Spirits Are The New Craft

A review of:
Adventurous Stills – Tempe, AZ
Located at 2125 E 5th St, #102, Tempe, AZ 85281
Open Fri 5p-8p; Sat 2p-7p
http://www.adventstills.com

And:
Three Wells Distilling Company – Tucson, AZ
Located at 3780 E 44th St, #120, Tucson, AZ 85713
Open Sat 5p-8p
http://www.threewellsdistilling.com

I’ve been writing about Arizona craft beer and wine for just under three years now and found enormous success in a very short time. Most people would be happy with my level of fame and coast on that early success without innovating until they die, Kurt Cobain style. But I decided to instead explore a completely different realm of the Arizona booze scene: local spirits.

As of this writing Arizona has 22 licensed distilleries and 14 of them are fully in production. The spirits scene in this state is young and full of small business owners with a lot of passion, big dreams and a do-or-die attitude that forces them to learn about the industry as they go. And I noticed all of these exact same qualities back when I was talking to craft beer brewers in the early days of starting my blog.

See, back when I decided to start this endeavor I made a list of all the microbreweries in the state. There were 54 at the time. That list has since grown to over 90 while still accounting for the places that have closed along the way. I’ve seen the craft beer scene explode in less than half a decade. I remember sitting in the tiny Pueblo Vida Brewing Co. taproom a week or two after they opened their doors three years ago. And now Pueblo Vida’s monthly, small batch can releases are so popular that people will drive down all the way from Phoenix and walk out with over 30 four-packs of their beer at once. I know this for a fact. I’ve seen it happen. You can get your dick sucked for a can of Pueblo Vida out in Phoenix, bruh.

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I felt the excitement and growing pains of a new business while talking to one of the partners at Adventurous Stills, a craft distillery in Tempe. After two years in the making this operation officially opened their doors in January of 2017 and they built their stills (and pretty much all their equipment) by hand.

They’re only open two days out of the week and offer guided tours of their production facility while the bartender pours sips of their bottled spirits and mixes up some killer drinks from their cocktail menu. That last part was a nice surprise. I expected to just sit and sip straight glasses of my favorite spirits but I ended up having the option of drinking an Old Fashioned, a Mule and a Mojito, among a bunch of other things.

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Before that, though, I took a small sip of every bottled spirit the place had to offer. There was vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, bourbon (which is American whiskey specifically made from at least 51% corn) and even moonshine. The Adventurous Stills moonshine was my favorite. It was smooth and had a nice chocolate-y taste to it and it was much better than the toilet moonshine that my Cousin Chico learned to make while he was in prison, which had more of a lighter fluid-y, butt cheek-y undertone.

I was impressed by the quality of spirits that such a young distillery was putting out and I admired their hustle at trying to get their bottles sold at local bars all across the state.

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I wanted to continue learning more about these businesses so I headed to Tucson and met with the owners of Three Wells Distilling. This place was incorporated back in 2013 and they released their first product two years later. Like Adventurous Stills they also have a cocktail menu but their business hours are even shorter. The taproom is only open on Saturday evenings but they’ll give tours and tastings throughout the week by appointment.

I sampled the entire lineup of bottles that Three Wells offered. They had a vodka and two styles of gin that were all made with water obtained right here in Arizona. These spirits were great but I always have trouble sipping gin because I used to love gin martinis until one night when I had too many and I ended up giving face birth to what felt like an entire juniper tree. I powered through though because I’m a goddamn professional and I take this job seriously!

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There was also an agave spirit made in the style of tequila that can’t legally be called tequila because in order to use that label it has to come from the Mexican region named Tequila. But Three Wells did a fine job with their version of this drink.

And finally there was a spirit made from distilled prickly pear fruit that didn’t officially have a name. It wasn’t whiskey, it wasn’t rum and it wouldn’t fit any other spirit category that already existed. It was a sweet drink that tasted like a hybrid between rum and brandy but was something all its own. The preferred nomenclature for this spirit was a “Sonora.” And they offered three different versions: The Sonora Silver, Sonora Copper and Sonora Gold, each of which was barrel aged longer than its predecessor.

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Three Wells Distilling focused on putting Arizona in a bottle and so far they’ve succeeded.

