Keith Shanks and wife, Patty Gii, opened Rott n’ Grapes Wine & Beer Bar in 2016 on Central Avenue, south of Camelback Road, on the ground floor of the Landmark Towers high rise.
The neighborhood spot serves a wide variety of wines, light bites and a lot of craft beer. We sat down with Shanks to learn his story and how he came to be part of the local and national beer scene.
How did you get your start in craft beer?
A Texas native, I didn’t get my start in craft beer until relatively recently. I served in the military as a naval officer for 15 years, and then spent the bulk of the past 15 years in health care finance, where I still do some consulting. I moved to Arizona about 12 years ago, and really just about six years ago, my wife and I found ourselves constantly walking into bars and saying “Hey, we should do this.” We spend copious amounts of time researching, which gave us a quick education on all things local, regional and even international on the craft beer scene. In October 2016, we made the move to open our own place, with the goal of exposing people to the best in craft beer and wine, all the while experimenting with it ourselves.
The journey has been an exhilarating one. So much so, we are planning to expand to a second location this summer. The new location, Rott n’ Grapes Bistro, will be located in the historic Gold Spot Building on the corner of West Roosevelt Street and North Third Avenue. The storefront faces North Third Avenue and sits on the northern most retail space in the building – neighboring Pita Jungle, Lola Coffee Bar, Salon RO5 and The Painters Lounge. It will have a dog-friendly patio and eclectic basement lounge as well as an expanded menu, including brunch on the weekends, lunch and dinner serving up bruschetta, flat bread pizzas, panini sandwiches, an array of salads and main entrees. Oh and 200-plus wines and craft beers.
What do you think makes craft beer special?
Until recently, so many of us were only ever exposed to traditional domestic offerings – at bars, on TV in advertisements. Then, like an explosion and perhaps thanks to culinary and wine scenes growing in popularity, not to mention social media as a means of sharing in a new and different way, craft beer came along. With the movement came creativity, characters and a world all its own – one that is constantly evolving and always supportive of each other. Every month at our bar, Patty and I taste the newest brews for consideration on our menu, and we have yet to not be blown away, often saying, “What will they think of next?” and somehow always being surprised that next month.
Tell us about some of the local breweries doing it right?
We are huge fans of Helton, both of their beers and their ownership. Founder, brewmaster, and Certified Cicerone Brian Helton has won multiple World Beer Cup Awards and Great American Beer Festival Awards, and it shows.
We are also really into Borderlands Brewing Company in Tucson, a small microbrewery big on sustainability. And, of course, we love O.H.S.O.
Tell us about craft beer at Rott n’ Grapes?
We carry 70-plus craft beers that are sought after and relative to our community of patrons – including styles of ales, lagers, Belgians, stouts, porters, ciders, sours and alternative brews. We rotate beers often, bringing in five to eight new beers per month. Right now, we have beer representing 17 states as well as varietals from four international breweries. And our best sellers are Great Divide’s Colette; Firestone 805; Huss Koffee Kolsch; O.H.S.O. BOOM!; and Helton Pilsner.
What are your favorite beers at the moment?
I love all the local options, but a sneaky good one to taste – the 2017 Sam Adams Utopias. This is only the 10th time they’ve done this beer in their history, and it is among the craft beer community’s most renowned and sought-after extreme barrel-aged beer. Brewing, blending and aging Utopias is a multistep, time-intensive and complex process. The brewers utilized several yeast strains during fermentation, including one typically reserved for champagne and a “ninja yeast,” created for its ability to survive and continue fermenting in an environment that has such a high alcohol level. At 28 percent ABV, the brew is reminiscent of a rich vintage Port, old Cognac or fine Sherry.
Rott n’ Grapes, 4750 N. Central Avenue, Suite 140, Phoenix, 602.888.1667, rottngrapes.com.