With around 100 craft breweries populating Arizona by the end of 2016, congratulations seem appropriate for Barrio Brewing Company for 25 years of brewing success! Native Tucsonan, Dennis Arnold, sought an opportunity to open up a craft brewery in Tucson after being told that opening one in San Diego would be “too smelly”. Arnold moved back to Tucson to begin to open his restaurant and brewery Gentle Ben’s, located where the Tucson Marriott University resides today. 1991 marked the start of Gentle Ben’s brewing of the Barrio Blonde beer, making them one of the first craft breweries in Arizona. Barrio Blonde is still produced today and can be found all around Arizona in cans or on tap at a local bar near you. The high demand for these deliciously craft brews prompted Arnold to expand. In 2007 Barrio Brewing Company renovated an old warehouse and opened up to the public just south of Downtown Tucson.
Last year, Barrio Brewing Co. brewed around 5,000 barrels of their craft products. Barrio was also one of the first Tucson breweries to can their beer. Today three of their most popular brews are available for purchase around the state: the Barrio Blonde, Barrio Blanco IPA, and the Barrio Rojo. Canning a great craft beer is not an easy task. Director of Brewery Operations, Steve Thompson, explained that, to retain the great quality and taste of the beer, craft beer is not pasteurized so shelf life is limited to about 6 months. Similarly, their product is only distributed in Arizona and is canned 1 to 2 days before distribution in order to ensure the best quality.
With a passion for craft brewing and the industry, Arnold became one of the original members of the Arizona Craft Beer Guild. The guild recognizes the economic impact of the industry by not only working with brewery members, but also with distributor and retailer allied members. Members collaborate to promote brewers from around Arizona as well as advocate for policies that support the craft brewery industry at all levels. Thanks to this supportive community and network, breweries around the state often collaborate for the success of the industry. Arnold and Barrio Brewing Co. often collaborate with new breweries in Tucson to share insight and helpful tips from past mistakes and successes. When asked why local craft breweries are important to the community, Steve described that when people connect with a product on a personal level and feel involved in the community, they eventually connect with the operation as well and take more pride in the product that is made in their own state.
Barrio Brewing Co. hosts a lot of great events throughout the year including the 7th Annual Vintage & Classic Motorcycle Show and Swap Meet on April 24th. This has become one of the biggest vintage motorcycle shows in the Southwest and is always a good time. Local First Arizona will be there with our popular localist tees for sale, so be sure and come by to say hello and try one of Arizona's original craft brews!