Located at 15651 W Roosevelt St, Goodyear, AZ 85338
Open Sun-Thurs 11a-10p; Fri & Sat 11a-11p
Part 1 of a 3-part series called “A Better Life.”
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for your favorite The Classy Alcoholic. Last you heard from me I reviewed the Taco Bell Chicken Chalupa Thing and stuffed Mexican food inside it then paired the results with Arizona craft beer. The whole experience sent me down a dark path. Before long I found myself hitting fast food joints in town at all hours of the night in a carb frenzy. I was chugging ranch dressing out of a beer bong and smoking pipes full of chicken nuggets.
It was a bad scene. After a few days of trying to figure out how to inject a French fry in between my toes I realized I needed to make some major changes before it became too late. I needed to go in search of A Better Life. So I reached out to a fan of mine named Justin Cross.
This guy was a homebrewer living in the Phoenix area who had plans to eventually open his own microbrewery. He was also a former Navy man who was in ridiculously good shape. He looked like a terrifying Hulk monster on his Instagram pics except not green. Normally I saw guys like him and felt sorry for them because they’ve never known the joy of a good beer and a hefty burger. But Justin loved craft beer and somehow still ended up being jacked as fuuuuuuck. We agreed to meet at Saddle Mountain Brewing Co. in the town of Goodyear. If anyone could point me toward the direction of a healthier lifestyle it would be this guy.
The name of the brewery was Saddle Mountain but the brand of beer they sold was called Taildragger. I’ll admit, I don’t understand why. But their taproom and beer names both had an aviation theme. The day I went they were in the middle of their “Buy a soldier a beer” promotion. Customers would pay for a voucher that got stuck on the wall behind the bar. Any current or former military members could then go in and claim a free beer as a thank you for their service. I was about to claim a drink for myself because of that year in high school that I did ROTC but thought better of it because I got dishonorably discharged and didn’t want people to ask too many questions about it.
Justin was already in the taproom when I showed up because he said we should meet at 1200 hours and I ended up being 50 days late for our appointment. He was at least a half-foot taller than I was and had a mighty dark beard. Everything about him was intimidating to me. He was chowing down on a giant plate of chicken wings because Saddle Mountain also served food. They had standard pub fare like burgers, pizzas, salads and beer battered fish. But they also had these great mac ‘n’ cheese skillets that you could get with green chili, bacon or green chili pork.
“Nice to finally meet you, Mr. Classy,” Justin said to me when I sat next to him at the bar. “I’m so glad you’re interested in knowing more about my ‘Brewtrition’ plan.”
“Well, I’m mostly interested in you explaining what the hell that means.”
“Of course! I can put you on a nutrition and fitness plan that’s attainable for you. We’ll tweak your lifestyle a little bit and I’ll help you make healthy food choices. We’ll add some workouts that are at your level and you can get in shape while still drinking beer.”
Speaking of which, I asked the bartender for a beer flight. Saddle Mountain had twelve beers on tap; three of which were rotating seasonals. They also had a full bar with cocktails in wine in case you were looking for something other than beer. The flights came with six samples.
The first brew in line was called Show Your Stripes and it was a very nice golden ale made with honey. I’ll always welcome honey in a beer.
“Not only that,” Justin continued, “but you can still occasionally eat things like pizza or chicken wings too. You can even have one of my wings if you-”
“Oh hell yeah! I’ve been eyeing those things since I got here.”
I tried to reach for a chicken wing but Justin smacked my hand away. He hit me so hard that I heard a crack and it felt like he broke a couple of fingers with one swat.
“Sorry I grazed your hand really gently with no force at all just then,” he said.
“Is that what you did?!?!” I drank another beer from the flight to try and numb the pain from my fragile bird bones. It was an American amber called Chasing Tail and it had a very nice caramel flavor.
“Before you eat any of this stuff I need to know what your normal diet consists of. Do you ever eat veggies?”
“Maybe? I’ve eaten a lot of weird shit while drunk.”
“Oh. Okay. Well, when’s the last time you ate something green?”
“Does Mountain Dew count?”
“No. What? No, it doesn’t. What about fruit? Have you ever eaten an apple?”
“Which one’s an apple? Is that the one that’s orange?”
“No! I mean…goddammit. Okay, what’s the healthiest thing you eat?”
