A Look at the Arizona Craft Beer Picture, Nice!

Local brewing industry gaining popularity


Beer Week’s spokeswoman Tiffany Jarrat said Arizona craft beer’s popularity is growing and event attendance and beer sales are up from Arizona’s first Beer Week.

With an increase of local brewers, labels and festivals, Arizona is catching up to other areas in the country where homemade beer is the norm.

Tempe joined the rest of the state in its second annual Arizona Beer Week, a celebration of local beers and microbreweries. The event was one of this year’s spirited festivities, which will continue into March.

Sponsored by the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, Beer Week inspired 258 events around the state featuring everything microbrewery, from women brewers to barbeque pairings, this past week.

Beer Week is the guild’s newest beer-honoring event. Its first and oldest, the Strong Beer Festival, is now in its 12th year.

Tempe’s fourth AZBeer.com Tempe Pub Crawl closed Beer Week on Feb. 25.

The Great Arizona Beer Festival, one of three locally organized festivals to benefit the hearing impaired, will also include events in Tempe, Tucson and Flagstaff for the 24th time March 3.

The Craft Brewers Guild is made up of 26 craft breweries, all based near university campuses in the Valley, Tucson and Flagstaff.

Arizona is catching up to major brewing companies in the Northwest, competing with breweries such as California’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Oregon’s Widmer Brother’s Brewery, Washington’s Pyramid Breweries, and Schooner Exact Brewing Company.

With Arizona craft beer’s popularity growing, event attendance and beer sales are up from Arizona’s first Beer Week, spokeswoman Tiffany Jarrat said.

Arizona had 33 active breweries in 2011, according to “Economic Contributions of the Craft Brewing Industry to the State of Arizona,” a report by the W.A. Franke College of Business at NAU.

Arizona craft brewing contributed $278 million and 3,486 jobs to Arizona’s economy in 2011, the report said.

There are now 40 breweries in the state and more are opening rapidly, Jarrat said.

“Every day we hear someone else wanting to open a new brewery,” she said.

The Arizona Craft Brewer’s Guild started Arizona Beer Week two years ago to educate residents about Arizona’s craft breweries and to get people to support local beer, Jarrat said.

Arizona’s oldest known brewery, Four Peaks Brewery near University Drive and Dorsey Lane in Tempe, is still thriving after 15 years in business, Jarrat said.

Several new breweries have also opened in the last year, she said.

“Everyone is starting to realize that craft beer has had a huge economic impact in the state,” Jarrat said.

George Hancock and Greg Fetz opened on of the Valley’s newest breweries, Phoenix Ale Brewery, two years ago.

Hancock lived in Seattle for 25 years and was a co-owner of Pyramid Breweries. After Hancock and his partners sold Pyramid Breweries a couple years ago, Hancock wanted to get back into brewing and saw an opportunity in Arizona’s market.

Washington had 150 breweries when he left, whereas Arizona only had 25, Hancock said.

Seattle-based universities were essential to the success of Pyramid Brewery, and ASU has largely aided the success of Phoenix Ale Brewery as well, Hancock said.

“We see a lot of people from the University both from the teaching side and the student body,” Hancock said. “The University population is very important to us because they are early in their drinking careers, so to speak.”

Phoenix Ale Brewery stocks six packs of Camelback IPA, Fretzy’s Unfiltered Ale and Watermelon Ale on the shelves of Arizona Whole Foods, AJ’s and Bevmo. Camelback IPA and Fretzy’s Unfiltered Ale will soon be sold in 87 Arizona Fry’s stores, Hancock said.

“We’re capturing the wages for beer jobs here in Arizona instead of importing from other places in the United States,” Hancock said. “The craft beer market is growing really fast.”

ASU computer science graduate student Justin Paglierani participated in a few of Beer Week’s events and said he drinks more local beer during festival season.

Paglierani said he hopes Arizona will have a beer scene that can stand up to California, Oregon or Washington.

“We’re the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country,” he said. “I think we can beat the hell out of California.”

Universities have a huge impact on the success of breweries, Paglierani said. College parties tend to focus on quantity over quality, but other students go for a beer’s taste, he said.

“Everyone has their niche when it comes to craft beers,” Paglierani said.

Paglierani has lived in the Valley for most of his life and remembers when Arizona only had a couple breweries. Now he can go to the grocery store and find a local beer instead of going to a specialty liquor shop, he said.

“I like that we are getting a brewing presence,” Paglierani said. “If I’m at a brewery or somewhere that has local beers, I try to pick them up.”

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