Flagstaff, AZ, known to me for it's Observatory and Dark Sky designation, also happens to have 8 breweries. This quaint college town, at an elevation of nearly 7,000ft, is attempting to get into the craft beer scene. I just happened to be visiting here during Arizona beer week, and after stumbling into Flagstaff Brewing Company for my morning beer, I was given a Brewery Trail Passport- aka, an alcoholic scavenger hunt. The Passport included a map to all 8 breweries (6 of them in walking distance from downtown), as well as a spot for the brewery to put their stamp as proof I was there. Collect 5 or more stamps, and you get a free glass from the city. I, of course, collected all 8 stamps (in 3 days), because I'm
an overachiever and beer lover. I'm sure you're now asking, "But Shelby, which breweries are worth visiting?? I don't want to go to all 8!". Well lucky for you, I'll tell you, because damn, some of them suck and I'm not afraid to call them out. (What're they gonna do?? Make worse beer?? lmao oookkkayyy.) **I will be discussing/rating them in the
order I visited them- Tdlr at bottom**
Flagstaff Brewing Company - Located right in downtown, this is the first brewing I stumbled upon, and oof, it was rough. Look, I love a good dive bar, but I don't know if I like that for a brewery, especially when the beers taste of dive bar quality and the ambiance isn't like this ironically. My first beer here was their aptly named Kölsch Style Ale, which, I mean, I guess could pass as a kölsch? Maybe? My second beer here was their Weisspread Wheat, a traditional hefeweizen, which was light on clove, which my boyfriend liked, but was also light on any other flavor. My boyfriend had their Bubbagaunouj IPA and their Bitterroot ESB, which were also both barely passable as what they described. They did serve food, which neither of us tried, so I cannot comment on that. Overall, atmosphere and beer both get a 1/5 from me.
Lumberyard Brewing Company - Right across the street from Flagstaff Brewing, we have Lumberyard Brewing. I walked in and thought, "oh! This looks like a nice brewery!", but looks can be deceiving. The atmosphere is nice though, more restaurant style than brewery style, so we got ourselves a table and a beer. My first beer was Humphrey's Hefe, a German style wheat beer, garnished with a lemon as an "American touch"- this is truly the worst hefe I've ever had in my life. Picture a blue moon, but worse, and served with a lemon instead of an orange. I literally could not finish it, and that's saying something- I always finish my beer. But I kept my hopes up, and ordered their Railhead Red, which legally I have no idea how they are calling this a red ale when it tastes nothing like one. My boyfriend ordered their Hazy Angel IPA, a New England style hazy, which he stated was "okay, but nothing crazy", as well as their Flagstaff IPA, which I tried, and that one wasn't too terrible. We also got some food here, some wings and mac n cheese balls- not bad actually. So in conclusion, atmosphere was 3/5, beer 1/5, food 4/5.
Historic Brewing Company - My spirits were low at this point as we walked the couple blocks down to the next brewery, Historic Brewing Company. My first impressions of this place were good though- it looked like a true brewery. Picnic tables, seat yourself, open brick walls, lots of people my age just enjoying a beer with friends. I ordered their Salt River, a salt and lime Arizona Lager- and it's actually not too shabby. Kind of gave me gosé vibes, very good. My boyfriend tried The Jack Wagon, a hazy IPA, which he also approved of. I think we ordered another beer here, but my memory at this point is hazier than a NEIPA as I hadn't slept in over 24 hours and was already about 8 drinks deep, but I was happy to end my first day in Flagstaff here. Atmosphere 4/5, beer 3.8/5, could use more variety in beer styles, but this place has potential.
Wanderlust Brewing Co - After a long day touring Meteor Crater and Petrified Forest National Park, my boyfriend and I returned to Flagstaff and headed to Wanderlust Brewing Co. This is one of the breweries not in the downtown area, but coming from California, it kind of felt like home, as it was located in an industrial park, like many of the breweries I know and love in CA. The atmosphere was classic brewery style, picnic tables and seat yourself, could've used a bit more decorating, but who am I to nit pick. My boyfriend and I order a flight of 4 beers each- Jasmine Terrace Rice Saison, Super Saison, 928 Local (farmhouse ale), Dunkelweizen (wheat beer), Bartenders Brew Vol #2 (strawberry rhubarb sour), Banjo Bill's Blackberry Sour, Flag 9 - 2022 Release (New England Pale Ale), and Vermillion Red IPA (American IPA). As you can see, they offer a decent variety of beer styles, and most of them weren't half bad. The Jasmine Terrace Rice Saison was a unique twist on your classic farmhouse ale, giving off sake vibes. The Bartenders Brew Vol #2 did a wonderful job of toning down the root-y rhubarb taste, while keeping the refreshing strawberry taste and beautiful red color. I would come back here. Atmosphere 4/5, beer 4.5/5, no food.
Beaver Street Brewing - After having a wonderful flight at Wanderlust, my boyfriend and I are now a bit peckish, so we head over to Beaver Street Brewing for more beer and a snack. This place was more restaurant style, and was pretty crowded as it was a Friday night, so we waited about 10 minutes till a spot at the bar opened up to eat and drink. We both order a Beer School Pale Ale- this beer was made in partnership with NAU to promote the Arizona Society of Homebrewers and AZ Craft Brewers Foundation Scholarship. Not only was this beer made with students for a good cause, it was actually a solid pale ale. Kudos all around. Next I tried their Red Rock Raspberry, which wasn't terrible. A light raspberry ale, exactly as described. My boyfriend had their Midnight Black IPA, a dark IPA, which wasn't too shabby. I feel like I don't see as many dark IPAs, so this was a nice find. We then got some food- I tried their elote dip and chips, and my boyfriend had their street tacos with pork belly. The tacos were pretty good, but the elote was god-awful. It's like they took spinach dip, threw some canned corn in it, and then gave you the most stale tortilla chips they could find in Arizona. I was bewildered at how bad it was. Atmosphere 2/5, beer 2.5/5, food 2/5.
