Release Date: Tuesday, October 2nd 2012
Bikes, Beer and Brats Come Together at Mill Avenue’s Handlebar and Grill
By Janice Vega
Almost overnight, a new bar rose up on Mill Avenue. The Handlebar & Grill, situated just south of Seventh Street and next to Fat Tuesday, is the latest venture of restaurateur Julian Wright, the man behind La Bocca and Canteen. Unlike his other two Mill Avenue concepts, which focus on and wine and tequila, Handlebar intends to bring the community together through beer, bikes and brats.
The bar opened its doors on September 19 in the location of the now-shuttered Bath & Body Works. From the wooden facade, to the concrete counter tops and wooden tables, the building is completely redone, literally custom built from the ground up, and creates a unique and untapped vibe on Mill Avenue.
“Julian really liked the idea of riding your bike up to a bar, hanging it on the wall and walking in for a beer,” said Billy Clayton, Handlebar’s beer buyer and resident beer geek. “He’s really trying to build that community with beer lovers and bicycle riders.”
The idea of integrating beers and bicycles, Clayton said, was heavily inspired by the biking friendly community that surrounds ASU. All around the back patio of the bar are bike racks that allow for easy Mill parking for bikers. The bar is still ironing out the details, but bar management is working on programs that would offer drink special to bicyclist who ride their bikes to the bar.
“We are definitely encouraging riding your bike and bike safety,” Clayton said.
The brats come into play at the front of the venue. A small, kitchen big enough for just two people and visible from the street prepares food for guest daily. The kitchen serves five of Schreiner's Fine Sausages, fresh pretzels, grass-fed beef and hand-cut fries. The menu is very small with only eight items because Clayton’s focus is on the 24 draft beers and 24 selected bottles.
With only six rotating taps, 18 of the bar’s beers will be mainstays, assuring most guests will always have their favorite beer on tap while keeping it interesting for those who favor seasonals or are into trying new beers.
Four Peaks, San Tan, Prescott Brewing and Mudshark Brewing Company are among the local breweries represented at Handlebar. In an effort to appeal to those who don’t normally drink beer, Clayton has included some less intimidating brews like Coors Light, Blue Moon and PBR.
“I chose beers that don’t make people feel out of place when they’re here,” Clayton said. “We got ciders, we got IPA’s, we got dark stuff and porters and even gluten-free beer. We want to make everyone happy.”
With Taste of Tops just off of Mill and the opening of World of Beer down the street from Handlebar, the craft beer scene in Tempe is certainly on the up and up.
“Beer nerds are rising up on Mill Avenue,” Clayton said, who by the end of the year hopes to be a certified beer judge and a cicerone.
“We want people to come here and make friends,” Clayton said. “That’s why the beer list is PBR to Rockford 10.”
For those who desire a little more privacy, a row of intimate booths line one side of the bar and are good for couples or groups that want to be able to talk amongst themselves without being completely cut off from the bar environment. But community, in general, is a major theme at Handlebar, which encourages conversation through the means of communal seating at high tops and long picnic table seating on the patio.
“I think [the patio] is what is going to set us apart from all the other beer bars on Mill Avenue,” Clayton said.
The extended patio resembles the same style of other bars like Canteen and Robbie Fox’s but with more seating. Handlebar’s patio allows room to move around and find a place to sit. Complete with a fire pit, which will be a centerpiece come wintertime, upbeat music and laid back atmosphere, Handlebar’s patio is an inviting place to enjoy a few drinks.
“[As] all the other bars go club, you’ll be able to come over here, sit down with a group of friends and actually be able to talk to each other,” Clayton said. “It has a really good vibe and just feels different than any other bars on Mill right now.”