Randomonium in the Desert: Beer, Snow and a 15-year Legacy
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2012 13:04
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It was 15 years ago that Jim Scussel and his partners Randy Schultz, Andy Ingram and Arthur Craft, joined forces to open the famed Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe. Little did they know that in just a few short years, Four Peaks, which specializes in serving locally crafted beer, would become the state’s largest brewery and the leader of the craft beer scene in Arizona.
On any given day, the brewery is a hubbub of laughter and chatter from the crowd that gathers almost regularly inside the restaurant or on the patio that looks out to Eighth Street. Over the years, Four Peaks has become a frequented spot for locals and a rotating crowd of college students.
The loyalty the owners show to the community is exactly what makes Four Peaks so special. Although it is common for most breweries to expand their reach to other states, Four Peaks keeps things local.
“We want to go deep in our own backyard,” Scussel said. “We want to be Arizona’s brewery.”
In commemoration of the brewery’s 15th anniversary and as a way of giving back to the community, the owners have organized an event of grand proportions. They call it Randomonium.
It all began with a vision. Four lovers of good food and craft beer decided to share their passion with other people and open a brewery in Arizona. However, it wasn’t always sunshine and pints for the guys of Four Peaks. There was a lot of sweat and less-than-perfect batches of beer that went into the brewery before it opened.
It was 1995 and at the time, Eighth Street was in a dead zone. Everyone questioned the choice of location, Schultz said, but when the guys saw the historic, adobe style building, they just knew it was their brewery.
“We saw the value and the beauty of that old historic building – the ambiance of that place just felt right,” Schultz said. “We felt that’s where a brewery needed to be.”
For about a year an a half, the guys spent their days side by side doing nearly all of the renovating of the building. While Scussel, Schultz and Craft were painting and hauling up floors, brew master Ingram was in the back developing beers; stirring on a home brew system he made to perfect the recipes.
“Those were always the wonderful [re]wards,” Schultz recalls. “For all our hard work, Andy would bring out a batch of beer for everyone at the end of the day and we’d all sit around and taste it.”
From the very first batch of beer, Schultz said, the guys were convinced that they were going to be okay no matter what.
“It didn’t matter what happened, we didn’t care how big or small we were, we knew we were all going to be happy in life because that guy made great beer,” he said.
In December 1996 Four Peaks poured its first beer. It started with a couple of small tanks, Scussel said. Mostly the brewery distributed to a few bars around the Valley, namely, Casey Moore’s Oyster House, which was one of its first and biggest accounts.
But the Four Peaks bar still needed work. Though the brewery was in business, the locale was real rough, and with no heat or air conditioning the bar flies weren’t exactly swarming. For the next few months the boys continued to work on the brewery, replacing the plywood bar top with a real bar and removing the tarp that served as the patio. It took about four months to finish the renovations and in April 1997, Four Peaks had its grand opening with live bands, beer tasting and a giant balloon on its rooftop.
“Randomonium is sort of a bringing back of that event that happened 15 years ago,” Schultz said. “We’re celebrating with music and good food and a lot of great beer.”
Like any major event, there is always a good tale behind it, so the Four Peaks four dreamed up the legend of Randomonium, which tells the story of two mythological creatures, Randolph the Panda and Mortimer the Gecko. Upon descending his perch atop the Tempe Butte after much convincing from Mortimer, Randolph unleashed Randomonium on the whole town, causing the mountain to split apart, sending a river of beer trickling down its side to the valley below.
So what exactly is Randomonium, you ask? Four Peaks’ owners describe it as “an uncontrolled event, typically down by the river, created within the paradox of reality in order to instill an understanding of the pattern of chaos.”
The event will commence at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning, when a parade of Four Peaks frequenters, beer lovers, men, women and children will march down from the peak of A Mountain in fits of celebration, taking the party to Tempe Beach Park where the remainder of the day’s festivities are set to take place.
What can you expect? A lot of unexpectedness. Randomonium is one part music festival, one part beer festival and one part gourmet food truck festival.
This years lineup includes L.A. rock band The Airborne Toxic Event, Austin blues band Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, and many local artists such as Black Carl, Tramps and Thieves and the Persuaders.
The event will feature popular gourmet food trucks including Short Leash Hotdogs, Tom’s BBQ, Burgermania and Shine Coffee.
In addition to Four Peaks’ flagship beers – Kiltlifter, Sunbru, and Hopknot – Randomonium will have beer from other state breweries, including Oak Creek and Lumberyard Brewery. A strong-beer tent called Muscle Beach will have about 20 unique beers that you can’t get anywhere else from breweries like Stone, Lagunitas and Firestone Walker.