Arizona breweries recognized nationally as industry booms

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GOODYEAR, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Saddle Mountain Brewing Company took home a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival for its Clan-Destine Scottish Ale.

“It’s the Olympics of beer,” explained the brewer Neal Huttenhow. “There are 3,500-plus beers entered in the competition. So to get a medal out of that is pretty awesome.”

Winning on this stage helps put Arizona’s independent breweries in the spotlight. It’s an industry growing faster than ever in the state. Last year those independent breweries brought in nearly $1 billion in revenue. They employ around 5,000 people. And 60 percent of them started up in the last three years. That includes Saddle Mountain.

“I think people are looking for something that’s handcrafted. Something they can believe in. Something where they can talk to the owner face to face, they can meet the brewer and they like it scaled to their neighborhood. They like it local,” said Rob Fullmer, executive director of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild.

The desire for quality in one’s own neighborhood has allowed brewpubs like Saddle Mountain to thrive in places like Goodyear.

“I think that’s what all of these other breweries are showing too. Location doesn’t make the beer necessarily,” said Huttenhow.

The food is also a big draw. Pair that with literally some of the best beer in the country and you have a place that’s talked about.

“Arizona breweries are a destination. They’re part of the travel industry,” said Fullmer. “We’ve got NASCAR. We’ve got PIR,” he said of the west Valley.

Driving to Goodyear no longer means going to see an Indians spring training game and then turning around for dinner in Central Phoenix. Breweries create the community that Fullmer has always wanted. It’s Saddle Mountain’s beer that he hopes will draw the crowds.

In addition to the big win for Goodyear, Tempe’s Pedal Haus Brewery won a silver medal in the light lager category. Goldwater Brewing Co. in Scottsdale won a bronze medal for an American-Style Brown ale and Scottsdale Beer Company won a bronze medal for its Australian-Style Pale Ale.

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