Ever so often, an article is published about an industry being killed by Millennials. This phenomenon is the result of younger generations seeing certain products and services as irrelevant to their lifestyle. On the flipside, there are products and services that are managing to thrive in current times because of their growing popularity among newer consumers. These are typically products and services that meet the needs of customers who seek unique experiences instead of material possessions. Budget travel is more popular than ever, and many successful services like Airbnb and Skyscanner are focused on making travel cheaper and easier. The Craft Beer industry is also experiencing a boom as drinkers increasingly choose small batch beer from local brewers who use regional ingredients over mass market beer brands.
Mother Road Brewing Company in Flagstaff, Arizona is a brand that brings together both the love of travel and craft beer at their location on the historic Route 66. The inspiration for the company came about on a road trip when the founders were inspired by the concept of finding joy in the adventure; both in the spontaneous stops along the way and in the unique people met while traveling. From this experience, they came up with the idea of merging their mutual passions of beer, travel and the laid back Arizona way of life. The brewery’s name came from the moniker given to Route 66 by the Grapes of Wrath author John Steinbeck. Set during the Great Depression, this novel chronicles a family that leaves the midwest and heads to California seeking a new beginning. Throughout the story, the Mother Road represents hope for new beginnings wherever the road leads. Beyond this book, Route 66 has a rich history and has always represented the freedom to roam and the fellowship of the open road. After it was decommissioned as an official highway, it came to represent a more leisurely style of traveling across America now lost to the past.
Mother Road Brewing Company focuses less on seasonal releases and more on producing a wide variety of quality craft beer that’s available throughout the year, all across Arizona. A flight of beer in their experimental brewery and tap room is the ideal way to take a journey through their beer styles. Mother Road Kölsch Style Ale is inspired by the Gold Road Stretch of Route 66. The lager notes traditionally found in this beer style come across beautifully; Mild pear and lemongrass flavors lead into malted biscuit and finally a light mineral note. Similar notes come across in the Copper Ale; Almost juicy with broad notes of ripe fruit across the palette. Served on nitro, it comes across as much more hoppy with funkier notes and a noticeable, long lasting head of foam.
The journey into more hop forward beer continues with some of their India Pale Ales. Daily Driver Session IPA is refreshing with a name that invokes a reliable vehicle. A lime forward tropical aroma is perfectly balanced with a light citric hop note. It’s the perfect session beer to sip on before enjoying some of the limited edition offerings sometimes available at the downtown brewery like casked versions of their standard releases and the occasional Saison.
Their flagship beer, Tower Road Station IPA has gained considerable press coverage for both the cool artwork on the packaging as well as for standing out as a full bodied, rich India Pale Ale in a market that sometimes seems saturated with this increasingly popular style of ale. The Tower Station is the nickname for one of the most iconic Art Deco buildings in America; a North Texas gas station and eatery that catered to the needs of motorists seeking hospitality in the heyday of Route 66. The namesake beer does not disappoint; it’s an unfiltered copper-orange beer capped with a fluffy, creamy cloud-like head. Tangerine and unripe pineapple dominate the aroma before giving way to crisp finish of pine needles and grapefruit zest.
Another popular beer is Lost Highway Double Black IPA, a dark beer dedicated to the road less traveled. Naturally, the back IPA is among the rarest styles of beer in the United States, so the style and name are befitting of each other. An initial crisp and creamy mouthfeel leads into increasingly dark nuances of cocoa and citrus in complex flavor combinations. On the nose, it first comes across as the combination of milk chocolate, and marmalade made famous by British confections like Terry’s Chocolate Orange, and Cadbury Orange Fingers. Eventually orange zest and robust cocoa gracefully turns into caramelized blood orange and toasted cacao nibs as the beer is allowed to breathe a bit more. Different from the typical Imperial IPA or Double Black; it’s reminiscent of a tropical stout, but stronger and a bit more intense.
Flagstaff’s growing craft beer movement includes a few other breweries that are similar to the Mother Road Brewing Company; they’re all based near Route 66 and the Grand Canyon and are themed around a desire for adventure. Collectively, they create a noticeable beer district in their small city that’s similar to Chicago’s Malt Row or Wynwood in Miami.
Wanderlust Brewing puts their own unique spin on travel inspired beer. Pan American Stout adds vanilla and coffee from South and Central America to a standard North American Oatmeal stout for a truly Pan-American drinking experience. Nearby, and located in a building that’s a part of Flagstaff’s Historic Railroad District, Lumberyard Brewing Company gets their travel inspiration from locations closer to home. Red Rock Raspberry is an ale brewed with berries that’s an homage to Arizona’s famous red sandstone canyons like ones found at Red Rock State Park and at the Grand Canyon. Within this area, Historic Brewing Company keeps their beer interesting and inspired. Ocean Front Property Mexican Lager is a clean and crisp quality lager along the lines of other quality session lagers like Veza Sur Latin Lager in Miami or 10 Saints Lager from Barbados. Undercover Cucumber Blonde Ale includes cold pressed cucumbers in each batch that lends itself to a lightly herbal, honey dew aroma in an easy-going beer. Their bucket-list beer though is the Piehole Porter. It’s a medium bodied porter whose sweet notes are enhanced by the addition of Oregon cherries and Madagascar vanilla. Decadent and dark; each sip is a baked dessert disguised as beer with notes of both cherry pie and chocolate brownie coming across.
Collectively, these breweries make this small area in downtown Flagstaff into a small craft beer focused community. A community that Mother Road Brewing Company is an integral part of, but via Route 66 they’re connected to beer companies all across America in towns and cities served by this iconic road. From breweries at the beginning and end, like Angel City Brewery in Los Angeles and the Malt Row in Chicago, to the many others along the way.
Mother Road Brewing Company might brew for mostly Arizona, but they also create beer for anyone with a spirit of Adventure and a love for interesting beer.
Complementary Beer for this article was sponsored by Mother Road Brewing Company an Arizona based Craft Beer Company dedicated to “finding joy in the adventure”.