Jul 22, 2018

Tempting Tempe

May, 1999

By Bobby Bush

Sorry, the title’s a little misleading. Before this Arizona trip heads toward Tempe, we have one more Phoenix area brewpub to visit. Check last week’s column if you missed the preamble.

Cougan’s Brewery & Grill is found, since opening in May 1997, in the suburban community of Glendale in Arrowhead Town Center. Owned by the same folks who bring us Hops! Bistro & Brewery, this strip mall brewpub, structured of brick and glass with a polished wood island bar and two outdoor patios, offered eight brews. Beginning at my favorite starting point, the IPA made a sharp hop presentation at 5% alcohol by weight. A Dry Stout, though thin in mouthfeel, sported proper harshness and a somewhat rigorous malt kick. Always in a rush and never able to consume as much as I’d like, I skipped over the Hefeweizen, Blonde, Golden and Amber Ales. Thankfully a Blackberry Ale was unavailable and an Oktoberfest, it being an ale instead of traditional lager, was unappealing, so I passed.

Head brewer Daniel Rothman’s strongest ale was his most succulent. Amidst the rabble of a late night crowd entertained by themselves and tasty looking pizzas, the powerful Barleywine demanded complete attention. From its sweet start to long bitter finish, this golden red elixir was all flavor, albeit complex. The anticipated stinging effect of its ethanol power was well hidden. Alas, the night waxed late and I had a date with my hotel room bed.

After a lengthy business session, our group, being two by now, picked up a third and headed to the Arizona State college town of Tempe, just a short drive southwest of Phoenix. We found, after much navigational confusion, the other Uptown Brewery and Restaurant. Open since September 1997, it precedes its Scottsdale sister by about a year. This busy brewpub had ten beers on tap at its cramped U-shape bar. A vivacious, cute bartendress tempted us with Central Park Pale Ale, Uptown Blonde, Wall Street Wheat, Manhattan Mild and Bavarian Hefe. Instead we chose to begin with more hefty selections on this mid-Sunday afternoon. New York’s “Big Apple” Red was smartly hopped for an amber-type brew. Divine Brown was surely that, American-style with hop twang in the middle. Park Avenue Porter, chocolate and smooth, had to suffice for the unavailable Skyline Stout.

Somewhere midst this laid back tasting session, head brewer Mike Gibson appeared. Schooled at American Brewers Guild in Davis, CA, Gibson brews at both Uptowns. He’s found Scottsdale patrons to be more adventuresome than Tempe’s college-oriented customers and had to transfer his ten-months old Barleywine north to match customer preference. We bid adieu and headed to another Tempe establishment.

More of a micro with a tasting bar than a brewpub, Four Peaks Brewing Company has been hard at it since April 1997. Packed into the end of a warehouse, which formerly served as Borden’s Creamery, was a long, sterile bar and a display case of Elvis memorabilia. Outside, patrons set at tables munching on selections from a short menu as enticing as nachos and nachos with cheese. No jelly do-nuts, but the King would have been right at home.

Unsurprisingly amidst the somewhat rustic, unkempt surroundings, Four Peaks’ beers proved similar in effect. After hailing the harried bartender, we settled on a moderately hoppy but flavorless 8th Street Ale. Raj IPA wafted a pleasant hops nose but was marred by nasty bitter aftertaste. An Oatmeal Stout, the best of those we dared try, was full of chocolate and roasted malt flavor foretold by hop aroma. Most unusual was a 1998 GABF gold medal winning, in the specialty beer category, Blind Date Ale, brewed with a sugary date extract. Even losers get lucky sometime. Sorry, but we were not impressed with facility, service or beer.

Nothing left to do but move on. We’ll continue this twelve brewpub Arizona journey. Hang on, there’s more on the way. See Touring Tempe.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush


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