I know when I use the term "Beer Run" it's likely to conjure the image of a high school kid
stuffing a case of beer down his pants before booking from the Circle-K. Otherwise you may be
reminded of the poor sap coerced by his friends to drive to the store to pick up a six-pack of
this, and a twelve-pack of that, and why not a bottle of anything while you're at it? But this
is different. This beer run is a ride that takes us from the asphalt jungle of North Scottsdale
to the brisk high country of Flagstaff, Arizona sampling some of the finest ales from
micrebreweries throughout the Grand Canyon State.
Now before I begin, I'm sure I don't need to point out the dangers of drinking while operating a
motor vehicle. especially with the beer we're heading for. We're talking real beer here, not your
typical 3% yellow, fizzy stuff, this stuff is anywhere from 5-10% alcohol by volume. The good news
is all but one of the breweries on this run lets you bring home their hand-crafted ales in half
gallon growlers, jugs for carrying beer home from a brewery. I can fit two growlers in each
saddlebag, at 64oz. each, I can make off with nearly a case of beer in a single run. The one
brewery that does not sell growlers offers six-packs of their more popular varieties.
Though there are many microbreweries in the Phoenix area, my favorite is Uptown Brewery in
Scottsdale (6910 E. Shea Blvd., www.uptownbrewery.com). It's a great location whether you live
in the east valley or if you're coming from the west side. At Shea Blvd. near Scottsdale Road
you've got a number of routes to get you there. The completion of the Loop 101 in the area makes
it all that much easier. I'd like to tell you all the food is great, but I don't think I've
ordered anything but a burger, which is always excellent, or their gourmet pizzas and I've never
been disappointed. The main reason for the trip, however, is not the food, but the beer which
Uptown refers to as "Liquid Art." The selection of beer at Uptown Brewery ranges from the Uptown
Blonde (the closest thing to B-M-C) to their Skyline Stout. My personal favorite is the India Pale
Ale (IPA), well hopped, medium body, high alcohol, very refreshing. Several seasonal beers are
also available for a limited time throughout the year.
If you're looking for an escape from the city, but don't have all day to ride, try the Black
Mountain Brewery (a.k.a. The Satisfied Frog, www.satisfiedfrog.com) in Cave Creek. From Uptown
Brewery, The Satisfied Frog is a straight shot down Scottsdale Road until it turns into Tom
Darlington Drive, which eventually runs into Cave Creek Road. Head west for a few miles on Cave
Creek until you reach Frontier Town. The Satisfied Frog is on the left just behind the Leather
Mill. Again the main staple in my diet is usually a burger. However, If your feeling adventurous,
you might try the Tijuana Torpedo, a burger stuffed with green chilies and cheese, but then again
you may want to try that one when you don't have a long ride ahead of you. The Satisfied Frog and
Black Mountain Brewery are famous for their Chili Beer, a bottle-conditioned pilsner with a hot
serrano chili pepper in it. The reaction to Chili Beer is usually you like it or you hate it
(I like it, though, I can't drink more than one or two). Black Mountain Brewery also offers their
Ocotillo Amber and Black Mountain Gold, as well as a porter and several other varieties. When I
was last there they offered their seasonal Bighorn Bock which has to be my favorite since they
don't offer an IPA. Black Mountain Brewery is the one brewery that doesn't sell growlers, so grab
a six-pack, hop on your bike and hit the road.
If you continue west on Cave Creek Road, it will eventually veer south and run into Carefree
Highway/SR-74 where you'll want to hang a right and head west. By now I'm sure most readers of
Rumble magazine are familiar with the route we'll be traveling, as it was outlined in the April
02 issue. In short the Carefree Highway is a great strip of road that lets you lean back, stretch
your legs and open the throttle (unless, of course, you get stuck behind someone pulling a boat or
in front of a white car with a gumball machine on its roof). As SR-74 passes Lake Pleasant, you'll
hit some bends, hills and curves to add a little dimension to the long stretch. Eventually you'll
hit Grand Avenue/US-60 that takes you to Wickenburg. Find your way to US-93 and then to SR-89.
