Beer Bars and Bottle Shops
11. Tap & Bottle
In Tap & Bottle, Tucson can say they have something that my home in Atlanta can’t match—a great beer bar that is also a great beer store. Thanks to some favorable laws, Tap & Bottle is a craft beer bar and watering hole that resembles many of the other great bar/package store combos now flourishing in states where the law is in their favor—similar to the Old Town Beer Exchange that I experienced in our craft beer guide to Hunstville, Alabama, although Tap & Bottle feels like it has a bit more focus on the on-site consumption part of the equation.
The bar was the vision of husband and wife Scott and Rebecca Safford and combines the aesthetic of corner tavern with hip urban watering hole. Local Arizona beers are well-represented on the draft list, although there are also plenty of representatives from sought-after West Coast and mountain state breweries as well. Of particular interest are the rows of coolers, which contain individually priced single bottles of just about every beer available in this distribution area. As long as you’re willing to pay a “cappage” fee, you can drink any of those single bottles at Tap & Bottle, and the prices are so low that even with the fee, it’s typically still cheaper than anywhere else in town that you might find the same beer on draft. Go on the right day, and you might find brewers from elsewhere in the state presenting their beers in a tap takeover or showcase.
12. Tucson Hop Shop
And speaking of one-stop shops, Tucson Hop Shop is the kind of business that wants to turn itself into a destination for absolutely anything beer-related you might be seeking while visiting the city. Just listen to the mission statement: “Tucson Hop Shop aims to be North Tucson’s premier craft-beer bottle shop, growler-fill station, beer garden, and purveyor of artisanal beer-making kits.”
As such, you can sit out on the patio and drink a few pints, although the tap list seems to run more toward national brands than the locals. You can also grab a bite from one of the near-daily food trucks parked outside and pick up a pound of crushed crystal 60L for that pale ale you’re planning on brewing this weekend. You might even catch some live music.
13. 1702 Pizza & Beer
1702 is a pizzeria seriously committed to the advancement of craft beer in a way uncommon for many restaurants that don’t brew their own. Beer almost seems like the reason for the restaurant’s existence in a way—the first thing they lead off with is “we serve an ever-changing selection of 46 beers” rather than anything pizza-related, and they got in on the beer game earlier than most of the other bars. The prices are reasonable, and if you go on the right night you might catch the new release of a local brewery or a tap takeover from an out-of-towner. One note: They don’t post their current tap list online, which is a necessity for any beer bar in 2016. Get on that, 1702.
14. Arizona Beer House
Arizona Beer House might be the best single stop if you’re really trying to find desert beer on tap, because the beer list trends strongly toward Tucson locals and other Arizona breweries from Phoenix and beyond. In addition to the 35 taps, you can also find Arizona-made wine and craft sodas at ABH, further demonstrating the philosophy toward promoting the local product. One would assume this would appeal to both tourists and locally-minded Tucson residents in equal measure, but regardless of who you are, ABH is a solid stop to try something you may not have ever sampled before.
15. The beer garden at Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink
Reilly Craft Pizza, on its own, has a decent little beer selection, but the real secret is the beer garden out back. Here, you’ll find 40+ taps in one of the most relaxing places to drain a session IPA in the desert heat. Long, communal tables promote socialization, and no one seems to be taking the beer geek aspect too seriously, even though the tap list is strong.
16. Arizona Pizza Company
Honestly, what is it with pizza places and craft beer in Tucson, anyway? Arizona Pizza Company at least manages to carve out its own niche in terms of its presentation—smaller tap list, more immaculate curation and focus on more rarities. Just looking at the current list reveals two varieties of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout along with brews from Funkwerks, Ninkasi and Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin—all that, and some local beer as well. It feels like a watering hole for beer drinkers who are looking to stretch their boundaries a bit.
Next: Three Tucson beers you have to drink