Located at 209 N Hoff Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705
Open Mon-Thurs 4p-10p; Fri 2p-12a; Sat 12p-1a; Sun 12p-10p
Part 1 of a 4-part story called, “The Drunk Knight.”
I walked down Hoff Avenue, which is essentially an alleyway, and found Public Brewhouse. The small brick building was in a lot behind Ermanos, a craft beer and wine bar located on Tucson’s popular 4th Avenue. Despite being a bit tucked away there was a decent-sized crowd at Public and the nanobrewery had become increasingly popular since it opened in 2015. The place was very laid back. There was shuffleboard, an old school arcade game, darts and a live bluegrass band playing when I walked up to the bar.
Public had six of their own beers on tap and four guest taps. They even started selling wine not too long before my visit. Flights here were served four beers at a time. I ordered one and waited for a man who called himself “Button.” He reached out earlier that day saying he desperately needed to speak with me in person. I was sprawled on the couch with a greasy plate of chicken wing bones resting on my fat stomach while a Golden Girls marathon serenaded me to sleep when I got the call…so of course I told him I was extremely busy and to go to hell. But he was insistent and something in his voice convinced me to hear him out.
It had been a few months since I visited a new brewery. My blog had been silent for a while and instead of writing I was spending my days drinking myself to sleep and my nights trying to make voodoo dolls out of all the shit my ex-girlfriend left behind at my place.
I took a sip of the first beer in the flight, an Oatmeal Pale Ale called Opa! The color of the beer was very cloudy but the taste was light and crisp. The fruity hop finish reminded me for a brief second of the joy I used to get from trying a new Arizona beer at a new brewery. But nothing really felt normal anymore.
A young man with short hair, glasses and a mighty red beard sat next to me. He looked panicked and shot glances all around the room before speaking to me.
“Mr. Classy, thank you for coming. I’m Mr. Button.”
“Not to be a dick, Button, but you interrupted a very important Golden Girls marathon I was watching so I’m gonna need you to talk fast and tell me why I’m here.”
“Oh cool! Public Brewhouse is releasing a series of beers named after all the Golden Girls, believe it or not. Which channel was the marathon on?”
“None, I…was watching the DVDs. Talk.”
“Okay, I’ll cut to the chase. I’m in trouble and need your help. Well, not just me. I’m a homebrewer and I’m trying to start my own brewery called Button Brew House. Here, have a business card.” I took the card and put it in my suit jacket pocket without looking at it. “A few days ago a couple of guys came by my place and jacked some of my homebrew kegs. They were big dudes with guns and they didn’t even try to sneak in. They just came into my garage to harass me and they walked off with my shit. They said they were working for a guy named $imon.”
“No, $imon. With a dollar sign instead of the S. They made that very clear. They took some of my best beers. Not only that but I talked with a couple of my homebrewer friends and they had the same thing happen to them. The police didn’t give a damn ‘cause I guess they think stealing beer is like stealing water from a fountain in the park. They don’t understand that for guys like us it’s a commodity and pretty much our livelihood.”
Guys like us. Button definitely wasn’t a guy like me…not unless he also spent most his nights trying to find an escort service in town that still accepted coupons. I drank the next beer in the flight before I said anything else. It was called Rico Red and it had a strong malt flavor with some nice caramel undertones. An earthy hop taste topped it off.
“What makes you think I can help, Button? I’m pretty much out of the game. I had my fifteen minutes of fame as a local beer celebrity but nobody cares about me or my blog anymore. Hell, I can’t even find an escort service in town that’ll still accept my coupons.”
“Of course people care. I care! You’re the most influential blogger in the entire state of Arizona. The craft beer industry here wouldn’t be the same without you.”
“Yeah, maybe back when there were less than forty breweries in the whole state. That number’s getting close to eighty now and most of the new places have never even heard of me. Hell, Public Brewhouse is killing it without me ever writing a single word about them. There was a time when people could hardly wait for my next review. But the industry is so big now, even a guy like me can get swallowed up in the mass. My legions of fans all disappeared and they stopped buying my novelty t-shirts and bottle openers shaped like penises with inspirational quotes on them. Do you know how many boxes of unsold, penis-shaped bottle openers I have in my place? Dozens, Button. DOZENS!”
I had another beer to calm myself down. It was the Saison Wallonia, a very light beer but with enough of a malty Pils flavor to distinguish it from most other light saisons. Button and I sat in silence for a minute while I finished the beer. I could tell he was disappointed. I wasn’t what he expected. I wasn’t what I expected either.
“I read about what happened to you back in Cottonwood, Mr. Classy. That was a messed up situation for sure and I was sorry to hear about it. But you can’t let that keep you down. You may not be the huge celebrity you were before and, I’ll admit, I didn’t actually see that Lifetime Network biopic they made about you starring John Leguizamo in a fat suit. It looked terrible. But there are people out here who still need you. I know because I’m one of them.”
