Arizona Beer Traveler’s 2019 in Review

Welcome to Arizona Beer Traveler’s 2019 Year-in-Review. (Everyone does a “year-in-review” post…why not us?)

Here are the top observations, stories, and random rants from the year that was 2019.

Top Beer Story

While the fact that this blog survived another year–and is on the verge of entering its third year–might qualify as a worthy beer story in and of itself, the true “beer story of the year” is one that I guarantee NO ONE else will be talking about: The Arizona Republic hires Tirion Morris as its Nightlife Reporter.

Prior to Morris’ arrival at the Arizona Republic, beer journalism in the valley was awful. The New Times and Phoenix Magazine would publish the occasional story, but articles were fairly seasonal: “Top Arizona Summer Beers” and so forth. Regular, good, follow-the-story writing about beer was pretty much non-existent. Even the Republic’s own coverage of the valley beer scene was dreadful.

Morris, whose “Nightlife” beat includes beer, hit the ground running in July 2019, immediately focusing on beer and breweries. A lengthy series of profiles of local brewers culminated in October with Morris declaring, “We’re Calling It: Phoenix is a Beer City.”

It is a dynamic improvement in the Republic’s prior coverage and a bold statement by the paper: the beer scene is so important to Phoenix (and the state) that it necessitates a reporter dedicated to covering it. It makes the $5 a month digital subscription fee totally worth it.

Runner up #1: Borderlands bows out of Phoenix; clears the way for Simple Machine Brewing. Most people will likely choose this as their ‘beer story of the year’–Borderlands Tucson was supposed to open a branch location this year in north Phoenix. Things didn’t work out and Simple Machine, a new brewery composed of former Borderlands employees, stepped into the space, a refurbished auto-body shop near the Deer Valley Airport. Simple Machine officially opened in December.

Runner up #2: Fate Brewing, Colorado—the brewery that forced Arizona’s Fate Brewing to change their name to McFate—closes. See the full story at Beer Connoisseur.

Beer Surprise of the Year

This category celebrates the beer that I totally expected I’d hate but ended up loving. This year, the honor goes to: Moosehead Grapefruit Radler.

In all honestly, when I first picked up this beer—a beat up 12 oz can—I was simply trying to complete a badge for Untappd (the Great White North/Canadian beer badge). I didn’t expect much but was very pleased at the mild grapefruit flavors with just the right amount of lager notes and carbonation/fizz. I hesitate to compare this to a grapefruit soda because it’s not sweet like a soda. It’s just right.

Worst Beer of the Year

Unfortunately, there has to be a ‘worst beer of the year’—one that doesn’t quite add up. This year, that beer is: Novo Momo Haze.

I have to admit it…I was suckered into purchasing a four-pack of this by a very friendly sales gal who declared Momo Haze was her “new favorite beer.”

Ugh.

This had no taste. For a NEIPA, the expected tropical flavors were nowhere to be found. It did have a lot of effervescence but beyond that…kind of like bland yeast water.

Best Beer of the Year

Founder’s CBS/Canadian Breakfast Stout (on Nitro).

In earning Untappd’s badge for CBS, I learned that Founders has decided to stop making CBS and this was their swan song. It’s a cliché, certainly, but they really did save their best for last. This was outstanding—sweet chocolate and maple along with a hint of bourbon warmth underneath. I had both the CO2 and Nitro versions and I scored the Nitro a 5.0 on Untappd, a score I don’t give out lightly.

Beer nirvana.

Runner Up: The Shop Beer Co.: “Business Ethics”

The best Arizona beer I tasted this year was Business Ethics from The Shop. The original Chasing the Dragon from Tombstone is probably a very close competitor here, but I just had Business Ethics a few days ago…and it is terrific. It’s probably the best beer The Shop has ever made–and I say that knowing FYTIM and Galactic Porter Patrol are legendary.

But, Business Ethics–a DDH DIPA that really should just be called a NEIPA–is a thing of beauty. It captures the full sweet tropical aromas and flavors NEIPAs should capture, but does justice to both ends of the beer drinking experience. Some NEIPAs smell great, but taste flat, and some are the other way around. Some NEIPAs can’t master the mouthfeel and are too syrupy–Shop’s Desert Dolphins being one example. Shop certainly learned from that experience for Business Ethics is a beer to behold.

Here’s to an awesome 2020 in beer!

Prost!

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