Located at 1519 N Main St #102, Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Open Weds 4p-9p; Sat 2p-8p
I find the term “Wanderlust” to be a bit complicated. On the one hand it evokes a sense of exploration and adventure. It’s undoubtedly positive to want to travel, learn more about the world around you and expand your life experiences. But I’ll admit that sometimes my desire to travel through Arizona finding new breweries and wineries can come from a need to run away from something rather than running toward something. I decided that a trip to Wanderlust Brewing Company in Flagstaff was necessary in order to find out what “wanderlust” really meant to me.
Downtown Flagstaff is probably my favorite spot to hang out in of all the places I’ve been to in Arizona so far. There are an endless number of options for food and drink and I’m hard-pressed to find reasons to venture outside it. But you’ll have to hop into a car and head east of downtown for about ten minutes in order to get to Wanderlust Brewing. The brewery is in a small, unassuming business park just off the beaten path.
The snow was very light in Flagstaff this day but the cold was heavy. I walked in, took off my topcoat, gloves and scarf and enjoyed the warm embrace of the brewery. I sat at the bar and asked for a flight of the eight beers that were on tap this day. There wasn’t a big crowd in the place but there was a patron sitting next to me at the bar recounting an awesome morning spent alternately “shredding the pow” and “stomping the gnar,” both of which translate to, “snowboarding,” I guess.
The first beer in the flight was the 928 Local Farmhouse Ale. It was a light beer that was a bit syrupy, had some flower on the nose and a very nice honey flavor to it. I’m starting to realize that I’ll welcome honey in a beer pretty much whenever. And the best part is that Wanderlust gets their honey from a local beekeeper in Flagstaff.
I figured I’d try and start a conversation with The Snowboarder despite the fact that I knew very little about snowboarding or about any kind of physical activity for that matter. I asked how the snow was because I’m bad at talking to people.
“Didn’t you hear me say it was, gnar, bro?” The Snowboarder said. “That means gnarly!”
“Oh. And ummm-“
“‘Gnarly’ means good, dude.”
“Right, yeah, sorry. I’m a little bit out of my element on this conversation. My adventures mostly involve finding new places to drink.”
To make the point I moved on to the next beer in the flight. It was a Gose that was also light but a bit sour and salty. It wasn’t overwhelming in it’s flavor though so it won’t make your face pucker up too hard.
“So with all the traveling you’ve done throughout this beautiful state you just spend your time drinking?” The Snowboarder asked, somewhat incredulously. “Nothing else?”
“Yeah. What else is there to do?” I responded, a bit defensively.
“Dude! Tons! Have you ever been skiing or snowboarding?”
“No, I tried to ice skate once when I was a kid and I fell on my head so hard I lost the ability to pee standing up. So I’ve pretty much stayed away from the ice since then.”
“No biggie, dawg, sitting down to pee is badass. I do it all the time. Okay, what about hiking and camping? You can do that pretty much everywhere in Arizona.”
“I hate camping. I can’t go anywhere I can’t get a Wi-Fi signal in case I need to Google something really important like who played the shitty reporter in both Die Hard and Die Hard 2: Die Harder.”
“William Atherton. Okay, so what about jet skiing in Lake Havasu City? Or kayaking in Lake Powell? Any of that stuff?”
“Ugh, just hearing about that shit makes me thirsty.” I took a sip of the Chateau Americana, a Belgian-style beer with a strong wheaty flavor and a lingering bitter finish thanks to the strong hop influence. I could tell The Snowboarder was a bit disappointed by the fact that my adventures weren’t anywhere near as intense as people might think. I decided to drink the next beer on the flight to avoid having to face the disappointment.
The next beer was a Dunkelweizen. It was a bit nutty and had a nice caramel and clove flavor to it. It also had a strong malt taste to it. Dunkels aren’t usually my favorite style of beer but this one was very good.
“So I gotta ask you something,” The Snowboarder said, breaking the silence. “What’s the benefit of what you do?”
“Well I’m highlighting breweries and wineries in my state that people may not have heard of. I’m supporting local businesses in the place I live.”
