Northern Arizona in winter has a lot going for it. The skiing and snowplay. The striking vistas of white-capped mountain peaks against a brilliant blue sky. The beer.
Actually, we enjoy our locally made potent potables all year long, but February is a special time as the state celebrates Arizona Beer Week, extended for a month this year due to the pandemic.
There are close to a dozen craft brew manufacturers from Williams (Grand Canyon Brewing Company, Historic Brewing Company) to Winslow (the RelicRoad Brewing Company), with the biggest concentration in Flagstaff. Some are standalone and others offer taprooms or restaurants.
While COVID-19 has meant that it’s not business as usual, most have found ways to remain open. Curbside service and to-go orders seem to be the preferred method, although some locations are offering in-house drinking and dining with social distancing, masks and even plexiglass protection to keep everyone safe.
Some have taken this time to do remodeling. At Mother Road Brewing Company’s taproom on Mike’s Pike, that meant a new bar, restrooms and merchandise area, modifications that resulted in one more full-time position. Mother Road also got a bit of a boost recently when its product showed up on the NBC comedy Superstore.
Our region’s love for breweries hasn’t just been a manufacturing boom. Tourism benefits as well as the success of local “ale trails” shows. In Flagstaff, you can pick up a Brewery Trail Passport at the City’s Visitor Center and several breweries will offer discounts when you present your passport. Plus, you can get a commemorative beer glass upon receiving stickers from all the participating Flagstaff breweries (no purchase necessary).
Nationally, statistics show that independent and craft brewers have continually grown their customer base for the past five years. According to the national Brewers Association, data from Nielsen Harris shows the percentage of the populations 21 years and older that drink craft beer rose from 35% in 2015 to 44% in 2020.
So raise a glass (or can or growler) to our local craft beer industry and check out our area’s wide range of brew providers at the Arizona Craft Brewers Guide website for Arizona Beer Week.