Phoenix’s beer scene has matured over the past few years like a good barrel-aged stout. The city’s community features both established and rising breweries running with trends like hazy IPAs and hybrid brews and maintaining timeless traditions like wild yeast and lagering. Many top breweries are also keen to use intimately Arizonan ingredients, like cactus fruit and desert wheat. In 2021, these are the top 10 metro Phoenix breweries.Read More
10 Next-Level Phoenix Breweries Setting the Bar
Where to go to sip classics and novel creations
1. Arizona Wilderness Gilbert Brewpub
Arizona Wilderness owners Jonathan Buford and Patrick Ware are known for common beer styles, like IPAs and lagers. The brewpub also dips into modern classics, like milkshake IPAs and pastry stouts. Wilderness sets itself apart, however, through its environmentally friendly ethos and its studious, freewheeling embrace of foraging, spontaneous fermentation, innovative barrel-aging, and blended styles. In the Woodnotes Cellar, brewers monitor creations like sweet potato saison aged in tequila barrels. Beer-wine hybrids and fermentations catalyzed in the wood barrels drop regularly in special releases. Brews flavored with foraged ingredients, like blackberries, tree bark, and desert herbs, are without local parallel.
2. Wren House Brewing Company
Anchored by a taproom the size of a big living room, Wren House has won a cult following. Its staple lager, Valley Beer, can be enjoyed at many top restaurants around town and reflects what Wren House does: make technically impressive beers. The simplest, by-the-book brew styles such as the Jomax stout and Spellbinder IPA stand out on the tap list. Wren also has a robust barrel-aging program attuned to the seasons. Head brewer Preston Thoeny flexes his creativity with projects like a fall pie series, Las Frescas (fruited sours), and a dark lager brewed with oyster shells.
3. Tombstone Brewing Company
Long considered one of, if not, Arizona’s best small-town brewery, Tombstone opened its very first metro Phoenix outpost in fall 2020. Tombstone Brewing North greatly expanded the range of styles the breweries can make. Over four years at the mash tanks, owner Matt Brown and head brewer Weedy Weidenthal have developed a reputation for IPAs, including doubles and triples. But Tombstone does a whole lot more, including fruited sours, doppelbock, and special releases like aged, blended strong ales.
4. The Shop Beer Co.
This Tempe brewery’s spacious patio flanked by murals and greenery under the desert sky is a fine place to enjoy beer brewed under a roof just yards away. The Shop’s standby ales like the Church Music IPA can be found in metro Phoenix far beyond the brewery and have developed a loyal following. IPAs often get a lot of real estate on the beer list at The Shop — IPA being the style the brewery is best known for; still, regulars time taproom visits with the steady rhythms of weekly or near-weekly special releases, including Neonic (rotating fruited sours) and Dream Crusher (rotating imperial stouts).
5. Goldwater Brewing Co.
Old Town Scottsdale’s Goldwater Brewing recently opened a second spot in east Mesa. Still, the most thrilling facet of Goldwater remains in its flagship location: an underground repurposed bunker where batches of beer age and small parties can drink (or could before the pandemic). Imagine a happy dungeon of barrel-aged experimentation. Goldwater, for instance, has divided the same imperial stout into four different kinds of barrels, highlighting the different nuances different woods can bring. Goldwater might be best known for its brown ale, Machine Gun Teddy, but Desert Rose, a cactus kolsch, is another favorite.
6. Helton Brewing Company
In a beer scene where just about all of the esteemed breweries are less than 10 years old, Todd Helton’s decades of experience make him an old hand. Patrons who sit down to soft pretzels or pulled-pork-stuffed waffles can watch the long-bearded brewer at work among the fermentation tanks. Helton is known for traditional versions of classics, like pilsner and a Scotch ale he has brewed the same way for almost 30 years. On the innovative side, his boysenberry sour has become one of the most distinctive beers in the Valley.
7. 12 West Brewing Co.
Gilbert, AZ 85296
Gilbert’s 12 West Brewing recently expanded to a second location, right on Main Street in rising downtown Mesa. Its brewers churn out an impressive and wide-ranging roster of staple beers, headlined by Zona (pilsner), Blap! Blap! (blood orange Belgian wheat beer), and K-LAX (New England-style IPA). Drinkers who enjoy sours tend to dig the brewery’s Cuvée Verdad series, a line of tall bottles filled with various takes on the puckering style that use mixed fermentations and many yeast strains.
8. Simple Machine Brewing Company
This North Phoenix brewery just turned one-year-old. Even so, Simple Machine has already shown some veteran savvy, delivering on harder-to-nail beers like an apricot saison and a black IPA. (The latter is a style seldom seen in Arizona.) Simple Machine’s IPAs have generated some buzz on the beer scene, most notably Helical Haze, the primary house IPA. The brewery also manages to keep a steady stream of food trucks rolling up to feed drinkers.
9. Beer Research Institute
Having brewed its first batch in 2003, Beer Research Institute now finds itself one of Metro Phoenix’s old-timers. Located in Mesa, the brewery keeps its list largely classic, but doesn’t hesitate to powder the rim of a mango-chamoy sour with Tajin. A lot of the trends in craft beer are well represented here, from session IPAs to pastry stouts to pumpkin saison come fall. The kitchen turns out an array of burgers, a green chile mac and cheese, and a candied bacon with Sriracha known as “meat candy.”
10. Cider Corps
Cider Corps is a cidery, yes, but one so beloved and unique that it often lands in craft beer discussions. Josh and Jason Duren’s downtown Mesa cidery and taproom makes yellow, red, orange, purple, and blue-hued ciders infused with coffee cascara, guava and passionfruit, and even tea and hops. The brewery also does barrel-age, taps cider-wine hybrids, and turn cideries into frozen slushies. In some ways, Cider Corps is a cider laboratory. The lofty tap room is also home to Myke’s Pizza, purveyor of next-level pies.