Thursday 17th May 2012
I had initially turned up at this brewery just after 15.00, when it should have opened. A notice on the door advised me that I should come back after 17.00 as they weren't opening until then. In another town this could have been a problem but in Flagstaff with its four central brew-pubs, it was just a matter of reshuffling the visiting order.
Sure enough, when I returned, the pub had opened. I have to conclude that this is the most laid back of Flagstaff's brewery. If coolness is a tangible commodity then the Mother Road Tap Room has buckets of it. It is a true tap room as the brewery itself is all around yet is much more, mostly a bar but also an art gallery and a music venue at other times.
The story starts with businessman Michael Marquess, who opened the brewery in 2010. He was joined by brewer Urs Riner (more of whom later) and the project got underway. The building I was in was built in the late 1920s as a commercial laundry owned by the Milun family. It continued in the business of washing, pressing and drying until the late 1990s. It had a few owners after that and fell in to slight disrepair. Now it is home to the brewery along with a bicycle shop and also a Pizza place, Pizzicletta.
The building is on the original alignment of the iconic Route 66 before it was re-routed to the opposite side of the railroad tracks during the 1930s. If the name of the brewery is familiar, then you have probably read John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath", the harrowing, yet evocative, story of a family's migration from the East to California. He refers to Route 66 as the Mother Road and, as it originally passed the north side of the brewery, its name is highly appropriate.
As I entered through the outside terrace there was, somewhat bizarrely, a German style oompah band playing. After all it was the wrong month for Oktoberfest! Inside, the high ceilings and exhibition of paintings presented a completely different perspective. I ordered a beer and got talking to a gentleman standing next to me. He transpired to be Urs Riner, the brewer or, as his card describes him as, the "head yeast whisperer". There were only two beers available and Urs apologised for this, explaining that normally there would be a choice of three to five. Because of the strength I had a 10 oz half (Imperial) of Lost Highway Black IPA (8.0%) and I thought it was superb. The other beer available that day was a mix with Lost Highway. It was called "The Classic" (5.3%) and I was told what the other beer was but I have forgotten, possibly Golden Road.
The brewery does four regular beers, all of which are also bottled: Roadside American Ale, Twin Arrows Brown Ale, Gold Road Kölsch-style Ale and Lost Highway Black IPA (8.0%). There are also many seasonals and experimental beers.
I told Urs that I thought their artwork was particularly good and he said everybody liked it. So please indulge me a little as, apart from the scan of their beer mat I have included two of their bottle labels/tap signs.
Urs had to leave for home but he imparted one nugget of information. There was a presentation of cask beer from the Firestone Walker brewery of California in the Hops on Birch bar in town. I had the time to visit there before catching the train to Williams.
They don't do food in the brewery but there are two good pizza restaurants literally a minute away from the front door and, of course, you can order in.
My only regret was that there weren't more beers on offer in Mother Road that day, but nevertheless, I can recommend it as a great place to stop for a drink.
Mother Road Brewing, 7 South Mikes Pike, Flagstaff, Arizona. 86001.
Open: Sunday to Thursday 15.00-20.00; Friday 15.00-21.00; Saturday 11.00-21.00
The pub is five minutes from local buses, long distance buses and the Amtrak Rail station.