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Arizona Beer Class: Sun Up Trooper IPA

Jess Harter | Thursday, August 21, 2014

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

This week’s subject: Sun Up Trooper IPA

Trooper IPA (6.2% ABV) is the flagship beer of Sun Up Brewery in Phoenix. It debuted in 2006, when the brewery was known as Sonora Brewhouse. Trooper is Sun Up’s bestseller, far ahead of runner-up Awesome Amber Ale.

Quick history lesson: Sonora vs. Sonoran

SunUpTrooperIPASonora Brewing Company, which opened in west Phoenix in 1995, supplied the beer for Sonora Brewhouse, which opened in 2001. Sonora Brewing Company changed its name to Sonoran Brewing Company in 2003.

When Sonoran closed in 2004 it sold the Sonora trademark to Sonora Brewhouse owner Norman Horn and the Sonoran trademark to Scott Yarosh at the Pinnacle Peak Brewing Company in north Scottsdale.

Sonora Brewhouse eventually began brewing its own beers under the direction of former Sonora Brewing Company brewer Uwe Boer.

Where did Trooper IPA come from?

“It was first brewed when we moved (the brewing system) in here, which would have been January of 2006,” Boer says. “Before that, I didn’t have control over the beers. When I started working here, I did. So that’s the first thing I changed – the recipes the way I wanted to make them.

“We had been brewing it under a different recipe – Sonora IPA. I wanted to make it hoppier, so I increased the IBUs and bittering, as well as the finishing hops (Simcoe). I also increased the gravity to bring it up to just over 6 percent. Those were the two main changes.

Why did you call it Trooper?

“The owner (Horn) came up with the name,” Boer says. “He was thinking about English troopers in India with the helmets and red uniforms. If you look at the logo (pictured below), that’s where the logo came from, too.”

Who else in Arizona was doing an IPA?

“Probably the hoppiest one around was Prescott’s IPA,” Boer says. “They’ve been doing that one for quite a awhile. Over 30 years, I think.”

But this was before the IPA craze, right?

“Yes, it was,” Boer says. “They were starting to become more popular, but the big boom didn’t happen until a few years ago when really everybody – at least in Arizona – wanted an IPA on tap and wanted to be making IPAs.

“Of course, a lot of brewers from California had influence on that because they kept making them crazier and crazier, adding more and more hops, and more bitter, and more alcohol.”

What did customers think of the change?

“A lot of them may not even have noticed it,” Boer says. “We didn’t really advertise the change. We just came up with a new name for it. But I thought it was an improvement when we put more hops in and made it a little more bitter.

“I haven’t changed it since the first batch. It very quickly became our best-selling beer by far. It still is. I could try to catch up to those (California) guys, but I’m not changing our best-selling beer.”

Why was Trooper such an immediate hit?

SunUpTrooperLogo“I can’t tell for sure,” Boer says. “I’ve racked my brain for years and years. People did start to like IPAs, but why is this IPA so popular?

“The only reason I could come up with was drinkability because it has a balance to it. It’s not so over the top that people would have one and say, ‘That’s great, but now I’ll have something different.’ You can have one after another and it doesn’t become overbearing.”

Do you distribute Trooper anywhere else?

“We do on a very small level right now,” Boer says. “Maybe 10 bars. But that’s all the beer we can make with this little (7-barrel) system. We can do a little bit of distribution but not much. Otherwise we run out of beers here.

“Hence, our expansion into the building next door. That’s a brand-new 15-barrel brewing system for production only.”

So you’ll be able to brew a lot more Trooper?

“We’ll be doing the IPA plus two other beers,” Boer says. “I can’t really say much. The other two are surprises. They are beers that we don’t currently make that have been seasonals in the past, though. We should be up and running in a month or so.”

Do you see the IPA craze ending anytime soon?

“It’s really hard to push that envelope any more, but I don’t really think it’s going to deteriorate a lot.” Boer says. “Once people get used to that kind of beer, they like drinking it and they will keep drinking those beers. That’s what my guess is.

“And especially in Arizona there’s still a lot of room for growth.”

