The Return to Borderlands Brewing Company – Tucson, AZ

Located at 119 E Toole Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701
Open Weds & Thurs 12p-9p; Fri & Sat 12p-10p; Sun 12p-5p

Part 2 of 5-part story called “Flux.” Read Part 1 here.

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I took a deep breath before I walked back into the Borderlands taproom. It was about six months since I was last there and was very nervous about going back in. Don’t get me wrong; it had nothing to do with the brewery itself. In fact, ever since I awarded Borderlands a plaque for being the best microbrewery in the entire state of Arizona (up to that point) way back in May of 2015 the place has only gotten better. Since then they got a new head brewer named Landon who has been absolutely killing it. He not only improved on the quality of Borderlands’ older beers but he also brought a variety of great new brews to the business. They also started serving wine, canned a second beer and even released a German chocolate cake version of their already delicious Noche Dulce porter that got tons of attention and praise.

And through it all I kept my distance, too ashamed to face the people I once let down. But today was different. Today I had to find whoever was responsible for trying to ruin the beers at 1912 back in Part 1 and stop them from hurting Tucson’s beer scene any further.

I was glad to see a familiar face behind the bar. I had met Grace a few years ago when I first started coming in. These days she not only worked at Borderlands but she was also the taproom manager at Public Brewhouse and taught yoga at a couple of different studios around town.

“Hey, Classy. It’s nice to see you again. It’s been a while.”

“Yes it has. Maybe not long enough. Did Mallozzi get my message?”

“He did. He’s down in the basement analyzing the Flux keg that got dropped off today. He quarantined it right away after you reached out. You pretty much saved all our beers, you know.”

Mike Mallozzi was one of the owners of Borderlands. He was a good man who showed me a lot of kindness over the years…even when I didn’t deserve it.

I asked Grace to pour me a glass of the Rebel Base Tan IPA. It had a cloudy orange color with a mild coconut flavor added to the strong hop finish. It was one of the first beers made by the new brewer and it was the perfect way to usher in the next chapter for Borderlands.

“So what happened to you, Classy?” Grace asked, looking concerned. “One day you’re here all the time, the next you just disappear. And when I asked if anyone’s heard from you lately everyone just changes the subject. It’s like you’re persona non grata all of a sudden.”

“You’ve been working on your Spanish, I see. Alright, Grace, I’ll tell you what happened. A few months ago when you were on vacation Mallozzi asked me to cover one of your shifts. I said yes ‘cause I thought it’d be cool to work behind the bar of my favorite brewery. It was a slow night and when the last customer left I locked the door, stuck a few hoses into the taps and started pouring them all directly into my fat face. Mallozzi came in the next morning and found me passed out on the floor from drinking a couple of kegs’ worth of beer. It was the first time in Borderlands’ history that they made negative money. I was too embarrassed to come back after that.”

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Right on cue, Mallozzi came up from the basement and spotted me across the room. He pulled the scrunchie out of his hair and let his long, blonde locks fall onto his shoulders. He walked over with his massive pecks and six pack abs on full display because Mallozzi never wore a shirt. The only upper body apparel he ever put on was a black leather vest and mostly out of necessity. He had to block the sun’s rays from hitting his abs because they would reflect off of the coconut oil shine and create a blinding beam of light that could potentially be dangerous. He sat next to me but I was too ashamed to even look him in the eye.

“Hey, Classy. Thanks for giving us a heads-up on that Flux keg. You doing okay?”

“Yeah, I’m alright. Sorry about everything. Are you still mad at me?”

“Oh, Classy. I was never mad. Just…disappointed. Anyway, I was looking at this black device with blinking lights that was holding all of our keg hoses together. It turns out there’s a synthetic chemical compound inside that injects itself into the hoses. Once the chemical mixes with even a single beer it kills the flavor and turns it into weak, watered down mess. Then it spreads to the surrounding beers like a virus and makes it all taste like a macrobrew.”

Apart from being a successful local business owner Mallozzi also had a Ph.D. in microbiology because you can never be suffocated under a big enough mountain of panties, right?

I wasn’t sure what all this meant so I got another beer while I thought about what Mallozzi said. As I mentioned earlier, Borderlands had recently canned a second beer. Their Citrana sour gose cans were released in the summer of 2016 and, as with all their other beers, the flavor was improved thanks to Landon’s expertise. The tartness was turned down a bit but the salty, coriander flavor still shined.

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“What can you tell me about Mike and Andy from Flux Brewing? Could they possibly be bad guys?”

“I don’t think so. I mean, Mike is a tough, Bane-like dude who looks like he could punch through a brick wall and Andy is a skinny, clever guy with an evil-sounding Joker laugh. So if they decided to be supervillains they’d fit the mold perfectly. But they have a great reputation around town and their knowledge of craft beer is very extensive. Pretty much every beer they’ve made gets tons of praise. We brewed a mildly sour Kentucky common with them called Kentucky Sunglasses.”

