Brewery Travels #28: Road Trip #3 (Nashville to San Diego)

We spent four nights traversing our country, leaving trendy Nashville for sun-drenched San Diego. Dallas, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, and Phoenix all claimed us for one night, and I was able to visit multiple breweries (11 in all). Each city certainly is distinct, and I enjoyed driving around and exploring almost as much as the beer itself. Dallas and Phoenix have bustling downtowns with towering, lit up skylines. Flagstaff is a more laid-back city, but has the San Francisco Peaks providing a picturesque backdrop. Albuquerque falls somewhere in between, but similarly to Flagstaff has mountains stretched high above the landscape (the Sandias). We also had time to do some sightseeing, stopping at Sandia Crest, Petrified Forest National Park, and of course the Grand Canyon. The Southwest is a beautiful part of our country. Anyway, on to the beer, as I selected my favorite brewery from each city:

  1. Peticolas Brewing  Dallas, TX
  2. Marble Brewery  Albuquerque, NM
  3. Dark Sky Brewing  Flagstaff, Arizona
  4. Wren House Brewing  Phoenix, Arizona
Peticolas Brewing 
Dallas. TX

Michael Peticolas is not your everyday brewery owner. Yes, he brews some delectable beers. But he also happens to be a lawyer who is fighting for the rights of craft brewers across Texas. Peticolas Brewing is focused on providing the local scene with to-style, well-made brews, and as of now self-distributes exclusively within 39 miles (kegs only by the way). I would recommend checking out the taproom, as this tri-leveled space is as unique as it is memorable. There is seating and merchandise on the lower level, the bar area on the 2nd level, and plenty of games up on the 3rd. The building was once a beer storage location but has been home to Peticolas for a little over a year now. If you are admiring the light fixtures, know they are made from the 1st keg they ever bought.

Peticolas focuses on making exemplary examples of classic styles. One difference they do have is that their flagship, Velvet Hammer, is an Imperial Red Ale, which is not a typical beer a brewery will focus on. It became a sensation from the moment it was released. It has been mentioned in a song, and someone even used the beer to make soap! Smooth with biscuit notes, the 9 % ABV is well-hidden. Similarly, Sit Down or I’ll Sit You Down is more approachable than the 10% ABV suggests. Silky, soft, with ample grapefruit and pineapple notes among the hoppy bitterness, this IPA is another winner. As mentioned, being too style is important to Peticolas, and the Belgian Single On My Way follows suit. As expected, bananas, cloves, and some fruity esters lay the groundwork. For my dark beer I selected Standing Ovation, a porter that blends in copious vanilla notes along with milk chocolate and roastiness.

Michael Peticolas built this brewery from the ground up and continues to work on improving the craft brewery scene not just in Dallas, but the entire state. With 16 delicious beers on tap in the striking taproom, this is the brewery to visit if stop by the city.

Marble Brewery
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Beginning life in 2008, Marble is one of the largest, and most well-known breweries in the state of New Mexico, and currently have three locations spread across Albuquerque. They garnered national attention in 2014 when they won Small Brewery and Small Brewery Brewer of the Year at GABF. On their website, they promote all the work they do with the community, both through donations, and through hosting events for local organizations. I visited the location at NE Heights, and found a modern taproom with a spacious patio. Several medals are framed on the wall, showcasing their skills. If you need a bite to eat, they will often have a food truck available, and you can check the schedule online.

There were several noteworthy brews among my flight of six, with Wildflower Wheat leading the pack. This was the best use of honey I’ve experienced in a beer to this point. Using New Mexico wildflower honey, it may be slightly too sweet for some, but it fell into my wheelhouse. The Smoked Helles was a complete experience. For the nose, imagine someone down the street has lit a firepit, and the smoke has meandered its way to you, softly tickling the inside of your nostrils. Then, as you take a sip, the smokiness builds, but never becomes obnoxious. I also thought their sour was top-notch. Passionate Gose is aptly named, as passion fruit is the additive of choice. The fruitiness is balanced by the expected salinity. Spruce Moose also needs a shout out, as the robust porter infused with spruce tips from New Mexico had lovely chocolate and molasses notes.

Quickly approaching their 10th anniversary, Marble continues to build on its success. While you can only get their beer in the Southwest, it may only be a matter of time before more states can enjoy their beer.

