What’s that old Yiddish saying? “Man plans and God laughs.” We didn’t get to Bisbee as we’d hoped due to equipment trouble. Still, it was a worthwhile trip, with nice stops at two places in Tucson. Here’s the dope:
Our first stop was at Barrio Brewing Company in a gritty industrial area of Tucson. The old warehouse building is enough to make you want to come inside for a closer look, but add fresh, local beer and the draw is just too strong to resist! The exterior of the building seems largely unchanged from the days when it housed the Tucson Warehouse and Transfer Company. The loading dock has been cleverly converted for use as a patio and you’ve got to climb some steps to enter the front door. The music and atmosphere at Barrios are top-notch and when we visited, early afternoon on a weekday, the place was not especially busy.
Once seated we were quickly greeted by a waitress and we had our orders placed in no time. I liked the fact that all the available microbrews were listed on a chalkboard along with their respective abv percentages – that’s always a nice bit of information to display for weary travelers who might be planning to have only a single beer for the road.
With my lunch I had a pint of their seasonal Copperhead Pale Ale, which weighs in at 5.7% abv. It was darker than most pales in my experience with a faintly sweet smell. The Copperhead Pale was a bit dry and grainy tasting and altogether a worthy beer and a nice companion to the plate of tacos that I had.
Next, I sampled a pint of Barrio’s Red Cat Amber (which gets its name from the fact that Tucson is home to the U of A Wildcats, I guess). The Red Cat Amber was darker than the Copperhead Pale (rightly so) and seemed more hoppy to me, though their website indicates otherwise. It also had a slightly thicker mouth feel and struck me as closer to an IPA than the Copperhead oddly enough. The Red Cat was sweet and not as dry as the Copperhead Pale Ale.
Southside and I settled the tab, thanked the nice waitress – who’ll be celebrating a birthday soon evidently – and we proceeded down the road to our next stop.
Nimbus Brewing Company sits in a similarly gritty part of Tucson and is located not too far from Barrios – though you wouldn’t know it from the drive because streets and traffic in Tucson are a bit of a nightmare. The thing that sets Nimbus’ location apart – I think - is its proximity to Davis Monthan Air Force Base. (That, and the giant hand protruding from the front of the building…holding, what else? A beer.) Johnny Southside and I took a couple of seats on the patio where we could watch the A-10 Warthogs coming in on approach just across the railroad tracks. We ordered up a dose of onion rings from a scruffy-faced bartender and I had a pint of Porter that didn’t appear to be on the printed menu. (Nimbus offers six beers packaged in bottles for sale but there are more beers available at the brewery.) The porter looked, smelled and tasted just like a porter should in my book; faintly sweet tasting with a hint of chocolate. I’d give it high marks and only regret that it isn’t one of the beers they offer for sale in bottles. I bought a t-shirt as a souvenir of the visit and in short order we were back on the road, never suspecting for a moment that we’d never actually get to Bisbee on this trip.
Ah well, it all worked out for the best. We survived the trip, survived the conference and managed to sample some new beers from Arizona brewers. I can’t say that I find reason to visit Tucson very often – maybe once every year or so – but I’m going to make a point of stopping at either Barrio Brewing Company or Nimbus Brewing Company (or both) the very next time I do get down that way. Perhaps we’ll even get to Bisbee next time!
(For the record, we did attempt to purchase some Electric Dave beer while in Sierra Vista but the nice lady at the liquor store said his shipments don't come in regularly. Too bad. Sorry Electric Dave.)