Talking to these craft distillers made me feel like I was going back to basics. I forgot all about my fame, fortune and easy access to drugs and hookers (both alive and dearly departed) that I was mired in since I started blogging. I flashed back to that skinny Mexican from over three years ago with amazing hair and a suit jacket that would actually fucking button over his flat stomach. I felt the excitement of a young industry in Arizona that was set to blow up just like craft beer did only about 48 months ago.

And it’s time the craft spirit scene in Arizona gets our love and support. If we’re dedicated to drinking local then we should include our friends in the distilling industry as well because, like microbreweries, these are little guys fighting against giants like Captain Morgan. And I’m done with drinking Captain Morgan. That asshole has scurvy and probably a ton of syphilis.

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So when you go to a cocktail bar and order an Old Fashioned, martini, whiskey sour or whatever the hell you drink make sure you ask the bartender if they can make the drink with local spirits.

Yes, you’ll sound like a pretentious dipshit and you’ll get made fun of for being a snooty cock…but didn’t that happen to us back when we asked for the one microbrew on tap at a college bar? Hell, I’m all about the craft beer scene and I still hate any guy who walks in to a brewery and immediately asks for their “haziest IPA.”

We’re on the verge of something big here in Arizona with the growing craft spirit scene. Sure, this young industry has its own learning curve and not every distillery will survive – that’s just the nature of the beast. But it’s our job to at least give our friends and neighbors a chance to prove themselves. We’ve done it before. And that became the Arizona craft beer scene that we all know and love.

So always remember: Drink hard. Drink often. Drink local.

Three Wells

Salud!

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Beercentennial Man – Part 3

Dillinger Brewing Company – Tucson, AZ
Located at 3895 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85705
Open Mon-Thurs 2p-9p; Fri 2p-11p; Sat 11a-11p; Sun 2p-9p
http://dillingerbrewing.com

Part 3 of a 4-Part story. Read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here.

This chapter is dedicated to my friend Bryan Raney who passed away on 7/22/2017. He was a homebrewer from California and was a big supporter of my blog. He was known as Fighting Robot Brewing on Instagram. His family’s GoFundMe page is here: https://www.gofundme.com/bryan-sid-raney-memorial-fund

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I ran into Dillinger Brewing Company’s taproom practically carrying my pal, Mr. Button. He was in bad shape after he saved my life by diving in front of a bolt of lightning shot out of the hand of a cyborg named ClassyBot that was engineered to look like me and had my memories and personality installed in his CPU. Seriously, if you didn’t get on board with the story when it first started you probably shouldn’t even be reading this shit right now.

The brewery was a little hard to find. It was tucked away off the main road down a row of storage facilities behind a pawnshop in the methy side of Tucson. I knew that one of Dillinger’s owners, Eric Sipe, would be able to help Button. The two of them were friends and they even collaborated on a coffee Pale Ale beer called “Early Brew Special.” Before he opened the brewery Sipe spent some time roaming through the U.S. and I’ve heard stories about his ability to survive in rugged conditions. I just hoped that at least some of them were true.

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Beercentennial Man – Part 2

Serial Grillers Restaurant & Taproom – Tucson, AZ
Located at 5737 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85715
Second location at 1970 W River Rd, Tucson, AZ 85704
Open Sun-Thurs 11a-9p; Fri & Sat 11a-10p
http://www.serialgrillersaz.com

Part 2 of a 4-Part story. Read Part 1 here.

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Serial Grillers is a Tucson-based restaurant that began as a food truck in 2012 serving cheesesteaks and burgers named after horror movie serial killers. A brick and mortar location opened in 2013 in midtown Tucson. The business was successful enough that in January of 2017 a second location opened on the Northwest side of town. The place was a regular haunt of mine, not just because they make excellent food but also because they serve exclusively craft beer at both locations. You won’t find any Bud Light on tap and their selection changes every time I go in there.

I walked in to the restaurant expecting to meet my pal, Mr. Button. Or rather: “Mr. Button.” I came straight from AZ Beer House where I defeated a robot that was engineered to look like him. It’s been that kinda day.

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Beercentennial Man – Part 1

Part 1 of a 4-Part story.

