Located at 7 S. Mikes Pike St, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Open Mon-Thurs 3p-8p; Fri 3p-9p; Sat 12p-9p; Sun 12p-8p
The term “Mother Road” is a nickname given to U.S. Route 66, the famous highway that stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles. Route 66 is historically significant because it ran through several rural towns which gave farmers in the early 1900s an easier way to distribute their produce. Plus the road was a huge boon to the U.S. trucking industry in the 30s, right around the time it started being a popular alternative to transporting goods via railroads. And if that wasn’t enough the highway was also the route taken by hundreds of thousands of people heading west to escape the U.S. Dust Bowl in the 30s.
The nickname was given to Route 66 by John Steinbeck in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath, which I did not read. But I did see the movie. I have a rule about only watching movies that are based on books so I can then lie to girls who are smarter than I am and make them think I’ve read a lot of shit. (Why yes, hot English major chicky that I just met in this bar, I did read The Great Gatsby. Twice. It was…really, really shitty the second time around, though.)
Because of all these things Route 66 has a uniquely American identity and it’s a significant connection to the U.S. Southwest.
Before we continue, loyal readers, I’ll admit that your favorite Classy Alcoholic was not doing too well during his visit to today’s microbrewery. You see, as much as I’ve attempted to completely numb my emotions with heavy drinking and enough late-night fast food burgers that effectively act like shame-sponges I still fall victim to the occasional semblance of a feeling. And I was a bit down because I was recently dumped by a young lady I was seeing. I thought about actually skipping a microbrewery trip this week and just sitting at home in front of the Netflix with a big bag of shame-sponges and a large side of buffalo-flavored regret-pumices.
But then I looked at my brewery map and saw the name “Mother Road,” located right next to historic Route 66. I thought of the thousands of people migrating away from Oklahoma and Texas on Route 66, escaping the devastation on their farmlands and heading west with the dream of a better life. My sense of adventure stirred inside me. Or maybe it was all the damn shame-sponges I ingested. Either way, I decided I needed to hit the road. I felt just like the weary travelers of the 1930s except I was better dressed, had Google Maps to guide the way and I didn’t hate black people.
The white building, formerly home to a laundromat that operated from the 1920s to the late 1990s, looked a bit run-down but inviting in its own way. I’ve mentioned plenty of times that my favorite breweries are places that embrace the history and culture of the Southwest. Mother Road certainly does that in name, in location and in beers.
I walked into the charming tap room that had coasters from other breweries up on the walls, a merch rack with t-shirts and hats and a fridge that stored the beers that Mother Road bottled. I sat at the bar next to an older, working-class-looking gentleman. He had a full, white beard and was wearing overalls with a flat cap.
“Hi there,” the guy said to me. “First time here?”
I told him it was.
“Welcome to Mother Road! The name’s Jom Toad.”
“Really? What kind of name is Jom?” I asked.
“It’s short for Jomatham. My mother had a speech impediment.”
“Yeah, so does mine. Her impediment prevents her from speaking English despite being in this country for over four decades. I would be sitting next to her right now sharing my sorrows but she’s currently working on sneaking back into the country after her seventh deportation. The Border Patrol actually gave her a punch card and everything.”
“You mean like those punch cards at Subway where you get a free sandwich after a certain number of purchases?”
“No, like a card where she can write down confessions to any unsolved crimes in Cochise County so the sheriff doesn’t have all these open cases. When she does that they stop punching her in the face.”
“Wow, this shit is getting way too dark for me. How about we order a flight and liven things up a bit?”
Mother Road’s flight consists of seven beers. Three were available year-round, three of them would rotate and the last was the most recent Anniversary Ale. For the last three years Mother Road has brewed a special beer to commemorate a new year in operation and 2014’s was a delicious Imperial Stout. It was a heavy beer with a bold, malty flavor and it was both on tap and available in 22 ounce bombers that you could take home.
We won’t go through the three beers on rotation today because they may not be on tap by the time you get to Mother Road. But I will say that all of them were delicious, high-quality brews. Mother Road is so dedicated to quality beer that anything they slide into those three spots is sure to be a hit.
The three year-round beers are also available in bottles that you can find at your local craft-beer shop. The first was a Kolsch-Style Ale called Gold Road. It was light, smooth and had a very mild hoppy flavor to entice craft beer newbies.
