It has been about five years since the surprise announcement that local favorite Four Peaks, one of the craft beer pioneers in Arizona, was being acquired by the multinational giant Anheuser-Busch InBev. That news, one of many acquisitions of regional breweries, led to concern about the transaction’s impact on other craft beer producers and inevitable accusations of “selling out.” While the financial arrangements may be different behind the scenes, it’s reassuring that little has changed, and some aspects have even improved, for the consumer.
Four Peaks’ 1892 building, once a creamery, is now home to both a working brewery and a large pub that serves the company’s beers along with a hearty menu designed to incorporate and complement those brews. The location is just under half a mile from the Dorsey/Apache light rail station and Tempe Streetcar stop. If the distance seems a little far, the walk or bike ride from the station is a pleasant one through the University Heights neighborhood. Those who pedal along 8th Street are rewarded with a corral that can accommodate at least 16 bicycles next to the patio.
That patio is huge and busy. It’s shaded for the most part and cooled by massive fans on hot days. Inside there’s a large bar and two dining rooms, one of which has an impressive view of the production area of the building. During the current pandemic, brewery tours are suspended, but dine-in service with reduced capacity is available. All customers, even those sitting at the bar, need to check in first at the host station. Minors accompanied by parents are welcome, and Four Peaks even has a children’s menu offering smaller portions of menu favorites.
While the kids enjoy their beer-battered fish-and-chips or chicken strips (alcohol burned off during frying), the adults can enjoy the brewery’s output. Most customers probably already know Four Peaks by its flagship Kilt Lifter, a Scottish-style ale that has become an unlikely favorite in a hot climate. 8th Street ale is a more straightforward brew for the drinker accustomed to mass-production beers. There’s also a white ale, multiple IPAs, a Kolsch-style ale, an oatmeal stout, a peach beer, and even a green tea brew among the beverages in regular rotation.
Beyond the usual line-up, Four Peaks brews a variety of seasonal beers. Pumpkin Porter arrived early in 2020 because, in the words of founder Andy Ingram, “By any measure, summer 2020 has sucked.” As temperatures climb into triple digits, there are warm weather alternatives such as hefeweizen or beers with citrus notes. The cask-conditioned ales are another avenue for beer exploration. These brews are a throwback to traditional methods with natural carbonation producing less fizziness. They’re also served closer to room temperature.
Beverages aside, it would be difficult to walk away from Four Peaks hungry due to the extensive food offerings, most of them quite hearty and all of them generously portioned. Starters include bar favorites like soft pretzels and chicken wings.. For a slightly lighter taste, the Thai hummus takes the traditional puree of chickpeas and adds peanut flavor and chile heat. Edamame are simple and straightforward, augmented only with sea salt. Salads include a familiar Caesar and a Southwest Chop of greens with toppings like avocado, corn, quinoa, and black beans.
Among the entrees, there are half a dozen burgers. The OG burger features a moist patty in a yielding bun topped with a choice of cheese and not a lot else to create a distraction. Sandwiches are structured around fillings such as chicken breast, roast beef, and sliced turkey. The salmon BLT is a perennial favorite with fish from local purveyor Chula Seafood, and there are daily specials such as blackened ono wrapped in Four Peaks beer bread, a variant of the house pizza dough with a texture somewhere near the intersection of pita, tortilla, and lavash.
That dough also shows up just where it would be expected: in a section of the menu devoted to pizza. The 10-inch pies are sized for one person or maybe two to share with along with a salad or an appetizer. The pizzas have a slight char and brittleness on the bottoms and edges but yield to a chewier interior crust. Toppings come in familiar configurations such as margherita and BBQ chicken with occasional specials such as a pie adorned with slices of smoked salmon. There’s also the option to build one’s own pizza with a customized combination of toppings.
While most of the menu follows a “pub grub” theme, there are some welcome nods to the Southwest. Carne adovada, roasted pork in red chili, is a full plate of New Mexican flavor. The chicken enchiladas fill a large platter, smothered in green chili and paired with rice and black beans. A daily special of fish tacos takes a similar approach with three soft corn tortillas containing blackened ono, shredded cabbage, and mild pico de gallo. All of these benefit from a few drops of the Arizona Gunslinger hot sauce included among the condiments at each table.
While it may be hard to accommodate dessert after all that food and beer, Four Peaks does have a small sweet section. Milkshakes are available, and seasonal specials like the Pumpkin Porter cheesecake incorporate the pub’s signature brews. With respect to Four Peaks’ being part of the AB InBev empire, Jason Newsted of Metallica might have said it best when asked if his band had sold out: “Yes, we sell out. Every seat in the house. Every time we play. Anywhere we play.” On 8th Street, the parallel answer might be every pint, every growler, every keg.
1340 E. 8th St., Tempe AZ 85281