Papago Brewing Co. in Scottsdale, Arizona

Barkeep by | Sep 2014 | Issue #92

Photo by Mo Neuharth

When Papago Brewing Company opened in 2001, it didn’t brew its own beer. Ron Kloth told Gunnbrew Homebrewing Supplies proprietor Paul Gunn that he wanted to get into the beer business, and the pair decided that a smart way of improving a homebrew store would be to add a bar. And when Arizona Society of Homebrewers president Bruce McConnell heard about the project, he asked to become a partner, too.

“We decided on 30 taps and enough cooler space to put in all the craft beer that was available in the state at that time and to do it right with appropriate glassware, storage and clean draft lines,” Kloth remembers.

Eventually, the bar was such a hit that Papago phased out the homebrewing supplies to fit more tables into the space, cultivating the dark, “old bar” vibe that regulars have come to know and love. Papago’s taps include locals like Dragoon’s Infringement Pils, buzzy newbies like Destihl’s Sour Apple Lambic, and classics like Green Flash’s West Coast IPA.

As the homebrew supplies disappeared, so too did Gunn, off to pursue other interests. McConnell would play a new role as well. “We needed a distributor since none of the existing distributors would bring on any new craft brands,” Kloth says. “Bruce left Papago to start Little Guy Distributing, which quickly became the top craft beer distributor in the West. They have since been bought out by Crescent Crown Distributing.”

But Papago was still evolving. They started contract brewing their own beers—including Coconut Joe Stout, Orange Blossom Ale and Hopago IPA—until demand became too much, thanks in part to a 2012 law allowing the sale of growlers at bars and liquor stores in addition to breweries.

Now, they’re working with Tempe’s Huss Brewing to increase production and begin canning. “[The law] really changed the drinking habits of the masses and luckily for us Orange Blossom is the No. 1 handle at the majority of growler stations around the state,” Kloth says. “It’s a good problem to have.”

Brian Cooley, a social worker in his late forties and a regular at Papago, lives nearby. He comes to the bar to check on new inventory and to meet with old friends. “I’ve been able to keep up with the new breweries coming into Arizona—and new Arizona breweries—by being a patron at Papago,” he says.