Archive for: July 2014

World of Beer in Tucson Worthy of Second Chance

WOBTucson3

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

The Will Rogers quote is nearly 100 years old yet still rings true today. The old west actor, author, political pundit and quote-smith was wise beyond his years and his words still resonate in this old west town looking to move into the next generation.

Downtown Tucson is in the midst of a renaissance. The modern streetcar is rumbling along Congress St. while I sit in a coffee joint sipping on Blue Bottle coffee, the only place where it is available in Arizona. The world-renowned Pizzeria Bianco just opened up across the street and the World of Beer has been offering up its 500 beers, including 50 on tap since Halloween of 2013.

Like any business, there is going to be hiccups, staff turnover and complaints.

Unfortunately, for World of Beer in Tucson, it was tragic when they took to social media to “call out” a bad review on Yelp. It was a meltdown on par with Amy & Samy Bouzaglo of Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale of how not to use social media for business.

Without rehashing the entire tirade, it is safe to say that World of Beer has learned its lesson, restaffed the place from the top down and has gone back to focusing on what it does best—beer, and lots of it.

The burgeoning craft beer scene is evident in southern Arizona with so many new restaurants, bars, bottle shops and breweries offering the best of the local and hard to find beers. The Tucson bar is the second of three locations in Arizona and the 52nd nationwide, but is one of the first to venture into offering food and spirits.

WOB Cooler

The Import Only Cooler

I have been to the Tempe location on several occasions and had no problem calling and ordering any of the nearby restaurants to deliver food. The problem with a company so specialized in beer is that the kitchen and tavern fare was and still remains to be sub-standard, save for the pretzels.

The World of Beer is making strides to regain its legitimacy within the community to include giving away 10 stainless steel Arizona Craft Brewers Guild growlers (filled with Arizona beer) to celebrate the new growler law.

They have partnered with the Tucson Police Officer’s Association to present the inaugural Hog Roast & Beer Toast 2014 in August with all proceeds going to Kids and Cops Christmas.

There are great events happening weekly at World of Beer, the old staff is gone, the new management is top notch with former managers, Johnny Ward and Will Phillips from Old Chicago taking charge and whipping the place back into shape just in time for the return of college students.

“We are striving to make service a priority,” General manager Ward told me. “We are looking to rise above the hubris and welcome everybody back to World of Beer to see how much we’ve changed and how un-corporate we really are.”

The new WOB welcomes not only college students but also those looking for some of the best and more obscure beers in the state. They also offer an amazing weekday happy hour with $1 off all draught beers from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Weekly specials include 25 percent off select draught beer on Monday night for service industry employees and 25 percent off all bottles on Tuesdays for loyalty card holders. Wednesday is WOB U night offering $2 off select draught beers for students with an ID card from any school and Thursday night is ladies’ night with $2 off select draught and wine.

Beer Beauties Abound

Beer Beauties Abound

Long gone are the days of  catering to the “bro” audience, they have adapted and are reaching out to every demographic. Recently, they hosted the G3 Gay Happy Hour with Gio Taco to rave reviews.

Sarah Ritchie, Co-Founder of Tucson Girls’ Pint Out has organized a Beer Geek Trivia Night on Wednesday with some special beers from the cellar as well as beer-themed trivia.

I like the new World of Beer, I brought an out-of-town friend there because we heard that they had his “White Whale” beer, the Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA. We were greeted quickly, served immediately and even purchased some beer to-go. Great beer selection, quick and friendly service from knowledgeable servers and a fun atmosphere.

But don’t just take this humble writers’ opinion, Tucson Elite Yelper, Chloe O. who has been around Tucson for a while had this to say about World of Beer last month:

I don’t know why all my friends have been telling me this place is “sooooo horrible”.

I liked pretty much everything about this place: the atmosphere, selection of beer and food, the music that was playing, the friendly bartender, and the location.

I also liked that the crowed was so eclectic. There were college kids, young married couples (my husband and me), older folks, and everyone in between!

There was a good crowd, but still plenty of places to sit (my husband says that on weekends it can get so crowded, you can’t find a seat).

