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Restaurant Reviews - Nov 2003

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The Nimbus Brewing Company                                         

Anyone even passingly familiar with this space has either already ascertained (or at least wouldn’t be surprised to find out) that most of the Goliard staff is partial to hoppy beverages and original music. Why then did it take us so long to make it down to The Nimbus Brewing Company which is virtually in our own Tucson back yard? We had been including their bottled Palo Verde Pale with the offerings available in the staff fridge for years. We had even visited the source a couple of times back when they were just getting started and even though it wasn’t much more than a big room with cauldrons and crates strewn about, we had fully intended to make it a hang out even back then. Recently we had heard they had done some remodeling and kept planning to pay them a visit but somehow just never got around to it. And as a group of jokers who sometimes fly or road trip to other towns simply to hang out in just such establishments, we can't imagine what we were thinking? We suppose in our defense, this apparent lapse in judgment could be partially explained by the fact that the location is not one you could ever drive past on accident since it is at the far end of a dead end in a part of the city more associated with fabricating, shipping, and warehousing then quality watering holes. Come to think of it, a thirsty wanderer who got tossed out on his toes on 44th street, would be hard pressed to find another establishment serving a decent beer within a five mile radius of The Nimbus Brewing Company. This, however, is still no excuse.

And while location is actually pertinent to this review, it is more because once a person finally locates the place (see map at right), the industrial strength quality of the physical space and how it's all tucked down in the warehouse district of town, makes Nimbus feel quite a bit like a real brew pub in a real city. In fact, the reason we finally stumbled in to the place on a recent Saturday night was that our new Northwest correspondent had come to town and while sitting around reminiscing over a Zach’s pie about the old haunts up in rain country like The Trolleyman, The Jolly Roger Tap Room, The Pyramid Ale House , and The Lucky Lab we found ourselves (and we hate to use this term but it actually applies in this case) jonesing for a visit to one of those cavernous tasting rooms serving hand crafted beers that are fairly common in Portland and Seattle but fairly scarce in these parts. Someone said they thought Nimbus was the closest thing Tucson could offer, and slapping our foreheads for not having thought of it before, off we went.

After several wrong turns past boat building yards, large metallic tanks, and other hanger sized businesses, we finally found the parking lot, which is located on South 44th street. We were met at the door with a five dollar cover charge for the music, paid it, and stepped inside. We immediately noticed that the inside decor has been vastly improved since our last visit and the left wall now sports a long, sophisticated looking wooden bar. Some upstairs balcony seating has been added along with a couple new bathrooms and a music stage that now hangs out onto the loading dock which allows the acts to be enjoyed from either inside or out depending on the weather and whether the huge sliding door is down or up. A pool table or two are mixed in with the tables and in the back of the high ceilinged room are a copse of massive brewing tanks that give the room a working atmosphere and supply the air with that hoppy fermenting smell that makes a brew pub so enjoyable to frequent. This brewy aura subliminally emanating from the percolating batches of Monkeyshine, Dirty Guerra or Nimbus Red, coupled with the roomy airyness of the space, made us remember what relaxing and enjoying fine hand crafted brews at their very source is all about. The only thing missing were succulent scents wafting from a kitchen where bubbling hearty soups and baking loafs of shepherd’s bread should have been adding that country farmhouse essence to the air. The kitchen is not online yet but once it is there is every indication that Nimbus will be quite the spot to enjoy some food with your beer and music.

As far as the music goes we've noticed over the years that management seems willing to support some diverse and interesting bands. We’ve heard tell of cool bluegrass and reggae groups playing at Nimbus in the past and on the night we stopped by, we found Rastus Kain and the Blame in from Florida to spit out some gator stomping swamp rock. The quartet featured some awesome harmonica blowing by a gentleman (right) who’s name we didn’t catch but claimed to be a local blower from the area just filling in. Rastus himself (below), swamp hat pulled low, proved to be quite capable of ripping out the riffs on such covers as Sonny Boy Williamson’s One Way Out and other self penned tunes such as Son of the Blues, Ol Milwaukee Blues, and Pee Wee Shuffle. Despite the sparse turnout (partly due, no doubt to Leftover Salmon’s playing the Rialto at the exact same time) Rastus and the boys put on the show as if they were playing to a packed Orange Bowl. We purchased one of his CD’s and found it fun and bluesy just like his stage act and with lyrics that run something like;

“Pulled into Milwaukee and that old Wisconsin Inn, that's where they stole my guitar, yep they took my bestus friend, So if your stayin in Milwaukee, avoid that ol Wisconsin Inn. Pick a Days Inn or sumpin other, or you could lose your bestus friend."

How can you go wrong with stuff like that?

As far as the beer tasting went we have to admit that we didn't give it our full attention since it was late in what had been a long day of revelry and our palettes were far from cleansed at that point but we can say with definitive confidence that the Palo Verde Pale is even better on site than it is bottled and provides a rich, lip smacking finish to replace the slightly syrupy aftertaste you get in the packaged version. One of us tried an oatmeal stout and pronounced it quite good and another found out the hard way that the Monkeyshine is some strong stuff made in that barleywine style much like Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Ale or the Eee Kay You Kulminator Urtyp Hell 28 and packs about 8 or nine percent alcohol. We didn't sample the kegged version of the brown ale which isn’t to our liking in bottled form but that is true of most brown ales and doesn’t speak to any deficiency with Nimbus in particular. One of us claimed to have sampled a blonde and a red at some point but had no useful recollection of any specifics when asked about it later which again isn't any sort of comment about it's quality since we're not even sure they were talking about beer. What we can be sure of as we reflect back on the night however is that a Palo Verde Pale, consumed from a nice hearty pint glass while leaning back in a soft backed chair with one's feet draped across the next seat and breathing in the ambiance and listening to some original tunes in the company of such local dignitaries as Big Don Fallis was exactly what the doctor ordered. We’ll be returning on many subsequent nights to give a more scientific sampling to the beer list and will let you know what we find. In the mean time for gawd's sake don't make the same mistake we did and get yourself down to Nimbus ASAP. Do yourself a favor.

The Nimbus Brewing Company
3850 E. 44th Street
Suite 138
Tucson, Arizona 85713
Phone: 520-745-9175

Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved.