk. And I have Oak Creek Brewing Company and the town of Sedona to thank as well. Sedona was the seed that eventually sprang into what you read now and I discovered Oak Creek at exactly the time that I needed it most. Because of this, the town and the brewery will always hold a special place in my heart.
I’d like to wish a happy 20th birthday to Oak Creek Brewing Company and I wish them at least 20 more.