By Emily Glynn
Photos by Mark Morgan
Uptown Plaza has come a long way since debuting in 1955.
Less than two years ago, Vintage Partners, along with some of the Valley’s most intuitive minds, transformed the dilapidated suburban shopping center into what has quickly become Phoenix’s hottest neighborhood hub. The Southwestern stucco has been replaced by midcentury modern amenities and trendy storefronts, but the original exposed brick facade and 1950s charm remain very much intact, a reminder of an era when community was at the forefront.
Nobody craves this old-fashioned frame of mind more than Jeff and Leah Huss, the husband and wife team behind Uptown Plaza’s newest tenant, Huss Brewing Company. The couple’s new taproom, an extension of the brewery’s Tempe locale, is slated to open April 14 and will play a vital role in restoring the neighborhood feel that Uptown’s revitalization has begun to establish.
Apart from an expansive pet-friendly patio and seamless indoor-outdoor layout, the taproom will feature an enticing lineup of Huss’ award-winning craft beers, including the Husstler Milk Stout, That’ll Do IPA, Magic in the Ivy Pale Ale and deeply refreshing Scottsdale Blonde. A modest yet expertly crafted menu of shared plates and appetizers will reinforce the focus on community, while options to carry out from neighboring restaurants – Zookz Sandwiches, Flower Child and Shake Shack are just across the way.
The taproom has been a long time coming, a vision Jeff and Leah have been toying with since the success of their Tempe taproom, which opened in 2013. Though the space has served as the perfect spot for locals to sample Huss favorites, it was never equipped to satisfy the Huss’ tenacious ambitions.
The couple’s appetite for craft beer developed independently and organically, an inevitable passion ignited by their Midwestern roots – and in Jeff’s case, the monotony of higher education.
“I hated my major,” he laughs. “I started homebrewing in college and at one point, stumbled upon this bar that had 50 taps and 100 bottles.”
The hidden gem became his designated afterschool hangout and immediately following graduation, he headed to the Siebel Institute in Chicago and after, the Doemens Academy in Munich, Germany. Leah can’t pinpoint the start of her journey with the same precision, but credits her interest to early bottles of Sierra Nevada and a degree from Scottsdale Culinary Institute. Her education ultimately led her to Papago Brewing Co. where she served as managing partner until Huss acquired the brand in 2016.
Although his undergraduate sales degree proved surprisingly useful in the beginning (“For a year, Jeff was the brewer, salesperson and delivery driver,” professes Leah), many of those early responsibilities have been transferred to their multitalented General Manager Chip Mulala, who has played an integral role in helping the couple navigate the complexities of packaging and distributing their product throughout Arizona. Huss’ freshly fermented beers are now available in 12-ounce cans, growlers and on draft at some of the Valley’s finest restaurants and grocery stores, many of which are located in Uptown Plaza and the surrounding neighborhoods.
“The restaurants in Uptown have brought everything together and given it an identity,” says Mulala. “The fact that we have [preexisting] partnerships with so many of them and are doubling down with a flagship location provides a great opportunity for people to connect and correlate Huss with what they’ve seen elsewhere.”
This aside, the trio envisions the family oriented taproom becoming much more than Uptown’s newest watering hole. Huss’ new gathering space will also serve as a catalyst for philanthropy and camaraderie, supporting causes and organizations specific to the area’s historic neighborhoods.
“When you start to develop a community, it creates a sense of home in the truest form,” Leah explains. “With the revitalization of Uptown and Downtown, I think we’re finally getting back to our roots and it is so exciting for us to be a part of that.”
The stage has been set. Opposition from residents who initially expressed concern about the possible repercussions of welcoming a new drinking destination to the area have been peacefully resolved, clearing the way for a smooth and highly anticipated grand opening later this month. Nobody, however, is quite as eager as the Husses themselves.
“Sorry it took so long,” Jeff teases, casting an apologetic look towards his wife. Leah laughs and rolls her eyes, but her expression gives it all away. This longtime dream of theirs, unmanageable at times and exhilarating at others, has been well worth the wait.
For more information, visit www.hussbrewing.com.