Introducing Arizona’s Newest Brewery – Wanderlust Brewing
Here is a wonderful editorial from our Arizona Intern Jesse. Jesse gives us a look into one of the newest Arizona Craft Breweries, Wanderlust Brewing in Flagstaff, AZ. If you are interested in an internship, please follow this link.
In the high country of Northern Arizona beer interests are at an all time high. Craft beer bars such as Hops on Birch and the Taproom have popped up in the last year, and bottle shops are seeing better quality beer grace their shelves more than ever before.
The town isn’t new to host craft breweries, however. Beaver Street Brewery and Flagstaff Brewing Company both opened in 1994 in downtown Flagstaff, and are staples of Flagstaff tourism and nightlife to this day.
Other newer craft breweries such as Mother Road Brewing Co. and Cosmic Beer have made themselves known in Flagstaff, but the newest mad beer scientist on the scene is Wanderlust Brewing Co. mastermind Nathan Friedman.Wanderlust is actually a second job for Friedman (and he is also the one man show behind everything at Wanderlust). He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. and by day he is an engineer in the R&D department at W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc., a large, multifaceted manufacturing company in Flagstaff. After visiting Friedman’s brewing space, it became obvious that all the engineering experience pays off extensively in his brewing, as his self-designed system operates very efficiently.
“I designed this system and the control system so I can do back-to-back batches very easily. So can do a single batch in about a seven hour day and I can do a double batch in a 10 hour day,” Friedman said. His operation is very small however, as a double batch, six barrels, is 50% of his brewery’s capacity.
One impressive space saving feature he has is a brilliant system to take care of steam exhaust from the brew kettle. He runs the steam through a condenser tube containing spray nozzles, which turns the steam into hot water, which placidly falls to the floor and down the drain. That way, he doesn’t have to install a vent through the ceiling.
The small environment works well for Friedman, who was an avid home brewer for seven years (his second batch ever was all-grain) before deciding to go pro. His home brew system is present at his brewery too, and is a homemade, compact tower-like setup that utilizes very little lateral space, perfect for a home brewer.
One thing that separates Friedman from the Flagstaff competition is his consistent creativity. The first three beers I ever had from Wanderlust were a coffee vanilla stout, a Belgian IPA and a farmhouse ale. As an Arizona beer drinker who’s been consistently disappointed in his state’s beer offerings until very recently, seeing Friedman’s variety and focus on popular styles is refreshing. Though my affinity toward his vision is not surprising, as I noticed he proudly displays beer bottles such as Arctic Panzer Wolf and Westvleteren 12 on a shelf in his brewery.
As far as inspiration, Friedman looked to European influences to help mold and shape how he wants to present his beer. “I’ve travelled to Germany a few times and drank beer there. I got the opportunity to go to Belgium a few years ago and it was just amazing. There are beers there that you can’t even fathom the flavors because people just have no idea here in the U.S.,” Friedman said.
But he knew Americans were ready for our craft beer renaissance. “That was one of those experiences where I was like ‘This is amazing. This is stuff that we need to start brewing here in the U.S.,’” he said.
The ambition even reaches into the world of barrel aging. Friedman had only one barrel when I visited, but it was full (of Dark Saison, his second sour, which followed his Berliner Weisse) and his intentions do not stop there. “I’m planning on at some point getting at least five or six more barrels because I want to start a whole program with them,” Friedman said.
The underlying philosophy behind Wanderlust is pretty straightforward. Have an opinion. “What I want more than anything is for people to have an opinion about my beer, because if it’s something you forget about and it just blends in with everything else then I’m not doing my job,” he said.
With the brewing operation taking off (Wanderlust has popped up in pretty much every Flagstaff bar that sells craft beer) and Friedman still working full time as an engineer, at some point something has to break. However, he worries more about establishing his business rather than looking out for himself.
“I’m sure at some point I will have to make that decision because this has been growing really fast and doing really well, but right now its still small and I almost rather hire on people to do some of the tasks that are not really value added for me…employee more people in the community.”
As anyone who has lived in Flagstaff will tell you, community spirit is quite common in the mountains of Arizona. Friedman’s approach to business in general appears perfectly suited for serious longevity in Flagstaff, though brewing is still his true love. “I want it to be a part of Flagstaff community as much as I can, and then I could still come in and brew, because that’s what I really enjoy doing, is brewing and developing the recipes and meeting people who like the beer and everything.”