That’s when it hit me. Two good guys turned into villains. A chemical that killed everything interesting in a craft beer and made it taste weak.

“Mallozzi, when Mike and Andy delivered their keg, did you get a look at their eyes? Were they super red?”

“Yeah, actually, they were. I figured they were just bloodshot. Those guys like to party.”

“Dammit, man, they weren’t partying! This has Rosario Vargas’ name all over it. She always had a supernatural power over men. Somehow she could dull their senses and make them do whatever she wanted them to. I saw it happen to Skinny Joe, Cousin Chico, David Zugerman, this one Sheriff’s Deputy that busted her with a giant bag of coke that she had hidden inside my butt…and all their eyes turned to a dark red color. That’s how I knew they were under her control. Plus she used to experiment with this chemical that she would slip into my beer to weaken the taste hoping it would make me want to drink less so I’d be sober enough to be her getaway driver. It never worked. But she must’ve perfected the formula by now!”

“If Rosario is behind this then Mike and Andy are in serious trouble. They both work at this craft beer bar across the street called Tap & Bottle. I’m sure they’re there right now.”

An arrow shot through the Citrana can I was holding in my hand and pinned it to the wall. I turned around in time to see Eliza from Girls’ Pint Out shooting another arrow straight at me. Instead of hitting me the arrow burst into a huge rope net that covered me whole. There were steel darts tied to the corners of the net that jammed deep into the brick wall behind me

“Hide, Mallozzi!” I yelled. “Protect your beautiful, beautiful face!”

Mallozzi dove behind the bar as I tried to pull the steel darts out of the wall to no avail. Eliza grabbed another arrow and drew her bow. She pointed the tip straight at my heart.

“You were told to stay out of this, Classy. You just can’t help but stick your nose in shit, can you?”

“Wait, you don’t understand what’s happening. These Flux guys weren’t behind the attack on 1912. I mean…not really. There’s more going on than you know.”

“Go ahead and mansplain it to me then,” she said, probably sarcastically. Yeah. She was definitely being sarcastic.

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She released the arrow before I could say anything else. I was about to get stabbed in the chest when Grace somersaulted over the bar and caught the arrow in midair right before it hit me.

“Don’t do this, Eliza,” Grace said. “The Classy Alcoholic may be an insufferable, drunk asshole who always thinks he knows better than everyone else. He may be too dumb to know when to stay out of a fight he can’t win. He may have shown up to one of my yoga classes in a full suit and tie because he’s legally prohibited from wearing yoga pants in public. He may spend way too much time drunkenly posting pictures of weird hot dogs on social media in the middle of the night for some reason. He may be absolutely fucking terrible at The Electric Slide. But I know that deep down he’s a good person who just wants to help Arizona’s craft beer industry.”

“We don’t need his help. And we don’t need your interference!”

Eliza lunged at Grace. She let loose her expert ninja skills with a series of spin kicks and punches that Grace dodged with almost superhuman speed.

“I’m impressed, Miss Grace. Have you also had ninja training?”

“No. I just do a shit-ton of yoga.”

I kept pulling at the steel darts stuck on the wall as the two women fought. I managed to get most of them out when I saw Eliza landing a few punches and a knee to Grace’s stomach. She was holding her own but couldn’t match Eliza’s ninja fighting style.

“Mallozzi!” I yelled. “Release the abs!”

Mallozzi popped out from behind the bar and nodded at me. He ditched his vest and stood next to the taproom window, exposing his oily, bare abs to the Arizona sun. The sun’s rays hit his body and reflected off of him at a ninety-degree angle. He created a straight beam of light that looked like an energy weapon being fired out of Iron Man’s suit. Mallozzi rotated his body and the solar beam turned with him as if he were a lighthouse. A sexy, sexy lighthouse.

“Grace, duck!” I pulled the last steel dart out of the wall as Grace hit the floor. Mallozzi aimed the beam of light directly at Eliza’s face. She covered her eyes and Grace swept her legs out from under her. Grace and I held the net from opposite ends and wrapped Eliza up in it.

“Both of you stay here. I’m going to Tap & Bottle to find these Flux guys.”

“Wait, Classy, I’m coming with you,” Mallozzi said.

“No, you can’t get involved. If Rosario really is behind this then I have to find her myself. Besides, I’ve already let you down once. I can’t do that again.”

“The only way you’ll let me down is if you get hurt during this crazy mission of yours. And that would’ve just happened if it weren’t for me and Grace. I didn’t lose faith in you, Classy. Not when you drank all of our profits during that shift you covered. Not when you stole my car four months ago and drove it across the border…and not now.”

“Okay, Mallozzi. You’re right, I’m better off with you in my corner. I have no idea what we’re about to walk in to. This day is getting more and more dangerous every second. So you have to promise me that no matter what goes down…you won’t let anything happen to your beautiful, beautiful face.”

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To be continued…