Overall, this is a fun, casual, and lively place to grab a beer or ten. 😀

A Full Section for just Arizona Beers

A Full Section for Arizona Beers

Another Tucson Elite Yelper, Natasha C. also had high praise for the new World of Beer…posted last month:

We had somewhat of an eclectic crowd and everyone in our party of 8 was happy!

We had an amazing waitress, she was attentive, sweet, and had the funniest stories!  Thursday is karaoke night and that is always fun with friends.

They serve food late and their beer selection is amazing!

Thank you WOB, we came to have a good time with friends and celebrate and we did exactly that with no complaints!

After a bumpy start, the new World of Beer has come into its’ own and the great Will Rogers said it best.

“Rumor travels faster, but it don’t stay put as long as the truth.”

SanTan Brewing Travels to Tucson for Dinner

core santan

When you think of Tucson, several things come to mind…depending on where you live.

For most Tucsonans, they think of mountains, bicycling and the rodeo. An onslaught of new bars and restaurants have invaded downtown from other cities in the state.

Hi-Fi Kitchen & Cocktails comes to us from Scottsdale, Diablo Burger from Flagstaff and coming next week, nationally acclaimed Pizzeria Bianco will be opening its doors to pizza lovers in the Old Pueblo. Short of The Buffet being named ‘Best Dive Bar in the Country’ by Esquire, the Tucson food and beverage scene is not tripping the light fantastic. Chris Bianco’s downtown Phoenix location has been named ‘Best Pizza in the Country’ by venerable publications Bon Appetit andVogue as well as celeb-chefs Rachael Ray and Andrew Zimmern.

Dragoon Brewing Tasting Room

Dragoon Brewing Tasting Room

The craft beer movement that is sweeping the country is also exploding in Tucson. For the longest time, Tucson was a three brewery town with Nimbus, Thunder Canyon and Barrio Brewing reaping all the local love.

Within the past three years, many more have started popping up, beginning with Dragoon on the west side, Borderlands downtown, Ten Fifty-Five practically next door to Nimbus and Sentinel Peak in midtown.

With the influx of such incredible beer being brewed locally, it would seem that some of the state’s larger breweries would be losing traction in town.

That would be a glaringly incorrect observation.

SanTan Brewing out of Chandler has been making a big push in Tucson with its myriad beer selections available nearly everywhere you look.

Beer dinners have been hugely popular recently, pairing craft beer with hand-crafted food by local chefs citywide. The latest beer dinner to hit the Tucson dining scene will be a partnership between SanTan Brewing and the specialty department at Whole Foods’ River Road location.

The e. River Bar has long been a favorite watering hole for my friends and me, they have a large selection of local beers on draft and a wide selection of bottles to purchase along with some of the best charcuterie in town.

10492502_654205918004027_6661682046953988296_nThis sounds like a no-brainer win-win situation for foodies and craft beer aficionados alike.

The dinner will consist of slow-cooked short ribs in a Sonoran honey glaze with cheddar polenta and fried green tomatoes to go along with SanTan’s Epicenter Amber Ale. At 5.5% ABV and a low IBU count of 20, the ale is an easy-drinking beer that serves as a gateway to other craft beers.

The toasted malt character and crisp finish is a delight for even the most staunch beer snobs as evidenced by its 2012 gold medal in the US Open Beer Championship.

For dessert, participants will be served fresh, seasonal blueberry pie topped with a meringue and served with the summer favorite, Mr. Pineapple wheat beer.  This wheat beer has natural pineapple juice in the radler style, Mr. Pineapple is a light and refreshing beer to enjoy during the hot Arizona summer.

DETAILS

WHEN: Thursday, July 24 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: Whole Foods River Rd. 5555 E. River Road

COST: $35 per person/$60 per couple

CONTACT: Jason Hoffman (520) 461-1300 x. 230

Legendary Frank Kush Field Remains a Place of Reverence and Mystique

 

Kush StatueI remember like it was yesterday. It was a Friday, just a few weeks into another school year at Arizona State. I woke up around 10, threw on my school uniform which consisted of a t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, hat and dark sunglasses and headed to the MU to grab some grub before class.

The campus was abuzz as the football team was hosting the two-time defending National Champion Nebraska Cornhuskers and with typical aloof, even the most die-hard fans knew that we had no chance on the gridiron come Saturday.

