New to the Boulevard: Hop Social

Hop Social is one of the newest restaurants to stake claim to the highly coveted real of Chandler Boulevard. Hop Social occupies the space previously held by Elephant Bar.

This standalone building has been extensively remodeled. The exterior features an elegant upscale look. The first thing you observe prior to walking through the main entrance is the well-lit ample patio space. This promises to be the perfect place to enjoy an AZ winter al fresco dining experience.

The interior design is also quite impressive. The dining room features an interesting play on modern and vintage ascetics with the focal point of the space holding a striking set of large emerald green tufted sofas. The overall feel is a nice contrast from the multitudes of basic chain restaurants that surround this establishment.

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In an unprecedented move, Hop Social kicked off their “soft” opening weekend by giving away meals! I can confidently speak for all Phoenix area foodies when I say I hope this is a trend that catches on. Hop Social sent out a lunch and dinner invitations offering meals to local residents from 11/16-11/18.         

My wife and I were limited to ordering two specific entrees during this soft opening. I went with the Caesar Salad and the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger.  The Caesar Salad was fit for a king. It arrived with ample amounts of shredded Parmesan and house made croutons all coated with a creamy dressing.  Now I’ve never had a burger that’s been life changing but this was pretty delicious. The bread was fresh and soft and the beef was juicy and cooked to perfection. The salty thick cut smoky bacon took this decadent sandwich to the next level. The side of coleslaw was so-so, bit bland and uninspired. I would suggest going with the rustic thick cut French fries when it’s your turn to choose a side.

The most difficult choice of the night was picking a drink. With 52 craft beers on tap this was somewhat of a weighty decision process. With the word “hop” in the name I anticipated this dilemma. Fortunately with beers like Tower Station (by Mother Road Brewing) and Papago Orange Blossom (by Papago Brewing Co) you can’t go wrong.

Hop Social also hosts happy hour twice a day 7 days a week! With an extensive beer list, eclectic and reasonably priced food menu and prime location Hop Social will be a welcomed addition to Chandler Boulevard.     

Visit the Hop Social website

-AZ Survival Guide

Novembeer 2017

On Saturday November 11th, the streets of downtown Phoenix were overflowing with craft beer. The 4th annual New Times Novembeer festival was the place to be for any craft beer enthusiast in the valley. With clear skies and a high of 85 degrees there was no better place to enjoy 30 samples of the area’s best brews.  This festival featured over 50 local and not so local breweries, live music and a smorgasbord of Phoenix food truck favorites.

There were far too many great breweries to mention. The usual crowed favorites like Four Peaks, Goose Island and Stone Brewing Company were on site and serving up their flag ship ales. I was pleasantly surprised to see some smaller less known Arizona breweries amassing significant interest from this beer loving crowed.  Breweries like Mother Road (out of Flagstaff) and Huss Brewing Company (out of Tempe) had consistent long lines all throughout the event.

The surprise of the day for me was the massive crowds gathered to sample offerings from The Phoenix Ale Brewery. The booth’s proximity to the limited porta potties may have helped spur some initial interest in this brewery but their delicious and unique beers on draft kept the crowds coming back. You could hear a collective cheer from the crowds when they announced an earlier than scheduled release of their Watermelon Ale.

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The only people left dissatisfied with this festival were those who arrived late (some of the more popular breweries ran out of beer less than 2 hours in) and those not attending the Novembeer event that were attempting to navigate the sectioned streets of downtown Phoenix (a minor inconvenience).

I recommend clearing your November 2018 calendar in the hopes that Novembeer will return to Phoenix once again!

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-AZ Survival Guide

 

AZ Survival Guide’s Brewery of the Month: SanTan Brewery

LRG_DSC01523In 2013 I took my first tip to Arizona. I knew very little about the extreme desert heat or the rapidly expanding microbrew scene. SanTan Brewery was the first of many beer establishments I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Located in the heart of downtown Chandler, SanTan is one of the city’s oldest and most popular brewery. They opened their doors in 2007 and have been serving great food and beer ever since.

The brewery resides in a space that was once a bank. The teller lines and safe deposit boxes have long ago been moved aside to make room for the floor to ceiling stainless steel fermenters and all the other needed equipment necessary for a fully functioning brewery. A single industrial vault door is the one hint that this brewery was once a financial institution.

LRG_DSC01489SanTan’s beers can be found all throughout the valley. You will be hard pressed to find a bar or supermarket in the valley that does not care one of their offerings.

