CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Two Pubs at Phoenix Airport

Previous Pint Pleasures - February 26, 2017

guinness eileen

Cowboy Ciao, Near Gate B20, Terminal 4, Phoenix Skyview Airport, Phoenix, Arizona

guinness eileen

Four Peaks Brewing Company, Near Gate A20, Terminal 4, Phoenix Skyview Airport, Phoenix, Arizona

When I flew to California last September, I had discovered I could bypass the usual LAX traffic-and-logistics horror by flying into the wonderfully charming and convenient Long Beach Airport – convenient, obviously, because my destination was Long Beach. To accomplish this triple booking feat required one extra flight passing through Phoenix, Arizona.

My only experience with the Southwestern state of Arizona was when I was a young adult and rode twice, by car and then by train, through the north of the state via Flagstaff. I recall the area being up on a plateau, fairly mountanous and surrounded by Ponderosa pine forests, and from the winter train I saw a lot of snow. This was far away from Phoenix, which is located nearly 200 miles to the south in the Sonoran Desert. As opposed to a snowy place Phoenix is famously very hot in the summertime. Air conditioning is mandatory there: I remember my friend Roger, who’d moved to Phoenix from California, describing how he had to wear gloves to drive because the steering wheel would be so hot it would burn his hands. At that time, although I did a lot of travelling, I had no desire to ever visit Phoenix. .

But that was then. The capital and most populous city of the state of Arizona, Phoenix has the distinction of being the only US state capital with a population of more than a million residents. The metropolitan area is called, not surprisingly, the Valley of the Sun. Starting in 1867 as an agricultural community growing such crops as alfalfa, cotton, citrus, and hay, it became a city in 1881. In 1928 J Parker Van Zant opened the one-runway Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport in a rural location of the city which he eventually sold to the Acme Investment Company when he went bankrupt. In 1935 the city bought the airport for $100,000, and today it’s one of the largest commercial airports in the country. After some careful research I’ve discovered that to this day nobody really knows why Van Zant named his airport Sky Harbor.

When I flew into Phoenix on my way from England to California it was late afternoon, the sky was clear, and I’d never seen so many stars in the sky since I was very young and camping at Convict Lake in the Sierras. And although Phoenix is a bit of a desert it seems to be in a bowl surrounded by mountains visible on the distant horizon. It was a surprisingly mesmerizing sight.

When I got into the airport I experienced a bit of a trauma when, after having been awake for 25 hours, I discovered my bag had not been checked from Manchester all the way through to Long Beach. To make a long story short, after stressing out and blowing up and being humiliated and various other negative experiences, I managed to find the check-in desk -- thanks to the guidance of one of the airport helpers – and I got my bag checked through to Long Beach. After that I found my departure gate and decided I really needed a drink.

Fortunately there was a bar directly next to the gate called Cowboy Ciao, which sounded all rigiht to me: a bit of the old West with an Italian touch. Strangely enough, on scanning the food menu, there were no Italian dishes aside from a couple of breads, and probably a lot more scallop and prawn dishes than your average cowboy would have chowed down on.

Needless to say I’d only stopped for a pint. As I had twenty minutes before boarding I quickly grabbed a seat at the bar and ordered an appropriately themed American pint of Tailchaser IPA (7.5% ABV, Sleepy Dog Brewing Company, Tempe, Arizona). This little canine of a beer was zippily bitter and definitely soothing to my stretched nerves. As I was madly gulping my beer I noticed my iPhone hadn’t updated its time to Arizona time, which added just a bit more surrealism to the already surreal evening. I couldn’t help noticing that most of the passengers sitting at my gate were eating snacks with their mouths flapping like Kermit the Frog. But then again it was British Summer Time to me, so I could have simply been hallucinating a bit.

On my trip from Long Beach back to England I had a five-and-a-half-hour layover in Phoenix, so I had plenty of time to kill before the long flight across the Pond to Heathrow. After having a coffee and a quesadilla for lunch I learned from another of the airport helpers that all four concourses of Terminal 4 are connected in a mile-long rectangle that lies inside Security, allowing flyers to get some exercise by walking around the circumference of the terminal. As I had debarked and would be leaving again from one of the B gates, I decided to take the long way around to get to the A gates where the airport’s only brewpub was located. So I took off clockwise, passing through the C gates and the D gates until I got to the A gates. The views out the windows were stunning, and I kept having to stop and photograph the multicoloured mountains rising all around the horizon. At one point, to my consternation I noticed a large sign on an airport building which announced Barry Goldwater Terminal 4. Appalled by this rather sickening sight I soldiered on to find my destination in the A Concourse, the Four Peaks Brewing Company.

Four Peaks started brewing in 1996 in Tempe, Arizona in a late 19th-century building that was originally an ice factory and later housed a dairy creamery and then a recording studio. Named after the Four Peaks Monument, part of the Mazatzal Mountains in the Tonto National Forest which are prominent on the eastern skyline of Phoenix (hence the mountains I was seeing), the brewery now has four pubs including two in Tempe, one in Scottsdale, and this one at the airport. As is my custom, especially with American pubs, I took a seat at the bar so I could converse with the bartender. I decided on an Imperial pint of Hop Knot American IPA (6.78% ABV), brewed with five hops. The menu announced that the beer has 47 IBUS and an SRM equal to 8. I was familiar with international bitter units, but what was SRM? I learned later that it relates to the colour of the malt. Checking a chart it appears that 8 indicates a midrange amber. You learn something new every day...

To me the beer was more of a golden in colour. The hops were very complicated with suggestions of pine and citrus, and it was quite enjoyable. As I lolled over my pint for as long as I could, I chatted with the bartender and a a succession of two men sitting next to me about the brewery. As I was sipping my pint I suddenly received a WhatsApp video call from Kim and my mother in Long Beach who were rolling around on the sofa hoisting bottles of beer and laughing. Unfortunately I couldn’t hear a word they were saying, and the visual was mostly close-ups of Kim’s ear because he was having trouble hearing what I was saying as well. Ah well, such is the fun and amusement of travelling.

I’m sad to say this is my final column from my 2016 American trip. Oh well, just means I need to get over there again this year. Meanwhile stay tuned for more British pubs.