August 2012 Most of you know that I have reviewed a few established Southern Arizona microbreweries recently, including Thunder Canyon at Foothills Mall, Barrio Brewing Company downtown Tucson, & Nimbus Bistro on Tanque Verde. I always take my trusty beer expert, Michael Polletta, with me to explain the finer point of microbrewing.
I didn’t even know about the Dragoon Brewing Company on West Grant Road until last week. Apparently, it’s a well-kept secret from anyone not in that exclusive Tucson Micro-Brew Fan Club.
Nevertheless, Michael & I trucked down to Dragoon last Saturday along with Ms. Karen. The place is located in a commercial warehouse space immediately east of KFC & Ace Hardware. It’s not easy to find.
That said, when we arrived mid-afternoon, there were plenty of folks who apparently had no difficulty finding it.
One of the first things we noticed was most of the beer drinker had no food and, those who did, must have brought their own.
We each ordered the samplings. In this case, 4 four-ounce glasses, one for each kind of beer Dragoon was offering that week, for $6.
The bartender, a pleasant, husky young man, brought our samples to our table and explained the proper sampling order: (1) Session Ale; (2) Saison Blue; (3) Dragoon IPA; and (4) Russian Imperial Stout. Lord help us if we should inadvertently taste them out of order.
I inquired about the food. No food license = no food. Which is just as well. Our experience is that too many breweries that do serve food can’t cook as well as they brew; Nimbus Bistro being a notable exception.
However, as is the case at Borderlands Brewing Company on Toole (not yet reviewed), a food truck was scheduled to arrive “soon”. Here’s the deal. A food truck is expected to arrive in the parking lot out front any day that Dragoon is open for business: Thursdays 4-8; Fridays 3-8; & Saturdays 2-8 PM. The problem is this. The food truck will likely show some time during these periods, but no one knows exactly what time. Suggest you bring your own jar of nuts or something.
Let The Tasting Begin (sans food).
(1) Stronghold Sessions Ale – An American brown beer.
This is not a light beer. It’s fairly rich in roasted bittersweet chocolate, brown, & caramel malts and a healthy dose of American hops, some of which comes from the Willamette Valley in Oregon where Ms. Karen & I are headed next week.
Ms. Karen & Michael liked it. I thought it a touch sour at first. It got better toward the bottom of the glass. ABV 4.8%.
(2) Saison Blue – a hybrid English & American ale
The Dragoon brewers refer to this as Belgian farmhouse ale. I asked Michael, “What does farmhouse refer to.” He explained that in the old days, some Belgian farmers did not add yeast to their brew. Rather they set their open barrels outside and let the dust, mainly pollen, in the air fall into the brew naturally.
After that explanation, I was hoping that the Dragoon brewmeisters didn’t leave open barrels of brew anywhere near Grant Road.
According to the official Dragoon storyteller, Saison Blue is brewed mostly from malted barley plus blue corn and blue agave nectar. It is then lightly dry-hopped with American and European hops for a distinctive herbal and floral finish.
This process is supposed to represent “a link between old-world brewing traditions and new-world processes and ingredients. At the end of the day, this beer is bone dry, light bodied and quite refreshing, but features a spicy, complex flavor and aroma profile.” Oh, really?
Michael summed it up this way. “It’s a good, light summer beer.” ABV 7.1%.
(3) Dragoon IPA
By the time we got around to tasting beer #3, we were having a pleasant conversation with a young fellow who seemed to know a lot about Dragoon beers, but was neither the owner nor manager. Tristan White explained that he just helps out with the brewing process and sometimes delivers Dragoon beers to various markets, pubs, and restaurants in Tucson.
I inquired as to where Dragoon is served around town. Tristan quickly ticked off a list from memory: Time Market, B-Line, Wilko, 1702 (terrible pizza), Noble Hops, Starr Pass, Acacia, Hacienda del Sol, etc., etc.
I am familiar with the Grill at Hacienda del Sol and it’s adjacent bars & terraces. We declared HDS a 5-Saguaro dining & lodging establishment a long time ago. If they serve Dragoon beers, then Dragoon beer must be very good indeed.
According to the official Dragoon storyteller, “This is a true West Coast IPA – pale in color, with bracing bitterness, high alcohol content (7.3%), and a fruity/floral/citrus hop aroma.”
Apparently they consider any beer made with lots of Northwest hops to resemble beers brewed in Seattle and Portland, Oregon.
Michael considered the Dragoon IPA to be “very hoppy for an IPA”. Tristan said the reason is it has “no malt to back it up, unlike the stout”. We then moved on to the stout.
The Uno – Russian Imperial Stout
This one is Dragoon’s first “special release offering”. They brewed only one batch “and when it is gone, that’s it.”
Pity. ‘Cause this stout was really good! Exceptionally smooooth, with a distinctive coffee flavor, it was black, not brown. According to Tristan, that “coffee” flavor comes from the roasted malt”.
He also pointed out that it doesn’t hold carbonation well, thus little or no head. It also lacked any sour or bitter after taste. It was a little spicy which Tristan attributes to the rye malt.
The Uno was so good I just had to have another and ordered a half-pint. Ms. Karen asked if she could have a little taste because she thought the sample had been quite good. I went off to take a few photographs for this review. When I returned my half-pint glass was empty.
I wish I knew a way to convince the Dragoon brewers to make another batch of this stout. It was excellent!
As we were leaving, we noticed that the food truck had finally arrived and most of the folks who had been inside drinking beers were now lined up in the parking lot ordering tacos and stuff. Ms. Karen, Michael, and I were headed to our home to BBQ and reflect on our excellent Dragoon Brewing Company adventure.
Oh, and that Tristan White fellow who was so knowledgeable and helpful … he turned out to be the one in charge of Dragoon’s sales & marketing.
Dragoon Brewing Company
1859 W Grant Rd #111 Tucson, AZ 85745
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