Phoenix Ale Brewery’s owner and general manager George Hancock knew he wanted to get back into the beer industry as well as move out of Seattle when Pyramid Breweries was sold in 2008. But when he got here, he wasn’t completely sold on what is now the current location of his micro-brewery.
“The first time we saw it, there was a homeless person sleeping in the archway over the front door,” Hancock said.
Hancock bought Pyramid Breweries in 1989 and ran it from the Seattle headquarters. Twenty years later, he began talking to business partner Greg Fretz about opening up a brewery in Phoenix.
It could have been a sign of good fortune, or just a strange coincidence that Hancock would move from Washington State to Washington Street.
Phoenix Ale Brewery’s first bottle customer was Chase Field, Hancock said, noting they then started building business in grocery chains, bars and restaurants.
“That’s kind of like hand-to-hand fighting. It’s such a competitive market,” Hancock said.
Besides the weather, a big reason that Hancock said he came to Arizona was because there are many fewer breweries here than in Washington, with a similar population size.
Hancock said Washington had 150 breweries at the time he moved here and Arizona had 25, adding there are now 40 in Arizona.
“People are actually figuring out that its better beer, it’s tastier and they like the variety,” Hancock said of craft beer, “The whole industry has exploded and we’re a part of that growth in Downtown Phoenix.”
Fretz contracted throat cancer in 2012. He had been given chemotherapy treatment and radiation and came out cancer free, Hancock said. Adding, he died at age 44 from sleep apnea, a disorder that causes shallow breaths or pauses in breathing while sleeping.
“That was a bit of a blow. He was the co-founder, he was the sales guy, he was the reason I came here,” Hancock said.
The company’s first beer, called Fretzy’s Unfiltered Pale Ale, was brewed in June 2011 and is still sold today.