Old World Brewery Tour

[UPDATE: It has come to our attention that the information we were originally given about the writer of the Phoenix New Times blog post mentioned below incorrectly identified him as a dishwasher. We have since come to find out that he is, in fact, a bartender.  This has been corrected below.  Sorry for any confusion.]

At the Strong Beer Festival, I remember standing in line to try some barrel-aged beers from the Old World Brewery. They are fairly new, and pretty much stole the show at the Strong Beer Festival. They were pouring a ton of beers, and we had a great time trying beers and walking around hanging out with friends. We didn’t have any plans tonight, so we decided to come to the brewing company and try the beers at the source. It was a long drive, but we finally made it. The location isn’t that impressive, but they are right off the interstate, and there is a ton of parking available.

We parked, walked in, and were greeted by Matt Mercer, the head brewer at Old World. He was actually sitting at the bar when we walked in drinking a pint, but quickly got up and walked over to introduce himself. We talked about beer, their distribution, and he poured us a flight. We started with the standards, per the menu, and then tried a few barrel-aged beers. One of them is aged in red wine barrels, and the other is a tart porter. Their standard beers include:

  • Nitro Blonde Ale
  • Arizona Honey Wheat
  • 4-Leaf Irish Red Ale
  • Dark Knight Porter

Now it’s time to taste.

Nitro Blonde Ale – 4.2% ABV – 18 IBU – 1.048 OG

According to the menu, the Nitro Blonde Ale is a, “crisp and dry Blonde Ale with moderate bitterness. Pale European malts and floral hops create a semi-sweet, mellow flavor.”

The flight was served light to dark, so I am starting with the Nitro Blonde Ale. It’s hot outside, so this is a good place to start. It was served a little cold for a nitro, but had a nice mellow aroma that I like. The mouthfeel is really nice, and slides down smooth. Then some somewhat sweet flavors hit, and the finish is long and polished. When you walk in, think about this place as a post office… this used to be a post office, and now is a place that makes good craft beer.

Arizona Honey Wheat – 5.2% – 17 IBU – 1.049 OG

When you throw the word “honey” on a beer, I expect it to be sweet. According to the menu, “An unfiltered American-style wheat beer with an addition of honey from local bees. The honey gives a subtle sweetness and provides a drier finish.”

Local bees? I have been in Arizona for 10 months, and I haven’t seen a bee. Maybe I need to look harder, but their honey is in this beer! The aroma didn’t blow me away, but the flavor is impressive. There is a nice carbonation, and a mellow finish. It’s clean, tastes fresh, and isn’t as sweet as I want, but still enjoyable, especially on a hot summer day.

4-Leaf Irish Red Ale – 5.5% ABV – 19 IBU – 1.058 OG

St. Patrick’s Day was last week, so it makes sense they have an Irish red. Of course, they have had the Irish red on tap. I am getting a lot of malt on the aroma here, so I hope that carries over to the flavor. The menu says, “A malty, sweet, dark ale in the Irish tradition. Some roasted malt and spicy hops balance the caramel sweetness.” I am excited about the caramel sweetness, because you know I like sweet beers.

There isn’t much malt on the palate, but the flavor is nice. It has a really nice flavor, and a nice drying finish. I am guessing that is in the Irish tradition. I wonder what the Irish tradition is… or if anyone here is Irish. Oh well, it’s not green but it has a lovely drying finish.

Dark Knight Porter – 6.8% – 28 IBU – 1.072 OG

I LOVE the name. I wonder if Batman knows about this… According to the menu, “A dark and complex British Robust Porter. Several dark malts combine to create smooth coffee and chocolate flavors and aroma.” I like coffee. I just had a nice cup of coffee on the way over here, so I am hoping there are some coffee flavors here.

There is some coffee on the nose, but not too much. The beer is pitch black, and has a nice tan head on it. The flavor though… holy cow. That is a TON of coffee, and it has a nice malty balance. The aftertaste is drying, but leaves me wanting another drink. I am not sure what coffee they use, but this is a good porter.

Yard Dog Tart Porter – NA ABV

The first four beers were listed on the menu, but these do not have explanations. But when Matt called it ,”tart”, I was excited. This beer is also pitch black, and has an incredible aroma. Tart is an understatement. Then I drink… and wow. It’s not as tart as I expected, and is nicely balanced. They did a good job with the malts here. But the tartness sticks around, and every time I swallow I get some of the same experience as when I took my first sip. That is my favorite… so far!

Barrel-Aged Red Wine Belgian IPA

This is a Belgian IPA that is aged in red wine barrels… and you can definitely smell that. You might think a red wine aged beer would have some red characteristics to it, but it doesn’t.  However, in the glass, it looks like any old IPA. Being a Belgian IPA, I don’t expect a lot of hops.

A guy sitting at the bar just said, “It’s an acquired taste.”