“I like to make these chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs in the oven at home. I think that’s what The Paleo Diet is?”
“Alright, you clearly have a lot of work to do but I’m still committed to helping you achieve your fitness goals. Seriously, my two passions are fitness and beer. I’ve read your blog. I know craft beer is your life. So I’m not here to tell you that you should stop drinking. I’m just gonna give you a better path. Here, start by eating this.” Justin pulled a tiny green soccer ball out of a grocery bag and handed it to me. “That’s called a head of lettuce. Just eat the whole thing. Right now. Like, seriously, right the hell now. I honestly don’t know how you’re still alive.”
“That’s what my mother used to say to me! She even had the local bakery write ‘I honestly don’t know how you’re still alive’ on my very first birthday cake. I have pictures.”
I chomped down on the crunchy green soccer ball and washed it down with the next beer in the Saddle Mountain flight. It was an IPA called Ray’s Gold. It was a very smooth beer with some earthy notes. It was an IPA I could see myself sipping all day.
“Alright, Classy. Your next task is to start a workout. If you can do a pushup I’ll give you a chicken wing as a reward.”
“You want me to do a pushup right here in the taproom floor?”
“Yeah, go for it. I’ve been doing constant pushups in here for the last 50 days while I waited for you.”
“Sorry. I guess I thought you literally meant 1200 hours.”
I got face down on the floor and extended my legs, clenched my butt cheeks and put my arms out in front of me. I lowered myself toward the ground easily enough and caught myself right before my nose touched the floor. The hard part was getting back up. I tried to stretch my arms out but they felt like wet noodles. My whole body started shaking and pain shot through my chest. I started turning red and sweating. There was no way my scrawny arms could lift up my fat ass. But I was determined. I could feel the crunchy green soccer ball course through me and I gave it my all. I pushed myself up while grunting loud enough for the entire taproom to hear. The pain was almost unbearable and my vision got blurry. Everything went dark.
I eventually opened my eyes and realized I was on my back on the floor of the Saddle Mountain taproom with Justin standing over me. He funneled another beer from the flight into my mouth to bring me back to full consciousness. It was called 300 Ft Steve. It was a strong Imperial Red Ale with a nice hoppy bitterness underlying a caramel flavor.
“Holy shit, you did it, Classy!” Every single customer in the taproom erupted in applause just for me. “You did an entire pushup by yourself! Here you go, my man. You earned this!”
Justin handed me a chicken wing and I suckled it for what felt like hours while still on the floor. I enjoyed every single bite and it tasted all that much sweeter because I worked hard for it. I could see myself getting into this Brewtrition plan.
“Alright, Classy, if you want another chicken wing you’re gonna have to do fifty more of those pushups.”
“Sorry, bro. That’s your lifestyle now.”
“I’m gonna have to really think about whether or not I want to do this long term.”
I was about to drink the last beer in the flight. It was the Tarmac Porter. But I figured I shouldn’t after the killer workout I just put myself through. It would undo all that effort. So I let Justin have it. He said it was a smooth, sweet, dark beer with a smoky finish.
I knew Justin’s Brewtrition plan could work. He was the perfect model for it. He showed me that having a love of craft beer didn’t mean you have to be a lazy fat shit like I am. And being at Saddle Mountain Brewing Co. showed me that the Arizona craft beer scene isn’t a monolithic community. There were tons of different places that made good beer for the general public but still had their niche appeal. Saddle Mountain brought together a lot of the military community in their taproom because Arizona beer can be a part of everyone’s lifestyle.
I just had to decide what my lifestyle would be from now on.
“Thanks for hanging out, Classy,” Justin said. “Let me know if you wanna talk more about beer and fitness. In the meantime I’m gonna head to Flagstaff. I’m in the mood for a jog.”
“Why would you go all the way to Flagstaff just to jog? Can’t you do that here?”
“No, I’m jogging TO Flagstaff. From here.”
Justin ran off with his massive, sweaty muscles rippling in the sun…which I noticed because he wasn’t wearing a shirt the whole time. Like, at all. I guess I didn’t mention that.
Anyway, I realized that I wasn’t ready to commit to emulating him just yet. I needed to explore a little bit more and find what really spoke to me. I watched him head north and decided to go in the opposite direction.
I felt lost. But I was determined to find the way toward A Better Life.
To be continued…