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The Sweet Art of Beer

At the fourth Baja Brews tasting event, guests enjoyed 12 craft beers and whiskeys brewed with local honey and botanicals.

March 21, 2017

Baja Brews

By Tucson’s standards, it was a two-dog night. So thank god for the slow-glow warmth of a dozen torpedo kegs of honey beer. The fourth Baja Brews craft beer tasting was hosted at Café a la C’Art, the gallery space/café connected to the Tucson Museum of Art. Like most of the other Baja Brews events, this one was slammed with thirsty, curious beer drinkers.

I arrived just on time, grabbed my tasting cup, and held it out to Linette Antillon of Pueblo Vida. She filled me up with Nelson IPA infused with rosemary. The rosemary was harvested by local farm Dreamflower Gardens. Pueblo Vida has a long history and lots of experience infusing herbs and fruits into their beers—every Tuesday they delight a single keg with a unique infusion. The tang of the single hop Nelson (exclusively brewed with the Nelson Sauvin hop) was complemented by the herbaceous softening of rosemary. Nelson Sauvin, by itself, has white wine characteristics and grapey notes, which paired something like brie and Sauvignon blanc with the rosemary. Close your eyes after taking a sip and you expect to open them to a breezy beach along the Côte d’Azur.

Connie Wick, the mother of Kyle Jefferson from Pueblo Vida, holds a glass of winter seasonal coffee brown.

Photo by Dominic Bonuccelli.

Instead of bringing a beer, Thunder Canyon debuted their own honey whiskey. I asked Adam Marshall, Thunder Canyon’s head brewer and distiller, how long the whiskey had been aged. “Not long at all,” he told me. “We made it Tuesday”—as in, two days before the event. I asked for a mini-pour, swirled, sniffed, swished, and swallowed. It was all honey (“four hundred pounds of it,” Marshall confirmed) but with only a shadow of its sweetness: honey flavor without the saccharine tongue-melting treacle of actual honey. Marshall explained to me the “head, hearts, and tails” of distilling. The “head” is what is distilled first, then comes the “heart,” and last, the “tails.” You want to bottle only the heart, Marshall explained: the liquid produced in the middle of the distilling process, the part with the “nice, clean, honey flavor.”

Thunder Canyon will be Tucson’s first brewery to start distilling its own spirits. They expect to have rum (spiced and coconut) available for sale at their downtown brewery by March 2017. They were mixing their mesquite honey whiskey with pink lemonade, which seemed to me too pink for a cold January evening. So, I drank it straight, and it was fantastic—sharp, teeth-drying, with that warm-haunting shadow of honey sweetness.

Photo by Jeff Smith.

Iron John’s brewed a Honey Saison with—in typical John Adkisson style—a variety of eclectic herbs, including hyssop, lemongrass, red clover, jujubes, and red raspberry leaf. It tasted sort of like herbal tea, slightly carbonated, with a nice beery finish. Next time you have a cold, I recommend you skip the Mucinex and opt for an Iron John’s concoction.

My favorite beer of the night was Dragoon’s Baja Brett Pale Ale, a honey infused wild yeast pale ale, that Tristan White, Dragoon’s Manager, described as “funky without being too funky.” I hovered around the keg for a few minutes and watched a number of drinkers offer their plastic glasses, take a swig, and then marvel giggelously at the deliciousness swirling down their gullets. “The first sip is all honey,” one woman said. And then—she paused, widening her eyes—hits the funk.

Jackie Taylor, Treasurer for Arizona Native Plant Society, took a drink of the Baja Brett and offered her assessment. “Hm,” she said. She preferred Pueblo Vida’s rosemary Nelson. (That morning Taylor had taken a walk on the Rillito, and had seen rosemary bushes in purplish bloom.)

Photo by Jeff Smith.

Borderlands offered up their “Gin Spiced IPA.” It was a variation of their Toole Ave Hazy IPA (one of my favorite drinks in town), a New England style IPA infused with Iskashitaa harvested juniper berries from Winterhaven.

There were other beers—from 1912, Barrio, Dillinger, Public—but the cold, the whiskey, and the honey had pushed me up to the edge, and I didn’t want to plunge over it.

The next Baja Brews event, featuring local craft beers brewed with citrus, will be held at Dragoon Brewing Company on March 30.

What: Special Creations Brewed with Citrus
When: Thursday, March 30, from 6:00-8:00pm
Where: Dragoon Brewing Company, 1859 W. Grant Road #111, Tucson, Arizona 85745

On Thursday, March 30, join Edible Baja Arizona and fourteen local craft breweries for the fifth Baja Brews Tasting Event, featuring beers brewed with local citrus. Every eight weeks, Baja Arizona’s breweries are working with different locally originating ingredients to craft special beers just for the event.

All proceeds from the $15 donation benefit four amazing Tucson nonprofit organizations that are working to improve food security in our community: Desert HarvestersNative Seeds/SEARCHIskashitaa Refugee Network, and Trees for Tucson.

You’ll be able to taste and enjoy fourteen locally produced and citrus-infused beers, talk with the brewers, and learn more about Tucson’s ever-growing craft beer scene—all while supporting the work of these great non-profits! This fifth event features a wide variety of brews and creations made with Arizona’s incredible local citrus, such as Blood Oranges, Calamondin Limes, and Ruby Red Grapefruits.

