It’s Beer O’Clock in Northern Arizona – October 2010

Beer isn’t just for frat boys and rednecks anymore.

One of the things we love the most about Prescott Brewing Company® is the brewpub’s walls, which are covered with more than 4,500 cardboard coasters from pubs and bars all over the world. We also love the fact that owners John and Roxane Nielsen have an Excel spreadsheet that catalogs each coaster. Of course, it’s the brewery’s beers that really shine, earning the seven-barrel brewhouse 27 medals since it opened for business in March 1994.

The Ranking Arizona business poll has also named Prescott Brewing the No. 1 microbrewery in the state for three years. You can tell John is proud of his success, but don’t ask him to chose a favorite from his 52 beer recipes.

“That’s like asking me which child I love the most,” he says, laughing.

Before owning the brewery, John was a test technician for Lockheed Missiles and Space Co. in Northern California. He fell in love with beer while stationed in Germany during a stint in the Army, and he became a devout home brewer. A visit to a local microbrewery in the early 1980s made him start thinking about a second career, and he and Roxane began visiting brewpubs. John started entering his home brew in competitions around the country, and he attended Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology – the oldest brewing college in the U.S. – and University of California, Davis. By the early 1990s, when Roxane’s son started attending Northern Arizona University, the husband and wife decided they were ready to go into business and get out of California, and they began looking for sites in Arizona. They settled on a 110-year-old building across the street from Prescott’s Courthouse Square.

John started with four styles of beer, all of which are still served today: Lodgepole Light, Liquid Amber Ale, Prescott Pale Ale and Petrified Porter. At any given time, the brewpub offers six to 11 Prescott Brewing Company® beers on tap. John, who develops all the recipes and employs two brewers, says he favors classic beer styles. (That doesn’t mean the brewers don’t like to have fun – during our visit they were serving up a chocolate porter.) The brewpub’s most popular is the Liquid Amber Ale, which they began canning and distributing in spring 2009 at a 2,800-square-foot warehouse less than one mile from the brewpub. The brew is sold online, in Phoenix and, as of last month, at liquor stores in Sedona and Flagstaff. PBC brews three to four days each week.

While the Liquid Amber may be the most popular, the Raven Maniac Stout seems to have garnered a cult following. The winter imperial stout is 9 percent alcohol by volume and has a licorice and currant taste. “We like to say if you drink enough, you’ll turn into a raving maniac,” says John. When the seasonal brew is ready, Prescott Brewing flies a flag that reads, “The Raven has landed” above the brewery. Within five minutes, says Roxane, the entire town knows about it.

The menu at the 250-seat brewpub doesn’t read like your typical pub menu, either. Most of the items are made from scratch and some are made using PBC’s® own beers like the Blue Mussels Steamed in Cream Ale. And the ambience of the pub is as unique as its 1903 maple floors. When you sit at the bar, you’re next to glass windows that look down into the brewhouse. A spiral staircase allows the brewers easy access from the brewhouse to the bar. The lower dining room has windows that look into the boutique shopping mall that houses the brewpub while from the upstairs dining room diners have great views of Prescott Courthouse Square.

~Erika Ayn Finch