One of the things I like to do when visiting other cities is to sample their local brewery culture. I love to try new beers and love talking with local breweries about the beer culture in their cities. This trip has afforded me a chance to try beer from four different places so far, so I thought I’d take today’s blog entry and review these four Las Vegas brewing destinations.
Banger was the first stop that we made and it’s right at the east end of the Freemont Street Experience. It’s adjacent to the Heart Attack Grill and has a small patio out front where you can enjoy your beer and watch the people walking along Freemont Street. We decided for this trip that the four of us would order flights and share the beers among all of us. That way we’d get the largest variety of beers to sample.
The beer from Banger was pretty solid, with a couple of standouts. First, the Liquid Courage is a really nice Kölsch with a nice easy drinking mouth feel, and pleasing aroma. If I were to order up a full pint of something on a warm Vegas night, I could easily see throwing this one back while relaxing on their patio. The second beer that stood out for me was their El Hefe Jalapeno Wheat beer. Usually when you order a beer with some type of chili flavor to it, you expect some burn and spice. This beer is not that type of beer. Instead, you get a really decent hefe infused with the flavor, aroma and general essence of Jalapeno. It’s a really amazing taste that was unexpected when I first took a sip. I don’t know that I could do multiple pints of this beer, but it was so unique and flavorful that I would put in my list to try again when visiting. Finally, an honorable mention from Banger is their Nibs and Nuts stout. The nutty flavor with the cocoa nibs really combines well for a pleasant beer.
Chicago Brewing Company
We next headed down Freemont Street to one of the sattellie locations of Chicago Brewing Company. This little brewpub is in the middle of the Four Queens casino, so it took a few moments to locate it once we were inside. Once we did we found an open set of chairs in the cigar bar section and ordered up a flight of 9 drinks. I say ‘drinks’ because one of the beers was actually a homemade root beer, which was absolutely amazing.
Most of what Chicago Brewing Company offered was very solid, and I didn’t have any issues with any of their beers. Two standouts though were their Old Town Brown and Black Widow Stout. The Old Town brown was a really nice solid American Brown ale. It had the right balance of malt to hop character and went down smooth and easy. I could easily see drinking a pint of this beer anytime. The Black Widow Stout was the second standout, and in a world where people do tons of stouts, this Irish Dry Stout is a great standout in a crowded field. It had a nice deep rich flavor, and in this case it was served on nitro which really smoothed over any harshness that can occur with a darker beer. These are both worth checking out if you’re ever visiting.
Tenaya Creek Brewery
Yesterday we headed across Vegas to visit a brewery that I had sampled before the last time I was in Vegas and really enjoyed. Tenaya Creek is on the north west side of Vegas where the mountains are closer and amazingly beautiful. Their taproom is clean and looks pretty new, and the staff was really fun to talk to. Our beertender chatted with us about their expansion plans, and some of the other breweries around the area, and gave us some suggestions of places to try next.
In the past I’ve enjoyed Tenaya’s brown ale, which is now renamed to Bonanza Brown. This brown is a solid beer, easy drinking and great flavor. It’s hard to argue with great beer like this that has won a few awards in it’s time. I also really enjoyed their Hefeweizen, as it had everything that a hefe is supposed to have, and zero flaws. Between the brown and the hefe I could easily order up a pint of either of those beers and enjoy myself. As a part of our flights we also got some of their seasonals and special beers, and two of these stood out in particular. First, there was a barlywine that, although still quite young, had great flavor developing. I would love to taste this again in six months or so as it’s only going to get better and better. The second was their Imperial Stout. As someone who comes from Minnesota where Surly Darkness is the standard for Russian Imperial Stouts, I was really pleased by Tenaya’s Imperial Stout. It had great flavor, with a bold malt character, and the 9% ABV didn’t overwhelm the taste of the beer. It’s stronger than I usually drink, but getting to try a sample was really nice.
Big Dog Drafthouse
Just up the street from Tenaya is Big Dog. This brewpub serves up Wisconsin style home cooked food, so it felt like we were all heading home for lunch. If you go, the cheese curds are a great reminder of how good cheese curds can be. Because we had just sampled a lot of strong beers, we decided to order up a flight of their regular beers, and we skipped their super strong seasonals.
People might think that I don’t like hoppy beers, since I’ve been raving about browns and stouts, but I was saving my recommendation for one that was really outstanding. Big Dog’s IPA, called Dirty Dog, is a great IPA with a perfect balance of hop and malt character. It was smooth and flavorful with a great mouth feel, and despite my aversion to strong IPA’s this one is one that I could drink a lot of. The second beer I want to highlight is actually one of their blends, the .38 SpecialRed Hydrant brown with their pale ale. The mix of the two makes something amazingly smooth and easy to drink with a nice mix of English brown character with just a bit of American hop aroma and flavor. Overall, everything I tried here was amazing.
Lots of beer
So in the course of 24 hours I got to sample 34 different beers. Thankfully there were four of us tasting the samples, which was the only way I could get that much diversity in what I was drinking. Even despite that, today will probably be a pretty light drinking day. I’ll be on the strip most of the day, so I’ll probably just grab a pint at Sin City and call it good.
Learning what other places offer for beer experiences is a ton of fun, and if you’re ever in Vegas these are 4 places I can recommend. There are a bunch more places that I won’t get to sample on this trip, but it’s clear that Vegas has a great brewing culture that can meet the needs of craft beer geeks like myself.