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Tucson’s Top Ten Beers

One man’s opinion, sure, but if you’re looking for what to drink, here’s a solid start.

by Christian Cortes

It seems like only yesterday that Tucson’s craft beer scene was in its infancy. Not so many years ago, most of the beers available around town today were merely concepts or test batches at best, leaving beer lovers with only a small handful of local brewpubs available to appease their craft beer cravings.

Yet, flash forward just a few years and one finds Tucson’s beer scene thriving with fourteen active breweries and another dozen on the way, each producing a spectrum of styles ranging from lagers and IPAs to coffee stouts and barrel-aged sours.

To celebrate a blossoming beer scene poised to become a haven for craft beer in the southwest, we’ve compiled a list of ten of Tucson’s most signature brews. Available year-round, these beers display some of the best of what Tucson’s breweries have to offer in an emblematic gesture of what it means to drink craft beer in the Old Pueblo.
 

 

Barrio's Mocha Java Stout
Barrio Brewing Company Mocha Java Stout (Nitro) – 5.5%
 
Crafting a consistent nitro beer is no easy feat, yet Barrio Brewing’s Mocha Java Stout has for years served Tucson with a smooth, nitrogenated stout that resonates with Guinness drinkers and American stout drinkers alike. Made with cold-steeped coffee, cocoa, oats and lactose, this smooth brew features a gentle array of semisweet chocolate mild coffee notes backed by a creamy body and balancing caramel malt flavor. Perfect for nighttime drinking sessions by the railroad tracks, the Mocha Java Stout is the nighttime in a glass.
 
Barrio Brewing, 800 E 16th St., (520) 791-2739
 
 
Sentinel Peak's Dewpoint Dunkel

Sentinel Peak Dewpoint Dunkel – 5.7%

A beer for dark beer drinkers who want their beer to finish up clean rather than linger, Sentinel Peak’s Dewpoint Dunkel is a smooth and deeply layered brew that showcases the sweet and toasty character of a dark ale while still cleaning up like a lighter style. Gentle smokiness and mild fruitiness on the nose play off gentle noble hop flavors to create a medium-bodied beer reminiscent of an easygoing brown ale. Offering a sweeter flavor profile as it warms up, Dewpoint Dunkel will find favor with those looking for a flavorful yet quaffable departure from pale lagers and aggressively flavored ales.

Sentinel Peak Brewing Company, 4746 E Grant Rd., (520) 777-9456
 

 

Pueblo Vida's Breakfast Stout
Pueblo Vida Brewing Company Breakfast Stout – 5%  
                                         
Bringing the bold attitude of an aggressive coffee stout down to sessionable territory, the Pueblo Vida Breakfast Stout is for beer drinkers who take their coffee black and don’t beat around the bush. Dryer than its local contemporaries, this 5% stout features assertive coffee notes that mellow into smooth dark chocolate character while maintaining a clean and light-bodied finish. Occasionally the platform for one of Pueblo Vida’s lauded infusions—horchata, chocolate, extra coffee and even blueberries have found their way into this brew before—, Breakfast Stout is primed for those looking for an exciting departure from the average American stout.
 
Pueblo Vida Brewing Company, 115 E Broadway Blvd., (520) 623-7168
 
 
Iron John’s Pedro Double IPA – 8.1%
 
Bursting with tropical fruit notes and packing a zesty hop bite, Iron John’s Pedro Double IPA fits comfortably into the sphere between classic west coast IPA and hop-laden DIPA. With a creamy mouthfeel and a citrusy bite, this semi-dry double IPA showcases the complex power of the Humulus lupulus in its simultaneously earthy, floral, resinous and citrusy hop profile. Though first brewed as a seasonal, Pedro’s bright and assertive attitude has thankfully found it a place in Iron John’s new standard offerings, ensuring its availability in bottle shops around town.
 
Iron John's Brewing Company, 245 S Plumer Ave #27, (520) 775-1727
 
 
Dragoon Brewing's Stronghold Session Ale
Dragoon Stronghold Session - 4.8%
 
Toasty and crushable, light-bodied and flavorful, Dragoon’s Stronghold Session is Tucson’s testament to the stealthy ale. An American twist on the English mild, this sessionable brown ale proves that flavor and alcohol content needn’t be mutually exclusive of one another. Featuring assertive notes of bittersweet chocolate, earthy hops and toasted oats, Stronghold Session appeals to classic beer-style lovers while offering the daytime drinker a flavorful alternative to generic pilsners and session IPAs.
 
