Owner’s special recipes, quality of craft result in awards on international stage

PRESCOTT – Credit the U.S. Army and a Northern Arizona University parents’ day for the Prescott Brewing Co.®

“I was stationed in Germany from 1974 to 1977, and I learned to appreciate good beer,” said John Nielsen, the brewing company’s co-owner with his wife, Roxanne.”When I came back, I didn’t like American beer, so I started dabbling with making my own.”

Last month, beer connoisseurs and fans across the state voted the Prescott Brewing Co. “Arizona’s No. 1 Microbrewery.”

Online voting started in 2009 on the Internet site, “Ranking Arizona – The Best of Arizona,” which is the largest business opinion poll in Arizona, according to AZ Business Magazine.

“We’re a brew pub,” Nielsen said. “That means we have a full-service restaurant and a microbrewery.”

A microbrewery makes less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year. Each barrel holds 31 gallons.

“We brew three to four times a week, depending on business,” said Jan Brown, lead brewer. “We’ve got about 40-50 recipes, and six flagship beers that we keep on hand all the time.” David Purcell and Erick Laurilla live in Flagstaff but travel frequently to Prescott to spend time at Prescott Brewing.

“We love the beer here,” Purcell said Wednesday while drinking “Smokie the Brew.” “We work all over the state and have hit a lot of places, but this is our favorite. And the food is very good, too.”

Prescott Brewing Co.® is not just an Arizona favorite. The Nielsens opened the pub March 15, 1994, and two years later hung their first trophy plaque. National and international awards line the restaurant walls.Roxanne Nielsen said that when the couple travels, whether to New York, North Carolina or Hawaii, it seems someone invariably knows about the pub and its beer. However, they did not travel much their first year in business.

“Twenty-hour days for the first six months,” John said.

“John would go into the brewery and take naps on the floor and set the alarm on his watch so that he could come up and work the restaurant,” Roxanne added. “You start with the mash,” Brown said. “Then the hops and yeast and let it rock and roll. “That’s the simple explanation.”

Brewers store finished beer in a temperature-controlled beer cellar. Tubes connected to the barrels carry beer upstairs through the floor directly into taps at the bar. “That’s why our beer is so fresh,” Brown said. The Nielsens credit the pub’s beer success with John’s special recipes and the quality of the brewing.

They credit the restaurant’s success to the quality of the food and their 68 employees. “We rely on the human factor,” Roxanne said.

While the Nielsens were visiting their son during parents’ day at NAU, they decided they liked Flagstaff and wanted to move there from their home in Santa Cruz, Calif. “We liked Flagstaff, but every house we looked at had something we didn’t like,” Roxanne said.

“The (real-estate agent) told us to go to Prescott,” John added. “So we came down. I stood on the courthouse square and said, ‘This is it.”

“I was here on their opening day,” Laurilla said while sitting with Purcell. “We didn’t know about the award, but I say it’s the best brewery.”
“We are the only licensed operating brewery in the county since Prohibition (1920-1933),” John said.

“We are the first ones.”