KINGMAN - Black Bridge Brewery in downtown Kingman unveiled a new beer Thursday, a Scotch strong ale aged in rum barrels for six months.
It has a complex and satisfying taste - rum in the nose, as the connoisseurs say, with rich malts and notes of cherry and fruit. Owner and brewer Tim Schritter had a packed house, and it was a beautiful day outside, perfect for enjoying a brew in the establishment's back beer garden.
For now, though, patrons can either enjoy a beer or go to the back patio, but they can't do both. Schritter's paperwork didn't satisfy the state, plus he had some illegal beer in the bar, and now his patio is shut down and he's facing a potentially hefty fine.
It may seem strange that a brewer could be fined for having beer on his property. But then, this is a strange tale all the way around.
On June 4, downtown celebrated its annual Beerfest, and the West Coast Travelers were playing another gig in Kingman at the brewery. At 11 p.m., Schritter said, two inspectors from the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control showed up to investigate a complaint they'd received - the brewery, they'd been told, was passing off kegs of beer from a Laughlin brewery as the house wheat beer.
"They couldn't substantiate the claim, because it's not true," Schritter said. What he does is use empty kegs from other breweries to store his beer: "We commonly max out our keg capacity and I still have beer that I need to put in kegs. So I will borrow kegs ... just so I have a place to store beer so I can free up tanks and keep brewing beer."
The inspectors did some more inspecting, and they found a problem - on the application for the brewery, a map depicted only the bar area and the front patio. The permit didn't show that there was containment of alcohol on the back patio, Schritter said he was told.
"We're standing out there, and I said, 'There's a building there, and fence. I have signs that say no alcohol beyond this point at the fence line,'" he said. But it's not on the permit, so the patio had to be shut down until that's corrected.
Then the potential fine came into play.
Among his customers that night were people from Ohio who are friends with one of the bartenders, who is also from Ohio. They brought him a "taste of home," Schritter said - a 12-pack of Yuengling Lager, which isn't available locally. Schritter let them store it in his kegerator so it would stay cold until the bartender's shift was over.
"We weren't serving it," he said. "The 12-pack had not been opened. None of the bottles had been opened. That would be illegal. Apparently it's illegal to even have it on the premises. I admit fault."
There will be an administrative hearing. The fine can be as much as $1,500 per bottle.
In the meantime, events have had to be canceled and customers are squeezed into the bar's tight space at a time of year when an outside patio is most appealing. It's only one establishment in Kingman, but the bar business is tough and unforgiving, and Schritter is one of the downtown Kingman pioneers who's trying to revive the Old Town district.
"That's a huge portion of my business, the back patio," he said. "That's a huge hit to our business."
But perhaps not for long. The permit change he needs is on the Kingman City Council's consent agenda Tuesday, recommended for approval, and if that passes he plans to hand-deliver the paperwork to the state for quick action.
And he remains bullish on downtown.
"I see downtown continuing to grow," Schritter said, with a new sandwich shop, Floyd's pizza expansion, a thriving coffee house and event centers. "It seems like every couple of months there's more to do. It makes it fun."
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