By Alison Bailin Batz
The Valley’s latest brewery – Walter Station – has a 1963 truck to thank for its existence.
Nicknamed “Walter” as it was made by the now-defunct Walter Motor Truck Company, the truck was formerly used by Luke Air Force Base and then the New River Fire Department. Originally equipped with a powerful water cannon and flame-retardant foam, Walter was used to battle actual fires for decades.
Eventually, Walter was retired in Jerome near the Gold King Mine, which hosted a VW bus-themed jamboree annually.
“At my first of these events, I ‘met’ Walter,” jokes Kirk Strawn. “My wife, Mary, and I took ownership of Walter and transformed him into a replica of a VW bus, but the largest anyone had ever seen.”
The bus would eventually be used to start a business, but not the brewery just yet. In 2009, they opened Walter Productions, a first-of-its-kind event productions and flame effects company using Walter and fellow oversized vans and trucks.
So, how does this connect to Walter Station?
“Phoenix Fire Station #29 opened in 1966 and remained open up to 2008, when Station 29 moved into their new home adjacent to Sky Harbor Airport,” says Walter Station co-owner, head brewer and general manager James Erickson, whose wife, Jennifer is Walter Productions’ CEO.
Walter Productions initially invested in the space as a new company headquarters, but the craft beer fans soon partnered with Erickson, a home brewer, in 2016 to set the wheels in motion for the brewery.
“Named for Walter and to honor the fire station, phase one of the 5,200-square-foot space – the actual brewery and a small area for guests – is now open, and we are all systems go on phase two, which includes finalizing the buildout and adding more guest space by summer’s end,” Erickson says.
Erickson also notes that as part of the initial and phase two construction, they took steps to be conscious of their environmental footprint, installing a water run-off drain that returns rain water back to the aquifer as well as installing a nan-filtration system, which uses far less water than traditional reverse osmosis.
Currently, there are more than a dozen beers on tap as well as a full food menu, a large patio and a space to host events.
Among the summer beer offerings are: Baja Girl Blond, an American blonde ale named in honor of Jennifer, a former owner of Baja Motorsports; Grapefruit Warrior, a combination American IPA and fruit beer with both a hoppy bitterness and zest; and Just Be Nice, an American amber named in honor of Mary.
The food menu, co-managed with the team behind Saffron Jak, features a mix of traditional (think margarita) and out-of-the-box (including one with lamb) pizzas as well as sandwiches, salads and elevated pub fare.
Walter Station is open Mon. through Thurs. 3-8 p.m., Fri. 3-11 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., and Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
4056 E. Washington St., Phoenix; 602.368.8402; www.walterstation.beer.