Jom Toad was drinking a beer called Roadside, an American Pale Ale that was also bottled and available year-round. He could tell I still seemed a little bit down.
“What’s wrong, guy?” he asked me. “A good-looking, well-dressed young man with gorgeous hair like yourself shouldn’t have any reason to pout. And even if you do, there’s no reason to pout heavy enough that it can’t be made better with great beer!”
“I know, Jom Toad. My life is great. I have my youth, my health and I’m successful enough to be able to go on all these great adventures to microbreweries all over the state. I have nothing to complain about. But…I recently got dumped by a girl. And I’m sure you know what that does to a guy.”
I tried the Roadside American Ale. It had a great hoppy flavor without the bitterness. It was everything a great Pale Ale should be while being smooth enough that it didn’t overwhelm the palate. This beer was a great way to introduce newbies to Pale Ales.
“Wait a minute,” Jom Toad said. “You’re this bummed out over a woman? Not to disrespect the ladies or anything but women come and go, kid. Look at what you’re doing! You’re traveling all over the state, discovering new towns and new beers without anyone to provide for but yourself. You know how many people would kill to be able to do what you’re doing?”
“Yes, I know, I love what I’m doing but I can’t seem to shake the feeling that my travels aren’t as fulfilling without a companion. Aren’t great experiences meant to be shared?”
“Listen, fancy pants, I’ve spent the last forty years traveling all over this country. I’ve been divorced six times, lost more friendships than I can count and fell in love with more lot lizards than I could afford in a hundred lifetimes. I got my heart broken a thousand times and drowned my sorrows in cheap booze and dozens of fast food burgers that I cleverly call ‘shame-sponges.’ After all that shit I’ve been through the only companion I still have is the open road. Nothing else has been by my side as long as she has. Mother Road is my favorite microbrewery ‘cause it reminds me of that. Here, try this last beer.”
Jom handed me a glass of a beer called Lost Highway. It was an Imperial Black IPA. It was amazing. It had the perfect balance of hops and a lingering malty flavor with slight hints of coffee. It was darker than pitch black but wasn’t as heavy as the really strong, dark porters or stouts. It was smooth enough that you could drink several of these without even realizing it. The Mother Road Black IPA was easily one of the top beers I’ve had in Arizona throughout this entire project. As mentioned, it’s also available in bottles and you should run out to find it wherever you can. I grabbed a bottle out of the tap room fridge and read the label. It said, “Lost Highway is dedicated to those roads less traveled or forgotten.”
Jom Toad was smiling.
“I knew you’d like that beer,” he said. “Your face lit up when you drank it. Just like mine did the first time I tried it. Sorry you got dumped, kid. But that’s gonna happen at least a million more times so you’d better get used to it.”
“So you don’t believe in building anything long-lasting?”
“Let me ask you somethin’. Did you and your lady friend have good times when you were together?”
“Yeah. Great times, actually. My favorite memory of us is from last Christmas. She got me a really cool Batman mask and I was able to convince her to let me wear it during sex. I’ll always remember that holiday.”
“Wow, that’s all kinds of fucked up. But the mere fact that you’ll always have that memory means that you already built something long-lasting. Even if you won’t ever be with that girl again. Sure, you can be upset or resentful of the fact that she dumped you and didn’t want to share your experiences with you anymore. But travelers like you and me can’t afford to do that. You’ve got so many miles of road ahead of you, kid. It won’t do you any good to have any tears, sadness or regrets in the passenger seat. When you hit the highway you should only bring your good memories with you and you should always be trying to make more.”
I sat quietly for a few minutes taking in Jom Toad’s words. I knew some people would balk at what he was saying. Lots of folks were looking to settle down to build a home and a family in one place. I completely understand the desire to have the same person by your side every day. But that wasn’t Jom Toad. And that wasn’t me. He and I were travelers. And I realized that there was nothing a guy like me loved more than a new adventure.
Mother Road Brewing Co. was the perfect place to remind me of that. While my actual mother was busy dodging border patrol drones and my ex-girlfriend was busy dodging my phone calls and texts I realized that Mother Road was as close as a vagabond would get to feeling like home. Until the next stop.