Dragoon Brewing Company, 1859 W Grant Rd #111, (520) 329-3606
 
 
Public Brewhouse's Poppy IPA

Public Brewhouse Poppy IPA Series – 6.5%

Earthy hops accented by bright pine resin collide with bold sweet citrus notes in Public Brewhouse’s rotating tribute to classic west coast IPA styling. The latest iteration, Happy Poppy, greets the nose with a sweet bouquet of cantaloupe and honeydew melon while its medium-bodied malt base offers a juicy explosion of tangerine, pineapple and pine-spice. At 6.5%, it goes down easy even as it warms while maintaining its clean, candy-like hop character. When all is said and done, the Poppy IPA series is the essence of Arizona sunshine in a glass.

Public Brewhouse, 209 N Hoff Ave., (520) 775-2337
 

 

Ten Fifty-Five Brewing's XOXO Coffee Stout

Ten 55 XoXo Coffee Stout – 4.7%

It’s no secret that Tucson loves its coffee, and Ten 55’s beloved XoXo takes everything we enjoy about a fresh cup of Joe and transforms it into a coffee-addled ale. Sitting at just 4.7% ABV, XoXo drinks like a bigger, medium-bodied beer thanks to the addition of lactose and single-origin coffee sourced from local coffee roaster Exo Roast Co. Devoid of roasty bitterness and offering gentle notes of semi-sweet chocolate and medium-roast coffee beans, XoXo works as a year-round drinker that will find adoration in caffeine lovers and anyone willing to cast aside notions of what a low-alcohol dark ale can be.

Ten 55 Brewing, 3810 E 44th St., (520) 461-8073
 

 

Pueblo Vida's Bavarian Hefeweizen

Pueblo Vida Brewing Company Bavarian Hefeweizen – 5.4%

Long regarded in the American craft beer scene as a gateway style, the Bavarian Hefeweizen has brought countless beer drinkers into the fold with its anything-but-beer-like flavors and striking unfiltered appearance. Showcasing the classic characteristics of German wheat beers, Pueblo Vida’s rendition offers a fragrant blend of banana, clove and refreshing tropical fruit flavors that that can be enjoyed year-round. With one of Pueblo Vida’s new-added 20-barrel fermenters dedicated exclusively to this hefe, expect to see it on tap around town with increasing regularity this year. 

Pueblo Vida Brewing Company, 115 E Broadway Blvd., (520) 623-7168
 

 

 

A photo posted by Shan (@shan_greyeyes) on

 

Borderlands Brewing Co. Citrana (Gose) – 6.5%
 
Tucson’s original sour ale, Citrana embodies everything the brutal Tucson summer demands in a beer. Bursting with gentle sour notes, hints of spice and just a touch of brininess, this kettle-soured wheat ale from Borderlands Brewing Company has been enchanting Tucson beer palates since the brewery first opened in 2012. Conceived long before the gose (that’s pronounced goh-zah) craze took the beer world by storm, this mid-strength sour ale is paired best with smoked meats, seafood and summer salads.  Drink cautiously though—at 6.5%, she will creep up on wanton drinkers expecting a session beer!
 
Borderlands Brewing Co., 119 E Toole Ave., (520) 261-8773
 
 
Dragoon Brewing Company's IPA
Dragoon Brewing Company IPA – 7.3%
 
Let’s not be coy—Tucson has long had a fixation with hopped-up beer, but in the world of IPAs, there can be only one regional king. A palpable explosion of west-coast hop flavors—dank and citrusy, bitter and resinous—Dragoon’s signature IPA holds the throne as Arizona’s freshest, most consistent and righteous India pale ale. Available in 16oz cans for revelers and travelers alike, as well as on tap all across the Grand Canyon State, this aggressive ale is a testament to the hop gods and deserves a place in every serious hophead’s fridge. 
 
Dragoon Brewing Company, 1859 W Grant Rd #111, (520) 329-3606
 
 

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