— Editor’s Note: From time to time we’ll run a travel series that looks at some craft beer destinations that are a bit further than the “backyard”. Over the next few days Mark Lilly will be highlighting 4 breweries in the Phoenix, Arizona area. As Summer starts to wind down you might be looking to chase the sun without travelling to the other side of the world. Phoenix offers sun, a great craft beer scene and it’s only a 3 hour flight from Vancouver or 4 hours from Toronto. —
Part 1 – Four Peaks Brewing
Within walking distance of the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, AZ is one of the state’s most beloved and celebrated breweries, Four Peaks Brewing Company.
Boasting a catalog of eight mainstay brews and a variety of seasonals, they’ve expanded to three additional locations in recent years. In addition to the 8th Street Brewery, they now have a tasting room also in Tempe, Four Peaks Grille and Tap in Scottsdale, AZ, and Four Peaks Sky Harbor at the Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.
It had been a while since my last visit to Four Peaks and I had forgotten that if they’re busy, you might be parking down the street. As I approached the 8th Street location, I remembered how worthwhile the walk is. I sat down on a Friday afternoon with a SunBru Kölsch-Style Ale and spoke to Four Peaks Marketing Specialist Tim Neuman.
Here’s what Tim had to share with CraftBeer.ca:
CB: What’s the story behind Four Peaks? Do you have a distinctive culture here?
FP: Four Peaks was named after a quartet of 7500-foot mountains located 35 miles northeast of Phoenix that you can literally see from almost all areas of the East Valley. Even with a recent change in the state law that allowed a jump in production from 20,000 to 40,000 barrels per year, we are rapidly approaching that cap and are hoping to be able to “up” production to even higher levels in the near future. The fact that the original brewery on 8th Street is one of the oldest buildings in Arizona gives customers and visitors that rare feeling that they are having an experience and not just a beer.
CB: You guys are in a Mission Revival style building constructed in 1892. Can you give a little background on that?
FP: It’s definitely one of the oldest buildings in the area if not the State. It was originally the site of Tempe/Mesa Produce and later, the Pacific, then Borden’s Creamery. Back in the early 20th Century it was the hub of social activity–especially in the summertime with its ice house as a place to cool down–and we like to think that it’s come full circle in its latest incarnation as a brewery today.
CB: How long have you been in operation and what sorts of changes has your business seen during that time?
FP: Since 1996 when we were one of only a handful of breweries in the state. Since then we’ve seen a boom in those numbers as people both around Arizona and the U.S. have begun to get more involved on a local level and started to take more pride in their communities. This move away from things “macro” and back to a more local, hand-crafted mindset over the past several years has been the biggest change.
CB: What is your proudest moment as a brewery?
FP: All of the relationships that we’ve forged due to Four Peaks.
CB: What has been the most difficult challenge for you as a brewery over the years?
FP: Keeping up. Seriously! We are the largest brewery in the state of Arizona and every year, despite the increasing numbers of tanks we install and expansions being done, we are still finding it hard to keep up with demand…and we are still distributed solely within the state of Arizona!
CB: How big is your staff?
CB: How would you describe your customer base?
FP: That’s a good question. We really are not catering to any particular clientele. In the summer we are equal parts family, business professional, craft beer enthusiast, young, old, you name it.
Obviously, during the fall and winter months, our location–less than a mile from ASU–means that we also have a pretty substantial college crowd, especially on game days. But that gets balanced by the fact that we don’t serve the “cheap domestic beer” one typically likens to your typical college bar.
CB: You seem to be pretty active in your community. Can you tell me about your partnership with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and your recent Four Peaks for Teachers campaign?
FP: It’s more of a reaction to what’s going on directly in and around our neighborhood more than anything else and when you know exactly where it is your donation goes, it gives you that extra added feeling of accomplishment. Make-A-Wish, for instance, allowed us to help make the wishes of two children in Arizona come true; actual individuals that you are able to help and then meet.
Four Peaks for Teachers is pretty much the same. Through our partnership with Smashburger and Wist Office Products we were able to collect donations from guests to our establishments to purchase essential classroom supplies that we then, in turn, handed out directly to the teachers themselves. Simply put, these are the people that helped us become what we are today and these are the ones we want to try to assist first.
CB: What is your #1 seller and what are the favorites among your staff?
FP: Our number one seller, by far, is our Kilt Lifter Scottish Style Ale. But ask any long time regular or staff member and you’d probably get more of them leaning to our Hop Knot IPA or in the summer, Peach Ale.
Craft Beer in Cans?
Canned craft beers have seen tremendous popularity in recent years and Four Peaks has been right there to support this movement. As a participant in the 2014 AmeriCAN Canned Craft Beer Festival in Scottsdale, AZ, they took home two bronze medals and a silver for their 8th Street Pale Ale, Hop Knot IPA, and Kilt Lifter Scottish Style Ale, respectively. Votes were cast by 110 certified beer judges who sampled over 200 beers at the event. A portion of event proceeds benefited the Scottsdale Cultural Council and the American Foundation for Cardiomyopathy.
Where to Buy
Canadian readers might be wondering where they can try some of Four Peaks’ offerings. Tim mentioned that while Four Peaks is the largest brewery in the state of Arizona, they are still distributed solely within state. If you find yourself in Arizona, you’ll most likely find them on the shelves wherever craft beer is sold. But if you want to try exclusives that are only on tap for a limited time, like Kilt Lifter w/Dates, Bourbon Barrel-Aged Raj IPA, Lemon Zest Infused 8th Street Pale Ale, you’re probably going to have to stop by the brewery or tasting room.
Tim’s responses line up with the Four Peaks mission statement posted right on their website: “To provide consistent high quality beer, food and service in a community based atmosphere.”
More articles in the Craft Beer Travel Series: Phoenix:
- Part 1: Four Peaks Brewing (You’re already here)
- Part 2: SanTan Brewing and their Southwestern style ales
- Part 3: Papago Brewing with a surprising Canadian connection
- Part 4: Fate Brewing (Coming Soon)