I read somewhere to “beware of thoughts that come in the middle of the night.” I had a flash of brilliance last night, thinking that perhaps it would be nice to pick up growlers of Arizona beer to enjoy while ringing in the New Year. Good plan, right?
So I sanitized my Old World Brewery and Brewer’s Den growlers and all day long contemplated the thrill of having the jugs filled after work. I swung by the Sun Up/Brewer’s Den location on Camelback Road and plunked down 10 bucks for a growler of what will likely be some of their last Nut Before Christmas Nut Brown Ale, then I hopped on 7th Street and tootled north to Old World Brewery where I plunked down 8 bucks for a growler of their Dark Knight Porter. But at Old World, I got something more.
First, the commentary, then the background, I guess.
Sun Up Brewing’s Nut Before Christmas Nut Brown Ale is, sadly, uninspiring. I tried their Vanilla Porter earlier this year and liked it very much, but this limited edition is best left alone. There is no discernible flavor up front and just a tiny hint of sweet nuttiness in the finish. I’ve been left wishing I’d gotten a jug of their IPA instead.
On the up side, the Sun Up brew pub/restaurant was hopping when I dropped in around 1:00 PM to get the growler topped off. There was easy, casual banter going on between the wait staff and the clientele seated at the bar and the bar tendress indicated they were nearly out of the Nut Before Christmas Nut Brown, so I can only gather that business is good. Will I be back? Hell yes, I’ll be back! Who wouldn’t buy beer from a brewer named Uwe? (I went to high school with a dude named Uwe. You think? Nah.) Listen; if I was looking for Big Mac consistency, I’d be buying the Miller/Coors/Bud products more often. You buy a seasonal beer from a craft brewer and you take your chance, right?
The Old World Dark Knight Porter is another deal altogether. Some time ago I stole a line from Edward Abbey when describing this dark devil. Dark Knight Porter “is faithful and never disappoints.” Is this to say every glass of Dark Knight has been a winner for me? Nope. (See my comment about Big Mac consistency.) But tonight, if there were to be a head to head comparison, the Old World Porter would easily trump the Sun Up Nut Brown Ale. The Dark Knight Porter poured coffee dark and opaque with a thin head. It smelled sweet and vaguely of caramel. The taste was initially a bit sour with a distinct smoky component. Certainly, the Dark Knight Porter is more flavorful than the Nut Before Christmas.
The other upside for Old World is the actual experience of visiting their shop. I rolled up to the front of the building to find what I thought were construction workers pouring over the place and for a moment I thought that perhaps they’d gone into some sort of remodeling mode (turns out they were just jazzing the place up for a party). A worker promptly pointed me to Patrick Fields who, again, recognized me. (Repeat offenders here will remember that it was Patrick Fields who greeted moviegoers as they exited the premier of the film Beer Wars at Desert Ridge, and it was Patrick Fields who handed out his business card to every swinging Richard and Regina and it was Patrick Fields who remembered yours truly as “the guy with the blog” in the midst of the dozens gathered there that night. Patrick Fields, folks, the hardest working man in Arizona craft brewing.)
Today, I wasn’t in the building more than 30 seconds before I’d been taken round back for a look at the latest operational workings and a sample of their upcoming First Anniversary ale. I got a look at the bottling machine, and the labeling machine and a sample of their new venture in root beer (more on that in a bit). Bottom line: for me it isn’t just about the beer when I visit Old World Brewery.
It’s been just over a year since I first visited Old World and though I didn’t say as much back then, I truly doubted their staying power. Today, nearly a year later, I have to say that my instincts were wrong (as usual). With a bottling and labeling line up and running, and an arrangement for Republic Distributing to proliferate their product, with a deal to sell bombers at places like Fry’s and A.J.’s Fine Foods and an up and coming root beer product, Old World looks to have dug in their heels for the long fight.
When I told Patrick about the recent “gimmick poll” here at Beer Rant and the proposed option of having Beer Rant focus only on beers from the western United States, he quickly quipped: “How about just beers from Arizona?” That’s a thought.
So, what have we got at Old World? The Dark Knight Porter is a staple in Old World’s repertoire of about half a dozen beers that run the gambit from a wit to a red to a porter. Not surprisingly, the lighter beers are the flagship brews for Old World, their Wit being a gateway brew in the same fashion as Blue Moon in the broader beer market. Patrick estimates that they are the first local brewer to have three beers in initial distribution. But there’s experimentation afoot at Old World, too. In a week, maybe two, they plan to have a first anniversary Scotch ale that will tip the scales at about 8% abv. Patrick says some of the Scotch Ale will be cask conditioned and that they’ll be switching from clear growlers to brown glass growlers. Also, there will be first anniversary glasses available. Old World seems to be coming into their own.
Don’t like beer? Fine.
I was surprised to learn that Old World is now producing a root beer line called Cole’s Old West Root Beer and the sample I tried in the taproom was first rate. I took home a growler of Cole’s Old West Root Beer for Mrs. Beer Rant and she gave it a definite thumbs up. According to Patrick, growlers of Cole's Old West are selling faster than growlers of their beer. Hmmm. There’s certainly a broader market for non-alcoholic beverages out there, I’d imagine.
My hope, my plan, at this point is to have at least one posting a month about Old World throughout 2010. That is my hope, that is my plan. Help keep me honest, folks.
In the tank:
Sun Up Brewing Nut Before Christmas Nut Brown Ale
Old World Brewing Dark Knight Porter
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2009
On the desk:
An empty glass, formerly occupied by Nut Before Christmas Nut Brown Ale.
It's time for bed. Happy New Year, folks. God’s blessing for a 2010 full of health and the promise of happiness and prosperity. See you next year!
See you tomorrow 2010!