Located at 3270 N Arizona Highway 87, Mile Marker 267, Pine, AZ 85544
Open Sun-Thurs 11a-8p; Fri-Sat 11a-9p
The Classy Alcoholic has been through many adventures since the start of this blog and has already traveled through most of Arizona’s major cities. But there is another area that lies just between two of the more prominent regions. This area is called the Mogollon Rim and it’s pretty much equidistant between Phoenix and Flagstaff. This region starts in Yavapi County around I-17 on the west and extends about 200 miles to the east to nearly reach the New Mexico border. If you’re driving around this area you’ll start to discover a lot of long, rural roads with green landscapes that don’t feel like most people’s typical idea of Arizona.
I normally tend to stay away from the woods because I’m the kind of guy who enjoys his urban luxuries like air conditioning, Wi-Fi and HBO. But I’m committed to visiting every single microbrewery and vineyard in this state, no matter where they lay. So I decided to pack a woodlands survival kit that consisted of a camouflage hunting outfit, a flask that doubled as a flashlight but that only lit up while you drank out of it for some reason, four bottles of cheap bourbon whiskey, seven neckties, two pairs of underwears, three cans of Pringles that didn’t survive the drive out there, a toaster and a four-pack of Borderlands’ Vanilla Porter beer cans.
Today’s blog post takes us to a small town called Pine and a microbrewery named THAT. Yes, the place is actually called THAT Brewery. I recently had a conversation with a friend about this microbrewery that went thusly:
Me: Hey, I’m going to THAT Brewery next week.
Him: Which brewery?
Me: THAT Brewery.
Him: Yeah but what’s it called?
Me: What’s what called?
Him: That brewery.
Me: Yes, you’re right. THAT Brewery.
Him: Fuck you.
I barreled down AZ Highway 87 and almost drove right past THAT Brewery but managed to hit the brakes hard enough to swerve onto the place’s parking lot. It was a cold, rainy day when I visited this joint. I took a quick walk through the grounds and saw an empty volleyball court that was probably in use during warmer temperatures by people that were more athletic/less fat than I was. But today the few people that visited this brewery were taking refuge indoors.
I walked up to the bar and ordered a flight.
THAT had 7 beers on tap and charged $7 for a flight of 6 of them. But if you ask nicely enough, as I did, you can get a full flight of all seven beers. The place also has wine and a few liquor bottles in case you want a glass of whiskey or a cocktail.
If you make it out to THAT be sure to come hungry because this place has an extensive menu that offers burgers, sandwiches and pizza. If you’re in the mood, you can get either a Blackened Salmon or Sriracha BBQ Chicken pizza. But if you want something a little more exciting then you can get an Elk & Buffalo Burger with some Elk & Buffalo Chili on the side.
THAT served their flight in a muffin tin which was totally awesome. Their two lightest beers were the Strawberry Blonde, which had only the slightest hint of strawberry flavor (just enough to make it delicious without it being overly fruity) and the Backwoods Blonde which had strong, hoppy undertones that distinguished it from other light beers. The Amber beer had a delicious combination of toasty malt and nutty flavors which made this beer the standout of THAT’s brews.
I decided to go outside with the rest of my flight and embrace the rain.
I was sitting on the porch outside when a for-reals black bear literally came out of the woods and walked up right to where I was lounging. I was seconds from freaking out but tried as hard as I could to stay calm and remember what the Arizona Game & Fish Department government agency said about dealing with bears out in the woods. The American Black Bear is the only species of bear still found in Arizona and they all hang around elevations from 4,000 to 10,000 feet. The town of Pine sits at about 5,400 feet.
The AZ Game & Fish website says to not run away or play dead, which makes perfect sense because why the hell would you play dead in front a hungry bear unless you wanted to make it easier for it to pick you up and eat you like a human burrito?
No, the website recommends something even stupider. It says you should “Make yourself as large and imposing as possible if the bear continues to approach. Stand upright and wave your arms, jacket or other items. Make loud noises, such as yelling , whistles, and banging pots and pans.”
I didn’t have pots and pans so I waved my arms and yelled, “FUUUUCK YOU, BEAR!” as loud as I could. The black bear was taken aback. It stood up on its hind legs and gave me a confused look.
