Those crazy-yet-magical wizards of cold brew and espresso at Cartel Coffee Lab have done it again. We kept hearing nothing but great things about the beer offerings at their Tempe location, so we had to go check them out for ourselves. Cartel operates on a micro level when it comes to brewing, and their beers are usually sent to very few local bars, making them extra appealing.
The microbrewery is a short walking distance from Arizona State University and a huge draw for the Tempe community that both respects and admires good coffee along with great craft beer. It appears that delicious ingredients and the pressures of a hipster customer base has resulted in a variety of well-thought-out brews that are perfect for Arizona. The prices range from $2.50 to $4.50 a glass and they come in 10 and 16 ounce sizes. We got a flight for $5 and were able to sample four beers.
Desert Pale Ale (American Pale Ale)
Cartel’s DPA is probably our favorite beer they make, but we are also partial to American pale ales. This brew is hardly bitter, extra smooth, light and hoppy. You get maximum taste with a great finish. This beer is so approachable, we recommend it for anyone who swears that hoppy beers aren’t for them.
F.Y.I.T.M. (Imperial Ale)
The first thing you might notice is the whopping 9.5 percent ABV, which we have to admit is pretty impressive. F.Y.I.T.M., which stands for five years in the making, is a delicious imperial ale with a bigger bark than bite. This brew has an earthy smell with a lightly hoppy taste and a flesh, slightly citrus aftertaste. This beer is great for hop heads that want to take a break from dark and ostentatious imperial ales. F.Y.I.T.M. is easy to drink and gives you a big mouth feel without much bitterness.
Grapefruit Wit (Belgian Wit)
This Belgian wit is the craziest beer on tap at Cartel. It looks completely different from its coppery companions in that it is cloudy yellow color and has a sharp smell. It explodes in your mouth when you take your first sip and it stays in your nose when you exhale. It’s sour and crisp, and while the grapefruit is a little lost, the Sonoran white wheat berries give you a rattle.
Amber Rye (Amber Ale)
The Amber Rye had the mildest flavor of all the beers we tried, but it seems drinkability is important to Cartel. Just like they balance out their coffee drinks, the Amber Rye is perfectly refreshing without being too light or sweet.
Also be sure to sample their Coffee Brown Ale, which is the perfect marriage of their coffee beans and brown ale. It is kind of a masterpiece.
Cartel Coffee Lab, 225 W. University Drive, Tempe, cartelcoffeelab.com