Oh. My. God. That IS an acquired taste, and one that I want to become familiar with. The flavor is amazing. The first thing you experience is a hit of hops, but not a lot. It’s the Belgian part of the Belgian IPA. Then the red wine flavors kick in, and the finish, while dry and bitter, is not overwhelming so. Sierra Nevada makes a red wine aged beer… and NOTHING compared to this.

The final beer doesn’t have a name… it’s just the “barrel of the day” beer. It’s a red wine Irish red ale. If the beer is good, you don’t need a name. The aroma is nice, and a little more balanced than the Belgian IPA. Not as much red wine aroma, but more malt. The flavor is also incredible, and is what you expect from a red wine aged beer. I keep thinking of Amuste, a beer they use grape must with.

Oh, and they have root beer! Just when I am ready to order a pint, the bartender goes, “Have you tried our root beer?” Nope! But it smells just like root beer should. It is not carbonated at all, and has an incredible mouthfeel. THAT is what root beer is supposed to taste like. They use only half the sugar in this than a typical root beer, as they use sarsaparilla in the process.

When you walk in, you can sit at the bar or any one of the random tables. They have some high tops, and even some dartboards and pinball. There is also a stage in the corner, and they have live music every now and then. Then, behind all that is the brewery. From stacks of bottles to ladders and casks

Old World Brewery has won several awards for their beers. Hanging on the wall, behind the bar, are two of these awards:

  • 4 Weeks of Novembeer 2011 Best IPA /Pale Ale for the Eclipse Black IPA
  • 4 Weeks of Novembeer 2011 Best Wheat Beer Prickly Pear Wheat

After drinking all of their beers, I can see why they win awards. The beer is fresh, consistent, and they offer a wide range of flavors. Their rotating taps are also unique.

When you visit, look above the bar. There is a gargoyle keeping tabs on the bar and all of the good craft beers being poured. When I talked to the brewmaster, he said he didn’t want to brew an IPA. That is why he brews several different India pale ales, releasing a seasonal brew every few months. It keeps things interesting. I am fickle about a black IPA, but I am excited to try the Old World Brewery black IPA when it comes out this May.

I asked him about his favorite style. “The porter is the favorite beer that I brew. It is robust complex, roasty, chocolaty and it just smells great.”

“I have a masters in architecture. I did some design work for 5-6 years, and in 200-2008 I started consulting doing basically computer graphics and renderings for construction projects. While I was doing that, I was drinking craft beer. I got more and more serious about it, and we had this 2 person-consulting firm. I had a lot of personal time to do the home brewing thing. I did the research and I got serious around 2004. I did my professional training in 2007 and the rest is history.”

“I don’t have a favorite style. If I had to say, I would say porter because that is my favorite beer to brew. But I am all over the map.”

So what’s next for Old World Brewery? “Expansion and growth is next. We want to brew more, and expand our operation here in the Valley and beyond.” Old World doesn’t have a distributor, at the moment, so that is making it hard for them to expand as fast as they would prefer. But their beers are in some stores here in the Valley, and you can grab a bomber at Safeway for $7.99. Out of all their beers, their barrel-aged beers are the best. You won’t see those in a bottle, so get down to the brewery and taste these at the source.

Negative Reviews From World Of Beer

While we were there, the bartender started talking to us about a negative review the brewery had. Apparently, a bartender at World Of Beer in Tempe visited under false pretense, and had a negative experience. He also happens to write for the Phoenix New Times, and wrote an article about the brewery.

Unless you actually visit the brewery and drink the beers, you are going to have a hard time making a conscious decision on what to expect. Don’t expect white table cloths and great customer service. You aren’t going to get it. But you will get a brewmaster that drinks while he brews, a bartender that used to be in a rock band that has stories for days, and a group of regulars eager to make friends. This is craft beer, not fine dining.

Speaking of regulars, while I was sitting at the bar, I had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan LaGois. He was curious what we were doing, and commented on how fast I was typing. Knowing he was a regular, and watching him drink several pints of the Honey Wheat, I wanted to get his comments on the brewery. “With a few more investors, people interested in becoming part of the Old World family, we could do a lot for this place. It’s all about money, and making beer is a priority. We do our best, but we aren’t supposed to be doing more than making beer. This is a beer making factory; making bottled beer and kegs of beers is a priority.”

Old World Brewery is the first brewery we are featuring here on 1001 Bottles, but it won’t be the last. Places like this are what craft beer is all about. While we were standing in the brewery, one of the vats started to leak. Sheryl pointed to it, and Matt said, “Yeah, we are aware of that.” It was a waterfall flowing from this fermenter, but he ignored it and carried on the conversation. He was more interested in talking to the community than fixing the leak. Things like that carry a lot of weight when reviewing a place. That, and the taste of the beer. If you haven’t been to Old World Brewery, go. It’s worth every penny and good until the last drop.  You can even grab a good deal through Yelp if you pay them a visit.  Tell them 1001 Bottles says “Bottoms up!”

