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Flagstaff Brewing Company
The scene at Flagstaff Brewing Company is so genuine, you can’t help but settle into a bar stool and stay a spell. Though Christian Lehman, the brewpub’s general manager, claims to have recently de-cluttered the bar back, there’s still plenty of material to start a number of conversations. There’s the large canoe – built by a previous brewer’s grandfather – that hangs above the bar; the black flag featuring a skull and cross bones; a collection of bottles and cans that were found in the building’s walls; and what is surely the state’s largest embossed-leather belt buckle. But décor aside, it’s the brewery’s beers that keep the bar stools occupied.
Co-owners Jeff Thorsett and Al Henes started Flagstaff Brewing Company on a whim: The two were headed to Oregon to help start a communal brewing operation when the VW bus they were driving broke down in Cortez, Colo. The closest major city to Cortez was Flagstaff, so that’s where the college friends wound up in 1992. They started wondering whether or not they’d be better off starting a brewery of their own, and the taps at Flagstaff Brewing started flowing in July 1994 when Jeff was only 25. The brewery is located in the historic Aubineau/Andreatos building on Route 66 in downtown Flagstaff. “It was our last-choice building,” says Jeff, who is also the master brewer. “It was located north of the tracks, which was a big no-no. Flagstaff was a different place back then.”
In the beginning, Flagstaff Brewing was just a microbrewery and bar – the restaurant was added in the late 1990s (Flagstaff Coffee Company, which is adjacent to the brewery and owned by the same partners, opened four years ago). The 6-1/2-barrel brewhouse produces 1,100 barrels of brew each year. At any given time, you’ll find four of the brewery’s beers on tap along with six guest taps that rotate regularly. Favorite FBC beers (they only brew ales) include Special K’s Sitka Spruce Tip Ale brewed with spruce needles from Alaska; Agassiz Amber; Bubbaganouj IPA; Three Pin Pale Ale; and Bitterroot ESB. “They put a pork chop in every pint,” says Christian, laughing. “The beers aren’t over the top, but they are hearty and full-bodied.”
Flagstaff Brewing doesn’t bottle its beers, but they do distribute in kegs and half-gallon “growlers” locally. Jeff says the operation is too small to distribute outside of Flagstaff. “We’re the largest beer-selling bar in the city – we can’t keep up,” he says. “We have expanded our production capacity. We started one-third the size we are now. Canning boosts your ego, but you aren’t going to make money from it. What I think is better and more successful is selling 100 percent of the product you make, whether that’s 10 or 10,000 cases a year.”
The brewery also has one of the most visible brewhouses in the state: Its large glass windows and doors front Route 66. The brewers can typically be found in the small room four or five mornings a week in the summer and two mornings a week in the winter. “It’s like working in a fishbowl,” says Jeff.
In addition to beer, Flagstaff Brewing has a collection of single-malt whiskeys with more than 130 varieties plus another 20 small-batch bourbons. The restaurant’s menu is chock full of burgers and sandwiches. The brewpub features live music Thursday through Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
Flagstaff Brewing Company, 6 E. Route 66 in downtown Flagstaff (928-773-1442); www.flagbrew.com.
Home brewer’s Pick: Special K’s Sitka Spruce Tip
Mogollon Brewing Co.
To say it’s a challenge to locate Flagstaff’s Mogollon Brewing Company’s new digs would be an understatement. Tucked away in an unmarked warehouse south of the train tracks, it’s a far cry from a few years ago when the brewery was located in a pub smack dab in the middle of downtown Flagstaff. Dana Kanzler, owner and brewer, opened the brewpub in 1997. He relocated to the 4,800-square-foot warehouse last year.
Dana says the 20-barrel brewhouse was the largest commercial brewery in Arizona between 2000 and 2003. Dana quit bottling Mogollon brew in 2003, but started a canning operation last summer. He cans his Wapiti Amber Ale; you can find the brewery’s other two beers – Horny Toad IPA and Apache Trout Stout – on tap in Flagstaff, Prescott and Phoenix. The cans are distributed in liquor stores throughout Arizona.