Located at 7107 E McDowell Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85257
Open Sun-Thurs 12p-12a; Fri-Sat 12p-2a.
This project has allowed me to travel to a lot of new places in Arizona, visit lots of wonderful breweries and drink lots and lots of fantastic beers. But after a while my travels can kinda blend together into a haze of half-remembered brews and leftover shame from all the times I’ve woken up pantsless in the backseat of a taxi cab that I probably tried to hijack, Collateral style.
I’ll admit that I’m not the best candidate to critique the individual beers from the places I go. I can’t be expected to remember all the mild variations on malt and hops and yeast and shit. And while craft beer carries with it the potential for bold, adventurous and experimental styles there’s also the fact that, like, do you know how many fucking nut browns I’ve had since starting this project, dude? All of them. I’ve had all of the nut browns. And they’re just different levels of nutty.
What I’m getting at is that I appreciate breweries that try something different and exciting with their beers. It sticks out in my mind in a way that the seventeenth Lager of the day just cannot. Papago Brewing Company in Scottsdale is such a place.
I’ve mentioned in a previous post that Scottsdale is a tony suburb of Phoenix. In 1993 it was named “The Most Livable City” in the country by something called the U.S. Council of Mayors and, for some reason, that phrase continues to adorn the city’s welcome signs to this day. Listen, Scottsdale, I know that was a genuinely great achievement in the early 90s and I’m happy for you but continuing to coast on that same, faded prestige for over twenty years without doing anything noteworthy since is so douchey that you might as well change your signs to say, “The Ray Liotta of Cities.”
The Classy Alcoholic would like to take a moment and allow you to enjoy that super good Ray Liotta burn. You’re welcome.
So the word “Papago” is a term that used to refer to a group of Native Americans now known as the Tohono O’odham. They used to be called that because it comes from another word that was overheard and mispronounced by Spanish Conquistadores. So it’s kind of like if a white college kid went down to Tijuana for Spring Break and got hammered then went into a small neighborhood convenience store and the shop owner told the white kid, “No te meas en el piso, pinche borracho carbon!” And then the white kid was all, “Hey, wassup, Mesenpizo, my name is Dylan, bro.” And then the people of Tijuana were all collectively known as Mesenpizos and hundreds of years later there were highways and shopping centers and microbreweries open in San Diego all named Mesenpizo in honor of the rich cultural history of the U.S./Mexico border region. When I write it like that it sounds a little bit fucked up, doesn’t it?
Anyway, the crowd at Papago Brewing was definitely not the typical, snooty Scottsdale type. They were casual, seemingly working class folks that you’d find at any local dive bar and it felt like the kind of place where a girl with a full back tattoo would come to celebrate yet another negative pregnancy test. They had thirty beers on tap and, while less than ten of them were Arizona-made, they were all craft brews. I admire places like this that have a large beer selection but don’t bother wasting a tap on any Bud Light-type stuff.
And for those of us who like our beers on-the-go, there’s also several coolers that offer hundreds of canned and bottled brews to take home or drink onsite.
Oh and there’s food here too, which is awesome. The biggest draw of the menu is the hand-pressed pizzas section but there’s also a section with sandwiches, sliders and wraps as well as salads and appetizer-y stuff like hummus, chips & salsa, nachos, pretzels and others such stuff.
As always, I sat at the bar, ordered a flight and got weird looks for being the asshole in an Arizona microbrewery wearing a suit and tie. Papago usually brews about six different styles of beer but there were only three on tap today.
The first was the Hopago IPA. I have to confess, I fucking love it when drinks have punny names. You may not know this but I used to run Disney-themed bar in Anaheim, California that served only pun-based drinks. The menu had such gems as a Long Island Mouse Tea, a Finding Nemojito and a Hunchback of Notre D’Amaretto Sour. I had to shut the place down after Disneyland sent me a cease and desist order, though. Also the place was always packed full of drunk eight year olds, which I guess they frown upon there.
Anyway, the Papago Hopago IPA is a beer that starts off really smooth then has a strong, hoppy finish that doesn’t overwhelm the palate. Anyone who likes hoppy beers would love the Hopago. But as great as that beer was, it wasn’t the one that made Papago Brewing stick out in my mind. That honor belonged to the Orange Blossom and Coconut Joe.
The Orange Blossom was a very light, wheaty beer that lives up to its name by smelling and tasting, initially, of citrus. Just when you thought you got a sense of what this beer was it sneaks up on you and punches you in the face with a vanilla-y finish that makes your mouth think it’s having a stroke. And that’s not a bad thing. The flavors are complex but satisfying and the vanilla amplifies the taste of the light beer. I know this brew won’t be for everyone but I applaud Papago for going all out and making a brew unlike hardly any I’ve tasted so far. Even if you don’t love it – or even like it – I can promise you that you’ll remember it. And that’s probably the highest compliment you can pay to a substance that mostly causes you to forget.
Papago would’ve done just fine brewing only the Orange Blossom as their weird, exciting beer but they apparently decided to keep it going with the Coconut Joe. This was a coffee stout that boasted a pleasantly odd mixture of several elements. It starts off by vaguely resembling flavored coffee but it lingers on the palate for a brief second before the coconut finish comes rushing through your face. Honestly, I don’t even like coconut-y flavors but even I had to admit that this was a damn good beer.
Papago Brewing Co. is definitely a place worth visiting if you want to discover any one of thirty, frequently rotating microbrews on tap or just take home a bottle from their impressively stocked beer fridge. Be sure to try their Orange Blossom and Coconut Joe if they’re on tap. And if you drink enough of them you might gather up the courage to actually talk to the hot chick in the place with the full back tattoo who clearly isn’t looking to get pregnant.