20 Responses to “Old World Brewery Tour”

  • Jimmy

    Wow…what a horrible story from a horrible writer. No research, no fact checking…nothing. There is a ton of Arizona Honey, most of it from the Verde Valley area. Just because you haven’t seen bees, doesn’t mean we don’t have them. Incidentally, very little honey comes from wild bees.

    Nitro Blonde? Too cold for Nitro? Are they serving it on nitro at the brewery? I have never seen it served on nitro anywhere else. I believe it is just a name. Certainly any bottles of it are not nitro.

    Dishwasher at WOB? False Pretense? A quick check would show you that this “dishwasher” is one of the more respected members of the beer community and a Certified Cicerone. He has been a writer for New Times far longer than he has been at WOB. In fact, WOB had nothing to do with the review, so you could have only been bringing this up to try to make WOB look bad, probably at the behest (go ahead and look it up) of OWB. A read of the article (which clearly was not done) would show that the bad reviews came from an expert in another state who had no bias either way towards OWB.

    OWB is not a new brewery either, they have been around for several years, having had to relocate from their original spot to their new spot, some say involuntarily. The health inspection is real…it happened. Tough to go back to a place that has already had issues with rat feces amongst the grain bags and consistently lets dogs inside despite health regulations.

    BTW, your failure to mention the diacetyl in the blonde is clear proof of you lack of qualifications as a beer reviewer. Every reviewer has mentioned the buttered popcorn flavor and some have said they like it. I know OWB has, in the past, been quite proud of that flavor despite it being wrong for the style.

    Not sure who you are pals with at OWB, but your failure to write an objective article pointing out negatives as well as positives makes it clear you are either writing a fluff article to support a buddy, or have no qualifications to write an article and are just some sort of brewery groupie, happy to write a nice article about any beer you taste to get on somebody’s good side. Either way, it would be hard to take anything you write seriously after reading this.

    • Thank you for your comment, Jimmy. After you call me a horrible writer, I am not even sure why I am bothering to respond. We did research… by going to the brewery and drinking their beers. We did fact checking, especially in regards to the WOB article. We both read that article while we were at the brewery. I haven’t been in Arizona for long, and didn’t think I needed to check to make sure there were actual bees here. I think you are taking that a bit too serious. I do not have time to highlight every point that you made, but I know no one at the brewery. We went with the intention of drinking the beer, reviewing the beers, and meeting the brewmaster. We did that, and nothing more. The article is not fluff, and is an attempt for us to create more content on the blog that does not relate to the 1001 bottles that we are reviewing. Sorry that you did not like the article, and we both appreciate your comments.

      • Ryder

        “Negative Reviews From World Of Beer”

        “Apparently, a bartender at World Of Beer in Tempe visited under false pretense, and had a negative experience”

        “We did fact checking, especially in regards to the WOB article.”

        Separate from your spectacular disclaimer, as it’s been pointed out numerous times in these comments, what you are referring to is not an “WOB article”. The article is from the Phoenix New Times which highlighted reviews from an *unrelated* contact in Florida. The author’s place of employment outside of his writing for the New Times is 100% irrelevant to the discussion.

        Focus: NOTHING on this subject has ANYTHING to do with WOB.

        The fact that your wonderful Old World Brewery repeatedly lied to you about a “dishwasher” who “visited under false pretenses” is an absolute, absolute disgrace (by the way, that should bother you too… after all, your credibility is exactly zero after this article). However, for you to still refer this as an “WOB article” or even mention WOB in the article, is almost as pathetic.

  • Jimmy

    Incidentally, looking at your pictures it is very clear that the blonde is not served with nitro. How you could not notice this or realize that when you were drinking it further calls into question your credentials as a beer reviewer. Nitro is not a style, it is a serving method.

    • I saw the tap handles only as we walked in. When he told us the beer name, I assumed that it was in fact served with nitro. That has nothing to do with my credentials or my ability to rate a beer.

  • Alan

    I can’t tell if this was an April Fools day joke or not. If it is not than Old World should hire you as their PR person because Patrick does a horrible job at it and you are the only person who has ever said anything good about them.

    By the way, the “dishwasher” who wrote that article in the New Times is a certified cicerone and a bartender at World of Beer.

    Looking at the last picture in your pics it doesn’t appear that they have learned anything about sanitation since the health department inspection and the pic of the open bottles sitting out exposed to dust, bacteria, etc could be a reason their beers have the reputation they do for being bad.

