Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company’s patrons will get a feel for the Arizona landscape upon first sip.
Everything they do embodies what they are all about—handcrafting the best beers that reflect aspects of their natural surroundings. Ideas are hatched in the wild; ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible and beers are named after Arizona landmarks.
You’re just as likely to find the owners, Jonathan Buford and Patrick Ware, hiking and camping in the Arizona wild as you are to see them in the brewpub. They invent, they gather new ingredients and create a vision. It’s the way they do things at Arizona Wilderness.
Head brewer Chase Saraiva explains why he sources fruit locally, rather than buying much cheaper, already processed products.
“Anyone can purchase pre-processed fruit and use it to brew with,” Saraiva says, “To us, it’s important to have a relationship with the farmer who grew the fruit. By having the fruit, we can use it however we choose, giving us more control over the entire process.
“We may decide to use the fruit’s juice in the boil of a beer and then later zest the rind of the fruit to get the maximize output from that particular fruit. By doing it ourselves we do it in the freshest way possible.”
Using locally sourced ingredients is a mantra of Arizona Wilderness. Recently, they produced a blackberry sour ale known as Muir’s Mure for which blackberries were foraged from Frank Geminden’s farm in Camp Verde.
Blood oranges from Queen Creek’s Steadfast Farms were used for the company’s Blood Orange Gose, as was salt from Hayden Flour mills. The brewers had their work cut out for them, peeling 300 pounds of oranges and juicing them, before steeping the peels to capture the essential oils.
Arizona Wilderness is creative, too. Last year, they decided to brew with Arizona’s naturally occurring microflora. The project started by brewing wort (the precursor to beer) in the brewery, then transporting it to Flagstaff, where they allowed the naturally occurring microflora of Arizona’s wilderness to inoculate the beer.
Using open vessels known as coolships, the beer was exposed to the elements and allowed any fermentable microorganisms to enter the cooled wort to start fermentation.
“This beer is a work in progress,” Saraiva says. “It will tell us when it’s finished. It is one of two naturally fermenting beers we have aging and may eventually be part of a blend, similar to the way the fine Belgian brewers blend their lambics.
“This beer will exude the essence of Arizona when it is complete.”
Arizona Wilderness’ owners and brewers invited more than 20 of the world’s most creative and innovative brewers to be part of the project. The brewers camped out, giving them the opportunity to get to know each other and share their knowledge. By taking the lead in this adventure, Arizona Wilderness solidified its reputation in the brewing community as leaders and innovators.
Arizona Wilderness is always trying new things and building new partnerships. Last summer, their Connection Saison became a groundbreaking beer. Working with The Nature Conservancy, they created a beer that not only showcased locally grown barley and hops, but under the organization’s direction used a strain of barley created to require much less water. This was a win for barley growers in dry Arizona as well as the Verde River, which required less of its resources to water the crops.
Giving back is another one of Arizona Wilderness’ modus operandi. When they created the Blood Orange Gose, it partnered with the MS Society and invited management to help create the brew. Once the beer was ready to be served, Arizona Wilderness donated 25 percent of one day’s sales to the MS Society.
But Arizona Wilderness doesn’t just stick with Arizona. They have collaborated with breweries worldwide. As a result, the beers are as exciting as the breweries which with they collaborate. Once, they joined Logan Plant, owner of the English brewery Beavertown and the son of Robert Plant.
With creativity being the directive at Wilderness, Saraiva recently led a brew, known as a gruit, that uses no hops. Instead, it utilizes plants like lavender, rosemary, basil, sage, thyme and pine on the patio to bitter the beer. The as-of-yet-unnamed beer will be strong, coming in at over 9 percent alcohol.
Much of the creative spark occurs when owner Buford and Ware are on one of their frequent hikes or camping trips. Buford is an exceptional photographer, with many of his photographs equal in quality to his stellar beers. Buford’s photos run on continuous loop in the brewery so patrons can experience the Arizona Wilderness while they enjoy beers that have been produced from it. In nature is where many of Buford’s great ideas occur to him and by embracing the very essence of the Arizona Wilderness, Buford has been able to bring his vision for his brewery to life daily.
Arizona Wilderness, 721 N. Arizona Avenue, Suite 103, Gilbert, 480.284.9863, azwbeer.com.