To escape Phoenix’s triple-digit temperatures during the summer, I head north, and one of my favorite beat-the-heat destinations is Flagstaff. Not only is it a great base for exploring the Grand Canyon, Route 66, and Meteor Crater, Flagstaff is home to some of the best breweries in the state. I’ve sampled a few brews on visits over the years, but this time, I decided to spend a day sipping a few pints on the Flagstaff Brewery Trail.
The Flagstaff Brewery Trail
Formerly known as the Flagstaff Ale Trail, the Flagstaff Brewery Trail features many of the same watering holes as its predecessor, but now, instead of purchasing a passport, you can print a free “passport” out at home. (Unfortunately, while the previous passport entitled you to discounts on your beers, this one does not.) You take your passport to each brewery and collect a sticker, no purchase necessary.
When you’ve collected a sticker for each stop, you can turn your completed passport into the Flagstaff Visitor Center at 1 East Route 66 in the historic downtown train station or to the city’s convention and visitors bureau at 323 W. Aspen Ave. and exchange it for a brewery trail pint glass. There’s no deadline to collect all of the stickers, and you must be 21 to participate.
Since I have a dozen passports for other trails already, I didn’t actually print out this one or collect its stickers. But, I hit the trail thirsty and found some new favorite breweries.
(While visiting, my husband served as my designated driver. If you don’t have a designated driver, you can call a taxi or rideshare service or take the bus. Many of the breweries are within walking distance of each other.)
Beaver Street Brewery
Opened in 1994, Beaver Street Brewery is Flagstaff’s first brewery. I’ve visited many times before, so I didn’t stop on this visit, but it’s definitely one of the city’s best. Try one of the mainstays: Conductor IPA, Railhead Red, R&R Stout, Red Rock Raspberry, HopShot Red IPA, Black ‘N’ Raz, or Midnight Black IPA. Or, when it’s available, order my favorite, the Hefeweizen.
Beaver Street Brewery also serves amazing pizzas, burgers, and sandwiches. Its green chile stew is a dish my husband and I reminisce about often.
Lumberyard Brewing Co.
Looking to expand, the owners of Beaver Street Brewery opened Lumberyard Brewing Co. in the historic Halstead Lumberyard building in 2010. Some of the beers from Beaver Street Brewery, like the Railhead Red and Red Rock Raspberry, also appear on the menu here. Lumberyard also features several of its own brews, including the Pumphouse Porter and the Hazy Angle IPA. I ordered the Humphrey’s Hefe—I love hefeweizens—and it was tasty with my Vietnamese Burger topped with char sui pork, pepper jack, pickled daikon and carrots, fresh jalapeños, cucumbers, cilantro, and sriracha aioli. Lumberyard is my choice for burgers and brews and has a great patio.
Historic Brewing Company
This popular brewery has two Flagstaff locations. Drop by the brewery’s taproom at 4366 E. Huntington Dr. on the city’s east side to sip 16 of their rotating selections, including the brewery’s famous cherry vanilla Piehole Porter and its seasonal Undercover Cucumber, made with 150 pounds of cold-pressed cucumber in each batch. Downtown, the Barrel + Bottle House has 20 beers on tap plus a full liquor bar, specialty cocktails, wines, and arcade games.
The brewery has a third location, also a Barrel + Bottle House, in nearby Williams.
Wanderlust Brewing Co.
Taking its name from brewer Nathan Friedman’s love of travel, Wanderlust Brewing Co. specializes in Saisons and farmhouse ales but produces traditional-style brews from around the world. And, unlike many of Flagstaff’s other breweries, this one focuses on beer. It doesn’t serve food (although it does bring in food trucks) and is dog-friendly. Order the 928 Local, a farmhouse ale fermented with homemade yeast, or the Pan-American Stout, its popular oatmeal stout.
Mother Road Brewing Co.
You need to visit both Mother Road Brewing Co. locations, the original on Pike Street and the one on Butler Avenue, and collect stickers from both to complete the brewery trail, but given the quality of its beers, you won’t mind. I opt for Conserve and Protect Kolsch when I visit, but Mother Road is known for its IPAs. Sip the Daily Driver Session IPA, Lost Highway Double Black IPA, or Tower Station IPA, if that’s your bent. Experimental and seasonal beers are also available.
Flagstaff Brewing Company
Locally known as Flagbrew, this small brewery offers only a few of its brews on tap at any given time. Watch for the Three-Pin Pale Ale or Agassiz Amber, two of the brewery’s most popular beers. For a darker brew, ask for the Sasquatch Stout. Looking for a stiffer drink? Flagstaff Brewing Company also boasts one of the nation’s largest collections of single malts and small-batch bourbons, including Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year. Enjoy your beer or bourbon with the brewery’s burgers, sandwiches, soup, and salads.
Dark Sky Brewing Company
Named in honor of Flagstaff being designated the first dark sky city in the world, Dark Sky Brewing Company likes to push the limits of brewing. You can linger over a traditional-style beer, like the Wellenlange Kolsch I enjoyed on my visit, but you’re really missing out if you don’t at least sample one of the experimental offerings. I highly recommend Churro, an imperial stout with hints of cinnamon, vanilla, and coffee. Do yourself another favor and order a pizza from Pizzicletta, which operates in the brewery.
Grand Canyon Brewing Company
Ales and IPAs dominate the brews at Grand Canyon Brewing Company. Year-round offerings include the popular Kachina Throwback Ale, the official craft beer of the state’s NHL franchise, the Arizona Coyotes, and Trail Hike IPA, brewed to commemorate Grand Canyon National Park's centennial. The brewery also has seasonal beers on tap and mixes cocktails featuring vodka, rum, and gin distilled at its distillery.
You can enjoy beers, cocktails, and food at Grand Canyon Brewing’s original location in Williams or the Flagstaff location. Tours of the brewery and distillery are available in Williams.
Bonus: Drinking Horn Mead Hall
While it’s not a stop on the brewery trail, Drinking Horn Mead Hall, located on Route 66 in downtown Flagstaff, deserves a mention. The meadery serves a not-too-sweet alcoholic mead sweetened mostly with fruit juices and occasionally with honey.
On your first visit, it’s well worth it to order a flight; order two flights to share with a friend, and you both can sample nearly every mead the Drinking Horn makes. My favorites were black cherry, strawberry, and lemon ginger, but the traditional mead was pretty amazing, too.
Flagstaff is one of the state's best destinations for beer lovers. You will no doubt enjoy the cooler Northern Arizona as you sip your way through the city on the Flagstaff Brewery Trail. Wander has many great things you can explore during your time in Arizona.