Beer O’Clock: Southwestern adventures

When I think about craft beer meccas, I tend to focus on California, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado and parts of New England. That said, there’s a ton of great beer being made all over the country. New York State has great breweries like Brooklyn and Ommegang. Sweetwater down in Georgia does fine brews. I recently had The Temptress, an imperial stout from Lakewood Brewing Co. in Texas, and it’s one of the best stouts I’ve ever had.

So whenever I land in a different city, I do my best to explore what the locals are drinking. And Phoenix — home to one of my favorite conventions — is where I can get one of the most interesting and refreshing beers I’ve ever had, the Papago Orange Blossom.

Papago Brewing is right in Scottsdale, and Orange Blossom is one of their flagship brews. It’s a wheat ale flavored with vanilla and mandarin orange, and while purists might decry this as heretical, this sucker works. The brewer describes it as something like “a liquid old-fashioned creamsicle,” but that sounds gross, and Orange Blossom is the opposite of gross.

Instead, you get a very drinkable beer — think of it as a pilsner without that hoppy bite and less carbonation — with a mellow vanilla taste and just a hint of orange. Not enough to make it tart or overly sweet, but enough so that it works well with everything else. Really refreshing as a starter beer, and doesn’t clash with food, either. In fact, it complimented spicy tacos quite well.

So now, basically, I can’t go to Phoenix without having at least one Papago Orange Blossom. Worth seeking out.

The other Arizona brews I had were pretty good, too. SanTan’s LimeLeaf is billed as a cream ale, but really it’s just a drinkable ale spiked with a hint of lime — not a Lime-A-Rita or anything, and far better than, say, a Cornoa with a lime wedge in it. Great on a hot day. The Arizona Trail Ale from THAT Brewing Co. and the 8th Street Pale Ale from Four Peaks were both perfectly fine pale ales — hoppy, but not as much as an IPA. Nice middle ground, very drinkable.

I thought the Red Ale from Lumberyard Brewing was good, but there are more interesting reds out there. And the Grooving With A Pict from North Mountain was really lacking in the peaty flavor you’d expect in a Scottish ale, though it was still a pretty good beer. Finally, the Scottsdale Blonde is not strictly a blonde ale; it’s a kolsch, but a decent one.

So my beer-ventures in Arizona were, overall, pretty great. Plus, the wonderful Beth Cato gifted me with a couple more brews to take home — keep an eye on my Untappd feed for those!

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