Top Taps: Simple Machine Brewing Company

I know I said I was “retiring” the Top Taps feature but when a brewery attains the coveted “What are you waiting for? Get here now!” status, you just gotta throw convention out the window.

Besides, I’m the author and head honcho around here so and I can break the rules if I want.

Enough already! Top Taps is back!

Welcome to the club Simple Machine Brewing Company.

If you’ve read this blog at all in the past (and that probably means I’m talking to about three of you), you know I chronicled Simple Machine Brewing Company’s entry into the Phoenix brewing scene for much of last year. I drove past them every day on my way to work, so I couldn’t help but notice a blogging opportunity when I saw it.

Simple Machine started out as an extension of Borderlands but in the summer of 2019, that all went sideways. Brewers Matt Wright and Marshall Norris, former Borderlands employees, were able to make a go of it on their own and thus, Simple Machine was born.

And we are all better off for it.

It took a while (construction delays, pandemic delays) but the taproom and brewery on the corner of 7th Ave and Deer Valley in north Phoenix has really hit its stride over the last few months. Here’s why you should get there NOW:

The Beer:

In the wake of Simple Machine’s opening, I was skeptical of what I was tasting. Not a lot of their initial beers were hitting the mark. They were either too thin or didn’t quite match my expectations for their styles. I had a Pale Ale early on that didn’t taste like a Pale Ale. Some brews were okay, but not great. But, this was to be expected as it takes a while for any brewery to tweak recipes and get established.

What a difference a year makes.

Just about everything I have had in the last three months has been dynamite—great variety, full flavors, recognizable style profiles with just enough tinkering to make them unique. The simple machine is firing on all cylinders now, so to speak.

Among the beers to try:

That’s 90 IBUs of wonderful.

Hoplifting: A 90 IBU IPA that totally does not taste like 90 IBU. This is a West-Coast IPA—clear and clean and definitely hop-forward. But the bitterness is hidden very well. Some high IBU WCIPAs are so hopped they taste like you are sucking a pinecone or chewing spruce tip buds. They burn and that’s just off-putting. Here, Hoplifting is smooth with maybe some malty sweetness and a moderate mouthfeel. It stops short of being too cloying. It doesn’t have the dry bite of a, say, Tower Station. It’s just really, really good.

It must be the Cashmere.

Helical Haze: A hazy IPA that has become a hit and is starting to get distribution around north Phoenix. Leans tropical without being too syrupy. I thought I got a slight vanilla vibe. Tasty.

Night Flight: A Milk Stout. A very good finishing beer. Mildly sweet and mildly roasty. That may sound like that’s a criticism–like it doesn’t have enough of either–but it’s not. Night Flight just has really good balance without being sick-y sweet like some Milk Stouts. The last time I had this, it was served with a foamy head so thick I thought I’d need a spoon. [It was on nitro, after all.]

The Taproom:

Apart from the beer, the taproom—the layout, the décor, the vibe—contributes positively to the beer experience. I mean, you want to enjoy the space you are drinking in, right? Simple Machine’s taproom takes the basic “industrial” template (metal frames, sharper corners, open ceilings, roll-top doors) and brightens it. This isn’t some cold hole-in-the-wall pub with leather chairs and wood paneling where it’s so dark you have to feel around to find your glass. It glistens…and I don’t even like glisten-y things.

The taproom features large windows that run the length of two walls. This has two effects: 1) it makes the taproom seem twice as large, and 2) if you are sitting next to the windows, you feel like you are on a patio (which Simple Machine has none). During the day, the taproom is bright and spacious.

See? Bright and spacious.

The 15-seat bar is a highly polished black concrete slab that reflects every ounce of light in the room, especially after sunset. Beer glasses resting on the surface seem to melt into it. Or maybe I’m starting to see things.

So shiny.

At one end of the taproom are two roll-top garage doors, presumably left over from when the space was an auto-repair shop. Rolling up the doors extends the taproom into the brewery floor. The extra tables are often used for special events.

There are other cool elements here: barrel aging takes places in one corner; the men’s room puts a keg to ironic use; with the brewery floor so close, the air is often filled with the scent of milled malt. Your experience may vary but I find all these touches add to the beer experience.

Used beer department.

The last time I was at Simple Machine, Marshall was being interviewed by a video blogger (not me, obviously). In a way, that captures the excitement of what is happening at Simple Machine—people “in the know” are eager to share what’s taking place on the corner of 7th Ave and Deer Valley.

Pandemic or not, Simple Machine has found its groove.