Thunder Canyon Moves Brewery Operation Downtown

December 21, 2016

Head Brewer and co-owner Adam Marshall, owner Steve Tracy and brewer Teague Embry of Thunder Canyon Brewery.

Head Brewer and co-owner Adam Marshall, owner Steve Tracy and brewer Teague Embry of Thunder Canyon Brewery.

by Eric Swedlund

The newest face in Downtown brewing is a familiar one.

In a move to expand its production capacity, Thunder Canyon Brewery will begin making beer at its 220 E. Broadway location after moving the entire brewing operation from its original pub in the Foothills Mall.

One of Tucson’s oldest breweries, Thunder Canyon opened in 1997 and has won multiple awards at the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup since. Steady growth led to a second location Downtown, which opened in January of 2013. At that time, the brewery produced about 1,800 barrels a year, with the annual output rising to 2,500 barrels per year since. With greater space downtown, Thunder Canyon can continue to grow, boosting capacity to about 4,000 barrels a year.

“This is the same operation, but it allows us to brew more. We’re always expanding the variety of beers,” says owner Steve Tracy. “We’re landlocked at the mall and we needed to expand our capacity and this also allows us to expand into packaging.”

The move to the larger downtown location will allow for canned Thunder Canyon beers to appear in 2017, plus barrel aging, adding lagering tanks and some new recipes.

The move took Thunder Canyon months to plot, with brewers working over time to produce enough beer to last through the roughly five-week downtime, particularly of the brewery’s flagship ales: Deep Canyon Amber, Sandstone Cream Ale and Thunder Canyon IPA.

“Right now the focus has been getting the brewery down here and up and running. We’ve been going seven days a week for a while,” Tracy says. “We have our two locations and our wholesale operation, so we don’t want to run out of beer. It’s a tricky time of year to do this, so we stocked up a lot of our core styles, for us and for distribution.”

As soon as the last batch finished on Nov. 9, the brewing team began pulling the tanks out at the Foothills Mall location. Brewing re-commenced this week so Thunder Canyon can tap the first kegs of downtown-brewed beers at a special New Year’s Eve party, with further details to be announced later this month.

The other advantage Thunder Canyon has in moving its brewery downtown is in joining the distillery. Thunder Canyon has been producing rum for about six months, serving it in house and at the brewery’s Foothills Mall location. A mesquite-honey whiskey is up next for the distillery.

“It’s nice to be open and all in one room,” Tracy says. “There aren’t many places in Arizona that are brewing and distilling in the same facility and customers can see all of that happening. We’re always happy to give tours and explain the brewing process and the distilling process to people.”