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Want a quick look at the top food- and drink-related events happening in the Valley each weekend? The MXSW Weekend Guide newsletter is sent out via email every Friday morning so you can make sure you don’t miss something. Sign up at the top left of this website.

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(Every Thursday, MXSW reveals the story behind one of Arizona’s noteworthy craft beers. See previous Arizona Beer Classes here.)

This week’s subject: Fretzy’s Unfiltered Ale from Phoenix Ale Brewery

PhoenixAleFretzysUnfilteredFretzy’s Unfiltered Ale is an unfiltered English-style pale ale (5.0% ABV, 30 IBUs) brewed by Phoenix Ale Brewery. It was the first beer from the brewery, which opened in June 2011, and is named for brewery co-founder Greg Fretz, who passed away unexpectedly at age 44 in May 2013. Friends and supporters have conducted fundraisers this summer and established a Go Fund Me page for donations for Fretz’s wife and three children.

Why did you choose an English-style pale ale for your debut beer?

“We didn’t call it a pale ale at the time,” says George Hancock, who sold Pyramid Breweries in Seattle before moving to the Valley to open Phoenix Ale. “We called it an English-style unfiltered ale. I was looking for something that was sessionable, flavorful, unfiltered – which I think adds a lot of texture and flavor to a beer and a lot of vitamins as well. It just seemed like something that wasn’t out there.”

All of Phoenix Ale Brewery’s beers – not just Fretzy’s – are unfiltered. Why?

“At the time (the brewery opened), you didn’t see much of that down here, but it’s very common up in the Northwest where I came from,” Hancock says. “There are a lot of good, big brands up there that are unfiltered. Manny’s Pale Ale from Georgetown Brewing Company, for example.

“I like the taste of the yeast. I like the texture of the beer if you leave the yeast in there. It results in a thicker texture, and the Vitamin B you get with a charge of yeast is what helps prevent a hangover.

“All the hangover cures you see are big charges of Vitamin B because that’s what alcohol strips out of your system. The Germans found that out a long time ago. They started drinking Hefeweizen at breakfast.”

Why did you name the beer after Greg Fretz?

“We thought that was unique,” Hancock says. “Again, you didn’t see that in this marketplace. Fretzy was the reason we started the brewery here. He’s the guy who talked me into coming to take a look at Phoenix as (the site for) my next brewery.

“He was a character. He was larger than life. He was Pyramid’s sales guy here, so I had worked with him for 11 years. When I’d come down to visit retailers and distributors, Fretzy (pictured below) would drive me around and we’d visit the accounts.”

“He left Pyramid and went to Deschutes. It was while he was at Deschutes he began talking to me about having a brewery here. So it was my idea to name the beer after him.”

Fretz had battled throat cancer right before his death, but that wasn’t a factor in his passing, right?

GregFretz“That’s right,” Hancock says. “The cancer was in remission. It was sleep apnea. He had recovered from the cancer and was cancer-free.

“His widow, Stacie, is fighting to hold onto his shares (in the brewery). Unfortunately, she went through a bankruptcy because of his medical bills, even though they had insurance. You do the right thing and get expensive insurance and you end up going bankrupt because you can’t meet the deductibles. What a system.”

How do sales of Fretzy’s compare to your other beers?

“It doesn’t rank high,” Hancock says. “Camelback IPA is No. 1 by a long way. Watermelon Ale is the next biggest, and Keeper (Bière de Garde) is new but coming up fast. I thought Fretzy’s would be our big seller, but actually it turned out to be Camelback. I guess craft beer drinkers are looking for more alcohol or bigger flavors.

“My English upbringing keeps me away from very-high-alcohol beers. Beer is for drinking and socializing – spending three or four hours with friends at the pub. That’s where Fretzky’s comes in. It’s the kind of beer you can drink a pint an hour for three or four hours and not get shit-faced.”

Any final thoughts about Fretzy’s Unfiltered Ale?