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Post image for It’s Craft Beer Thursday! Here are today’s beer events

OHSO in Phoenix hosts “High Five to Fretzky,” a fundraiser for the family of the late Greg Fretzky, at 5 p.m. today. They’ll be tapping a variety of local and nationally brewed beers with 100% of the proceeds going to help Phoenix Ale Brewery co-founder’s wife and children.

At 6 p.m., Harvey American Public House in Gilbert will host a Northwest Brewing tasting. Stop by and meet the owners of the Pacific, Wash., brewery.

At 6 p.m., Mellow Mushroom in Tempe will be the latest to host the IPA Challenge, a blind tasting of six beers: Ska Modus Hoperandi, Hangar 24 Columbus, Black Market Rye IPA, Huss That’ll Do IPA, Nebraska IPA, and Upslope IPA.

At 6:30 p.m., the monthly tap takeover at Flanny’s in Tempe will feature 17 beers from San Diego’s Hess Brewing. See the tap list here.

At 8 p.m., Spokes on Southern in Tempe will host a Full Sail event. Meet the Hod River, Ore., brewers and taste their latest beers.

All day, World of Beer Tempe and Gilbert will have Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA on tap along with three “deconstructed” versions, each brewed with just one of the hops: Latitude 48 Simcoe, Latitude 48 Mosaic, and Latitude 48 East Kent Golding.

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Post image for Fusion Burrito in Gilbert announces closure after 4 challenging months

Fusion Burrito, we hardly knew ye. The on-again, off-again concept, which opened just four months ago in Gilbert, has closed for good.

Taking over the former Rivas Mexican Food – a small, rundown building on Gilbert Road just south of Guadalupe – Fusion offered a variety of burritos with globally inspired fillings.

Creations included the Boise (pictured) with roast chicken or pork, mashed potatoes, and gravy; the Seoul with roast pork, rice, shredded cabbage, and sunflower seeds; and the Parma with roast chicken or pork, risotto, and marinara.

Plumbing problems forced the restaurant to close in early June. It reopened a few days later, but soon closed again for more repairs.

Fusion announced its permanent closure today on its Facebook page.

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Post image for Huss Brewing to debut its 1st fresh-hopped beer, Fresh Magic, Saturday in Tempe

If you love fresh-hopped beer, you better clear your calendar this Saturday. Huss Brewing will debut Fresh Magic, a fresh-hopped version of its Magic in the Ivy pale ale.

The hops literally were still on the vine at a northern California hop farm last week when 50 pounds were picked and overnighted to the southern Tempe brewery.

We used our Magic in the Ivy as a base,” says brewer Jeff Huss. “We put the fresh hops in as soon as they came in. (We) drop hopped with Cascade, Columbus, and Centennial hops 26 hours off of the vine.”

Huss hasn’t filtered the beer yet, but expects to end up with about 28 barrels, which will be on tap when the taproom doors open at noon Saturday.

Fresh-hopped beers typically come out in September, “but this hop farm has an earlier harvest than most,” Huss says.

While he brewed a fresh-hopped beer a few years ago when he worked at BJ’s, but this is a first for his own year-old brewery. All the special arrangements are worth it, Huss says.

“I really like fresh-hopped beers a lot,” he says.

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Post image for Mellow Mushroom celebrates 40th anniversary with $2.50 pizzas & 75-cent beers today

Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers celebrates its 40th anniversary today with a “Way Back Wednesday” celebration – offering select menu items at 1974 prices.

Every location will be selling small cheese pizzas for $2.50, Coke products for 30 cents, and Michelob, Budweiser, and PBR for 75 cents.

Mellow Mushroom was founded by three college students near Georgia Tech in Atlanta. It has grown to more than 170 locations in 18 states, including locations in Tempe and Ahwatukee.

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Post image for Friday: 4th Friday Car Show & Magic Hat promo at Nicantoni’s Pizza in Gilbert

Due to last month’s inclement weather, Nicantoni’s still will be collecting school supplies – notebooks, binders, pens, pencils, crayons, etc. – for needy children. Magic Hat Brewing will be sampling beers as well as handing out shirts and glasses. The Vintage Vixens will appear for photo opportunities.

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Post image for Saturday: Beach party, BBQ & poolside drink specials at The Monastery in Mesa

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Post image for Sept. 13: Rockin’ Taco Street Fest at El Palacio in Chandler

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