Collaboration is a common practice among local breweries, and delicious things result when brewers team up with each other to produce limited-edition beers.
But what are the chances that this synergy can stand when the participating parties are on opposite sides of the Gila River? Can the collaborative spirit endure between a Tucson brewery and a bar in, gasp, Phoenix?
Quick to dispel any illusions that the gulf between Tucson and Phoenix is more than simply geographic is Chris Squires, managing partner of Ten55 Brewing Company, 110 E. Congress Street.
“Beer is the great uniter,” said Squires. “It has the ability to bring people together in really cool ways, even people that wear Sun Devil jerseys and Wildcat jerseys.”
Evidence of this phenomenon is the Savvy Haze, the sudsy outcome of a recent collaboration between Ten55 and Tap Savvy, a craft beer and wine bar located west of Phoenix in Litchfield Park.
“They initially came to us as fans of our beers, wondering what it would take to get them in the Phoenix market,” explained Squires. “Since we’re not really distributing up there yet, they started coming down to Tucson to buy kegs of our beers to offer on tap at their bar, and that lead to their proposal to actually do a beer project together.”
Following Ten55’s vetting process to ensure brand compatibility, Squires and his crew sat down with the Tap Savvy team to discuss what style of beer they wanted to make, what beer would have the greatest sales potential among their Phoenix customers, and what they actually liked to drink themselves.
“That’s the beer that you’re going to be most excited about selling,” Squires told them.
The excitement was mutual when this collaboration, which included lessons in brewing procedures from Ten55 and hands-on participation from the Tap Savvians, ultimately produced the Savvy Haze, a New England-style hazy IPA that hits nine percent on the ABV scale. The translation here is that the Tap Savvy folks obviously like their IPAs big and boozy.
Squires calls this beer a “juice bomb” because of its orange and lime notes that the two varieties of hops collectively serve up. American Citra hops are behind the citrus and floral experience on the nose and palate, and hops from New Zealand, called Wakatu, offer suggestions of pungent lime, citrus oil, and honey.
The Savvy Haze, with its subtle nod to Happy Days, is available for a limited time in growlers and crowlers for curbside pickup at Ten55, in addition to its coveted position on the horizon of handles up at Tap Savvy.
Squires is no stranger to collaboration, having worked with other brewers and businesses in the Tucson and Phoenix markets on one-off beers, including one earlier this year with Don Guerra of Barrio Bread called Baker Style.
He’s certainly not the only Tucson brewer who has ventured into the Valley of the Sun for communal projects either. But he expects to roll out a formal series of collaborations over the next 60 days that will allow him to “get even more creative with additional people and partners who like our beer.”
I don’t know if that means focusing on Tucson or considering other opportunities outside of Pima County. But given the shared success of the Savvy Haze, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of more Squires sightings in the Phoenix area.
I can only hope that he wears his Arizona Wildcats jersey whenever he’s up there. Solidarity has its limits.
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at email@example.com. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.