on the Road Dragoon Brewing

Tucson, Arizona

Dragoon Brewing Co.

From the Taps

Dragoon IPA

A potent, clear, rich IPA brewed with a variety of Northwestern hops that produce the classic West Coast flavor. Hopping throughout the boil enhances bitterness and a post-fermentation dry-hopping adds pleasant floral/citus/fruit aromas.

ABV: 7.3%
IBU: 85

Ojo Blanco

Wheat, malt, and oat combine with German hops to define this complex Belgian-style brew. A medley of spices produce aromas of banana and clove which linger around this ale's hazy golden glow. It's a modern take on the traditional wit bier with a light-bodied feel and a dry finish.

ABV: 5.6%
IBU: 11

Greetings from The Old Pueblo

It was a cool 104 degrees in the shade when I passed through Tucson, Arizona, where men are men and beers are crafty. My destination: Dragoon Brewing Company, a fast-growing craft beer success story set in the Old West.

I wanted to learn more about this microbrewery, which literally began in the kitchen when owner Bruce Greene started home brewing in the 90s. After graduating from Northern Arizona University, his son, Eric, also caught the craft brew bug. Eric started the Northern Arizona Homebrewers club, then went on to study at the American Brewer’s Guild in Vermont and interned at Mass Brewing Company (think Harpoon), before returning to Tucson.

Home Brewers Unite

It was in the homebrewers club where Eric met Tristan White. By 2007 the three men were brewing together regularly. By 2010, they decided it was time to take it to the next level and Dragoon Brewing Company was born. They found their current location in the fall of 2011, and celebrated their first pour on April 17, 2012.

Dragoon Vats

The microbrewery is nestled just outside of Tucson in an industrial park. Upon my first visit (there were several during the course of this interview so I could sample the many offerings of this busy brew house), I met Stout, one of the friendly, knowledgeable managers. Although a long-standing nickname long before he entered the world of craft crews, Stout said, smiling, “It just goes to show that (working with beer) was meant to be.”

Dragoon TristanStout introduced me to co-founder Tristan who serves as head of Dragoon’s operations. Sitting down and chatting over a pour of the signature Dragoon IPA, Tristan shared the story of Dragoon’s humble beginnings and its fast-growing success.

The name, Dragoon, comes from the Dragoon Mountains, located near the Arizona-New Mexico border. The region ties to the great Indian warrior, Cochise, and later, the famous Wyatt Earp. “We wanted something that embodied the west but that wasn’t cheeseball,” Tristan says.

Passion for Quality

The Dragoon secret is in the passion the owners have for making quality beer. Tristan says they are fanatical about producing quality tasting beer, and have been known to toss a batch if it doesn’t meet their standards. In addition to the regulars—Dragoon IPA and Ojo Blanco, Dragoon produces a variety of seasonal beers—like the Monsooner, named for the storm season in Arizona. Occasionally you’ll find an experimental brew on the menu. After all, Dragoon was one of the first local brews in the region to have its own laboratory. With all of their beers Tristan says they try to incorporate regional elements, like the White Sonoran Wheat, which was made from local wheat from the Sonoran Desert. On any given day, patrons can explore the beer menu and find as many as a dozen or more varieties to choose from.

Success has come fast to the innovative brew masters. In its first year, Dragoon brewed between 550-562 barrels, growing to over 2,500 earlier this year. In the initial business plan, they started with three tanks and blocked out room for nine—they’ll hit that number “before the end of year two,” Tristan says. So what to do when you hit your max brew? Build more room, of course! Fortunately for the Dragoon team, there just happened to be a 12,500-sq.-ft. space right next door. Knocking down the walls, the brewery is building a 2,500-sq.-ft. taproom and by the end of 2014, they’ll have the capacity to produce 4,500 barrels per year.

That kind of production is good news for the regulars who pour into the current taproom every afternoon when the doors open at 4 p.m. If you can’t hit the brewery, Dragoon beer can be found at local establishments and liquor outlets in Tucson and Phoenix. But don’t look for the Dragoon label throughout Arizona and beyond—Tristan says they don’t plan to grow distribution anytime soon. They do, however, have plans to launch a canning line by 2016.

Sly Amber

Wrapping up my heart-to-heart with Tristan with a Sly Amber, I knew it was time for me to put the hitch back in my giddy-up and move along. With a smile and a shout out to Stout, I thanked Tristan for his time, wished him well on Dragoon’s success, and headed on down the happy trail.

Images courtesy of Dragoon Brewing