Tucson is in the middle of the Sonoran desert, where the air is dry and the heat burns down on you. Because of the dryness, it's perfect from keeping metal from corrosion, and that's exactly why the Airplane Boneyard houses hundreds of aircraft in various states of disrepair. The parts are kept and used and they don't age.
Unfortunately, for we humans, the dryness makes us thirsty. Luckily, there are plenty of breweries to quench our thirst.
Because I did Tucson in one day, traveling with my family, my brother, and his kids, I couldn't make Tucson a place to tour breweries all day. We were spending the morning at Pima Air and Space Museum and the afternoon at the Airplane Boneyard, so for lunch, we searched for one brew pub that would satisfy my quest for beer and fill everyone's stomach.
And, luckily, it was only 15 minutes away from the airplanes.
I had my first taste of Nimbus Brewing Company a couple of days after arriving in Arizona, at Copper Blues Rock Pub & Kitchen, in Phoenix. I had really enjoyed their oatmeal stout and was looking forward to trying more. At their brew pub, I sampled the stout again plus six more.
- Dirty Guera Blonde Ale (4% ABV, rated 2.5): this light-coloured ale had an equally light body and quickly quenched my thirst in the heat (it was about 30C). The flavour was also light, so halfway through this sample, I passed my glass to my wife and moved on. It's an easy-drinking ale but I found nothing that stood out on it.
- Red Ale (5% ABV, rated 3): as I stated in my review of Beaver Street Brewing, in Flagstaff, I'm not a big fan of red ales. But my visit to Arizona was starting to change this opinion, thanks to Beaver Street and now, Nimbus. This is the most-flavourful red ale I've ever had. Lots of body, good balance between malts and hops, and a full finish. I drained this 4-ounce glass.
- Pale Ale (5.5% ABV, rated 3): this is a classic pale ale, with fresh hops and a clean finish. This would be perfect for an afternoon in the heat.
- Old Monkeyshine English Ale (8.2% ABV, rated 3): this English-style ale is very malty and packs a punch. I enjoyed it, but because it didn't taste like a traditional English ale and because the alcohol came through to distraction, I rated it as I did. I could only finish about a third of the glass before I felt the need to move on.
- Brown Ale (5% ABV, rated 3): another English-styled ale, this brown was very nice. Light body, good balance, and a nice finish. I enjoyed it very much but, again, there was nothing that stood out, nothing that distinguished it from any other brown ale.
- IPA (7.5% ABV, rated 4): now, here was a great Indian Pale Ale. Lots of bold, bitter hops, tons of grapefruit, and a long, strong finish. I only wished that the alcohol content wasn't quite so high.
Nimbus makes some very good ales, any one that I would say, "Go for it." The food at the pub was enjoyable and pleased everyone at our table (where ages ranged from 4 to 51). And that says a lot.
If you're ever in Tucson, seek these folks out.
I did have additional beer that day. It was, after all, St. Patrick's Day. Our hotel, a Hampton Inn, served some green ale during Happy Hour, and I indulged in a glass. I didn't want to appear snobbish, so I didn't ask the staff member who was handing out the glasses what it was we were drinking (I also thought that she might not have known, as it was coming out in a glass pitcher, from the kitchen, and she was just pouring the glasses). I expected the beer to be Bud, or Coors, or some other swill, but when I sipped it, I noticed that it had good body and reminded me of a wheat ale.
It was good.
I've never drunk green beer before, never participated in that strange St. Paddy's Day ritual. This time, I was glad that I had.
There was one additional beer that I had in Tucson, late in the evening, at Pizzeria Bianco in the downtown core. It was lovely.
- Dragoon IPA, by Dragoon Brewing Company (Tuscon AZ: 7.3% ABV, rated 4): great body, nice hops, clean finish. I looked for more of this ale at some of the Whole Foods that we visited for the rest of the trip, without luck.
The next evening, back in Phoenix, my brother took me to a pizza shop in Meza, but we didn't eat. The restaurant, Queen's Pizzeria, also served craft beer on tap. We had been listening to some live music, a couple of doors down at The Underground, and between sets we went for a pint, to chat and to rest our ears.
- Road Rash IPA, by THAT Brewing Company (Pine AZ: 7% ABV, rated 3.5): I loved the name of this brewery and their IPA was classic, with great citrus notes, beautifully balanced bitterness, clean finish, and bold flavours.
It was a great beer to end my trip in Arizona.
From this point out, my road trip was taking me to California, and the apparent beer capital of America, San Diego.