— Editor’s Note: Here’s part two in Mark Lilly’s four part craft beer travel series with an eye on Phoenix. If you missed his first post on Four Peaks Brewing be sure to check it out as well. In this feature Mark takes a look at SanTan Brewing and their Southwestern style ales. —
Part 2: SanTan Brewing
My wife and I don’t always have the same taste in drinks, but one drink we both agree on and look forward to each summer is Mr. Pineapple from SanTan Brewing Company. For craft beer drinkers in the Phoenix area, this is always one of the most anticipated seasonal releases. A traditional wheat beer with natural pineapple juice, it’s a refreshing choice to beat the intense summer heat in Arizona. Mr. Pineapple took home a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2011, but this isn’t the only SanTan brew worth your while.
SanTan maintains a year-round selection of their Devil’s Ale, HopShock IPA, HefeWeizen Wheat, SunSpot Gold, Epicenter Amber Ale, Negro Nitron Black IPA, and Gordo Stout. All of these plus seasonals are available at SanTan’s Brew Pub in Chandler, AZ as well as any craft beer retailer in the area.
I recently got to spend some time learning more about SanTan’s operations from Chip Mulala, SanTan Brewing’s “Minister of Craft Beer.”
Here’s what Chip had to say:
CB: You guys brew craft beers designed for a hotter climate and call them Southwestern Style Ales. What characteristics does a Southwestern Style Ale have?
ST: Our beers are fermented to completion (fully attenuated) and carbonated higher than traditional American beers resulting in a more effervescent, crisp and refreshing beer. Perfect for quenching your thirst in the hot Arizona sun and throughout the Southwest, Texas and California!
CB: How long have you been in operation and what sorts of changes has your business seen during that time?
ST: Seven years. Our Founder and Brewmaster Anthony Canecchia, opened SanTan as a Brewpub in downtown Chandler Arizona. The goal at that time was simply to have a neighborhood pub with great beer and great food. Within a few years we realized that the vision was going to be much bigger and underwent a large expansion at our original brewery. Eventually, we outgrew that and 18 months ago completed construction and opened our 35,000sq ft state of the art brewing production facility 2 miles up the road. Lot’s of changes, I’d say!!
CB: What is your proudest moment as a brewery?
ST: I think walking down the street in another state and someone pointing at the SanTan bird logo on my shirt or hat and shouting “Oh My God, I love SanTan!” That always gets me. We’re a proud hometown brewery but it always makes me so proud to see how far our reputation has grown.
CB: What has been the most difficult challenge for you as a brewery over the years?
ST: Simply put, keeping up with demand and managing the growth. It’s a good problem to have but can be a challenge nonetheless. We don’t pretend to know everything and our founder Anthony has always been very forward thinking and patient so this has helped all of us.
CB: From the pictures on your website, your staff seems to love their jobs. What’s the work environment like at SanTan?
ST: I think it starts at the top. We all work extremely hard and the only way to work this hard and enjoy it is to be proud of what you’re doing. Everyone in the SanTan family is proud of their particular part of our culture, from cellar guys to brewers to sales and promotions and the entire BrewPub team.
CB: What are your customers like? What keeps them coming back?
ST: Our customers are fantastic. They’re normal people that enjoy great food and great beer. That’s what we’re all about. From our pairings and educational events featuring food and beer, to beer dinners and socials. We’re always staying relevant and innovative throughout the market when it comes to craft beer and food. I think this is why they keep buying our beer and supporting the brand and festivals.
CB: What are some of your most popular brews?
ST: This is always the tough question, but without a doubt our flagship brew, Devils Ale, a west coast pale ale is our biggest seller. From our seasonal series… Mr. Pineapple, our GABF award winning summer seasonal is extremely popular in all our markets. As far as share of market all of our beers are nicely balanced and I like that we’re not just known for one brand of beer. I think this is another reason that we have a growing base of fans that want to see what’s next! Speaking of that, we’ll be releasing our first series of high end specialty beers called the “Vault Series” in fall. These will be available in a very limited quantity (and in 16oz cans for the first time). Stay tuned to our social media platforms for news!
CB: SanTan Brewing is the founder and sponsor of the annual AmeriCAN Craft Beer Festival. A lot of people don’t even know craft beer comes in cans. What’s that movement all about?
ST: Thanks for asking about that. AmeriCAN is near and dear to our hearts. The craft can movement was started by our friends at Oskar Blues in Colorado and when Anthony was planning our move into packaged beers he had a choice to go with bottles or cans. He chose cans because he really believes that this vessel is hands down the best way to actually showcase what the brewers intended for the end consumer. If you look at it as the world’s smallest keg, it makes perfect sense. No issues with UV light, oxidation, etc. When we talked with other canning craft breweries around the country, we realized that this was a movement that needed to be showcased to help educate the public that amazing craft beer CAN be found in a can! AmeriCAN Canned Craft Beer Festival was born with 26 breweries in our first year and over 80 breweries and 250 beers last year!
CB: I have to ask about Canzilla. What is this 32 oz. “Crowler” system I’ve heard about?
ST: It’s a take on the glass growler except it’s a can, hence the name “Crowler!” The system basically uses a single use can seamer which we have installed behind the bar. We take an empty 32 oz. can and after purging it with CO2 we fill it with the beer of your choice and then pop a top on it and the machine hermetically seals the can in front of you and “CANZILLA” is born!
More articles in the Craft Beer Travel Series: Phoenix:
- Part 1: Four Peaks Brewing in Tempe (with a tasting room at the Phoenix airport!)
- Part 2: SanTan Brewing and their Southwestern style ales
- Part 3: Papago Brewing with a surprising Canadian connection
- Part 4: Fate Brewing (Coming Soon)