Arizona Beer House – Tucson, AZ
Located at 150 S Kolb Rd, Tucson, AZ 85710
Open Mon-Weds 2p-10p; Thurs-Sat 12p-12a; Sun 11a-10p
http://www.arizonabeerhouse.com

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AZ Beer House is a taproom on the east side of Tucson that’s been open just under two years. With 34 taps and hundreds of bottles that you can drink on site or take home it was a place I tried to visit as often as I could.

The guy behind the bar was my buddy Derrick, a fellow beer blogger who started his own beer review site recently because he was inspired by the amazing success I’ve had. He was very excited to tell me that his new pseudonym was “Arizona Brew-Ru.”

“Wait,” I said, “is that a play on ‘Boo-Hoo’? Like, you’re Arizona Boo-Hoo but for beer?”

“No. What? That doesn’t even make sense. It’s like ‘guru.’ You know…Brew Guru?”

“Oh. I would’ve gone with Arizona Gurew.”

“Shit. That’s actually way better.”

I sipped my beer as I waited for my pal Mr. Button. The last time I saw him he and I saved the majority of Arizona’s craft beer from destruction by a beer terrorist. It was documented in my story called The Drunk Knight, in case you’re curious how we did that.

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Catalina Brewing Company – Tucson, AZ

Located at 6918 N Camino Martin #120, Tucson, AZ 85741
Open Weds & Thurs 4-9p; Fri 4p-10p; Sat 12p-10p; Sun 11a-5p
http://www.catalinabrewingco.com

Part 2 of a 3-part series called “A Better Life.” Read Part 1 here.

I had left the town of Goodyear (a suburb of the Greater Phoenix area) and made my way south toward Tucson. I was feeling lost, still trying to find that different lifestyle that would speak to me and help me make some positive changes while still allowing me to drink lots and lots of booze. Luckily the Arizona craft beer scene was always willing to help.

I reached out to my Tucson fan base and ended up communicating with a young lady named Marisol who said she was willing to share her healthy, active lifestyle with me…and also she promised that it still involved beer. She asked if I could meet her at Catalina Brewing Company in the Northwest side of town.

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I walked into Catalina’s taproom and was immediately intimidated by the bicycle theme decorating the walls. Even the goddamn tap handles were made out of spare bike parts that I couldn’t name because I hadn’t been on a bicycle since I had to race through the Sonoran desert in my early 20’s dodging Border Patrol bullets just so I could smuggle my mom’s medicinal meth into the United States. (It was medicinal because my mom’s heart rate was super low after the Quaalude OD and she needed a pick-me-up.)

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The Naked Chicken Chalupa paired with AZ Beers

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Back during the 2015 holiday season I wrote a blog post in which I paired Arizona craft beers with the grossest, loneliest fast foods. It was a great article and we all had a solid laugh at how hilariously fat The Classy Alcoholic was and then we moved on to welcome 2016 with open arms ‘cause we just knew that was gonna be our fuckin’ year, man! But as proud as I am of the article I have to admit the experience changed something inside of me. And I’m not just talking about how I now have to submit annual reports to the government to ensure my bowels don’t violate the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty.

No, I’m talking about the existential pain caused by several long nights spent guzzling soggy clumps of deep fried cardboard only vaguely disguised as edible material into my face like a sad opossum that somehow developed both a drinking problem and an impeccable fashion sense. That’s when I realized The Classy Alcoholic had hit rock bottom…

But it’s 2017 now and after 16 months or so of exponential sadness and shame, as well as multiple breakups with my ex-girlfriend Rosario Vargas, I’ve come to realize that that shit was pretty much just rock middle at best. So when Taco Bell released something called a Naked Chicken Chalupa in January using a folded up fried chicken patty instead of a taco shell I decided to quietly suffocate any self-respect I had left under a pillow and then follow up that initial fast food article with a goddamn sequel!

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Flux – Chapter 1

The Classy Alcoholic ain’t dead yet! This time I’m writing an ode to the lovely town of Tucson with a 5-part story called “Flux.” When the Tucson beer scene is under attack by a mysterious new organization The Classy Alcoholic has to drunkenly distinguish friend from foe.

Click on the “Short Stories” tab in the menu above or just click the “Continue Reading” link below to start Chapter 1.

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