For the first time in three years I’ve taken a real vacation and, wouldn’t you know it, there was plenty of terrific local beer to try once I reached my destination. It speaks to the happy condition craft brewing is in these days that a fella can find good suds even in remote places of the world.
My parents retired to Arizona just over two years ago. I hadn’t been to my home state in a shade under ten years, so I booked tickets for Phoenix Sky Harbor. The layover in Dallas found me sipping a Deep Ellum IPA; a bright, hoppy relief after extricating my tall self out of the flying pencil case the airline cramped us into prior to my 2 ½ hour stop in Texas.
Once in the friendly and picturesque surroundings of canyon country, we arrived at my parents’ house in the Mogollon Rim Basin. A few inches of snow were still on the ground from the storm that dumped about a foot just a few days prior. There was some Grand Canyon Coffee Bean Stout in the fridge, but it’s a wax-capped big beer more suitable for a special occasion. Instead we sipped some Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale from Four Peaks Brewing.
Not to take too much away from a beer column, but if you have the chance to go to Arizona, do so. Most people think of Arizona as a big desert. Not so. The state is incredibly diverse with geological features that will astonish you. Just within roughly a hundred-mile loop I was taken to the Tonto Natural Bridge, Montezuma’s Castle and Well, the 700+ year-old petroglyph calendar at V-Bar-V Ranch, the grandeur of Sedona’s Red Rocks, the multi-tiered mining town of Jerome parked up the side of a steep hill and all majestic mountain peaks and valleys between.
My last day with the family took us to Jerome where I scouted out Mile High Grill. My dad had the Kölsch from Rock Bottom Brewing with his green chili stew while I opted for their hoppy/roasty Black IPA with my ghost pepper chicken wings. We put a cap on the day at THAT Brew Pub in Pine, just a short ways away from home in Payson. Their Knotty Nut Brown Ale (brewed with pine cones!) paired well with the elk and buffalo nachos before I switched to their Road Rash Double IPA for a pizza topped with grilled chicken, mushroom, grilled onion, house-made mozzarella and Sriracha BBQ sauce.
Finding all of these local beers reminded me of the growing cultural beer identity along our own Gulf Coast. With that Knotty Nut Brown’s usage of pine cones a liquid synonym for canyon country, I thought of a beer that sums up the lighthearted Panhandle mentality in a beer. Once I get home, I’m going to have a Redneck Rye-viera.
Not only has Grayton Beer Company come up with one of the cleverest beer names ever, this Red Double IPA is a winner! Deep copper in color with a rocky head that just won’t go away, Redneck contains heavy scents of spruce tips, tropical fruit and spicy rye. There’s a big bitterness up front that is barely kept in check by the triple-rye grain bill’s peppery-sweet presence; Florida Ruby Red grapefruit followed by passion fruit, guava and a caramel-pink peppercorn finish.
Vacations are fantastic, Arizona is beautiful and I already miss my folks… but when there’s a beer like Redneck Rye-viera to come home to it makes it easier.