Yes, you'll be climbing Yarnell Hill, mind the twists and turns, keep an eye out for the rock
painted like a frog, and no we won't be stopping for breakfast, lunch or whatever at the
restaurant on top of Yarnell Hill. We're on a mission. We've only hit two breweries, and we have
five on the list. I don't have to tell you to enjoy the scenery, you're presumably on a bike and
enjoying the scenery comes naturally. As mentioned in the April 02 issue, you'll pass Wilhoit then
find yourself in the twists and turns climbing up to Prescott. As you enter town, you'll see the
square and Whiskey Row. Just past the light at Gurley St. you'll find a public parking lot,
motorcycle parking to the rear (suits me fine, after a few hours in the saddle I like to work
some circulation back into my legs). If you walk back to Gurley St. then step left, a few paces
down you'll find the Prescott Brewing Company (130 W. Gurley St., www.prescottbrewingcompany.com).
Now, this brewery is famous for its beer and has won several national awards. I stick with the
burger and the IPA, but you'll also have to try some other varieties. If you're lucky they'll have
the Raven Maniac Stout on tap. This Russian Imperial Stout makes coffee look pale, it's well
hopped to balance the rich body, and if you like dark, handcrafted beer, it's well worth the extra
money to bring home a half gallon.
As you might have guessed we're going to head north on 89-A towards Sedona. The Mingus Mountain
scenic drive has got to be one of the best rides in Arizona. Jerome has a brewery, though I
haven't been there yet. I love navigating the twists and turns climbing down the hill from Jerome.
You'll then ride through Clarkdale and Cottonwood on to the Red Rock scenic drive and into Sedona.
Now comes the tricky part. In Sedona you'll find the Oak Creek Brewery (www.oak creekpub.com), but
there are two. One is the brewery and grill, the other is the tasting room. The brewery and grill
serves food and beer, but they won't sell you a growler. The tasting room, on the other hand, will
fill your growler, but they don't serve anything other than peanuts and popcorn, though you can
always have a pizza delivered if the snacks don't do it for you. The restaurant is located on
Highway 179 just south of 89-A in Tlaquepaque, a trendy arts and crafts village, so you might want
to wear your best leather. Better yet, wear your torn and frayed rags and let everyone know that
your money is just as good as the next person's.
For me it's the usual, burger and IPA, but don't forget to try the hot wings. All the beers are
excellent. Try the sampler, they call it the Seven Dwarfs. Before you leave Sedona, you'll have
to back track a few miles west to Coffee Pot Road. Take a right on Coffee Pot and then quick left
onto Yavapai Drive. The building on the northwest corner of Coffee Pot and Yavapai is the Oak Creek
Brewery tasting room. As I said, they don't serve food here, but you can get your beer for carryout.
Any choice from the tasting room is just as good as from the restaurant. I hear they tone down the
beer for the restaurant patrons, so it's actually better at the tasting room. I recommend taking
home the Nut Brown, but if you can get one of the seasonal beers like the Oatmeal Stout or the
Octoberfest, do it. They won't last long.
At this point, I hope you've heeded my warning about drinking along the way, otherwise you may
have trouble figuring out which of the five spinning bikes is yours. Besides, we're not done yet,
so swing a leg over your saddle, kick over the engine and head north on 89-A.
We're heading to Flagstaff. If you've only stopped to load your saddlebags with beer and haven't
sat down for a meal yet, you likely have five or six hours in the saddle by now, and you may be
worried about your beer getting warm. The best thing about this road trip, though, is as you wind
your way up through the scenic Oak Creek Canyon and the temperature drops; your beer will cool off
again. As you enter Flagstaff, 89-A runs into I-17, which becomes Milton Drive, which runs into Old
Highway 66 West/B-40. It may sound confusing, but if you keep following the road you'll be okay.
B-40 bends about 90 degrees and heads somewhat southeast. Two blocks after the turn, you'll run
into Beaver Street. Turn right, cross the train tracks, and within a block or two you'll find the
Beaver Street Brewery (11 S. Beaver St. #1, www.beaverstreetbrewery.com) on the right. The Beaver
Street Brewery makes wonderful wood fired pizzas, and offers a number of finely crafted beers.
This is the last stop on our tour, so you might want to relax awhile before heading home. If you're
a little weary, have them pour you a double black espresso, which is essentially a bitter shot of
black, liquid caffeine; not bad after eight hours in the saddle. If you're in no hurry to get home
you can wind your way back the way you came, but I usually opt for the quick run, down I-17 back to
Phoenix. After all, I have all that beer in my saddlebags, and I'm anxious to start pouring.
Ride safe, ride often...hell, just ride! - dpc