(Every Thursday, MXSW reveals the story behind one of Arizona’s noteworthy craft beers.)
This week’s subject: Huss Scottsdale Blonde
Scottsdale Blonde is a Kölsch (4.75% ABV) introduced by Huss Brewing Company a few weeks after the south Tempe brewery’s opening last August. The German-style beer is Huss’ bestseller, outpacing its two (so far) other year-round beers, Magic in the Ivy pale ale and That’ll Do IPA.
For the uninitiated, what’s a Kölsch?
“It’s light and crisp, and it’s low in alcohol,” says Huss founder and brewer Jeff Huss. “It’s not overly aggressive on anything. The cool thing about a Kölsch is it’s an ale that’s fermented out like lager, so it makes the flavors a lot more soft.
“I just like the idea of a Kolsch. Overall, it’s a very easy-drinking beer. All the bars that carry (Scottsdale Blonde) seem to do pretty well with it.”
Why did you want to do a Kölsch?
“My wife (Leah Ryan Huss, who’s also part-owner and general manager of Papago Brewing) loves Kölsch,” Huss says. “I don’t think she likes Kölsch as much as Jim Roper (brewer of Four Peaks’ longtime Kölsch, Sunbru), but I don’t think she’s far behind. He’s the Kölsch king. Leah just really, really likes that style, and she thought we could do pretty well with it.”
What’s been the public reaction?
“Very good,” Huss says. “It’s funny. We don’t sell as much of it here (at the brewery’s taproom) as we do other stuff. As you can see from our selection here, it’s more of an IPA crowd. We probably have 10 IPAs on right now. But it’s definitely the best-selling beer we have out in the market.”
Who came up with the name Scottsdale Blonde?
“My old business partner Brian Dewey,” Huss says. “He used to work for Sierra Nevada. He and I were going to start the brewery together, but we decided we’d go separate ways. That was the one thing we kinda kept from him. He had come up with that name, and we loved it.
“It’s not a proximity thing. We could have called it an Arizona Blonde, but no one knows what an Arizona Blonde is. It’s kind of a play on words, but it’s not horrendously offensive.”
What types of food does it pair with?
“Honestly?” Huss asks. “I never understood entirely the food pairing thing. I’ll drink a Sierra Nevada (Pale Ale) with anything, you know what I mean? We actually have a (beer dinner) this Saturday at Gertrude’s. (Pulls out menu) Let’s see what they paired it with. It’s dessert – ‘house-made beer cheese, ruby beet puree, chocolate oil, pretzel streusel.’ So it’s an incredibly versatile beer.”
Has Scottsdale Blonde changed since its debut?
“No, I think we’re happy with it,” Huss says. “I don’t think I’d change a thing on it to be 100 percent honest with you. We changed the hops, just because of availability. I was using American hops and we changed over to German hops on it. Otherwise, it’s the exact same beer from Day One.”
Did you expect it to become your top seller?
“No,” Huss says. “I expected an IPA to be our bestseller. An IPA or a pale. I’ve learned every place is different. Spokes on Southern sells a ton of Magic in the Ivy. It’s what beer you can get the bartenders behind because they’re your best salesmen, you know?
“I think at restaurants you’re going to sell more light beer than dark beer or hoppy beer. But you go to places like Papago or The Hungry Monk or someplace else like that, a Kölsch doesn’t really have a chance against a double IPA.”
Why do so few breweries make a Kölsch?
“I think it’s kind of a forgotten style of beer,” Huss says. “The truth is it’s in between a lager and an ale. They’re not expensive to make, but as far as tank time is concerned they take a hell of a lot of tank time. You’re talking 21-24 days versus 60 percent of that time (for an ale).”
Where to find Scottsdale Blonde
Scottsdale Blonde is available on draft at Huss Brewing’s taproom in Tempe and about 70 restaurants and bars throughout the Valley and Tucson. Huss plans to begin canning Scottsdale Blonde this fall.
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