A Brew to a Thrill

Sentinel Peak’s IceBreak IPA, Desert Blonde,
Salida Del Sol Amber and Dew Point Dunkel.
Tri Tip Barbecue (foreground) and Mac & Cheese
(back) are available on their menu.

Some of Borderlands Brewing Co’s beers include Front row:
Prickly Pear Wheat, Noche Dulce Porter and Hawk King Hazy IPA.
Back row: Amber Trails. Food options include Ham & Cheese
from the 4th Ave Deli and Daniela’s Chips & Salsa.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip is served with tortilla
chips at Barrio Brewing Co.

The beverage lineup at Gentle Ben’s Brewing Co.
includes Nolan’s Porter, Tucson Blonde and Barrio Rojo. 

A Brew to a Thrill

Looking to slake your thirst with a locally brewed beer or ale, and have a nosh at the same time? These four spots offer just what you need!

By Sarah Burton
Photography by Thomas Veneklasen
Photo Assistant: Nouhoum Samake 

Sentinel Peak Brewing Company

What began as firefighter friends trying their hand at brewing beer for fun is now a popular midtown draw for both handcrafted beers as well as pub food. Matt Gordon, Jeremy Hilderbrand and Taylor Carter — all still full-time firemen — opened Sentinel Peak in 2014. “It started as a hobby, and we had this crazy idea that we had a really great product and could open a brewery,” says Carter. “We were all so sleep deprived we decided to go ahead with the adventure.”

Their flagship brews include their first creation, a German-style Dewpoint Dunkel, as well as the now quite popular Salida del Sol Amber; the Icebreak IPA; 1811 Desert Blonde; and Heatwave Hefeweizen. You can always find 3 or 4 of the 20 different varieties of beer on rotation on tap. “We don’t do anything crazy,” Carter points out. “It’s just good beer that people like — we’re not trying to create some new style or get too complicated.”

Having first opened with just a small kitchen powered by themselves and their wives, Sentinel Peak now has 30 employees, with a full kitchen and waitstaff. The menu boasts barbecue from their large on-site smoker (also used for their catering company, Rusty Truck BBQ), such as pulled pork, tri tip and ribs. Also on the menu are sliders, street tacos and wings, along with loaded sandwiches and salads, and even some pretty inspired mac and cheese. “The menu started with unique items we really liked plus foods we’d made at the firehouse, and progressed from there,” Carter shares.

Now with their popularity growing they find themselves looking for larger brewing operations. This led to plans for a new venture downtown, Voltron Brewing Company, to open this fall as a co-op with Borderlands Brewing Company.

4746 E. Grant Rd., (520) 777-9456, sentinelpeakbrewing.com

Borderlands Brewing Co.

Situated in a historic exposed-brick building in downtown’s Warehouse Arts District, Borderlands serves up brews made with local ingredients. Owners Mike Mallozzi and Myles Stone started out as college friends — Mallozzi holds a Ph.D. in microbiology, while Stone is a medical student at UA. “Having been avid home brewers for many years, we opened Borderlands in 2011,” Stone says.

“From the beginning we’ve incorporated local ingredients in our beers, following the techniques introduced to the region by German settlers in the 1800s,” shares Mallozzi. “Our recipes are inspired by the community around us, and are well suited for 110-degree desert afternoons.”

Some of their most popular brews include the aptly named Noche Dulce, a porter made with Mexican vanilla, and a hazy New England-style IPA named Toole Ave. Other offerings include Prickly Pear Wheat, Santa Rita (an amber ale), La Morena (brown ale), and German Chocolate Cake (porter) — among many others from the rotating offerings on tap.

Borderlands has a decidedly warm and communal feel accentuated by local art, warehouse vibe, and picnic-style tables both inside and out. And in that vein of relaxed atmosphere, rather than their own kitchen and menu, you can usually find one of the many local food trucks parked on their patio. Some regular visitors include Blacktop Grill, Fat Noodle, and American Asian — and if one happens not to be onsite, they offer chips and salsa, as well as sandwiches from nearby 4th Ave Deli.

Music is another major contributing factor to the laidback feel at Borderlands. “Every Sunday Kevin Pakulis and Friends have a packed house for our Sunday Sessions. It’s just great music for the soul,” Stone adds. “We try to feature great artists who play good beer-drinking music, as well as guest speakers to contribute to our goal of creating an atmosphere
of community.”

119 E. Toole Ave., (520) 261-8773, borderlandsbrewing.com

Barrio Brewing Co.

Fact: Barrio Brewing may have opened in its current spot in the eclectic warehouse area at Toole Ave. and 16th St. in 2006, but it is the longest continually brewed beer in Arizona. How’s that, you ask? Owners Dennis and Tauna Arnold first began operating Barrio Brewing in 1991 out of their previous restaurant you may just recognize: Gentle Ben’s. They started with just three ales, but by 2005 had outgrown their location, and moved to the larger space just east of downtown they run today, and the rest is history.

“We brew 12 locally made beers, with four rotational for specialty or seasonal options,” says General Manager Brennen Young. These specialty brews include some inventive flavors, like the Ginned Up Blonde, aged in gin barrels from Tucson-based Independent Distillery; or Rae’s Ruby Red IPA made with all-natural grapefruit juice. “Rae’s Ruby Red was originally brewed in 2014 as a seasonal, but after winning the title of Best Specialty at Hotel Congress’ 2015 Borne and Brewed event, we decided to continuously brew it,” Young says.

Menu offerings at Barrio Brewing have a bit of something for everyone, or as Young called it, Tucson-style pub fare. Favorites are the Diane Burger, with sautéed mushrooms and onions, and the Lizzy salad topped with chicken, bacon, and Gorgonzola. You’ll also find paninis and sandwiches like Philly Cheese Steak, pulled pork, and a French dip. And of course it wouldn’t be Tucson without ensuring a place for tacos and quesadillas.
With two Great American Beer Fest winners under their belts, and a special letter of appreciation from the mayor for 25 years of continuous brewing, it only makes sense that you can find Barrio’s beers on market and grocery shelves across Arizona. But don’t expect them to cross state lines. Young points out Barrio is proud of keeping it in the Old Pueblo. “As our new logo says, we’re local, independent, native — and we want to keep it that way.”

800 E. 16th St., (520) 791-2739, barriobrewing.com

Gentle Ben’s Brewing Co.

As a longtime mainstay in UA’s bustling Main Gate Square area, Gentle Ben’s has been serving the area since 1971. It originally was located where the University Marriott is now, moving over to the current location in 1996. In 1991 Gentle Ben’s became a brewery, the only one of its kind in Tucson, but moved brewing operations offsite to Barrio Brewing when they needed more space.

Today, although the brewery is no longer onsite, Gentle Ben’s continues offering those locally made favorites from Barrio Brewing. New owner Richard Fifer points out that the favorite brew for this crowd likely differs from the craft-beer enthusiasts and Barrio Brewing fans. “The top seller is definitely the Barrio Blonde. It’s easy to drink and so is more of a beginner beer, or the intro to craft beers.”

And situated right in the middle of the action and foot traffic of UA, the upper deck is an exceptionally great spot to people watch with a cold beer. “Our patio is the best spot, where everyone wants to sit out and relax,” Fifer says. His focus is on maintaining that friendly and fun atmosphere, whether that’s before a Wildcat game, between classes, or a leisurely lunch alfresco. 

The menu includes favorites in both Mexican and American fare, including burgers, nachos, salads, tacos and carne asada. Chocolate chip cookie fans should make sure to save room for one of Gentle Ben’s giant homemade Pazookies. 

865 E. University Blvd., (520) 624-4177, gentlebens.com