Beer has amazing properties of both seasonality and region, but it also has the ability to bend or outright ignore those properties. The various beer styles we all enjoy have their historical origins in overcoming or adapting to environmental challenges such as water quality; the availability of ingredients such as hops, malt and other fermentables and the variability of the seasons.
The technology of refrigeration, the mastery of water chemistry and the advances of microbiology allow brewers to overcome traditional environmental hurdles. Unfettered global markets provide access to brewing ingredients. Beer had been tied to locality for most of its 5000 year history, but that was all about to change in the mid 1800’s. Crisp clean lager beers became popular and larger breweries became more efficient. Traditional styles, only recently freed from their geographical bonds began to decline in production. By the time Phoenix was settled, beer was shipped to Phoenix on refrigerated rail cars. Eventually, even the A-1 Brewery on 12th street and Madison succumbed to the monoculture of the light lager and industrial consolidation despite making beer very similar to the breweries in Milwaukee and St Louis.
This is a very long winded preface to tell you that Province has locally made beers on all three of its tap handles, SanTan Hefeweizen, Four Peaks Sunbru and Lumberyard Red. We’re a bit jaded in this day and age of the resurgence of craft beers and we should acknowledge how utterly remarkable this is, given the history of beer. Each of these beers represents an American take on a traditional European style and does so very well.
Today, the beer a brewery makes is controlled by something brewers like to call, “brewer’s intent.” A brewer in Arizona is not in Bavaria, but can choose to make a Hefeweizen. One need not to be in Cologne to make a Kolsch-style Ale. We may think of Ireland for Red Ales, but American brewers have put their twist on the style for many years.
On a particularly hot day, I exercised my “drinkers intent.” Did I want to embrace summer with the estery banana effervescence of the SanTan Hefeweizen? Did I crave the crisp, sublimely fruity and nutty, clean and dry finish of the Sunbru? Sunbru recently won a Gold Medal at the World Beer Cup besting breweries from across the US and even in Cologne! Both of these beers could transform the surprisingly shady (at this time of year no less) Province Patio into a German Biergarten.
I feigned ignorance of our outdoor conditions, thought of late winter and leaned on the bar for a cool caramel malty Lumberyard Red. I tasted citrusy American hops. The AC blew cool air on my head and arms. When I closed my eyes I imagined it to be fog. I re-calibrated our desert olive drab green for kelly.
IF YOU GO
Where: Province at The Westin Phoenix Downtown
When: Happy Hour is everyday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Friday, 3 p.m. to close and Saturday, reverse, 8 p.m. to close