Pilot Series beer: Russian Imperial Stout

By |June 25th, 2014|Brewmaster|

In celebration of Arizona Beer Week, we are releasing a new Pilot Series beer: KGB Russian Imperial Stout. In addition to being at the pub, it will be available at some beer dinners and on draft at select locations around the valley. Known for being some of the strongest, heaviest beers available, Russian Imperial Stouts are a personal favorite of mine. For this edition of Clayton’s Corner, we will delve into the interesting background of this beer style.

All “Stouts” are relatives of Porter, a style of beer first brewed in London during the 18th century. The word Stout originally referred to a “Stout Porter,” or a stronger Porter. Over time, the names came to mean different things, so that if you order Stout today, it will not necessarily be stronger than another porter. In addition, there was a style of beer called “Export Stout,” which was a hoppier, slightly stronger Stout. A particular brand of Export Stout was catching on at the court of Catherine the Great, in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was extremely strong, and had enough bitterness to balance its robust malt flavor. Over time, this style of Stout became known as Russian Imperial Stout.

Today, Imperial Stouts typically clock in between 9 and 11 percent alcohol by volume, and have a decent amount of bitterness, usually over 50 IBUs. If executed poorly, the beers can be notorious for being overly heavy or sweat. Yet some really good ones push the boundaries of drinkability, and draw favorable comparisons to an oil slick in appearance. As with all SanTan beers, our version tends to be a little drier and more quaffable. Yet in body and flavor, it is still a beer any dark beer lover (such as myself) can appreciate. And although it unfortunately debuted just after Valentine’s day, it pairs great with chocolate.

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The year in review.

By |June 25th, 2014|Brewmaster|

The occasion which the average consumer may not have noticed, but was momentous to those of us at SanTan, was the opening of our new production facility in April. The 35,000 square foot facility is now the home of all brewing and packaging for off-site distribution. With a bigger brewhouse, faster canning equipment, and more floor space, we were able to triple our production capacity overnight. That was good news this summer when we were identified as the 14th-fastest growing brewery in the country, with 84% growth from 2011 to 2012.

Even with the expansion we still brew at the original pub location in Downtown Chandler. Every SanTan beer that you drink at the pub is still brewed at that location. With the move into the new location, space freed up at the pub to pursue more creative projects. Highlights include a collaboration Saison with Dos Cabezas winery, a Double IPA, and a traditional German maibock.

There was plenty of excitement this summer over the release of Mr. Pineapple in cans, and he sure didn’t disappoint. Right on his heels though came the introduction of SuperMonk, our fall seasonal. One of the few canned Belgian IPA’s in the country, we took a light-bodied IPA recipe, some Columbus hops, and two different yeast strains to release something never seen in Arizona before.
On the heels of all this, we just announced news that will have big implications for next year’s recap, and might make that 84% growth seem like a drop in the bucket. Along with the hiring of a National Sales Director, we announced plans to expand into California, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas.

So it looks like I better stop writing and start making more beer. In the meantime, a big thank you to all our loyal Arizona customers and cheers to a great year. See you in 2014.

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Great American Beer Festival 2013

By |June 25th, 2014|Brewmaster|

Those of you tuned into the beer universe probably know the Great American Beer Festival (or GABF) just took place in Denver, CO. Somehow, the bigwigs at SanTan decided that I should come along for the ride, and I figured I would give my loyal readers a look at what went on.

For me, this was my first Great American Beer Festival. The festival itself was, more than anything, overwhelming. The amount of breweries and the amount of people made it almost impossible to get a handle on what beers were being served, much less which ones you liked. I would recommend to a potential festival-goer that you approach it with some sort of system. Either you need some way of recording the beers for future reference (quite a few people at the SanTan booth were taking pictures of the logo, presumably for this reason) or you need to limit yourself to a range. For example, you could try only beers from Oregon, or only Pale Ales. Either of these techniques would guarantee you your money’s worth in beer.

Working the booth was also a great pleasure. At local festivals, it is often the case that people are familiar with SanTan. Only at the GABF do you run into this many people completely unfamiliar with your beer. Thus when they compliment you, it is extremely rewarding.

Of course, there was plenty of beer and events to be had outside of the sessions. The city of Denver itself has many great breweries. We made a pilgrimage to Great Divide (which is one of my favorites) and Crooked Stave, a boutique brewery which has just entered Arizona. The beers at both places were outstanding, and Crooked Stave really outdid themselves on selection—you could drink only samples and leave quite pleased.

Two breweries outside of Denver, Oskar Blues and New Belgium, also treated us with tremendous hospitality. At both places, we were given all-access tours and had time to speak with people involved in the beer production. The scale and sophistication at New Belgium especially was awe-inspiring. But even at that scale, it was clear that the people making the beer were passionate about what they did. We also came back with plenty of great ideas, large and small, that we could implement. Even though we didn’t win any awards, the trip had plenty of value. For any beer fan, I have to say the GABF is something you must do at least once.

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Arizona Craft Beer Growth

By |June 25th, 2014|Brewmaster|

According to a recent analysis of craft brewery growth nationwide by the New Yorker, SanTan was the 14th fastest growing brewery in the country—based on percentage increase in production from 2011 to 2012—for breweries which brewed over 5,000 barrels in 2012.* SanTan brewed over 10,000 barrels in 2012, and we are expecting to easily supersede that amount for 2013.

