Scottsdale Beer Company: It’s All About Local
Painted on the wall near the entrance to Scottsdale Beer Company are three simple, yet telling words:
In a lot of ways, the words sum up the brewery that opened in December 2014 – New Year’s Eve, actually – and quickly turned into a go-to spot in an area that at the time was lacking great beer.
“We were the second show in town (after McFate),” said Douglas Ledger, one of the managing partners of SBC, adding more have popped up since. “But at the time it was unbelievable to us that Scottsdale wasn’t more saturated with breweries because it’s a tourism city, destination city.”
To Ledger, and his business partner Tom Davidson, that made no sense. The former is from Fort Collins, CO, while the latter is from Seattle, a pair of cities where good beer is kind of a way of life.
Both moved to Arizona in 2005 and after meeting through mutual friends, a friendship was struck. Down the road a 7,800 square foot brewery with a 10bbl brew house, 70bbl of fermentation capacity and 220 seats was born.
Veterans of the restaurant industry, Ledger said the idea came about simply because they wanted to find good local beer.
“We knew that there was an opportunity in Scottsdale to come in and kind of recreate what we had grown up with in Colorado and in Washington,” he said. “We knew that Arizona has all the intangibles that you need to really build a great brewery business: warm weather, all the major sports, it’s a beer drinking city, it’s a tourism hot spot, lots of golf courses, lots of pools.
“So we saw an opportunity and really envisioned building a place that was the type of place we would want to go to when we were done with a round of golf, or after a long day of work. Where would we want to go?”
That vision spawned what you see today.
With a rotating list of delicious beers (177 unique beers in 2017) from head brewer Brad Williams and a food menu from head chef Justin Olsen that changes quarterly, it’s no wonder people flock to the brewpub that sits just west of the 101 off of Shea.
While all that has helped SBC become a popular destination, it is the emphasis on local that helps it stand out as it is seen in everything the brewery does, promotes and supports.
Of course Ledger wants people to visit his place, but more important to him is that folks enjoy Arizona beer and breweries. He is excited about the state’s progress, of which SBC is a part.
“Arizona beer is just now getting on the map and we know we’ve got to work together to make that happen,” he said.
Sure the breweries, at least in theory, are competing with each other, but what it really boils down to is with other markets’ beers invading the state, there is a common goal of keeping beer dollars in Arizona.
For their part, SBC patronizes local vendors, has local guest taps and uses ingredients from local farms as much as possible.
“That’s our philosophy that I think is supported by almost everyone in the brewing industry,” he said. “It’s hyper-local and it’s a small industry in Arizona. We all know each other.”
Ledger is confident Arizona’s standing, if not its reputation, is improving. He pointed to SBC being one of four Arizona breweries to medal at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival, with Goldwater, Pedal Haus and Saddle Mountain being the others, as a positive step.
The cliché is that a rising tide lifts all boats, and the feeling is Arizona’s current is coming in. Or if you’d prefer a different cliché, it is teamwork that makes the dream work.
That in mind, for SBC focusing on local is about more beer or food. It’s about Scottsdale. It’s about Arizona.
You can’t really have “Scottsdale” in your name and not care about the city or state.
“Tom and I aren’t from here but we’ve been here a long time, so Arizona’s home,” Ledger said. “And for us, being able to get in what we perceive as the ground floor of the craft beer revolution in Arizona is a real opportunity and an honor.”
With that honor comes a sense of responsibility.
On May 31st SBC will be hosting POUR, which promises to be a night filled with great food, craft beer and wine. All of it comes from Arizona, and 20 percent of the proceeds will benefit Cortney’s Place Foundations.
“For SBC the POUR event is the opportunity to kind of create, in one night, what we do philosophically every day,” Ledger said. “Which is try to feature Arizona craftsmanship and Arizona artisanship to the people who walk through the door.”
Ledger is excited that from 6 to 9pm that night, people will get a chance to “see the best of what Arizona has to offer.”
Tickets cost $25 (purchase here), and along with drinks and food there will be live music, art and a Tap That AZ Podcast.
POUR is the next event, but far from the first at SBC and certainly not the last. Besides fresh, local beer, SBC seeks to help whenever possible.
Ledger said SBC has allowed them to meet many people, who have in turn led them to opportunities to get involved in some charitable outreach. Courtney’s Place, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, schools — all have received contributions.
“Anybody can run a successful restaurant, but to make an impact on your community and to take some of the resources, our hard-earned dollars and turn those back to the good people of Arizona that have supported us throughout our journey, you can’t measure that, you can’t put a value on that,” Ledger said.
No, you can’t.
“That’s what gives us, as a company, a heartbeat, and that allows us to really redefine success,” he continued. “For Scottsdale Beer Company as a whole and as a culture, we don’t measure success based on the bottom line.
“We have to be a solvent company in order to exist, but once you get past the dollars and the cents, we measure success in how much good we do, how much impact we have on the local community.”