“Dude, why are you being such a dick?” the bear asked.
“Oh, sorry, I thought you were gonna eat me,” I told him, feeling embarrassed.
“What? Really?” the bear said. “Do you not realize that me and my kind usually just avoid people? I’m just scoping the area and looking for food.”
“Oh. Shit. Okay. Do you want to share my elk and buffalo burger?”
“Yeah, that sounds delicious! You got any beer?”
“I do. I’ve got four more glasses on this flight.”
“Sweet, toss some of them my way!” the bear said. I didn’t realize there were bears out there that appreciate craft beer.
I still had a glass of THAT’s pale ale called the Arizona Trail Ale and a glass of their pilsner called Perle Necklace that I shared with the bear. He seemed to enjoy the hoppy undertones to both of these beers.
“I love everything hoppy,” the bear said. “The hoppier the better. I want my beers to taste like sucking on a pinecone. But I’m a bear. I eat leaves and shit. So I’m not sure why human peoples are so into super hoppy beers.”
“Yeah, I don’t know either,” I told him. “I prefer IPAs that are lighter on the hops.”
“So what brought you out here with your fancy shirt and necktie?” the bear asked as he took a sip of THAT’s Monsoon Mud Stout. This was another of THAT’s standout beers. It wasn’t monsoon season when I visited the place but it was cold and rainy outside which made it the perfect ambience for this beer with its combination of chocolate and coffee flavor.
The bear seemed to enjoy the dark, smooth flavors of this beer while he waited for me to answer his question. I told him about my intention to visit every single microbrewery and vineyard in the state and write about it
“That sounds like a pretty lofty, admirable goal,” the bear said. “But it also sounds like someone who has trouble sitting still.”
“Is that a bad thing?” I asked him.
“It is if you’re trying to run away from something. Are you?”
I took a few minutes to think about the question.
“I just might be, bear. There’s more than one ex-girlfriend back home who left me for a tall, gruff, lumberjack-type dude who’s into the outdoors. Hell, all those dudes probably hike around this area all the time. My most recent ex, Gretchen, had the boyfriend she left me for bust down my door and threaten me with a for-reals lumberjack ax because I wouldn’t stop drunkenly stalking her Facebook page and texting her pictures of my junk. I should admit that another one of the reasons that I’m hanging out in this woodsy region of Arizona is to make Gretchen realize that I can be a rugged, outdoorsy guy too. Maybe if she realizes how adventurous I am it might make her want to be with me again.”
“Dude, you’re being even more of a dick right now,” the bear said. “You can’t co-opt this region to improve your love life. The town of Pine is home to almost 2,000 people. The rural brewers and rural brewery customers aren’t pawns in your lonely chess game. If you really want to explore Arizona then you need to really respect its people.”
Holy shit. The black bear was right. I realized that my trip to Pine was just me trying to show off to someone else.
The bear grabbed the last glass in the flight. It was the Road Rash IPA and he said that it started off citrusy with a lingering hoppy finish. The bear was just as impressed with THAT’s beers as I was.
“I should just go home, bear,” I said. “There’s no reason I should be hanging around this Mogollon Rim region.”
“Don’t say that, bro. You’re already here. You should get to know this part of the state. Rim Country is a gorgeous place and has tons more adventures for you. THAT Brewery is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a reason I live in this area. Head out and explore but just do it for you. Don’t do it because you want to make some Gretchen chick jealous. If her boyfriend is as outdoors-y as you say then he’ll probably be hiking around this part of the state at some point soon. And I promise I’ll eat the fuck out of that dude for you.”
The black bear winked at me as he said that. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a human leg that he bit into.
“What the hell?!? I thought you said you didn’t eat humans!” I said to the bear.
“No, I said I usually avoid people. But sometimes I run across dudes playing dead in the woods and it makes it easier for me to pick them up and eat them like a human burrito.”
I very quickly forgot that, despite him saying otherwise, this was a murderous animal that mauled humans. But he had some damned good advice.
I decided that my trip to THAT Brewery would be the first chapter of my Rural Brewer Tour. I hopped into my car and hit the open road. The rain danced on my windshield and got heavier the longer I drove. I was ready to explore the hidden side of Arizona…and the hidden side of myself.