Old Bisbee Brewing Co. features local hops in new brew

Victor Winquist, owner and brewmaster for Old Bisbee Brewery explains the fermentation process
Victor Winquist, owner and brewmaster for Old Bisbee Brewery explains the fermentation process

 The Old Bisbee Brewing Company has prided itself on the use of top quality ingredients from around the world, but a new addition to the menu is featuring hops from Bisbee’s mountainous backyard.

Neomexicanus hops, native to New Mexico, have crept across the state border and are flourishing in the Mule Mountains as well as other parts of the Southwest. The hops bitter and aroma the new Indigenous Holy Grail IPA.

“Having a local hop in one of our beers makes it feel close to home and is more special to people in Bisbee,” said Victor Winquist, the owner and brewmaster of Old Bisbee Brewing Company.

According to Winquist, the Neomexicanus hops add a unique earthy and citrus flavor to the beer. The Holy Grail IPA has quickly become one of the most popular beers offered at the brewery since its inclusion in January.

Future plans for the brewery include growing the hops on local Bisbee farms considering wild-grown hops are only available for part of the year.

“We think this would also be a great opportunity for local farmers to get involved,” Winquist said.

Along with great worldly and local ingredients comes artisan brewing techniques. When Winquist was told by a friend that Bisbee needed a brewery, he, along with his daughter headed to the University of Sunderland in England for a crash course in brewing. Winquist brought back a breadth of brewing knowledge from overseas to the brew house and taproom in Bisbee.

According to Winquist, every beer on the menu is treated the same once they are placed in the 350-gallon fermentation tanks, but prior to fermentation, each beer is treated differently in terms of infusion of the hops and how the malt is treated and added.

“Every beer undergoes a heat exchange when they are moved to the fermenters,” Winquist said. Two gallons of yeast is added to the tanks and the temperature is lowered to 35 degrees. During the fermentation process, the sugar is converted into alcohol.

“From the time the beer hits the fermenter to the time it is ready for drinking, the beer is exposed to no air,” Winquist says. Limiting air exposure is difficult, but Winquist made sure that the equipment was equivalent to that of the equipment he worked with at the university.

Inside the Old Bisbee Brewhouse
Inside the Old Bisbee Brewhouse

After the yeast has settled and the fermentation process is complete the beer passes from the brew house to the tap house in a transfer tube that runs under the street. In the tap house the beer is then placed in storage tanks, kegs and pint glasses.

Now in its sixth year, the Old Bisbee Brewing Company has grown immensely and is brewing over 30,000 gallons of beer annually.

“I’ve been here for a while and the growth I have seen has been absolutely insane,” said Kaci Ross, manager of Old Bisbee Brewing Company. The company distributes to areas such as downtown Tucson, Sierra Vista and is the primary beer supplier for the town of Bisbee.

“When we began distributing we wanted to use that as a way to sort of bring people back to Bisbee,” Ross said.

Guests enjoying their brews inside the tap room in Bisbee
Guests enjoying their brews inside the tap room in Bisbee

The seven-beer menu offers unique options. Two beers- the rich Copper City Ale and the Royal Stout- have remained options since the beginning and serve as some of the favorite classics.

One of the brewery’s most distinct offerings is called the Salut. The Salut is fermented just as all the other brews, but has a wine flavor profile and is as clear as water. The Salut is flavored with peach and elderberry for a fruit forward taste.

“We always have Old Bisbee on tap at our bar it seems like,” said Talia Haynes, a manager at Diablo Burger in downtown Tucson. The Good Oak Bar, which is next door to Diablo Burger and is run under the same management, offers only local Arizona beer and wine.

“Their selection is really strong, they have a little bit of everything for all the beer drinkers out there,” Haynes said. According to Haynes, newer favorites at the Good Oak are the Royal Stout and the Father Kino’s Sonoran Wheat Beer.

“What they make, they make very well,” Haynes said. “The taste of Old Bisbee is always a distinct one.”

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Kianna Gardner is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at kiannagardner@email.arizona.edu

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