ICYMI: Craft Brewing Business turned 10 this year, and we are celebrating our 10th anniversary with craft breweries that also launched in 2013. In Cheers to 10 Years, we’ll learn how these brewing businesses have made it work for a decade, and how they plan to keep it going. Cheers to 10 Years!
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. launched in 2013, and has strived to defend its name ever since. Its beers and initiatives are all inspired by its values: embracing and protecting nature and Arizona’s vast agricultural community. During its decade in business, Arizona Wilderness Brewing has pursued sustainable brewing practices and brewed many beers to raise awareness of causes, like this smoked porter that warns of wildfires.
Its freaking About page is entirely dedicated to talking about the dire situation of the water supply in the Southwest – and how This Beer Saves Water was created to be part of the solution.
This Beer Saves Water is made using barley from Sinagua Malt. Based in Arizona’s Verde Valley, Sinagua works with local farmers to shift from traditional summer crops like corn and alfalfa to barley, a late winter/spring crop. This crop-switching results in less water diverted from the Verde River during high-demand, low streamflow periods, leaving more water for people and wildlife. Since 2019, Sinagua’s efforts have kept more than 425 million gallons of water in the Verde River. Every Arizona Wilderness beer uses Sinagua Malt as a base; This Beer Saves Water is made with 100% Sinagua.
To drive the water-conservation point home, This Beer Saves Water is also made with Sabro and Zappa hops, both of which are relatively drought-resistant.
We actually sat down and did the math: Every pint of This Beer Saves Water—and, in fact, every Wilderness beer – helps offset more than 50 gallons of water for Arizona’s waterways. Our hope is that the beer inspires people to start thinking about how they can save water and support the businesses that are being proactive about sustainability. As the water crisis in the Southwest worsens, it’s only going to become more important.
In summary: Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. is awesome, way more awesome than us schlubs at CBB, so they are kicking off our Cheers to 10 Years series. Here is our chat with Zach Fowle, Head of Marketing.
What’s changed over the last 10 years?
Fowle: What hasn’t? We’ve obviously grown over the years. When we first opened, we were housed in a standalone building that was half Asian restaurant, half bagel shop; we were in the restaurant side. A few years later, we took over the bagel shop, and in 2018, we opened the Woodnotes Cellar, a mixed-culture barrel-aging warehouse located across the street from our Gilbert pub. In 2019, we opened our second taproom: A beer garden located in Downtown Phoenix.
Another big change has been our ingredient sourcing. As we matured and our mission became more clear, we started to focus on finding ingredients that came from local farms and would support our community. Today, locally grown and malted grain makes up the entirety of our base malt, and all of the fruits, vegetables, herbs, etc. that flavor our beers are sourced from local farms. We’ve become more focused on sustainability and responsible stewardship of Arizona, and a lot of our beers now tell that story.
Ten years is a long time. Any key turning points or decisions stand out?
Fowle: In 2014, just six months after we opened, Ratebeer named us the Best New Brewery in The World. That changed everything for us. We were a brewery that had to use Kickstarter funds to open; suddenly, there were lines out the door for every release, and we were able to collaborate—and become friends—with some of the best brewers on the planet.
Another major turning point was our decision to use Sinagua Malt as the base malt in all of our beers. Sinagua is an Arizona-based malting company that’s the result of a project with the Nature Conservancy of Arizona. They were looking for a way to get farmers to switch away from planting corn and alfalfa (which require a ton of water during the summer, when river flows are lowest) to winter crops like wheat and barley. But the switch only made sense for farmers if there was a market for barley.
We suggested turning it into malt, which local brewers would then buy, providing a clean, local, market-based solution. After testing the first batch of Sinagua, we made the choice to use it in every one of our beers because we believed in the mission and the impact it could have. It required tweaks to all of our recipes and has influenced the flavor of everything we make, but it’s been worth it: Sinagua has saved more than 500 million gallons of water since 2018.
More recently, we made a decision all breweries should make: To focus on company culture. We hired a dedicated human resources professional (we call her the Head of People) and implemented things like anonymous reporting, engagement surveys, regular team outings, 401(k) plans, and more. Our staff is happier and we’ve become a more professional business that makes its people feel safe and included.
Love that. Feels like you’ve thought of everything already, but are you making any changes to prep for the next 10 years?
Fowle: Hell yes. We’re on our way to becoming a certified B Corp and are partnering with local farmers practicing regenerative organic agriculture.
Big ups on the B Corp certification! What are some things you need to do to achieve it?
Fowle: It’s funny: When we decided to go B Corp, we found we were already doing most of the things they were looking for. It was great to see that we were already hitting their metrics for local products, employee pay, etc. The real challenge was in documenting all of it. It took months to sift through all of our numbers.
Also, in the next year, we plan to open a new brewery location that’ll allow us to double our production and send more beer to the people inside (and outside) Arizona asking for it. We also have goals to open a few more satellite taprooms within AZ. It’s going to be an interesting decade.
Cheers to 10 years! If your brewery is turning 10 and wants to cheers, drop me a line at [email protected]. Tell me your story …
• What’s changed over the last 10 years?
• Key turning points or decisions to note?
• Are you making any changes to prep for the next 10?
Here are some more Cheers to 10 Years features: