Greg McClelland stands in the middle of the Goldwater Brewing Co. taproom with a pint in hand. He is beaming. The bar is filling with groups sharing after work drinks. Behind him a row of stainless steel fermenters catch the evening light. A happy din of conversation is in the air.
“Do I look like a proud papa?” he asks.
McClelland has wanted to open a brewery since 1989, and what might seem like a dream long deferred is more like the beers lagering in the cellar beneath his feet. Both taking time and the right mix of ingredients to turn into something golden.
An avid home brewer, McClelland put ideas of a commercial brewery on hold with the birth of his third child. He took a job in insurance, eventually opening his own agency. But he didn’t stop brewing. As his sons got older, it became the family hobby. The elder McClelland may not have known it then, but his sons would never be insurance men.
“We actually helped dad brew every Saturday as far as we can remember. Whatever he wanted us to do, we’d help out,” says Dillan McClelland, the youngest of the children. “His passion became our passion.”
Two decades later, McClelland had a book of 65 beer recipes, Dillan had a graphic design degree, middle child Chad was an assistant brewer at one of Arizona’s new craft breweries, and son-in-law Jimmy Disken had joined the family with his sales background.
In 2015, the McClelland’s secured the “front and center” spot they wanted in Scottsdale—the old shooting range at the southern entrance to Old Town. The family brewing sessions were ready to tap.
“I knew how to homebrew, but I didn’t know anything about commercial brewing. Chad’s the one who’s figured all that out,” Greg says.
Of his 65 recipes, one was particularly special. Desert Rose has become Goldwater’s flagship beer. McClelland’s special blend of cactus fruit juices give the Kolsch-style beer both a distinctive pink hue and touch of sweet flavor.
Greg explained that even 20 years ago, he wanted to have a beer that used indigenous ingredients that you could only find in the Arizona desert. For Chad, the challenge came not only in scaling up, but in controlling the variables of the wild ingredients.
“Over the last two years, I’ve figured out how to do that just with trial and error, like my dad,” he says.
Today Goldwater Brewing has anywhere from 15 to 25 beers of their making on tap including the Machine Gun Teddy Brown Ale that won a bronze medal at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival.
The family has also expanded the brewery beyond the main taproom with a patio and a speakeasy style basement dubbed the Goldmine. The underground spot used to be the shooting range and the McClelland’s had tanks custom built to fit into the old target tunnels. With the cool and controlled year-round temps, they use the space for lager styles and their barrel-aging program, which both take months to properly brew.
Starting in 2018, they will offer tours for people to learn about craft brewing and the history of the building. And they’ll continue to experiment and offer small-batch and seasonal styles. That is, after all, the family tradition.