The spring training schedule for Tempe Diablo Stadium came in our water bill last week. I couldn’t suppress my goofy grin and immediately ran to my desk calendar to mark every Friday game. All right, I get to ditch two days of work this March, and sit in the outfield and drink cold beer. Man, I love this time of year. Maybe I’ll throw in a couple of Mondays for good measure.
Lounging in the outfield at spring training games is one of our rites of spring around here. Soaking up a few suds before or after the game is another.
Sometimes I’ll hit Gordon Biersch or Rula Bula in Tempe before heading to Phoenix Muni for an Oakland Athletics game. Fellow fans of America’s pastime belly up for microbrewed goodness and fuel up for an afternoon of lying around. Yes, we do, indeed, love this time of year.
In the spirit of the arrival of spring training baseball, here are a few of the Valley’s best places to sip a cold brew. I’ve sought out established places with a good reputation for quality beers and service. You’ll find locally produced beers and microbrews here, and many are conveniently located near spring training venues. Let’s play ball!
FOUR PEAKS BREWING COMPANY AND FOUR PEAKS GRILL & TAP
The Valley’s pre-eminent local beer maker. The company recently took home a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival, the nation’s most prestigious award. Hop Knot won as American-style strong pale ale. Four Peaks’ claim to fame is its Kilt Lifter brew, an amber-colored and malty Scottish-style ale, and it’s widely available around town on tap and in bottles. The Tempe location has great indoor-outdoor spaces.
Locations: 1340 E. Eighth St., Tempe, (480) 303-9967; 15730 N. Pima Road, Suite D5-7 (Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard and Hayden Road), Scottsdale, (480) 991-1795
SLUGGO’S SPORTS GRILL
A longtime mecca for Chicago Cubs fans going back to the Harry & Steve’s (as in Harry Caray and Steve Stone). Slake your thirst with $1.50 cans of Old Style, a Chicago classic, and dive into the $4.95 breakfast buffet from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on game days. Take the free shuttle to and from Hohokam Stadium and skip the hassles of parking. Come in after the game to spot celebs like Mark Harmon, Dan Majerle, Mark Grace, Fergie Jenkins and other Cubs faithful. Sluggo’s also pours Kilt Lifter on draft.
Location: 161 N. Centennial Way, Mesa, (480) 844-8448
BJ’S RESTAURANT & BREWHOUSE
A newcomer, but a good one. They make at least seven beers on site including the Piranha Pale Ale, which is hoppy and somewhat bitter due to its Yakima Valley, Wash., hops. BJ’s Brewhouse Blonde won first place among light ales at the 2005 California Brewers Association competition. I love the smoothness and drinkability of this beer.
Locations: Desert Ridge, 21001 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix, (480) 538-0555; Chandler Fashion Center, 3155 W. Chandler Blvd., (480) 917-0631; Superstition Springs, 6622 E. Superstition Springs Blvd., Mesa, (480) 324-1675
This is the spot to down a quality brew before traveling up the road to Scottsdale Stadium. Papago takes beer very seriously with 30 different microbrews on tap from across the country and Europe, including at least three brews of their own. Papago’s Orange Blossom is a mandarin-infused hefeweizen that smells as good as it tastes. Top-notch brews from California and Colorado also dot the list. Gourmet pizzas are in order after the game.
Location: 7107 E. McDowell Road, Scottsdale, (480) 425-7439
Here’s an active martini scene but good beers are made under their own label, including a variety called Marzen, an auburn-colored beer made for warmer weather. The Light is nothing like Miller’s or Coors’ varieties but has a wonderful full flavor that is crisp and clean. Pair a glass of the Marzen or Light with a pulled pork sandwich, and you’re ready to watch Vladimir Guerrero blast a pitch into the parking lot against Interstate 10. Close to Tempe Diablo and Phoenix Municipal stadiums.
Location: 420 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, (480) 736-0033