The final component of the Johnny Gibson’s courtyard, Independent Distillery, has finally opened for business. The new bar is staffed with faces familiar to anyone who has gone for a drink downtown in the past few decades. Owners plan on beginning production on their own line of distillates in very early 2016, government bureaucracy willing, starting with house-made gin and vodka. Until the distillery is active, Independent has stocked a concise and classic back-bar of both legacy brands and contemporary craft spirits, hoping to set the tone for its own products. Beautiful interior design, a highly accessible cocktail list, and a spacious shared patio would be enough for this bar, let alone the excitement of house-made spirits on the way. Independent Distillery. 30 S. Arizona Ave. 520.284.7334.
Craft beer apostles have been strong-arming neighborhood after neighborhood throughout southern Arizona. Arizona Beer House opened recently in an old tile shop at Broadway and Kolb, offering craft beers on tap and a take-away selection that only a few years ago was hard to imagine in the area. Arizona Beer House shares the intersection with fellow bars Whiskey Tango, the Kolb Street Lounge, and the Liquor Barrel Saloon—not exactly a hotbed of craft beer innovation. Luckily Arizona Beer House gently enters the market with a completely unpretentious experience and asks nothing of its guests but a desire to drink good beer. The airy tap room sports a small bar area, large open seating area with lots of community table options, and a wall of roll-up doors that begs for fall weather. If you find yourself needing a good pint on the east side, make sure to drop in.
Arizona Beer House. 150 S. Kolb Road. 520.207.8077.
The phenomenon of craft beer meccas cropping up where you least expect them is not limited to the eastside. Tucson Hop Shop finally had their grand opening on Dodge just north of Fort Lowell in the Metal Arts Village. On my first visit, the bottle shop and homebrew equipment selection were still a bit limited, to be expected during a soft opening, but the 20 taps were already in full action. From the beautiful lighting on the front of the building to the breath-taking beer garden in back, I already have warm feelings about the long hours I will be dedicating to sampling beers at this new spot. Thanks to the close proximity to The Loop, the Tucson Hop Shop is bound to be an important waypoint for riders looking for a break and a pint.
Tucson Hop Shop. 3230 N. Dodge Blvd. 520.908.7765.
Provisioner White Table Wine, Provisioner Wines
An important pattern of healthy growth in a new sector of alcohol is the segmentation of the market. By offering various price points and multiple perceived levels of value and quality, a new style of wine must permeate every drinking occasion and price point to become important and lasting. Provisioner Wines was founded by Eric Glomski of Arizona Stronghold and Page Springs Cellars to flush out the all-important sub-$10 retail space for Arizona wines. The 2014 Provisioner White Table Wine is made from Colombard, Chenin Blanc, and Malvasia, all sourced from Fort Bowie Vineyards just east of Willcox. The Colombard maintains an important acidity and bright fruitiness despite the warm climate in Arizona, Chenin Blanc lends that unmistakable weight in the mouthfeel, and a touch of Malvasia (a grape that should now be a required crop in every Arizona vineyard) brings the incredible floral aromatics that drive so many important Italian whites. This wine’s inexpensive price fits perfectly with what the drinker finds in the glass: a simple, bright, and easy-drinking table wine.
Machii Cocktail, Obon Sushi Bar Ramen
Matt Martinez and the bar staff at Obon have been serving drinks for only a few months and have already made an impact on downtown Tucson. The beer program, sake program, and spirits program (especially whiskey) are all well curated and the cocktail menu is bulletproof. The Machii cocktail was the immediate standout for me. Served in a beautiful cut-glass vessel free of any ice or garnish, the cocktail is a stirred beverage with blended Scotch, peated Islay (pronounced EYE-lah) Scotch, sesame-infused amaretto, and jasmine essence. Immediately off the nose, the aromatic palate is overtaken by smells of rosewater. After the first taste, roasted almonds and cashew flavors from the blended Scotch and amaretto couple with the original aromas to create an experience nostalgic of baklava. Islay scotch brings a touch of smoke to finish the cocktail. Enjoy with some yellowtail crudo as a nightcap after a stressful day.
Obon Sushi Bar Ramen. 350 E. Congress. 520.485.3590.
Dirty Blonde Rye Saison, Public Brewhouse
Public Brewhouse, located in a garage on Hoff Avenue just north of downtown, has been open for only a few months and has already begun rapidly rotating its list of house-made beers. On a quiet Monday, I stopped in and had a pint of the Dirty Blonde Rye Saison. The addition of crystal rye makes a bold departure from the traditional Belgian style of saison beers that have become the darling of many microbreweries across the country. The rye lends a touch of darker fruits and a certain mild Werther’s hard-candy flavor, allowing the whole beer to express a distinctly honeyed mouthfeel. Past the rye notes, the beer reads like a traditional saison with some dirt, lots of fruit, and unmistakable spiciness. Stop by the garage but don’t expect this beer to be available—rotating beers means a new surprise on every visit.
Public Brewhouse, 209 N. Hoff Ave. 520.775.2337. ✜
Bryan Eichhorst is a native Tucsonan, unapologetic sommelier, dedicated evangelist of Oaxacan mescal, and the beverage director at Penca.