Food is one of the elements that sets this brewery apart from its many competitors. The menu is comprised of a balanced mix of your standard pub fare along with some of the best Southwest dishes in the area. SanTan prides themselves on utilizing the best local ingredients.

LRG_DSC01488On my most recent visit, I went with a pint of their flagship beer – Devil’s Ale. This delicious American Pale Ale is served ice cold in the heaviest pint glass ever manufactured (maybe.) In the twilight of the spacious patio this beer appeared to have a hazy dark amber maroon hue. It is characterized by sweet citrus piney aromas and a caramel malt flavor. This well-balanced beer weighs in at 5.5% ABV and is a crowd favorite for sure.

*other notable offerings

Mr. Pineapple – super popular seasonal wheat beer. Try it mixed in their Vacation in a Glass cocktail

Moon Juice IPA / with Grapefruit makes it even better

Hop Shock IPA

Unfortunately, the secret is out on this establishment. Anticipate a bit of a wait for table on a weekend night. But if some quality craft Beer, great service and delicious food is what you seek, you can definitely bank on SanTan Brewery.

Happy Hour: Monday-Friday 3pm-6pm

Reverse Happy Hour: Sunday-Thursday 9PM-Close

SanTan Brewery 

-AZ Survival Guide

 

5 Tips to Make Your Oktoberfest Das Beste

If you are a fan of beer, brats and pretzels dipped in warm creamy delicious beer cheese then you just might want to think about planning a backyard Oktoberfest. An Oktoberfest is a celebration of all things German and is traditionally observed in September or October. These joyous festivals were originally held in Munich, Germany and date back to 1810.
Here are 5 tips to ensure that your Oktoberfest is das beste!
1. Pretzel to Spätzle
The best part of any gathering is great food. The ideal base menus should consist of Bratwursts, warm soft pretzels and potato salad. Baked goods featuring German chocolate make for the perfect dessert.
2. Bier
With so many breweries (domestic and international) offering tasty Oktoberfest and German style beers, I suggest asking your guests to each bring an interesting seasonal 6 pack to the party. This helps stretch your party planning budget and lets you sample a large variety of brews.
3. Dirndl & Lederhosen
Encouraging your party guest to come adorned in traditional German garb will create the perfect European atmosphere and take your get-together to the next level. Lederhosen, Dirndls, and other Oktoberfest themed apparel is readily available on Amazon. I recommend awarding some door prizes for the best dressed.
4. German Themed Cocktail
A German or seasonal cocktail is the perfect party favor to get everyone in the spirit (pun intended.) At our last Oktoberfest we featured a Fireball apple cider Jello shot topped with whipped cream to resemble a small beer. It was sweet and spicy with a lingering hint of smooth whiskey. Needless to say there were no leftovers. Click HERE for this super easy recipe.

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5. Hoist a Stein
A traditional stein hoisting competition will be the highlight of your event! Keep the stopwatch rolling as groups of 3 or 4 party goers compete to hold Steins full of beer or water (preferably water, no need to waste beer) on fully extended arms. Make sure you have prizes for the guest with the longest hold time.
If at least 50% of your guests leave the party feeling like they may have torn their rotator cuff then you know that this party game was executed successfully.
Give your basic barbecue das boot! If you are planning a shindig this fall, make it an Oktoberfest! As long as you invite plenty of friends there will be no shortage of good times and laughter at you next Oktoberfest.

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-AZ Survival Guide

Roars & Pours Returns!

Lions, tigers, and beers, oh my!

Roars and Pours has returned to the Phoenix Zoo.

After an extremely successful run in the spring of 2017, this event has come roaring back to Phoenix. On Thursday October 5th, Boston based brewery Sam Adams brought their brew to the zoo.

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Your $10 entrance fee granted you general admission to the zoo and access to a plethora of free Sam Adams samples! This 21 plus event featured some great tunes piped in by the on site DJs of 93.3 ALT AZ, a fascinating animal show and an entertaining Oktoberfest themed stein hoisting contest.

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But what would a zoo experience be without the animals? Dusk seemed to be the magic hour for the animal kingdom. All the animals were fully awake and active. I can only assume that the animals were extra active in an attempt to persuade someone to let them sample the delicious craft beer (a gesture strictly prohibited by zoo staff.)