The Devils were blown out in Lincoln the year before to the tune of 77 points and the Huskers’ most recent national championship came here in Tempe against a previously undefeated Florida Gators team.

The Huskers had won 37 straight regular season games coming into the matchup, but the Arizona State administration had the equalizer. On September 21, 1996, on the morning of the big game, the field was named in honor of Frank Kush the legendary Sun Devil coach.

ASU FANS TEAR GOAL POST DOWN

The goalposts didn’t stand a chance.

On Frank Kush Night, a statue was unveiled of the field general with 200 of his ex-players in attendance. Over 74,000 Sun Devil faithful were in attendance for the upset of the decade. 

The Devils shut-out the Huskers for the first time in 23 years and did it on offense and defense with a record three safeties.

The House of Heat earned its name that night not only due to its 91-degree weather at kickoff but also by how Jake Plummer, Derrick Rodgers and Keith Poole torched the team that hadn’t lost a game in over two seasons.

With all the discussion about the new stadium renovation, it’s the field that deserves all the glory.

Frank Kush Field and it’s natural surface of hybrid Bermuda grass is truly hallowed ground and the tradition of that began on that hot September evening will carry on through this renovation and many more to come.

The stadium and field has seen it all, from the shocking upset in 1996 to the largest seated crowd in 1999, when 80,470 fans saw the University of Tennessee defeat Florida State University 23-16 in the stadium’s first of two NCAA National Championships. It was also home to Super Bowl XXX in 1996 and played emergency home for the San Diego Chargers in 2003 when the Chargers hosted the Miami Dolphins for Monday Night Football.

Hollywood, the Vatican and the leader of the free world have also made their stops to Tempe to visit the legendary Frank Kush field and while the Pope and the President’s visits were cool, I think Cuba Gooding, Jr. said it best in Jerry Maguire.

“I went to Arizona State, I’m a Sun Devil, man!”

Kush Field

Sun Devil Football Figures are Truly One of a Kind

 

Jake FigureMarion Grice has his own Sun Devil football figure, decked out in his Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl uniform to commemorate his Offensive MVP award. Terry Richardson has one in production and Andrew Walter, the program’s leading passer in total yards and touchdowns will auction off two of his own in his Congressional race this fall.

These completely original, handcrafted figures, however, are not just for former athletes; they can be ordered by anybody who bleeds maroon and gold. That is if they don’t mind waiting a bit to see their order completed.

Dave Smith, founder of Cardboard Sun Devils, has a Facebook page showcasing his work and potential clients can add their name to the waiting list and get in contact with Smith via his page.

Marion Grice

Marion Grice

Smith, who grew up in the Valley is the product of two Arizona State athletes. His father played baseball and his mother was named conference female athlete of the year for her performances in gymnastics and track.

After graduating from Cactus Shadows High School, Smith enrolled at the school where he had been watching football games since before he was able to walk. Seven years ago he moved to Tulsa, Okla., where he works in the aerospace industry.

An avid collector of Arizona State memorabilia, Smith stumbled into the business of designing figures after seeing a customized Pat Tillman figure a little over five years ago.

“My brother Mike sent me a link to an eBay auction. It was originally a mass produced figure of another player in an NFL uniform, and someone had taken the time to turn it into the former ASU legend,” Smith said. “As cool as this was, the quality of work wasn’t that great, and they wanted way too much money for it. I then forgot about it.”

Last year, Smith saw more auctions that were offering custom figures and decided to commission a highly-reviewed artist to create two legendary Arizona State signal callers, Jake Plummer and Andrew Walter.

“When I received them, I was disappointed. I felt like this artist didn’t produce the quality I was expecting,” Smith explained. “I took this disappointment and turned it into ‘Hell, I can make these.’ I made model airplanes and cars as a kid, and have better than average artistic ability, or so I have been told for most of my life, and now I am doing it.”

Smith begins each figure when the client selects and sends him the base model.

“The most important step in making a figure look the best is to find a base figure that most closely resembles the player you want to turn it into.  Finding a good match is essential in having a quality end result.”