“Nah, brah, I know what the benefit is for microbreweries and wineries. Obviously your writing skills and passion for local beer and wine are a huge boon for Arizona and I can clearly see that the local beer scene wouldn’t be the same without someone as influential, knowledgeable and handsome as you. But what I’m really asking is…what’s the benefit of what you do for you?”
The question hit me hard, probably because I’ve never been asked it before. I had to take another drink and think about it. I sipped on the Vermillion Red IPA. Despite it being an IPA, the hops aren’t as strong as you’d expect on this. They’re definitely prominent on the nose and the light bitterness sort of rolls around on the tongue and down the palate on the finish. But the bigger taste comes from the malt. Ultimately I enjoyed this beer because a super strong hoppy taste isn’t really my thing.
“It seems like the benefit of your adventures is your writing, Broham” The Snowboarder said, not waiting for me to respond. “Don’t get me wrong, I respect that you write like you’re running out of time; writing day and night like you need it to survive. But if you go on adventures intending to write about them after the fact it’ll keep you from enjoying what you’re doing in the moment. And as much as you love to write you have to remember that you’re ultimately doing that for someone else. Maybe you should think about what you want to do for you.”
The Snowboarder was blowing my mind. I’ve been writing this blog for over a year and I’ve since traveled thousands of miles across this state exploring nooks and crannies I hadn’t discovered before. And while I’ve enjoyed every second of it I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t getting the most out of it for myself. Eventually I’m going to run out of new breweries and wineries and taco shops and hot dog carts and truckers trying to have sex with me in gas station bathrooms to tell the world about through my blog. And what will I do then?
I took a sip of Wanderlust’s Pan American Stout, a dark beer that was light in the body, had a mildly vanilla taste to it and a smoky finish. There’s nothing I love more than a smoky beer so I very much enjoyed this stout.
“Thank you for helping me change my whole worldview, Snowboarder,” I said. “I have to admit that sometimes my desire to travel through Arizona finding new breweries and wineries can come from a need to run away from something rather than running toward something. Usually it’s me running from my ex-wives trying to score that alimony or ex-girlfriends trying to score that restraining order via a Process Server. Anyway, will you let me buy you a drink? Wanderlust took their 928 Local Farmhouse Ale and aged it in tequila barrels. They bottled it instead of putting it on draft and they’re calling it Nine Two Ocho. We can buy a bottle of it to-go or drink it right here at the brewery.”
“Way to go, Daddy-O,” The Snowboarder said. “It’s funny that we met at a place called ‘Wanderlust’ because I’m hoping I instilled in you a genuine sense of wanderlust as opposed to your normal sense of self-loathing-lust. But anyway, I’d love to share a Nine Two Ocho with you!”
The Snowboarder and I drank the entirety of the Nine Two Ocho bottle, which was still light and smooth like the original 928 beer but had a nice, boozy kick from the tequila barrel. It was a bit more bitter than sweet but still had the slightest of honey taste to it.
The Snowboarder was about to walk out of the brewery and out of my life forever. But I needed to know something else before that happened.
“Excuse me,” I asked The Snowboarder. “What is your name?”
“My name is Anjelica,” she said, with a wink. “Nice to meet you, homie. Maybe I’ll see you out on the slopes sometime. I just hope you’re not too embarrassed when you’re shown up by a girl out there!”
“Nice to meet you, Anjelica. Don’t worry, I’m fully expecting that a tough, adventurous woman like you will run circles around me if I ever make it up to the ski lodge. Because I’m not the kind of guy who thinks a woman can’t be a badass snowboarder.”
Anjelica, The Beautiful Snowboarder, left the brewery with a flick of her hair and a smile aimed at me. I knew that I needed to learn how to snowboard or ski if I wanted to see her again. This woman inspired me to find more adventures apart from the regular brewery and winery trips I’ve been taking so far. I can’t say that I’ll be fully successful at it but it’s definitely worth a try. Anjelica has inspired me to learn what the word “wanderlust” really means to me.
If you want to learn what it means to you then be sure to visit Wanderlust Brewing Company in Flagstaff.