A Look at Phoenix’s Food and Craft Beer Scene with Wren House Brewing Brewer Preston Thoeny
Wren House Brewing is located in a 1920’s era bungalow in Central Phoenix’s Green Gables neighborhood. The brewery opened two years ago and epitomizes everything a neighborhood brewery should be. I stopped by to interview Preston Thoeny, Master Brewer, on a Tuesday afternoon, and the quaint, white tile splashed taproom was packed with business folk catching an after-work beer, tourists exploring the greater Phoenix beer trail, and neighborhood locals stopping in for a growler fill.
While I popped into many breweries in Phoenix, I chose to interview Preston of Wren House Brewing for this edition of Taproom Talk because of his roots in Phoenix. Grab a beer and a bowl of nachos and get ready for Preston to lead you on a food and beer tour of Phoenix!
What’s behind the name – Wren House Brewing?
There’s a few things behind the name. We had a different name originally, but it conflicted with a spirit manufacturer. We had to change it like two weeks before we opened. We liked the imagery of the cactus wren. It’s a cool bird, a simple bird. A lot of people in Arizona know it well. Obviously, we’re in a house, so we refer to it as a wren house.
Stylistically, how would you describe Wren House Brewing’s beer?
There’s a range. Some are really true to style and some kind of go a little different way. Usually, we try to make our beers clean and not too obscure so anyone can drink them and enjoy them – like our Kolsch and Coffee Oatmeal Stout. It’s about cleanliness and drinkability.
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What’s your most popular beer?
Probably Jomax – our coffee oatmeal stout. That one goes really well. It’s a little different than other coffee stouts. We use locally roasted Ethiopian beans that the roaster makes cold brew for us so we can add that to the beer to give it a nice coffee finish. And then our house IPA. The two of those pretty much match sales every month.
What beer do you produce that your wish more people would try?
The Black Cadis. The one you’re drinking now. It’s a light porter. The reason we like it is because its drinkable even when its warm out. It’s stylistically designed that way. Still, it’s a dark beer, so it has some coffee notes to it. It’s quaffable with a bright and light finish.
What sets Wren House Brewing apart from other breweries in Phoenix?
That’s hard to say because there are so many great breweries in Phoenix that all do a bit of everything. Right now, we have some barrel aged beers that we’ll be releasing in bottles, which is kind of new to Phoenix. There’s a few that do it and we’re just starting it ourselves. Our goal is to do one a month and eventually one every two weeks.
TWG Comment – This interview took place in September of 2016, and a lot has changed with Wren House Brewing’s bottle releases. While the bottles are released in the taproom, they typically sell out pretty fast. For guaranteed access to their bottles, join the Saguaro Society, which opens up again in January of 2018.
What excites you about the Phoenix beer scene?
The exciting thing is that it’s new. Phoenix is a big city, and there were so few breweries here. Now they’re opening and we work together on collaborations, get advice from each other, borrow ingredients. We’re creating the environment here and we get to lead it in the direction we want. We’re really fortunate to have a bunch of really cool guys all opening breweries up at the same time.
What on tap for the future of Wren House Brewing?
We have a bunch of barrel aged sours that we’re really happy with. They’re a collaboration with Superstition Meadery. There are four different ones. That’s going to be the beginning of our barrel aged multi-strain sour program that you’ll see coming up whenever they’re ready. Maybe five or six months. Maybe longer depending on what the brett and the lacto are doing in the barrels. That’s going to be one of our big goals.
What’s an awesome local beer festival that is worth traveling to Phoenix for?
The Strong Beer Festival is fantastic. A bunch of the country’s best breweries. They all bring their A-game. They bring either strong beers or barrel aged beers. Exciting beers that everyone wants to try. The local breweries all bring their A-game, too.
Check out the rest of my posts on the Phoenix’s food and craft beer scene!
What restaurant would you recommend to out of town visitors that only the locals know about?
Phoenix has an insane food scene right now. There are so many great places. There’s one called Taco Sahuaro, which is like three blocks east of here. It is the most authentic Mexican food you’ll have. Carry-out kind of stuff. The carne asada is unreal. The quesadillas are good. Everything I’ve had from there has been amazing. You kind of have to convince people to go in there though because it is so authentic.
Each city seems to have a unique food, what is Phoenix’s?
It’s definitely Mexican food. There are so many different ways of doing it. Everyone has their favorite Mexican restaurant, and they’re not wrong. Sahuaro, Santisima. Every neighborhood has one.
What beer bar would you recommend for exploring the regional beer scene?
There’s about 50 good ones. The ones showing up in Arcadia have really great line-ups. OHSO, the Attic, Pig’s Meow, Whining Pig, Angel’s Trumpet. Really cool owners. Really great line-ups. They’re passionate about getting the word about beer out.
What’s your favorite local food and beer pairing?
The Nelson Schmelson from McFate Brewing Company is a nice, bright, hoppy IPA that goes great with Mexican food. McFate has their own food, which is great, too. But if you take a Nelson Schmelson and get some grimy, local Mexican food, and drink it with that, it’s unbelievable.
Where can craft beer fans buy your beer both locally and beyond?
We’re only local right now. You can find us in Northern Arizona or Southern Arizona occasionally. For the most part, it’s going to be in the greater Phoenix area at beer bars or some really cool restaurants. That list always changes. We have a limited amount of beer that we can supply, and we try to build up relationships with the ones we really like.
YOUR TURN!!! What food and craft beer travel tip for Phoenix, Arizona would you add to this list? Leave a comment below
Plan a Phoenix Beercation!
The Phoenix craft beer scene is booming! Since I was there last year, it’s almost unrecognizable. Start planning your Phoenix Beercation by checking out the latest hotel reviews on TripAdvisor. There are plenty of resorts like the Arizona Biltmore Waldorf Astoria and JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa to make it a true vacation.
Visit the breweries worry free with Arizona Brewery Tours. These guys took me around and they really know their stuff.
For non-food and drink travel related suggestions, I recommend Moon’s recently updated Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Sedona Travel Guide.