Bottom Line: It’s about more than just the Piehole Porter. Oh, so much more.
When it comes to debates over which is the best beer in Flagstaff, you might hear names like Mother Road, Wanderlust, and Historic. All fine breweries certainly, but if we talk about the best beer, the one that stands out above the rest, you have to go with Historic Brewing Company.
Get that Piehole in yer piehole
Most Arizonans are likely familiar with Historic’s Piehole Porter, a wonderful vanilla/cherry concoction that is approaching nearly ubiquitous status in Phoenix. Valley beer drinkers may be fortunate to find a tap of Historic’s Opposable IPA or the superb Alternative Facts DIPA now and then. But those far-too-infrequent valley taps belie the reality of Historic’s reach and operation.
With a taproom/brewery on the outskirts of Flagstaff and two brewpubs within spitting distance of I-40 (one in Flagstaff and one in Williams—both called Barrel & Bottle), Historic Brewing’s presence has grown considerably in northern Arizona the last few years. As a sign of their growth, they recently remodeled their taproom to accommodate more fermentors in the brewery. In short, they rule northern Arizona.
Must brew more beer...
But beyond all the growth and expansion, there’s a sense that Historic Brewing is becoming a travel destination in its own right. One gets the feeling that the Flagstaff Barrel & Bottle is the coolest place in town, located in the middle of the newer, growing ‘hip district’ on south San Francisco Street, and even using reclaimed wood for much of the interiors and furniture.
When visiting the Flagstaff taproom, you feel like you’ve won a scavenger hunt--it's tucked away in a non-descript industrial warehouse at the end of a single lane road nearly under an overpass out by the Purina manufacturing plant. Going through all that work to find the place, you certainly deserve a prize.
Trust me, the Historic taproom is out here...somewhere.
The Williams locale is so cool, it almost doesn’t belong in Williams. The high ceilings give it a generous airy and modern feeling and the bar runs nearly the length of the entire room.
Heck, forget the Grand Canyon. Historic Brewing is enough of a reason to visit Flagstaff. [Truth be told, I once detoured through Flagstaff on a long road trip just to visit Historic’s taproom, so there’s that.]
What to Expect – The Beer
I’ve been at Historic’s taproom/brewery when they had upwards of 18 different brews on tap. That’s a lot of beer to get through. If you only have time for one or two, consider the following mainstays:
Piehole Porter: I’ve already mentioned that this is the beer that made Historic. Its smooth but never boozy mix of vanilla and cherry along with (depending on the batch) a Guinness-like pucker/tang on the finish put Historic on the map. [Piehole is so popular, while visiting a competing brewery in Flagstaff, a gentleman actually came to the bar asking where to get this. The server for the competing brewery kindly obliged.]
Oceanfront Property Lager: A bright straw-colored lager that leans malt-forward, meaning slightly bready on the finish.
Alternative Facts DIPA: At 9.7%, this is a hefty DIPA. But it is perfectly balanced, showcasing that “sweet spot” of hoppiness and malt. Their website says the beer features tropical notes of guava along with some citrus. I don’t get much of that, sensing more piney-ness, but in any event, this is one smooth DIPA.
Undercover Cucumber Blonde: Yes, it sounds crazy, but know that Historic is not the only brewery to flavor a beer with cucumbers (see 10 Barrel, Cigar City, Unita among others). It is an odd mixture for sure. Imagine water infused with cucumbers, but with alcohol and a bright gold color and you get the idea. I’ve had it once and it’s not terribly cucumber-forward, but you do get the vegetables on the finish. I’ve had travelling companions swear it was awesome.
Recent Visits by AZ Beer Traveler
4366 E. Huntington Drive
Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Barrel and Bottle-Flagstaff
110 San Francisco St
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Barrel and Bottle-Williams
141 W. Railroad Ave
Williams, AZ 860046