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Fred says the first beers he created for the brewery, Oak Creek Amber Ale and Oak Creek Nut Brown Ale, have seen no fundamental changes since the recipes were developed. In addition, the brewery produces a gold lager, pale ale and hefeweizen (Bavarian-style wheat beer). The hefeweizen and pale ale have medaled at the Great American Beer Festival while the other three brews have medaled at the North American Brewers’ Association Competition. Fred uses natural rather than artificial carbonation, which he says gives the beers a cleaner and softer taste.
“Our beers are a mix between American, British and German styles,” says Fred. “But our brewing techniques rely on German methods. We use cold fermentation temperatures that round the beer out for a nice smooth finish.”
It’s obvious that 25 years after Fred first started thinking about starting a microbrewery, he still loves the business. “I feel connected to a profession that goes back 6,000 years,” he says. “It’s almost like a baker – the process is hands on and organic. The Egyptians were drinking beer in front of the pyramids 5,000 years ago. It’s a long chain, and we’re part of it.”
Oak Creek Brewing Co., 2050 Yavapai Drive in West Sedona (928-204-1300); www.oakcreekbrew.com
Oak Creek Brewery and Grill, 336 SR 179 at Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village (928-204-1300); www.oakcreekpub.com.
Home brewer’s Pick: Oak Creek Nut Brown Ale
Prescott Brewing Company
One of the things we love the most about Prescott Brewing Company is the brewpub’s walls, which are covered with more than 4,500 cardboard coasters from pubs and bars all over the world. We also love the fact that owners John and Roxane Nielsen have an Excel spreadsheet that catalogs each coaster. Of course, it’s the brewery’s beers that really shine, earning the seven-barrel brewhouse 27 medals since it opened for business in March 1994. The Ranking Arizona business poll has also named Prescott Brewing the No. 1 microbrewery in the state for three years. You can tell John is proud of his success, but don’t ask him to chose a favorite from his 52 beer recipes.
“That’s like asking me which child I love the most,” he says, laughing.
Before owning the brewery, John was a test technician for Lockheed Missiles and Space Co. in Northern California. He fell in love with beer while stationed in Germany during a stint in the Army, and he became a devout home brewer. A visit to a local microbrewery in the early 1980s made him start thinking about a second career, and he and Roxane began visiting brewpubs. John started entering his home brew in competitions around the country, and he attended Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology – the oldest brewing college in the U.S. – and University of California, Davis. By the early 1990s, when Roxane’s son started attending Northern Arizona University, the husband and wife decided they were ready to go into business and get out of California, and they began looking for sites in Arizona. They settled on a 110-year-old building across the street from Prescott’s Courthouse Square.
John started with four styles of beer, all of which are still served today: Lodgepole Light, Liquid Amber Ale, Prescott Pale Ale and Petrified Porter. At any given time, the brewpub offers six to 11 Prescott Brewing Company beers on tap. John, who develops all the recipes and employs two brewers, says he favors classic beer styles. (That doesn’t mean the brewers don’t like to have fun – during our visit they were serving up a chocolate porter.) The brewpub’s most popular is the Liquid Amber Ale, which they began canning and distributing in spring 2009 at a 2,800-square-foot warehouse less than one mile from the brewpub. The brew is sold online, in Phoenix and, as of last month, at liquor stores in Sedona and Flagstaff. PBC brews three to four days each week.
While the Liquid Amber may be the most popular, the Raven Maniac Stout seems to have garnered a cult following. The winter imperial stout is 9 percent alcohol by volume and has a licorice and currant taste. “We like to say if you drink enough, you’ll turn into a raving maniac,” says John. When the seasonal brew is ready, Prescott Brewing flies a flag that reads, “The Raven has landed” above the brewery. Within five minutes, says Roxane, the entire town knows about it.