In the heart of an industrial and arid section of Tucson lies a way to quench desert-induced thirst: Dragoon Brewery. This clean, modern micro-brewery and tasting room offers a wide selection of seasonal beers and some year-round selections that have fans in Tucson and around the country both clamoring for more.
Dragoon is a family affair. Founder and father Bruce Greene began brewing in his kitchen; son Eric joined the Northern Arizona Homebrewers Club and studied at the American Brewer’s Guild in Vermont. The two teamed up at the Tucson Homebrew Club, adding a third partner, Tristan White. The philosophy of Dragoon, which is all about high quality and innovative beers shines through its friendly staff in the tasting room, and in the truly interesting beers. The brewery expanded at the end of 2014, and it needed to do so, both to increase their beer making space and to accommodate the eager crowd in the tap room. Dragoon is renowned for its complex beers, and the renown shows in plenty of customers and a buzzy feeling in the tap room.
This craft micro-brewery creates two-year round beers: their eponymous flagship Dragoon IPA and Stronghold Session Ale. The IPA is beautifully crisp, bitter and hoppy, with floral and citrus notes. The hoppiness is due to large amounts of Northwest hops both in the boil and after fermentation. It has a potent ABV of 7.3%
With a much lower ABV of 4.8%, the Stronghold Session Ale is a good beer to sip on a summer afternoon. But while it may have a low alcohol content, it’s a complex brew, with notes of chocolate, herbs, and oats. Made with three different hops, Willamette, Sterling, and Northern Brewer, this ale has a rich and layered character.
As good as these beers are, tasters shouldn’t get too comfortable with them alone, because a wide range of seasonal beers, crafted using locally sourced ingredients, are available throughout the year. The variety and freshness of these seasonal offerings draw crowds to the tasting room and has created a strong local fan base. Tap room seasonal favorites include the Belgian wheat beer Ojo Blanco, whose underpinnings of spiciness give it an edge. Notes of clove, banana, lime, and cumin enhance this light, dry brew. Made with German Opal hops, there’s a tangy, refreshing bitterness beneath the surface.
An extremely popular seasonal beer is the Scout Porter, which has a distinctive desert ingredient – mesquite, as in the mesquite-smoked malt used. That’s not the only malt in this beer, there are six in all, and three different kinds of hops. The result is a subtly smoky beer with a lightly chocolate taste, a beer that includes notes of toast and herbs, and sports an ABV of 6.2%.
With an ABV as high as 13.75%, it’s no wonder that the tap room bartender will only offer a 5 oz. pour of the Lazarus Barleywine. Sweet and strong, with the flavor of a heady wine infused in every sip, the Lazurus is crafted first as a Barleywine. What happens next? Aging with a Brettanomyces yeast and barrel fermentation for thirteen months. Notes of chocolate resonate in this robust beer.
Whether seasonal or available all year, two things remain consistent in Dragoon Brewery’s offerings. First, complex, layered flavors that come out in different sips rather than all at once, and second consistently high quality in their ever-changing menu.