Grand Canyon Brewing Co and Distillery - This is the other brewery that is not walking distance from downtown, but they open nice and early at 1100, so we came here first thing in the morning. Again, more of a restaurant style atmosphere, they have a large food menu, as well as guest beer taps and a full bar, stocked to brim with whatever liquor they distill. As I don't drink liquor, I grabbed myself a Prickly Pear Wheat Ale. It had a nice pink color, and was honestly pretty damn decent. They did really well bringing out the prickly pear flavor. The only thing that bothered me slightly was that they didn't filter out all the little tiny seeds from the prickly pears, so they all sat at the bottom of my glass, taunting me. My boyfriend grabbed a Brew 42 Irish Red Ale, which was also very good. Classic Irish Red taste, can't complain. My boyfriend then got their Trail Hike IPA, a session IPA, which also wasn't too bad. They only had 6 of their own beers on tap, so definitely lacking variety, and we didn't try the food, so I can't report on that. Overall, atmosphere 2.5/5, beer 2.9/5.
Dark Sky Brewing Co - After a lovely tour of the Lowell Observatory, my boyfriend and I finally head to Dark Sky Brewing. I say finally because this is the brewing I was most looking forward to, simply because it's named Dark Sky Brewing and I think that's cool. It's a Saturday afternoon, and pretty crowded, but there's quite a bit of seating, both indoor and outdoor, so we get a nice spot right in front of where they're making the pizzas. The food is by Pizzicletta, made right inside the brewery, but it is actually their own entity, so you have two waiters and two checks at the end, if you order both food and beer. No biggie. Right off the bat, I am loving the atmosphere. Awesome décor, tons of merch, barrels lining the walls, big 'ol pizza oven, feels like a true brewery. My boyfriend and I both order a flight of 4 beers- All of them were amazing. I tried their Crème Brûlée Rosè- a kettle sour fermented with strawberries and prickly pear, then conditioned on lavender-Crème Brûlée tea and vanilla rooibos tea from a local tea shop called Old Barrel Tea Co. You're probably thinking, "sounds gross, no thank you", but trust me. I don't know who thought this would work, but damn, it's delightful. We also couldn't stop talking about their An Awesome Wave w/ Mango- a mixed fermentation sour blend of Superstition Meadery tequila/cider barrels and BLiS hot sauce barrels, conditioned on fresh mango. It actually had a little spice to it, while also not being too sour or sweet. Their other beers were just as amazing as these two. And the FOOD. While technically a separate business, it's still inside the brewery, so I'm counting it. We had their focaccia bread and porchetta during our first visit here (yes, we came back), and on our second visit, enjoyed a classic peperoni pizza as well as one of their specialty pizzas called The Bee's Knees, with honey, ricotta, spicy sausage, and sage. If you only have time for one brewery in Flagstaff, there should be no question this is the one to visit. Atmosphere 5/5, beer 5/5, food 5/5.
Mother Road Brewing Co - This was the last brewery on our beer scavenger hunt, and after spending the afternoon at Dark Sky Brewing, I was in a good mood. Mother Road Brewing was pretty darn crowded when we arrived, even with all it's indoor and outdoor seating. A food truck was parked on the property, possibly permanently, and this was the only food option here (although Pizzicletta's main restaurant is like 50 feet away from here and they do take out). The food truck was called Roadside Stove, and no I didn't get anything, but they offered various BBQ meats/sliders/tacos. Besides the crowd, atmosphere wasn't terrible, lots of Route 66 stuff and some board games available to play. I tried their Conserve and Protect Ale, a golden ale which was a decent, refreshing beer. It was very drinkable, but nothing really stood out about it I guess. I also tried their Gemini Giant, a blond ale brewed with Kveik yeast, with a slight lemon flavor. Not terrible, but I preferred their Conserve and Protect over this one. My boyfriend had their Tower Station, an American IPA, as well as their Flag 9 Version 2022, a New England Pale Ale, both of which he described as "solid" (thank you so much for such tantalizing quotes Omar). Atmosphere 4/5, beer 3.5/5.
I know ya'll don't wanna read all that, so in conclusion, here's my rankings:
Dark Sky Brewing (by a long shot)
Mother Road Brewing
Grand Canyon Brewing and Distillery
Beaver Street Brewing
Drinking Horn Meadery* - Obviously this isn't a brewery, but I want to add it anyway. If you don't know what mead is, it's fermented honey, also known as honey wine, and it's delicious and you need to get your life together and try some. My boyfriend and I are crazy about mead, partially because it's amazing, partially because my boyfriend enjoys brewing it himself. Anyway, right in downtown Flagstaff is Drinking Horn Meadery, a Nordic style drinking hall with a variety of meads on tap. My boyfriend and I both got a flight of 6 meads each, and some were unique and flavorful, while others could use some work. I am definitely a harsher critic than my boyfriend, as he enjoyed more of them than I did, but nevertheless, it was a wonderful experience. While their traditional was grossly disappointing, I did enjoy the New Mexican, which was made with hibiscus and green chilies. And even though I'm sick of meaderies doing the whole "Viking" theme, it was a nice, clean atmosphere. Atmosphere 4/5, mead 3/5.