My phone rang before I could respond. I didn’t recognize the number and I assumed it was my mom calling me so I could post bail for her again so I answered. There was a robotic-sounding voice on the other end. Like someone was calling me using one of those voice modulators that kidnappers always use in the movies.
“What up, Mr. Classy? It’s about time we got to talk. Hope you’re not too busy making out with your homeboy Button right now.”
“What? Who is this?”
“You’re about to find out, dawg. I know Button’s been looking for that little keg of his. And lucky for him it’s in the alley outside Public Brewhouse. So why don’t you go take a look?”
Button and I walked outside back onto Hoff Avenue. We spotted a five gallon keg a few yards away at the end of the alley, next to a dumpster.
“That’s one of my homebrew kegs, Classy. It has a Button Brew House sticker on it!”
“Wait, Button, don’t go near that!”
Button ran toward the keg before I could stop him. Something wasn’t right. I ran after him but he was way faster ‘cause I was fucking fat. As I got closer I saw a blinking green light on top of the keg that then turned red. The thing made a loud beeping sound that could be heard across the alley. Button stopped dead in his tracks. That’s when we both realized what was coming.
I grabbed Button and leapt for cover behind the dumpster. The keg exploded and a ball of fire rolled through the entire alley like a murderous tumbleweed. The shockwave slammed the dumpster up against our backs and knocked us on our faces.
I wasn’t sure if it was a few seconds or a few minutes before I was able to get back up. The explosion kicked up clouds of dust everywhere. My ears were ringing and I could barely see through the fog of dirt. I could feel a trickle of blood running down the side of my face and every inch of my body ached. I yelled Button’s name as loudly as I could without being able to hear myself.
Button reached out from behind me and grabbed my arm. He was yelling something back at me but I couldn’t make out a word. We both limped down the alley together, back toward Public Brewhouse. The customers had run outside in a panic and the taproom was empty except for the two of us. We sat back at the bar waiting for the ringing in our ears to go away. There was one more beer left in my flight and I needed it now more than ever. It was called the Huge Hefe. It was a wheat beer with a strong, sweet banana taste and I gulped it down without hesitation.
I felt my phone buzzing in my suit jacket pocket. The ringing in my ears subsided enough that I could actually kind of hear my “It’s Raining Men” ringtone. I put the call on speaker and let Button listen in.
“How’d you like my little present?” the robot-voice man said from the other end.
“Who are you, you sick sonofabitch?”
“I’m a butterfly, bro. I flap my wings up here and I fuck up your shit all the way down there like in that Ashton Kutcher movie. It’s called ‘The Butterfly Effect’ and it’s the best movie ever. Have you heard of it? So put on your war paint ‘cause you just got called out by muthafuckin’ $imon.”
“What the hell do you want, Simon?”
“NO! That’s not my name! It’s $imon! With a dollar sign instead of the S! And I want The Classy Alcoholic on a string. ‘Cause I hid another one of those presents at a microbrewery in the Greater Phoenix area and it’s gonna go off today unless you do exactly what $imon says. And this isn’t some tiny little homebrew keg like the one you just saw. This killer keg is way bigger than anything you could imagine. It’s the ‘My Dick’ of kegs!”
“Alright…$imon. What do I need to do?”
“You’re gonna go to Goldwater Brewing Co. in Scottsdale. I’ll give you instructions when you get there.”
“And I suppose I can’t tell anyone about this evil plan of yours?”
“Naw. You need to tell everyone! Arizona’s beer community listens to you and admires you. So I want you to share the word about me and my plans on your blog. click-whirrr”
“Wait, what was that sound?”
“Ummm…what? What are you talking about? What sound? click-whirrr”
“That! That sound I just heard. It sounds like you turned a garbage disposal on and then off really fast.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Just go to Scottsdale. You’re probably just hearing shit that isn’t there, you delusional weirdo. Stop making up things you think you’re hearing. Anyway, everything’s cool, you didn’t hear anything. Byeeeeee!”
$imon ended the call.
“We have to get to Scottsdale right away,” Button said, getting ready to kick ass and take names but then realizing at the last minute that he had run out of names to take.
“No, Button, I can’t bring you with me. This is too dangerous.”
“But I can help you, Classy! You just saved my life and I owe you for it.”
“Yes you do. And I’m not gonna waste that life debt by letting you get killed. Besides, if you really want to help me you’ll stay here and watch over the town’s microbreweries. After this attack they’re all gonna lose their shit. You have to do everything you can to keep them calm and get business back to normal. I’ve been protecting Tucson’s craft beer industry for years. But Tucson doesn’t need The Classy Alcoholic right now. It needs a man like you. So don’t let me down, Button.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it, Mr. Classy.”
The sound of police sirens grew louder and louder as they approached Hoff Avenue. I felt confident leaving Button behind, knowing that he was the hero Tucson deserved. I approached the police officers on the scene and told them the whole story. They agreed to escort me up north to Scottsdale. I rode in silence in the back of the cop car as we left the Tucson city limits. I had no idea what I was walking in to…and no idea if I would ever make it back.
To be continued…