Part Two of my experience on the Flagstaff Brewery Trail.
One of the great features of Flagstaff’s Brewery Trail is that many of the breweries are within walking distance of each other. The remaining five breweries on my quest to conquer Flagstaff’s Brewery Trail (Lumberyard, Flagstaff Brewing, Dark Sky, Beaver Street, and Mother Road’s Pike location) are all--more or less--in the historic downtown section of Flagstaff, with two being north of the railroad tracks and three being just one block south. The total loop you’d walk to visit all five of these breweries is probably less than a mile.
Brewery 5: Lumberyard. The morning of Day Two started with lunch at Lumberyard. Lumberyard occupies a large warehouse-type building which used to be used as a…lumberyard. It’s been totally refurbished, of course, and the brewery operation shares the building with a full-service restaurant. The décor is pretty standard sports bar-esque, save for the large windows that peek into the brewery itself.
As for the beer, you’ve probably seen plenty of Lumberyard’s brews on store shelves throughout Arizona as Lumberyard maintains a pretty healthy canning operation. In the restaurant, you’ll find many familiar names on tap: Knotty Pine, Railhead Red, Diamond Down Lager, Humphrey’s Hefe. I opted for a half-pint of the lager. Beer, check. Stamp, check. On to the next brewery.
Brewery 6: Flagstaff Brewing Company. Flagstaff Brewing Company is directly north of Lumberyard, just on the other side of the rail line beyond the train depot. It takes all of two minutes to walk there from Lumberyard.
Flagstaff Brewing occupies a red-brick building between San Francisco and Leroux Street. The building, along with the wooden floors, gives the space plenty of character. There’s an outdoor patio that opens to a pedestrian mall and a large game room with bench seating, in addition to a wooden bar in the middle of the main dining room. A few tables sit under the front windows and face out toward Route 66—ideal for people watching or catching some afternoon sun. I sat in the mostly empty game room (it was still early afternoon) and nursed a Blackbird Porter, which was a nice break from the lagers and golden ales that had mostly dominated my brewery trail to that point.
Brewery 7: Dark Sky. If my visit to Flagstaff Brewing Company was somewhat subdued, my visit to Dark Sky was a visual wake up call.
Dark Sky has garnered quite a reputation for being an “experimental” brewery, with a stated goal of releasing up to three new beers a week and brewing only a few gallons at a time. The small batch runs allow them to be wildly creative with their menu. That creativity extends to their brewery space.
Dark Sky’s taproom is a feast for the eyes. Funky furniture, high top tables, a dart board, galvanized metal letters painted purple. Yeah, this taproom has it, right down to the barrel aging program taking place in the front window.
For all the inventiveness in décor, I was somewhat disappointed in the beer. Unfortunately, the very popular “Astro Cookie” was not on tap, so I opted for a flight to get a broader sampling of their beers. Each one was just kind of “OK.” I tried “Parallax,” an award-winning Belgian Quad and I found it so sweet, I couldn’t finish it. “Look Busy”—a hefeweizen—was my favorite on the day and quite a surprise as I generally don’t like hefeweizens. "Helles of Troy" was...you guessed it, a Munich Helles, which is one of my preferred styles, but it was, again, just kind of OK.
After gathering my passport stamp, it was time for a break. Back to the Motel DuBeau to gear up for dinner.
Brewery 8: Beaver Street. Beaver Street Brewing—which happens to be owned by Lumberyard brewing—was across the street from my hotel. A 30-second walk had me at the front door and two minutes later, I was in the dining room—known as the Whistle Stop Café—perusing the dinner menu. I was pleased to find that despite Beaver Street being owned by Lumberyard, their beer menu retains some distinct character. There was no sight of the beers spotted earlier in the day. Rather, there was a full menu of unique beers. I had the Creekside Session IPA with an appetizer, followed by the R & R Oatmeal Stout with dinner. The Stout gets my vote for the best overall beer on the trail.