Dark Sky Brewing
Flagstaff, Arizona

You won’t find man-made skyscrapers in downtown Flagstaff, but to the East the San Francisco Peaks provide a different type of skyline. These mountains make an appearance in the Dark Sky logo, making it eye-catching. Brewing since 2014, they are located in the heart of the city, not far from several other breweries. The dog-friendly taproom is long, with the bar sitting at the far end, and an addition seating area off to the left as you walk in. A large projection screen and a couple dart boards provide patrons with entertainment. One things that makes Dark Sky stick out is the variety of beers they are constantly offering. According to their website, they have served over 200 different recipes, and aim to release at least one new selection every week.

When I popped in, there were 16 beers on tap. Interestingly, four were stouts, and four were sours. I doubled on the former, and was pleased with the results. Astro Cookie, an Imperial Oreo Stout, was my favorite beer from all my stops in Flagstaff. There is a hint of vanilla frosting, but chocolate cookie is the most powerful component. Campbell’s (not the soup) is a Salted Caramel Stout. Astro Cookie barely edged it out. While the base elements of a stout were present, the sweetness of the caramel settled nicely with a little saltiness. The other two were no slouches. An Apricot NEIPA, Positive Contact was as juicy as they come, and to no one’s surprise apricot is what sticks out. You Guava Be Killing Me is a sour with (wait for it..) guava. It was light, and easy going for a sour, which is a good way to introduce new drinkers to the style.

Most people visiting Flagstaff are there to enjoy the outdoors. Besides the mountains outside of town, it’s a short drive to the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, and Coconino National Forest. However, tourists should pencil in time to check out the budding craft beer scene.

Wren House Brewing
Phoenix, Arizona

Walking into Wren House, you get a cozy feeling, and for good reason. The taproom used to be a house! According to their site, it was a 1920s bungalow house, and when I asked the bartender he told me it was also a bakery at one point. A fireplace is situated in the center, and several folks were taking advantage of the dog-friendly policy when I was there. The brewery is out back, in what was once the old guest house and garage. An interesting addition to the space was the stuffed jackalope above the bar, with medals draped around its antlers. There’s also another small room off the main area that holds a poker table.

I had a sweeping variety of beers at Wren House, starting with the lightest choice, Kolsch. As per usual for the style, it was crisp, but seemed to have some lager elements, with a subtle corn sweetness accompanying the soft hop bitterness. Spell Bound, an Oatmilk DIPA, brings a little Northeast to the Southwest. Hazy and bold, it seemed to be a mix between the Northeast and West Coast styles of IPAs. Reminiscent of a mimosa, there was a hint of pine and bitterness that keeps you on your toes. My favorite was Jomax, a Coffee Oatmeal Stout. While the naturally dried Ethiopian coffee beans provide a nice background, the coffee doesn’t knock you over. Finally, The Littest Matryoshka was my wild card pick, and of course I went with a sour. Using sourdough bread from a local bakery, there was a more pronounced yeasty and sweet character.

Phoenix may not be a craft beer powerhouse as of yet, but with places like Wren House providing locals with delicious beer, that may change before long. The intimate environment makes it a nice place to sit back too.


As with the other road trips, I was able to visit a variety of places in a short amount of time. The downside to this is that I was unable to fully delve into the local scene at each place, as I could only garner a taste of what each city has to offer. At some point, hopefully I can return to the expansive Southwest and explore more!

Next Article

I have made it to San Diego! However, before we jump into one of America’s beer meccas, I’ve decided to do something a little different. I created the Brewery Travels Twitter account back in March of 2017 and had my first article published on Sommbeer the following month in Mid-April. For my next article, I will look back on the past year. This will include a summary of all the places we have discussed, along with the best breweries and beers that I have tried since beginning this endeavor. Don’t worry, there will still be multiple articles on San Diego!

Current Brewery Count

263 breweries across 125 cities in 29 states. These numbers are current as of 3/21/18. For an up-to-date count, and to see summaries of each brewery I visit, follow my Twitter account: @brewerytravels.

Joel Geier

2 thoughts on “Brewery Travels #28: Road Trip #3 (Nashville to San Diego)”

    1. Thanks,it’s been a blast! Really have enjoyed checking out and comparing the local beer/brewery scenes around the country!

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