The Grand Canyon State
Arizona's craft beer scene is forging ahead with new craft breweries opening each year. We are lucky enough to have featured some of the state's innovative craft beers in our Craft Beer of the Month Club and we are looking forward to discovering more!
Pre-Prohibition era was a successful time to be in the beer industry in Arizona. Between immigrants making their way west, railroad workers and miners, there was an evident demand for beer. Park Brewery was the first recorded commercial brewery in Arizona which opened in 1864 and from there, the industry took off. However, it wasn't until the Transcontinental Railroad was complete that immigrants flooded the state, bringing their own craft beer styles with them - many of which were a novelty to the state of Arizona. Local breweries began to struggle to survive with the influx of the newcomers and eventually had to close due to the increased competition.
In 1920 the constitutional ban on alcohol, also known as Prohibition, caused Arizona’s thriving beer scene to come to a screeching halt. Only one out of the eight remaining breweries who tried to stick it out, made it through Prohibition in Arizona. The withstanding brewery was Phoenix-based Arizona Brewing Co., founded in 1904 and became the most popular brewery in the state with their signature brew called “A-1 Pilsner”. Although they were able to get through Prohibition, as other large beer companies such as Budweiser and Coors came into the picture, sales drastically fell for Arizona Brewing Company. Shortly after, the brewery was sold and sadly many other brewpubs closed their doors too, leaving Arizona state with a bleak outlook on their future local craft beer industry.
As local breweries closed, Dave Harvan, an electrician and homebrewer, arrived in Arizona and ended up calling Bisbee, AZ home in 1986. In the proceeding year he lead the way for other brewers by lobbying state officials to alter the restrictions put in place during Prohibition. The state of Arizona listened and legalized small brewing operations and brewpubs, leading to the first brewpub, Bandersnatch, to open in downtown Tempe. Harvan decided soon after to open his own brewery and named it The Electric Brewing Company with a flagship brew called Dave’s Electric Beer, which dubbed him the nickname of Electric Dave. Unfortunately the brewery closed after Harvan was arrested for smuggling marijuana and sadly, the brewery never quite recovered.
Microbreweries began to open throughout the state and have since flourished. Today there are about 91 active breweries in Arizona. Five of them have been around for longer than 20 years including Four Peaks Brewery and Barley Brothers who have been in business since 1997 and over the years have helped grow the state’s beer scene and beer culture. According to the Brewers Association, 147,255 barrels of beer were produced in 2016 which gave Arizona a ranking of 29th in the country for beer production. Our Monthly Craft Beer Club selections feature small production, limited production craft breweries. In the month’s to come, it could very well be one of Arizona’s small craft breweries in our beer of the month club.
As stated by the Arizona Craft Brewer’s Guild, at least 5 new breweries are in the process of planning their grand opening and we are sure there will be more to come. Bad Water Brewing in Scottsdale has been featured in our Craft Beer of the Month Club and continues to make its mark on Arizona’s craft beer world. By focusing on old brewing traditions from Belgium, yet keeping their brews fresh with dedication to quality, character and originality, they are setting their tiny brewery apart from the others!