    • Thanks for the comment, Alan. This is not a joke, and we had a good experience when were at Old World. I don’t know Patrick, but I appreciate your comment about them hiring us to do PR! All I can say is we had a good experience, enjoyed our time, enjoyed the beers, and that is why we wrote a positive review. If we didn’t, that would have been reflected in the blog. It seems some people have issues with this brewing company. I have not heard, until now, anything negative about them. All I know is we went over there, enjoyed the beers, and wrote a review to discuss our experience.

      • Alan

        Odds are that wannabe rock star bartender was Patrick. Did he look like someone who has had way too many late night out of body experiences? I appreciate you standing by your article however that brewery has made bad beer for so long, been dropped by every distributor in town and done such a poor job at managing their PR that no amount of articles touting them is going to change too many minds, especially when an article such as this is full of errors.

        The nitro blonde you mentioned in the article is in fact not a nitro beer, just another of OWB’s many screw-ups. They have been open for at least 5 years, were kicked out of their previous location for non-payment of rent. There are plenty of bees and honey in Arizona. Crockett’s Honey is one of the larger honey producers in the country and they are in Arizona. They hardly stole the show at the Strong Beer Fest, Four Peaks, Marble and perhaps OHSO did that. Calling an infected beer tart or belgian hardly makes it good. I would suggest you take some off flavor courses that get offered from time to time such as were done during beer week.

  • Rob

    While I may not agree with everything in this review, I do agree that Matt and Patrick are great guys. I also liked your positive tone. I look forward to reading more on this blog. Cheers!

    • Rob, thank you for that. You don’t have to agree with us… that’s the beauty of craft beer! We had a positive tone because we had a positive experience. Apparently there are some people in the craft beer scene that dislike this brewing company. I have not heard any reason to, and have no personal experience to tell me otherwise… we went, enjoyed the beer, and had a great time talking with the brewmaster. I appreciate your comments, Rob. Cheers!

  • As the GM of the World of Tempe I can only confirm that no research was done pertaining to the negative review done by the New Times writer. He is in fact a bartender and our continuing education instructors. His position at the World of Beer is besides the point. The views posted in the article were completely unrelated to the World of Beer. He does not influence any beer brought in and poured at our establishment.

    Besides that, my outlook on the brewery is optimistic and I hope they take any and all feedback as constructive. As stated above, seeing the positivity is at least encouraging for our beer scene in Arizona.

    Welcome to our great state!

    • Thanks for your comment, Patrick. I didn’t realize you were the GM at WOB. In regards to our comments on the WOB bartender, we were told by more than one person at the brewery he was a dishwasher. That is why I said that. In the future, if something like this comes up, we will do more fact checking to make sure not to create controversy.

      We appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Cheers!

    • Patrick Fields

      Thanks for chiming in Patrick, I ran across this blog just now and I was not informed it was written, or the staff at 1001 Bottles was in the brewery, and I do not know them. I appreciate your support and you are right, we have a passionate following that will stand up for us. I do not hold WOB accountable for what one of your employees says in his other job and as a card carrying constitutionalists I vociferously defend his right to say it.

  • Bing

    Is your edit button broken? You could at least issue a retraction/correction on your error of Zach’s job title now that numerous people have confirmed that he is a bartender and certified cicerone. You might want to consider a public apology to Zach to clear the waters a bit too.

    • We are in the process of adding a disclaimer. Until today, we were under the assumption that he was a dishwaser. The disclaimer will address that. We didn’t intent to upset anyone, as it seems we have. We were only going by what we were told. We appreciate the passion everyone has about this, and appreciate all of the comments.

  • Alan

    Not much of a disclaimer. No mention that he is a certified cicerone with a trained palate. Shame on Old World for spreading lies.

    • The disclaimer corrects facts that were misinterpreted. We learned he is a bartender, not a dishwasher, which is what we addressed. What one cicerone may not like or think is good, another average beer drinker may love. To each his own, cicerone or not.

      • Alan

        Thanks Sheryl, however if you look at their ratings on ratebeer or beeradvocate you will see that you are in the minority as to liking their beer, not Zach Fowle or his friend who reviewed the beers in that article. I am glad you are into craft beer and have the passion to write about it in a blog but please do us all a favor and take an off flavor class and educate yourself a little bit better so that we may value your opinion instead of discrediting it. The Arizona Society of Homebrewers has a BJCP class that you can join so you can learn about different styles and flavors.

        • Minority or not, I don’t believe that the fact that I didn’t dislike their beer discredits my opinion on craft beer. Everyone has beers they like or dislike, and people are not always going to agree on the same ones. If you choose not to read or agree with my opinion on beer because of my thoughts about one brewery, that’s your choice. I may not be a cicerone, which you seem to regard so highly, but I’m pretty happy with my level of education about craft beer.

    • Blake

      But the certified cicerone didn’t review the beers, so who cares about his trained palate? He sent bottles to his friend in Florida to review. The point that he’s a cicerone is immaterial.

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