Updated: Oct 25, 2018
Halloween is the right time to talk about Bone Haus Brewing in Fountain Hills, Arizona’s first craft brewery. Although the theme is fitting for October, Bone Haus keeps its spooky décor (Tibia-shaped tap handles! Day of the Dead motif! Skulls on the mantel!) year-round.
Ensconced at the Bone Haus is a small shrine to Hans Von Biermann, a shadowy, mysterious man the brewery calls its “patriarchal figurehead,” a reputed Arizona brewing legend and adventurer from the late 1800s.
“Von,” as he is fondly referred to by the locals, is of course long gone, but LoveLocalBeer was able to chat with his successor Keith Chapman, product developer and one of the partners behind the 10-barrel brewery, about the local connections important to Bone Haus, what craft-beer drinkers are looking for in his area, and what the new venture (opened spring 2018) offers to seasoned craft-beer lovers and first-timers alike.
LLB: What does “local” mean for Bone Haus?
BHB: The great thing about the microbrewing industry is that we all support one another. We all share the same struggles and can all celebrate good beer and unique flavors. In fact, we each have our signatures so it feels less like a competitive market and more like a community of artists that can either resonate with a consumer or not. We love many beers made by other Arizona breweries and we have had visitors from other breweries be very complimentary of our brews. At the heart of it, you don’t just fall into a microbrewery as a business. It is a passion industry. You go into it because you love beer, you love breweries, you have a desire to express your own creativity in flavors and branding, and so when you get into the industry you have an immediate appreciation for your so-called competitors and therefore everyone is relatively well-respected and can coexist.
Local for us means catering to our community. Bone Haus Brewing is the first brewery in Fountain Hills and we pride ourselves on customer service, the lost art of communication, and really listening to feedback from our customers. Local also means using local ingredients from Arizona to create very bold, adventurous, and unique brews. We use locally harvested prickly-pear fruits in our Prickly Pear Blonde Ale and locally harvested mesquite wood that we use to infuse our Maple Mesquite Brown Ale; we have plans to do more seasonal brews with the fruits of the Sonoran desert.
“Local” also means tying into the area with our story: The Bone Haus story is tied into the legends of the Lost Dutchman and local mining lore with a macabre Day of the Dead, turn-of-the-century, steampunk overlay. We love telling stories and our one-of-a-kind custom-built tap room reflects the stories we created around Hans Von Biermann, the alleged nephew of the Lost Dutchman, a young brewer originally from Germany in the Arizona Territory in the late 1800s trying to carve out a living and adventuring for riches through navigating macabre and inexplicable encounters. These legends and myths add a depth to our brand, localize our message to our patrons, and at the core is just simply fun and creative. We make our beer in a creative environment and we can’t help but be excited by that. I think that resonates with our patrons and they enjoy participating in that.
LLB: What kinds of community ties/local programs/groups do you participate in or organize?
BHB: We are members of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild (http://www.chooseazbrews.com/) and the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce for business ties, and we are also well-integrated with the cycling community in Fountain Hills. Our brewmaster is an avid cyclist and has many ties in that community. His partner has been in the music industry for a few decades, so music is becoming a big part of what we do as well. Our playlists at the brewery are quite unique and each song is picked to work with our brand and taproom environment and we are currently working on bringing in creative live music. We also are very active with art: We use art to tell our story and work with artists that have a great eye for expressing those stories.
LLB: You’re located in the desert, basically. Do you see differences in peoples’ beer preferences in a hot environment?
BHB: Actually, oddly our customers were thrilled that we offered so many dark beers in the summer months! There is a trend or maybe a misconception in that breweries should offer mostly lighter beers in the hot summer months and while we do indeed do that, we also love dark beers and offering them throughout the summer months has become a positive thing for us and our customers. In fact, a local magazine named our Black IPA, a dark grain India Pale Ale, as the number one beer of the summer. So, I guess it really just boils down to offering a wide variety of flavors and styles at all times.
LLB: Pick one of your current offerings: How would you explain it or sell it to a non-beer drinker (is that even a thing?)
BHB: Oh boy, is that ever a thing! It’s a fantastic opportunity. We have a lot of first-time customers come in and ask something along the lines of “I don’t usually drink beer, what do you have that I might like?” Mostly, these people are curious about beer and maybe they came to the brewery with someone who loves craft beer but they really don’t know much about beer or haven’t enjoyed beer in the past. We typically would have them take a small taste of our lighter beers or our heavily flavored beers (fruit beers or chocolate/coffee-flavored beers) but if that doesn’t resonate with them right away we go to our very special menu for these customers. We call this menu our Alchemy. We mix our in-house craft-brewed sodas in with specific craft beers we make to effectively “sweeten" the beer for them. Our most popular Alchemy is what we call a Witsickle (tm) and it is comprised of 75% of our Malted Witbier and 25% of our Orange Vanilla Creme Soda. The fruit and vanilla in the soda shrouds any mild bitters in the beer which is what most non-beer drinkers dislike.
We have had as many as 10 different Alchemy offerings since our opening and they have been extremely popular with non-beer drinkers that come into our taproom. In fact, some have actually come to find that our Alchemy is their favorite alcoholic beverage! We found that these customers, over time, become more accustomed to the craft-brew genre and start exploring more. It has really helped make our brand resonate with customers who may not typically find themselves in a brewery.
Readers, beer lovers, and seekers of local adventure: Find Bone Haus Brewing at www.bonehausbrewing.com.
And let us know: What's your local?