Kelly's "NASCAR" Uniform with six patches

Kelly’s “NASCAR” Uniform with six patches

After experimenting with his first Sun Devil football figure, Taylor Kelly’s 2013 all-white or “NASCAR” uniform that he wore against UCLA, Smith has perfected his art form.

In the meantime, I learned that my good friend and former classmate, David Spuhler, received the new and improved “NASCAR” Kelly and said it is “off the chart awesome!”

The pricing for the figures range from $50 – $150 depending on the job, but all figures undergo an intensive multi-step process to achieve Sun Devil greatness.

“When I receive the base figure, I disassemble it, prime the entire surface, airbrush the large parts, hand paint the smaller and more difficult surfaces, create a decal package, re-assemble, decal, cut in decals, then clear coat in matte or gloss finish,” Smith told me. “Other jobs require sanding, parts replacement (facemask, arms, pads, etc.) and or molding of original parts not salvaged from another figure.”

If you are a memorabilia collector or are looking for the one of a kind gift for the Sun Devil fan in your life, visit Dave Smith’s Cardboard Sun Devils Facebook page.

“The main thing to remember is that these are all No. 1 of 1. No two Sun Devil Football figures will be exactly the same.”

Tucson Michelada Challenge Will Spice Up Your Weekend

 

Mich. TucsonTUCSON, Ariz. — The sweltering desert heat can sometimes be a little too much for the typical Arizonan, luckily we live close to the Mexican border and have adopted one of their classic cocktails to cool down—the Michelada.

For those not in the know, a Michelada is, in the most basic sense, a Bloody Mary that uses beer instead of vodka…and from there, the similarities end. Much like its bloody cousin, the ingredients in a Michelada vary greatly and thus, the competition was born. Rob Betancourt, the brain behind the Arizona Bacon Fest has a knack for these type of events and the Inaugural Tucson Michelada Challenge promises to bring the heat…and the flavor to thirsty Tucsonans on Sunday.

La Fuente Restaurant at 1749 N. Oracle Road will be host of the challenge on Sunday the 13th of July from 12 to 4:00 p.m. The program will be hosted by Hot 98.3’s D-Wayne Chavez and KVOA Channel Four’s Monica Garcia and will be judged by three local chefs—not bartenders.

Who Will Wear the Michelada Crown?

Who Will Wear the Michelada Crown?

The dirty dozen of Tucson’s finest concoctologists will go head to head representing every type of watering hole from the darkest dives to the brightest country bars throwing their tin into the ring. Sports bars, neighborhood joints, military outposts and authentic Mexican cantinas will vie for the title of  Best Michelada in Tucson.

What beer will they use, what tomato juice will they use, will they use Clamato? Spices, garnishes, and flavored rims—Oh My!

For those wondering about the all-important World Cup soccer final that will be begin at noon on Sunday, fret not, sports fans. La Fuente will be broadcasting the match between Germany and Argentina in all of its glory.

The winner of the contest will not only earn the title and bragging rights but will also be featured in the VIP tent in this fall’s Great Tucson Beer Festival sponsored by Sun Sounds at Kino Memorial Stadium.

For a two dollar cover charge; yes, only two dollars, you will receive a ballot to vote for your favorite bartender and all the chips and salsa that  your heart desires. If the samples of Michelada whet your appetite for something a little more substantial, La Fuente will will their full menu available along with various drink specials including:

  • $2 bottles and drafts
  • $3 margaritas
  • Tequila Shots
    • $3 Cuervo 1800 Silver
    • $4 Patron
    • $5 Don Julio

To recap—World Cup Soccer, world class Micheladas, chips & salsa, unheard of drink specials and Latin music from DJ Kasky all for only TWO DOLLARS.

Run, don’t walk to La Fuente this Sunday. I’ll be there with lovely wife so stop by and say hola!

micheladaCurrent list of competitors:

  • Kristina Sanders – Wooden Nickel Tavern
  • Kris Carr – Native New Yorker
  • Efrain Hernandez – Junxion Bar
  • Raychell Summers – Rusty’s
  • Ivan Ochoa – BK Carne Asada
  • Melanie DeCarlo – The Maverick
  • Monica Ortiz – Diablo’s
  • Aurora Sadina – The Buffet
  • Stephanie Engs – Cocktail Test Kitchen
  • more to come