Borderlands Brewing Offers Art of Beer to Warehouse Arts District

February 12, 2011

By Teya Vitu

 

Myles Stone and Mike Mallozzi don’t need to create a faux Old West ambience for their Borderlands Brewing Co. They just need to move into the century-old warehouse at 119 E. Toole Ave. and set up shop.

“It’s like a frontier town,” brewmaster Mallozzi said. “You’ve got a saddle-harness mural right on the wall.”

By sheer coincidence, Stone’s great, great uncle, James Edward Tooley, owned this very warehouse a half century ago for his produce distribution company. What would Tooley think of its 21st incarnation as a microbrewery?

“If he’s anything like the uncles I know, he’d be very happy,” Stone weighed in. “We want this place to feel like a warehouse by the railroad tracks.”

They rode their bikes around Downtown looking for a place to start Borderlands. They saw the “for lease” sign put up by Peach Properties, which acquired the warehouse a year ago in an Arizona Department of Transportation auction. Borderlands will share the warehouse with Dinnerware Artspace (There are several separate rooms).

They could set up their microbrewery anywhere in town, but brewing in suburbia just doesn’t appeal to them.

“There’s no soul to that,” Mallozzi said. “We want to be a microbrewery of Tucson, not just in Tucson.”

The warehouses in Toole are in the early stages of become a veritable arts district as ADOT in the past year and a half auctioned off a string of warehouse acquired by Peach Properties and Steve Fenton. This will allow a permanence to take shape beyond the month-to-month tenancy that artists have lived with for 20 years.

“We can help shape the future,” Stone said.

“I think it’s a perfect place to bring people together,” Mallozzi said.

Think of Borderlands Brewing as a beer variant of going wine tasting at the winery. This is a brewery with a public tasting room.

“It’s important for us to establish ourselves as not just another bar,” Stone said. “We won’t be open all day, every day, We will have special events, a Friday afternoon club, afternoon and evening tastings, one or two regular events.”

They see Borderlands as a laboratory to get public comment on their brews.

“This is the showcase for our beers,” Mallozzi said.

Mallozzi will craft five mainstay beers: a stout, a brown ale, a lager, an amber and an India pale ale.  Other seasonal offerings will be a vanilla porter and a prickly pear wheat.

They hope to be serving their signature brews by June.

Mallozzi brings a bit of a pedigree to his brewmastery. As an undergraduate at Colorado State University, his student job was as a quality assurance technician at the local Anheuser-Busch brewery. Now he’s making use of his Ph.D in microbiology and immunology as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arizona, researching bacteria.

“I’d like to develop our own yeast strain and unique flavors,” Mallozzi said.

Stone is a medical student at UA with the ambition to start  family practice physician. Last year, he was a student fellow at the Rural Health Professions Program on the Hopi Reservation.

Like many a high-tech enterprise started in a garage (Hewlett-Packard, for one), Mallozzi started brewing beer a year and a half ago in Stone’s living room and then graduated to Stone’s parents’ garage and backyard.

“You would be surprised to know how many grad students make and enjoy beer,” Stone said. “Or maybe you wouldn’t be surprised.”

Six months later, with their graduate student discipline, they started researching the  industry and found 31 microbreweries in Arizona with Nimbus Brewing Co., Thunder Canyon Brewery and Barrio Brewing Co., the Tucson representation. They determined Arizona had a much lower per capita density of microbreweries than many states, and the large proportion of Arizona’s microbreweries made beer just for their establishments.

“This is a dream I didn’t really think would happen,” Mallozzi said.

Borderlands primarily plans to distribute its beer. Their business plan outlines an ambition to distribute beer around Tucson in the first couple years, expand to the rest of Arizona in years three to five, and beyond that to other states in the region.

“We’d like to become the leading brewery of the Southwest,” Mallozzi said.

Along with broader ambitions, the Borderlands duo also embraces bringing their brewing arts to the heart of the Warehouse Arts District.

“We think it synergizes perfectly with the arts district. We’d like to host events. I think it’s the perfect place to bring people together,” Mallozzi said.

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