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If you missed this epic evening of ales and tails you need not fret – there are currently 4 more opportunities to enjoy this unique kid-free zoo experience. Roars and Pours events are scheduled through May 19, 2018.

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The next scheduled event will be on Thursday November 2nd and will feature samples from Huss Brewing Co.   Click HERE to purchase tickets

– AZ Survival Guide

AZ Survival Guide’s Brewery of the Month: Phoenix Ale Brewery

Located just a mere 3 miles from The Sky Harbor airport you can find a brewery that should be your first destination when you disembark your flight into Phoenix. Set in a renovated electrical distribution warehouse, The Phoenix Ale Brewery is the ideal place to spend a Saturday afternoon. The large tasting room is lined with windows that overlook the inner workings of the brewery’s production floor.

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There is more than just great ambiance available at this establishment, you can also obtain some pretty delicious craft beers! With up to 14 Beers on draft (at least 7 of them brewed in house) you are bound to find your next favorite brew.
On this visit I opted for a pint of their flagship beer, the Camelback IPA. This English style Indian Pale weighs in at a 6.1% ABV with a cloudy amber appearance. It has a well-balanced hoppy, bitter flavor with a captivating floral and citrus aroma. A 32 oz Crowler of this IPA makes the perfect souvenir. The Watermelon Ale and Orange Peel IPA are also both worth a sample.

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Are you looking for a unique place to celebrate a life event? The tasting room is also available for private parties and here is the best part… Typically there is no charge – just a minimum tab requirement per person and you provide the food. The space is available Monday – Saturday after 7 PM and Sunday after 6 PM (call for details).

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Taproom Hours: Monday – Saturday 12 -7 PM, Sunday 2 – 6 PM

Visit the Phoenix Ale Brewery website

-AZ Survival Guide

Ditch Your Checked Bags and Carry On!

About 6 or 7 years ago I was introduced to the concept of traveling without the hassle of checking luggage. I was apprehensive at first but after just one international trip I fell in love with check free travel.

Most major commercial airlines will allow you to board the plane with one carry-on bag typically 45 linear inches (22 x 14 x 9 in) and one “personal item” (purse, briefcase, laptop bag, small backpack.) If you are judicious with your packing you will find yourself with ample cargo space to survive a 7-10 day adventure.

Here are the pros and cons of check free travel:

Pros:

Save Time. When checking a bag it is not unusual to step off a multiple hour flight and then spend an additional 30-45 minute awaiting the uncertain arrival of your luggage. At this point in your trip fighting your way through a pack of stressed, tired and highly irritable travelers to stake claim to one of the several dozen black rectangular roller bags is probably the last thing on your vacation to-do list.

Not checking a bag allows you to simply disembark the plane, walk out of the airport and start your adventure.

Save Money. Generally, checking a bag will run you about $25 each way. This means you and your travel mate will spend an extra $100 just to transport luggage. I feel this $100 is best spent on a couple pints and an entrée in your destination city, but to each their own.

Peace of Mind. There is no worse feeling than watching your valuables being tossed into the under belly of the aircraft by baggage handlers that appear to be taking part in some type of Nordic strong man event. At that moment you can be fairly certain that everything in your bag that can break is broken.

On the other hand it is an extremely comforting to know that your valuables are with in an arm’s reach at all times. The peace of mind this provides is priceless.

Cons:

Liquid Limitations. Airlines limit the liquids that you can bring onto the plane. All liquids, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces or less and fit into a single quart-sized clear, plastic, zip-top bag.  With those limitations it may be necessary to forgo the Aqua Di Gio, but fortunately items like cologne, sunscreen and hairspray can be purchased when you reach your destination.

Space Limitations. Traveling with one bag will force you to be a little more strategic with your packing strategy. Since you will not be able to bring every article of clothing you own, try to stick with one color scheme. Ideally pack pants and shirts that you can mix and match to make multiple outfits.

A couple other suggestions – pack some powdered laundry detergent in a Zip Lock bag so that you can wash a few items that you may want to wear again. Pack some old clothes (pajamas, underwear) that you can throw out at the end of your trip to make room for souvenirs.

Traveling with just a carry-on bag and a small messenger style bag has been a game changer. It is truly liberating to just touch down in a new city and immediately start your adventure. My advice for any frequent traveler is to ditch the baggage!

 

Special thanks to the good people at KingsLeather for providing this carry-on approved travel bag. Cabin Max bag available on Amazon.com

-AZ Survival Guide

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