Brewery 9: Mother Road-Mike’s Pike. Mother Road’s second Flagstaff location is about 1 ½ blocks west of Beaver Street. As I made my way to the taproom in the dark (it was well into the evening by now), I kind of wanted it to be over. I wondered if trying to complete the trail in two days was too tough a challenge. Doing the trail solo was harder than I thought. In a few moments, I found myself at the taproom and taking a deep breath, I decided to soldier on and complete trail. I mean, I was standing right there.
Mother Road’s Pike location features a large patio. In fact, it is mostly patio. Inside, there is a small bar (seats maybe seven) and a few tables with bench seating, but the outdoor patio is the big draw. The Pike location is also Mother Road’s ‘experimental’ brewery, so there were one or two unfamiliar beers on the menu in addition to their standard brews. I saw they had a cask ale—a hazy IPA no less—so I jumped at the chance to order it. I figured I had scaled Flagstaff’s beer mountain, so I would end it with a triumphant pint.
Unfortunately, it was horrible. The dominant aroma was rosemary and there was no fruit aroma or flavor whatsoever. I gave it a fair chance and let it warm (like a cask ale needs to warm…) and still…rosemary. By that time, I missed last call. I soon realized I missed a chance to order a Tower Station at the brewery. What was I thinking? Still, I collected my stamp and proudly completed my passport.
The next morning, I visited Flagstaff’s visitor’s bureau and collected my souvenir pint glass. It’s etched on both sides with the ale trail logo, which is cool, but is only a 12oz glass. Kind of a letdown.
After completing Flagstaff’s Brewery Trail, here are a few summary thoughts and tips to help you conquer the trail.
Plan your route carefully and strategically. My first stop on Day 1 was Trail Crest. When the bartender saw I was working the trail, he asked, “Are you going to do it all in one day?” Now that I’m finished, I can’t imagine trying to do it all in one day. NO WAY. It was tough to do in two days. The only way you could finish in one day is if you visited each brewery and didn’t buy anything and just collected the stamp. [For clarity sake, no purchase is necessary, but come on….] Since you are going to sample the wares, you must plan your route carefully.
Trail Crest, Historic, Wanderlust, and Mother Road’s Butler location are all outside of downtown Flagstaff and beyond walking distance, so you have to plan carefully how you are going to visit them. I thought very carefully about my route, since I was solo. I spread my visits to these four breweries across several hours, mixing in lunch and dinner, limiting myself to small pours, and using Uber. The other five breweries are all within walking distance of each other and there’s plenty of hotel options in the downtown area. Motel DuBeau happened to be right in the middle of all of them.
Not all the breweries offer food. The longer you are on the trail, you are going to get the munchies. Food helps. Trail Crest, Flagstaff, Lumberyard and Beaver Street feature full restaurant service, so plan longer visits—lunchtime and dinnertime—around them. The other breweries often feature food trucks, but the schedule can vary. I visited Historic early in the day and there was no food truck. Likewise, Wanderlust only had pretzel snacks at the bar.
Many of the breweries have limited hours. One of my key challenges was that I visited Flagstaff starting on a Thursday. On weekdays, some of the taprooms have limited hours. Historic, Wanderlust, and Mother Road’s Butler location were only open 4p – 8p or 4p – 9p. On weekends, those hours expand a bit. Before you go, double check the hours.
Best Beers. My favorite beers I tasted were Beaver Street’s R & R Oatmeal Stout and Wanderlust’s 928 Local. Both were outstanding.
Biggest regret. Not getting a pint of Tower Station. I tend to sample. I love trying new beers because I love hitting the jackpot and finding something new and great. However, on this trip, my rabid sampling caused me to miss the opportunity to get a Tower Station at the source. Don’t make this mistake! Don’t be afraid to go for the old familiar. Fresh beer is best, right?
UPDATE (6/24/19): Trail Crest Brewing is no longer in operation.