When you dream, do you dream about beer? Do you dream about a rare beer that you find in the back of your favorite obscure liquor store or getting to meet your beer idol(s)? When it comes to me, I dream of beer-inclined bearded men, but I married that man so I guess my dream really did come true. Lucky for me, lightning struck twice in the form of Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. collaborating with one of my favorite local breweries in Anaheim, Bottle Logic Brewing. My good fortune brings me not only the chance to photograph the enterprising-yet-stately bearded men of AZ Brewing but enjoy tastes of their delectable and mouth-watering beers. The shoot was so much fun, I don’t know if there will ever be a way to top it.
AZ Brewing shot to stardom after being named Ratebeer.com’s Top New Brewery for 2013, but that wasn’t the first time some of you have heard of them. They had one of the most successfully-funded Kickstarter campaigns for a new brewery back in April of 2012, raising $43,414. As some of you can gather, opening a brewery is quite expensive and the kickstarter didn’t completely fund Wilderness. They began to have financial troubles around their grand opening in late 2013. Being named the “World’s Best New Brewery” by Ratebeer.com turned everything around for this nondescript brewery located in Gilbert, Arizona. They have been showered with praise and notariety from the craft beer community including: An Article in Esquire Magazine, A Score of 99 from Beer Advocate, a 4-star Yelp rating, Draft Magazine (about their Mikkeller Collab), and in Phoenix Magazine Q & A section. I know what you are thinking…damn! Why the 4 star rating on yelp? Well, those people who rated them poorly should go and read my new favorite article: I Had A Terrible Experience At This Restaurant Because I Am A Terrible Person. It might clear some things up for you. I can’t help but admire the hell out of Brett Dettler, Wilderness’s business manager, for keeping it all together without losing sight of their culture or brand.
Back to the collaboration brew day! I sprinted off work early to catch the tail-end of the brew day at Bottle Logic on an uncomfortably hot Tuesday afternoon. I was greeted cheerfully by Jonathan Buford, the creator of AZ Wilderness Brewery, and I was instantly enamored with his electric personality. “Wanna see my hat with a solar-powered built-in fan?” Jon asked as I nodded enthusiastically…why yes, yes I do want to see that shit because that sounds fantastic. We all peered through the front window of Bottle Logic as Patrick Ware, Brewmaster, adorned the hat and braced himself in the sunlight for the fan-magic. The fan started spinning as if it was in agreement of our fervor and Patrick came hopping back inside glowing from the commotion. “That was pretty rad!” I exclaimed.
I was worried I might have to direct the photo shoot with some reluctant brewers who don’t like having their picture taken…because that happens a lot. A LOT. Those worries were dashed when Jonathan and Patrick jumped-into my “set” and just started posing away. It was the photo shoot to end all photo shoots. We had chalkboard signs drawn by the lovely Lindsay Fry, Bottle Logic Tap Room Manager (who does all their chalk art), only to have beer spilled on it within the first 5 minutes of the photo shoot. No matter, it didn’t detract from the energy and sheer trepidation that surrounded these guys. We just kept doing fun things like a three-person pyramid with their dog on top, a beard-length succession photo, a jump pic, surrounding the now infamous Game Of Thrones barrel chair, doing a complex “Will Brew For Food” story-line with their buddy Rick Burch handing Jon a sandwich from his car. I also found out later the AZ Wilderness guys friend Rick is actually the bassist for Jimmy Eat World. Who knew?
All the fun photos aside, the AZ Wilderness team was there to brew a collaboration beer with Bottle Logic. The beer, aptly named Passionate Dragon, will be a 7.5%ABV Saison brewed with passion fruit, dragon fruit, kumquats, AZ grown bay leaves, rosemary and Sonoran white wheat to name a few of the ingredients. If the beer is anything like my beloved Tattered Prince saison that Bottle Logic makes, it will be a delight. Keep an eye out for this beer in the next coming months at Bottle Logic.
As the brewing came to a close and the photo shoot almost over, we made the trip to Beachwood BBQ and Brewing in Long Beach for a celebratory dinner. All in all, it was a surreal afternoon filled with laughter and beer (duh..) and I can’t help but pinch myself. Hanging out with the wonderful people from Bottle Logic is always a prized moment and I am happy to get to know the remarkable people from AZ Wilderness. I hope we can all get together again sometime soon!
PS. I have WAYYY to many photos from this shoot that I can’t bring myself to edit down. Look for a stop-motion video in the near future!