Posted by: Scott | February 25, 2010

Beer Pioneer Update

Late last year I compiled a city-wide beer guide called Beer Pioneer. At the time, my analysis of the Phoenix metro area seemed pretty thorough. Since then, however, I’ve discovered two more businesses worth mentioning: The Tasting Room, a beer and wine store in the far northwest valley, and Taste of Tops, a new beer bar that lifts number-two-ranked Tops Liquors onto an equal plain with Papago Brewery.

I failed to find The Tasting Room the first time around because they focus on wine — and because they planted themselves way out on Vistancia Road, where I hardly ever go because with a name like Vistancia, I assumed it was really some kind of mystical fairy realm. Also, it’s really far away (from me, anyway), which reinforces my points about me rarely going there and it being Narnia. When my wife booked a photo shoot in that area, however, I tagged along as her assistant — and stumbled across The Tasting Room in the process. (I know what you’re thinking: Scott sounds like a fantastic assistant! What with his ability to find bars on the job.) Aside from their great wine selection, The Tasting Room boasts an impressive array of beers, including two on tap and a larger-than-average bottle list.

They sell bottles in six-packs and as singles, and they’ll pour one for you on the spot so you can imbibe the ambiance along with the ambrosia. This place offers everything that’s great about small, locally owned businesses: a unique, comfortable environment with excellent products. The Tasting Room proves that beer lovers need not neglect wine stores.

Next on the list, Taste of Tops. A swanky little joint. More like a beer lover’s paradise; if my commute weren’t pushing 30 minutes, I’d visit Tops several times a week — or possibly try to get a job there or something. It’s that awesome.

Aside from 12 constantly rotating taps — which present a nice mix of hard-to-find American brews and exotic imports — a row of coolers in the back round out the beer list. Remember the elusive Cherry Stout I mentioned in my top five? Well, I found it in those coolers, and the pitch black ale delivered an unpredictable set of flavors: roasted malt, bitter chocolate, and tart cherries. Offbeat but awesome. Just like Tops.

Another ca-ching comes from the frequent beer tastings, which usually accompany a small art show (though, thanks to the laid back atmosphere, the shows never hinder the drinking). Earlier this week I tasted 10 Belgian beers for $8. I’d tried many of the beers before, such as the Trappist ales of Rochefort and Westmalle and La Chouffe’s outstanding Belgian IPA, but I certainly didn’t mind tasting them again (nor did I mind listening to the friendly, knowledgeable staff explain stuff I already knew about the beers). A few samples were even new to me, such as Lindemans’ Cassis Lambic, which I found more subtle and balanced than their popular Framboise.

You can’t beat $8 for 10 beers! In fact, most of their prices make me feel all kinds of euphoric. Think of it this way: Taste of Tops may charge $5-$10 for a glass of beer, but that’s a top-shelf, last-drink-before-you-die beer, whereas many bars charge that much for a Bud. The cooler bottles offer even cheaper choices, going as low as $2 each. So you’re getting a great deal as long as you aren’t waging war on 20 beers a night. (And, if you were planning to do that, Taste of Tops probably isn’t your scene). Throw in a decent selection of appetizers — or pizza, which they encourage you to order out for — and you’ll start to see why Tops is an amazing place to spend an evening. Just keep an eye out for whippersnappers. It’s a college neighborhood, after all.

Monday: My review of a beer that’s only bottled once every 10 years.

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Responses

  1. Mmm, local spots. Few and far between in my zone, for no apparent reason.

    • Have you tried out BeerFly? You might find a few places you didn’t know were there.


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