Pastor's Pale Ale

The Rock Bottom brew master brought Steve Hammer a glass of his latest creation and named it “Pastor’s Pale Ale” in his honor.

Submitted photo

In college it was "Nick's English Hut," the same place where my dad went 30 years before me. In seminary it was "Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap" on the corner of Woodlawn and 55th streets. Jimmy's had an odd mix of working people and students, and I recall one magical afternoon when the back room was crowded with folks listening while Studs Terkel held us spell bound with rich stories of Chicago's past.

For those of us who remember when the most prominent feature in Ahwatukee was the junk yard at 48th Street and Ray Road, the local pub was Rock Bottom. It became a symbol of our emergence from "the world's largest cul-de-sac" to one of the Valley's most desired locations. And for a lot of us, it was the default location for a bite to eat and a unique beverage to wash it down.

Rock Bottom became kind of a second office for me. The location was good for me and convenient for friends who lived or worked on the other side of the freeway. It was a great stopping off point for folks driving up from Tucson, or those just in from the airport.

Very often, Rock Bottom was a place of planning. I can think of three Vacation Bible School curricula that were written there, several planning sessions and even a couple of movie scripts that evolved. Sometimes it was the place for a celebration, other times it was the place to commiserate after a long day.

And then there was the cask. A less carbonated, English-style ale that you had to catch at just the right time.

One afternoon I mockingly complained that it was my third visit in a row when there was nothing in the cask. By the end of lunch, the brew master brought me a glass of his latest creation and named it "Pastor's Pale Ale" in my honor. Then he gave me a tour of the brewery, and I watched his face light up as he gave me an introductory course in his art, his calling.

I guess that really is the point. In the end it really isn't the Reuben or the Salmon Fish ‘n' Chips or the specialty brew that lingers in my memory. It is the people across the table that makes a place special. Rock Bottom became the place "where everybody knows your name."

I don't know if it would have made a difference if Rock Bottom had been a locally owned enterprise. Nick's and Jimmy's are still going strong in their neighborhoods. Rock Bottom became the victim of a corporate decision: one that didn't know the people around the table, or behind the bar or in the kitchen. Some of my favorite locally owned ‘Tukee destinations have also fallen victim to a lagging economy. And, yes, being part of a big city means that there are plenty of other places to go.

But I will remember Rock Bottom as the local pub that grew up with our town, and I will remember all the friends who shared a laugh, a serious thought, and even a tear or two with me there.

So long, Rock Bottom, it was great to know you.

• Steve Hammer is the pastor at Esperanza Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills.

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