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3:06 AM Wed, Nov. 21st

Local drinking horizons about to expand with new brewery, meadery and distillery

Matt Hinshaw/Courier<br>
Black Hole Beer Company owners Eric Marichal, left, and Chris Mewhinney line up pennies for their bar top. They plan to open their brewery on April 19.

Matt Hinshaw/Courier<br> Black Hole Beer Company owners Eric Marichal, left, and Chris Mewhinney line up pennies for their bar top. They plan to open their brewery on April 19.

Prescott will soon more than double the number of businesses that create and sell their own alcoholic concoctions.

While the city is now home to two downtown beer breweries - Prescott Brewing Company and Granite Mountain Brewing - it's about to add a third brewery as well as its first meadery and first distillery.

All the owners exhibit strong passion for their products, and all plan to use local ingredients for special flares, from honey to juniper berries to hops.

Superstition Meadery appears to be the only meadery in Arizona, while the Thumb Butte Distillery will be among just a few distilleries making hard liquor and it will serve the most variety. And Black Hole Beer Co. promises out-of-this-world brews such as its lemon, apricot and pepper saison.

The new proprietors in town already are talking with the old about offering tours. Something akin to the Flagstaff Ale Trail would be fun, said Chris Mewhinney, co-owner of Black Hole Brewing Co.

"It's going to draw people up here," predicted Jeff Herbert, owner of Superstition Meadery with his wife Jen. "It's going to be big tourism."

They might even form a Prescott craft beverage association to coordinate other events.

"We want to be colleagues, not competition," said Mario Passalacqua, co-owner of the Thumb Butte Distillery.

Both the Black Hole Brewing Co. and the Thumb Butte Distillery are set to open within a few weeks.

Black Hole is at 1590 Swenson St., the former home of Hot Rodz Bar & Grill in Forbing Park on the northwest side of the city. Owners Eric and Stephanie Marichal with Chris Mewhinney are set for a grand opening at noon on Saturday, April 19. They will brew all kinds of beers on site while also offering a full bar.

Thumb Butte Distillery's home is at 400 N. Washington St., about two blocks north of Sheldon. Owners Dana Murdock, Jim Bacigalupi, Scott Holderness and Mario Passalacqua hope to open Saturday, May 3. For those who can't wait, stop by their Park Plaza Liquor store tasting on Saturday, April 26. They will make and sell all kinds of hard liquors.

Superstition Meadery has to wait for its grand opening until tenants inhabit the ground floor of the Burmister Building at 120 W. Gurley St. across from the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza, probably this fall. It also will feature Arizona wines and hard cider alongside gourmet small plates such as cheeses, chocolates and olives.

As early as May, however, the meadery plans to start offering periodic special events in its new Burmister cellar home. Keep up with the meadery's plans via its website at superstitionmeadery.com or its Facebook page.

In the meantime, people can buy Superstition mead at the Raven Cafe, Granite Mountain Brewing and Park Plaza Liquor in Prescott.

And to celebrate its new 2014 gold and two silvers from the world's biggest mead competition, the Mazer Cup, Superstition will release a keg of its gold medal Berry White during a special event at 5-7 p.m. Saturday, April 26 at Granite Mountain Brewing, 123 N. Cortez St. This delectable dessert mead features raspberries and white chocolate.

In case you're wondering, mead wine generally features honey and it's considered the oldest fermented drink in the world, with evidence of its existence dating back earlier than 2,000 B.C.

The Herberts started making and selling mead in 2012 at the Juniper Well Ranch about 12 miles outside of Prescott, and they've been winning national and international contests ever since.

They keep Arizona's largest honey maker (Crockett Honey Co. in Tempe) busy since they need 150 pounds of honey for each 80-gallon batch of mead.

The Thumb Butte Distillery (thumbbuttedistillery.com) will make and sell vodka, gin, whiskey and dark rum with catchy local names such as Rodeo Rye, Central Highlands Single Malt Whiskey, Bloody Basin Whiskey and Gurley Street Gin.

They will use local ingredients such as juniper berries and western sage for the gin, and prickly pear with chiles in vodka.

"We really want to tie our products to our location," Murdock said. They're even planning to create bitters from local herbs.

The distillery won't technically be a saloon, so visitors to the tasting room will be limited to two ounces of alcohol daily except during special events, which will be frequent. And people can buy as much as they want to take home.

The four owners are friends who have been taking courses and visiting distilleries around the country.

"It has to be a passion, and I think it is for all four of us," Holderness said.

The Black Hole Beer Co. (blackholebeercompany.com) name came from Eric Marichal's original plan to brew beer in the basement of his Hotel Vendome, but he decided it was too small of a black hole. The name is paired with a Buck Rogers-style sci-fi retro spaceship on the beer's logo.

Their outer space theme continues with their beer names such as Porter 9 from Outerspace (a chocolate orange imperial stout) and Planet of the Grapes (wine barrel aged saison).

"We're complete beer geeks," said Mewhinney, who moved his Mile Hi Brewing Supplies business from downtown Cortez St. to the new Swenson site. He also

has been teaching people how to make beer at Yavapai College.

Now he'll teach classes at Black Hole, where students can taste beers they're learning about (alcohol isn't allowed on the college campus). Cheese-making classes will be offered, too.

Black Hole plans to be a prime spot to hang out in the sun with its dog-friendly 3,000 square-foot patio featuring bocce ball, fire pits and covered seating.

Follow Joanna Dodder on Twitter @joannadodder