Saturday, June 23, 2012
There are few places on Earth where beer should be relegated to being a minor footnote on a trip. The Grand Canyon is one of them.
Still, during a recent family vacation, I could find just enough well-made beers to pair well with the grandiose sight of the canyon at sunset (a pairing which you really are allowed to enjoy). And here's a quick guide to grand beer in the Grand Canyon.
* The general store in the canyon has a great selection of beer. From the rich, grassy Lumberyard IPA to sweet Four Peaks Kilt Lifter (being enjoyed above by the Beer Geekette) to the subtle but citrus-y Prescott IPA, it has a wide variety of Arizona beer, especially - and you can mash up your own six-pack. Throw it in your backpack and enjoy it while watching the sun dip over Hopi Point. Seriously.
* Each of the park's restaurants stocks beer by Grand Canyon Brewing, from the nearby town of Williams. The amber ale, pilsner and Starry Night Stout won't knock your socks off by any means, as they are stylistically unchallenging and appear to be made to please large crowds. But they're not bad beers either. And, somehow, it just feels right to drink Grand Canyon beer in ... well, you know where. (It is worth warning, however, that the service at the restaurants was terrible - some of the slowest and least customer-focused that I've ever experienced on a trip.)
* Flagstaff is the nearest major town to the canyon, about 90 minutes away. And there are five breweries in town. Beaver Street Brewery is the dean of the group, and it serves up relatively familiar styles in very well-done ways. The Lumberyard Raspberry is malty to the point where it has a chocolate hint, leaving the strong fruit flavor intriguing rather than cloying. And the R&R Oatmeal Stout has a light- to medium body with a surprisingly strong coffee palate.
* If you fly in, there's only one way out - through the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport. And you'll be pleased to know that the Blu Moon Cafe there has no less than five taps of Arizona beer. (You can't miss it; it's literally the only watering hole/restaurant in the airport.) Flagstaff specialties mingle with Phoenix- and Sedona-brewed creations. Try the Oak Creek Pale Ale, which is very aromatic and hop-heavy for its style.