Seis will be at the tasting with their food truck to satiate your hunger with fresh seafood, steak, chicken, and veggie tacos. The tasting event runs from 6:00-8:00 p.m. and you can make your donation in advance by purchasing tickets using the button above, or tickets may be purchased on the night of the event at the door, pending availability. Our last tasting event was sold-out, so purchasing tickets in advance is recommended.

The Baja Brews Project is a year-long collaboration between Edible Baja Arizona and the Baja Arizona region’s craft breweries. We want to explore, celebrate, and taste Baja Arizona’s extraordinary craft beer. Drink local!

Tasting Notes:

The Address Brewing
Beer: Lee Street Shandy
Tasting notes: A pale ale shandy with local oranges and Simcoe hops.
ABV 6%, IBU ~60

Dillinger Brewing Company
Beer: Citrus Wheat
Tasting notes: Made with local White Sonora Wheat and local citrus fruit for flavor. Garnished with an orange, lime, or lemon.
ABV 5.1%, IBU 20

Borderlands Brewing Company
Beer: Key Lime Tart
Tasting notes: Our take on key lime pie is a slightly sour ale brewed with all the ingredients you’d find in that refreshing pie. It will be tart and slightly sweet from honey, with a green tint and a dry and refreshing finish.
ABV 7%

Dragoon Brewing Co.
Beer: To be announced.
Tasting notes: To be announced.

Iron John’s Brewing Company
Beer: Smoke in the Orchard
Tasting notes: A smoked-apple Strong Ale.  A contribution of apple cider concentrate and apple wood-smoked pilsner malt lay a base of delicate smoke character and fruit in this lightly hopped, medium bodied strong ale.  Springtime aromatics from fresh orange blossoms and citrusy notes from pureed cholla cactus fruit make this a most unique beer. Malts: Pilsner, Honey, Applewood-smoked Pilsner, Dextrapils, Wheat; Hops: Challenger, Tettnang, Perle; Yeast: British Ale; Adjuncts: Apple cider concentrate, cholla cactus fruit, orange blossoms.
ABV 8.5%, IBU 20, SRM 6

Thunder Canyon Brewery
Beer: Citrus Maximus
Tasting notes: A Sonoran Desert IPA, supersaturated with the zest of a variety of hand harvested Sonoran Desert citrus.

1912 Brewing Co.
Beer: Naughty Naranja Imperial Blood Orange Sour
Tasting notes: An amped up version of the 1000-year-old East German gose beer style. A nice citrus tartness, pleasant saltiness, with a subtle coriander finish.
ABV 8.5%, IBU 19

Catalina Brewing Company
Beer: Orange Dream
Tasting notes: Another recipe from our “wheat-guy” Eric Fairfield, this traditional American Wheat includes locally sourced BKW White Sonora wheat, a dose of orange zest, and is finished with the light touch of Blood Orange. A perfect blend, providing a slightly-higher ABV to take you to that “Orange Dream,” reminiscent of a long-ago drive down Orange Grove Road in the springtime!
ABV 6.1%, IBU 61

Public Brewhouse
Beer: Lemon Poppy
Tasting notes: Our Citruslicious IPA infused with local lemons.
ABV 7.7%

Sentinel Peak Brewing Company
Beer: Backyard Grove Grapefruit IPA
Tasting notes: An American-style IPA made with grapefruits taken directly from our backyard in Northwest Tucson, this beer is sweet and tart with a slight hoppy bitterness that is not overwhelming. It has a very clean finish and remains crisp and refreshing.
ABV 6.3%, IBU 65

Barrio Brewing Co.
Beer: Rae’s Special Ruby Red
Tasting notes: Our Grapefruit IPA with a bit of a twist.

Pueblo Vida Brewing Company
Beer: Black Lime Saison with Calamondin Limes
Tasting notes: We infused our newly released Black Lime Saison with locally harvested Calamondin Limes. The unique fragrance of black limes pairs beautifully with the tart Calamondin Limes in our refreshing saison.

10-55 Brewing Company
Beer: To be announced.
Tasting notes: To be announced.

Green Feet Brewing
Beer: To be announced.
Tasting notes: To be announced

Important Information about Baja Brews Tasting Events:

  1. The ticket price for Baja Brews Tasting Events includes one taste of each beer provided at the event. Additional beer options and possibly food will also be available for purchase at the event location.
  2. Payment is due in full by credit card upon making your online reservation. Due to the limited availability and high demand, we do not allow cancellations or rescheduling of Baja Brews tickets, but you can transfer your ticket to another person if you cannot attend.
  3. There are no physical tickets for the event. Simply buying your online ticket here will ensure your that your name makes it on to our guest list for the event! Please do not expect a ticket to be mailed to your address or sent to your inbox. Cheers!

Baja Brews: Special Creations Brewed with Citrus

Thursday, March 30, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Taste locally sourced unique brews at our fifth Baja Brews tasting event, featuring locally grown citrus -themed beers.

Cost: $15 per person

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