Electric Brewing was granted Arizona's first microbrewery license in 1987. The business was started by Dave Harvan, a former electrician and home brewer who also dabbled in the import business (more on this later). Dave started his brewery in Bisbee, Arizona, a former mining town. The mine had closed in the mid-70's, resulting in dirt cheap real estate that attracted an eclectic group of artists, hippies and all-round characters (including Dave).
The original brewery was set up in 1988 in a portion of town known as South Bisbee. South Bisbee was a smattering of houses and former miner's shacks clustered in a secluded area surrounded my mountains and mine tailings. Access to South Bisbee was through a tunnel - basically a large culvert. The addition of Dave's operation, and the resulting party atmosphere, added greatly to the general ambience of this small enclave.
Dave had originally intended to sell beer to his friends, but the product was so well received that he ended up with a number of accounts in Bisbee, a town not lacking for bars and bar patrons. The South Bisbee operation sold 60-90 kegs per month - quite the achievement considering that it was only Dave and a part-time helper making the product.
In 1991, Dave and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), had a slight disagreement regarding his sideline import business. This import business, which contributed to the financing of the brewery operation, happened to rely heavily on a certain smokable product which Dave procured in Mexico. His arrest in 1991 resulted in a legally mandated five year sabbatical that began in September 1993. Much of
Dave's property was seized and the South Bisbee brewery was bulldozed.
Dave's confinement was spent productively, and he became an invaluable asset to the Arizona prison system as a low-paid, but highly skilled refrigeration & HVAC guru. He was granted parole in December of 1995. Upon release, Dave enrolled in the Cochise College welding program and became a very proficient welder. Dave was already an alumnus of Cochise College having graduated from the aviation program (his piloting skills had been essential to his import business).
Dave was given the okay to brew beer again in 1999. Dave anticipated this and had been working diligently on setting up a new, larger brewery in a small strip mall located in the San Jose section of Bisbee. The new brewery featured a 30 barrel system that Dave designed and built from mostly used equipment and reclaimed scrap metal. This tribute to ingenuity, hard work, and Dave's welding skills officially opened on New Year's Eve of 2000.
The brewery produced several signature beers - lager, ale, IPA and stout. Numerous accounts in Southern Arizona sold the various beers either in bottles or on tap. The brewery also featured an on-site tap room. Unfortunately, the business was perennially under-financed and in October of 2007 the brewery's annual Oktoberfest was renamed the ItsOverFest. The brewery closed and Dave put the operation up for sale.
Several months after closing, two investors from Tempe, Arizona became interested in purchasing the operation. Rather than buy it outright, though, they worked out a management agreement with Dave. Operating under this agreement they invested the funds necessary to resuscitate the brewery.
This arrangement had its ups and downs, but the brewery did continue operating. The investors built a Dave's Electric Brewpub in Tempe, which had a scheduled opening of September 2009. Unfortunately, the very day of the scheduled Grand Opening, Dave was involved in a near-fatal car accident. Dave was kept in an induced coma for several days due to the extent of his injuries, and nearly died numerous times. Luckily, Dave survived, and after several months of recuperation was able to resume work. Dave is still working diligently to restore the drinking stamina that he possessed prior to the accident.
The management agreement with the Tempe investors eventually came to an end in September of 2011, and the Tempe brewpub was closed several months thereafter. Today, the Electric Brewery remains in operation and is overseen by Dave. Beer is sold locally directly by the brewery, and is distributed by the Hensley Company in Tucson and the Phoenix area.