“I think it’s an unusual beer,” Hancock says. “Obviously it’s not our bestseller and the market tells you something. But, oddly enough, it’s not always about the beer. It’s about the name, or what the distributor decides he wants to sell, or – well, you’ve got limited control.

“What you think may be your best beer may not be the one that catches fire in the market. New Belgium is a great example of that. Fat Tire is not their best beer by a mile, but that’s the one that made their name and built the company.”

Where to find Fretzy’s Unfiltered Ale

Fretzy’s is available on draft and in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles at the brewery’s taproom, select grocery stores, and various bars and restaurants in the Valley.

Please consider making a donation to the Go Fund Me page for Stacie Parker Fretz here.

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Post image for Czech-inspired Dubina Brewing Company opens in Glendale

Arizona’s newest brewery – Dubina Brewing Company – held its soft opening last night on the northeast corner of 67th Avenue and Bell Road in Glendale.

Dubina, run by the father-and-son team of Jim and Jared Dubina, specializes in Czech-style beers, and has five beers on tap so far:

  • Arrowhead Imperial IPA
  • Dubina Ale (a brown ale)
  • Mr. D’s Milk Stout
  • Havasu Hefeweizen
  • Zizkov Kolsch

Pints are $5-$6 and five-beer samplers are $7. Growlers are $4.99 with fills for $14.99.

Happy hour is 3-6 p.m. weekdays. Deals include $1 off pints and flights and 15% off appetizers.

Dubina does not offer a full food menu, but food trucks are scheduled.

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Post image for Tempe dueling-pianos bar The Big Bang announces it will close next weekend

The Big Bang, a dueling-pianos basement bar on the southeast corner of Mill and Fifth in downtown Tempe, is closing for good next Saturday, Sept. 6, the bar announced on its Facebook page.

Hello friends. It’s with a heavy heart that I bring you the news, The Big Bang in Tempe will officially be closing it’s doors on September 6th. You have 2 more weeks to come visit The Big Bang Gang and give the place thats been rockin’ out the keys every night to your requests the send-off it deserves! We have a lot of awesome things happening in the last two weeks, so please don’t miss out! We are accepting reservations Friday and Saturday still for the next two weeks, so give us a call at 480-557-5595 or email us at bangtempe@yahoo for more info. Seats are limited!

The Big Bang, which occasionally hosted shows by local bands, opened in 2003. The Tempe closure will leave the national chain with just two locations – in Ohio and Tennessee.

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The offer is good today through Sunday.

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Post image for House of Brews to host Huss Brewing’s one-year anniversary dinner Sept. 13

Tickets go on sale today for Huss Brewing‘s one-year anniversary dinner, which will be held 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, at House of Brews in Gilbert. The menu will feature a whopping nine courses, each paired with a different Huss beer.

Huss Brewing one-year anniversary dinner menu:

  • Artisan cheese, fresh bread, and cracker station (paired with Scottsdale Blonde)
  • Carne cruda deviled egg (Sunday Funday)
  • Beef carpaccio (That’ll Do IPA)
  • Pickled ginger and micro-green salad with grilled peaches dressed with a Southern Hussy vinaigrette (Southern Hussy)
  • Grape leaves stuffed with fresh local veggies and topped with a tzatziki sauce (Magic In The Ivy)
  • Foie gras with capers served on a roasted onion blossom with a Snowbird/duck jus (bourbon barrel-aged Snowbird)
  • Steak tartare served on a spent-grain cracker topped with mustard seeds, onions and a duck egg (Fresh Magic)
  • Delmonico (Schwartzbier)
  • Homemade ice cream made with whiskey Snowbird topped with a roasted barley chocolate glaze on top of a chocolate tortilla filled and rolled with chocolate chip cookie dough, fried, and garnished with bacon brittle (whickey barrel-aged Snowbird)

The dinner is $50 per person. RSVP: 480-426-9787.

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