While we may be experiencing remarkable growth, the story is the same around Arizona—local craft breweries are growing rapidly. The state itself was the 14th fastest-growing in craft beer production from 2011 to 2012. While SanTan is at the forefront of this growth numerically, there is evidence of it large and small. Arizona’s largest brewer, Four Peaks, opened up a second location this year as well, and I could name five breweries which have opened in the past year with another five looking to open in the upcoming year.

It’s hard to say what the reason is for the growth, but in my personal experience, once people are introduced to our beer, or local craft beer in general, it becomes their drink of choice. And while all these numbers may make it seem like craft beer here is approaching a saturation point, compared to other states, Arizona has plenty of room to grow. Maybe this puts it in perspective: Montana, a state with a population less than the city of Phoenix (not the Valley, just Phoenix) has 36 breweries. The whole state of Arizona, with six times the amount of people, has just 44. Arizona has 3.4 craft breweries per 500,000 people. Wisconsin has 7.3, Washington has 11.7, and Oregon has 18.3. And all of these states are still adding breweries.

What does it all go to say? First—Thank You. Second, keep drinking fresh, local craft beer!

*A barrel is equivalent to 31 gallons, and is the standard measure of volume for breweries in the United States.

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The glorious return!

By |June 25th, 2014|Brewmaster|

SanTan pub-goers have noticed in the past few weeks that in addition to a regular lineup of beers, we have started releasing beers under the “pilot series” label. Thanks to a recent expansion, we are now blessed with the extra capacity to bring some occasional beers into the light. Currently we have two on tap, a Hibiscus Pale Ale, and an India Wheat Ale (or Wheat IPA). A third is bubbling away in the fermentor right now, and the contents of that beer will be made known to you when you need to know. With the release of all these beers, we hoped everyone would be content. But amidst the chatter, one question has been on everyone’s tongue, “When will we see the return of Clayton’s Corner?” I’m pleased to say that with our expansion I have been provided with a lavish study and library from which I will again be able to produce the weekly epistles on beer (beerpistles?) which the citizens of Arizona have demanded. For my return, we will discuss the first Pilot Series release—the Hibiscus Pale Ale.

Why hibiscus? Hibiscus drinks are common in tropical cultures where hibiscus grows naturally. The floral aromatics and slight astringency combine to make a refreshing drink. The flower is also edible, where its full-bodied texture makes it a good substitution for meat. In beer, when working with fruits or “fruity” ingredients, brewers often turn to wheat beers as a base (looking at you, Mr. Pineapple). The crispness of the wheat complements the acidity and brightness of most fruits. Although a hibiscus wheat beer would certainly taste great, we decided it might go great with another core ingredient in beer—hops.

As the catalog of hop varieties grows, it becomes more difficult to characterize hops as having any set of shared attributes. Many hops often have what’s described as a “floral” characteristic, so the idea of putting a flower in an American pale ale isn’t too far off. Hops, of course, also add bitterness to beer, and the slight bitterness of the hibiscus, which makes it great as a tea, would work in tandem. For hop flavor and aroma, we primarily used Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin hops. The Amarillo hops have a strong “tropical” quality, reminiscent of mango, while the Nelson has a more floral quality. Together, with the hibiscus, they make a quaffable, unique, summer beer.

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Clayton’s Corner~Sex Panther, Valentine’s & AZBW!

By |June 25th, 2014|Brewmaster|

Many are aware the Sex Panther has been lurking around the Valley for a little over a month (in cans too!) keeping us warm through the winter doldrums. Of course, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s his time to shine. We’ve taken porters, a style known for being rich and smooth with a chocolate notes, and added cocoa powder to the brew to play up those chocolate flavors and give it a silky finish.

A six pack would be enough to make any Valentine’s Day special, but as all SanTan fans and readers of this blog know, the only thing better than a great craft beer is the right food to go along with it. It’s no secret that Sex Panther is great with a chocolate dessert, but what about a more savory application? For starters, it’s good to emphasize that Sex Panther is brewed with cocoa powder and not chocolate. Cocoa powder is used in chocolate-making, but it’s other ingredients which provide the sweetness and fattiness often associated with your average chocolate bar. A simple way to incorporate Sex Panther into your meal would be to cook with it. One place to start would be to reduce the beer on the stove and make a sauce to go with your main course. Or if you have a lean cut of meat—I am a fan of pork shoulder—you could do a braise with the Sex Panther. Connoisseurs of Mexican cuisine are familiar with mole, a sauce which intricately combines chocolate, spices, and chiles. For those who like a little more spice on Valentine’s Day, it would be hard to beat a mole dish paired with a Sex Panther. The excitement surrounding Valentine’s Day surely pales in comparison to the anticipation of Arizona Beer Week 2013! The week kicks off with Arizona Strong Beer Fest on Saturday Feb. 16 at Indian Steele Park in Central Phoenix. SanTan of course will be there pouring some special hard-to-find beers. Throughout the week, we can be found throughout the state promoting Arizona craft beer with special tastings, tappings, beer dinners, and more. Highlighting the week will be a special beer dinner at SanTan with some of our rarest beers on offer. And those seeking something a little less subtle can pop in to the brewpub any day of the week for a special Chimichanga. Information on all beer week events can be found at, and SanTan events can be found or at our facebook page.

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