CaskAleLA On The Road: Las Vegas NV

There’s a lot of craft beer in the world and sometimes I leave the comforts of Los Angeles to find it. My beer adventures are documented here.

VegasVegas isn’t particularly known for craft beer and it is one of the few major cities that is behind the curve in terms of building its own beer community. Its really unfortunate considering the sheer amount of bars that are in the city of Vegas, and I’m sure that plenty of tourists arrive looking for a great Russian Imperial Stout or Brett Saison to go with their lost gambling money. But if you look a bit deeper, past the flashy lights and whirring slot machines, there’s plenty of great beer to be consumed, you just need to know where to look.

My wife’s was raised in Henderson, just a few miles down the road from the Strip so we take a few trips there per year. This past Memorial Day weekend I was finally able to hit up a few spots specifically for craft beers, and let me tell you I was pleasantly surprised.

Whole Foods HendersonWhole Foods – Green Valley Ranch (Henderson NV)
Tragically my wife has recently discovered that she is likely celiac, which means she can’t consume the sour beers that she’s developed such a taste for. On the positive side though, our search for gluten-free foods often brings us to Whole Foods, which can potentially be a treasure trove for good bottles. The Whole Foods in  Henderson Nevada is definitely one to check out. We’re talking local stuff from Tenaya Creek and Big Dog, 6 beers on tap for growler fills and huge selections of Firestone Walker (Opal for 6.99!), The Bruery, Brooklyn Brewery, Ninkasi, Jolly Pumpkin, Epic, Dogfish Head, and an unbelievable selection of Goose Island beers, including a shelf stocked with over a dozen Bourbon County Stouts, just sitting there. I made sure to grab a BCBS as well as a Sorachi Ace from Brooklyn. Its a bit of a ways away from the main drag, but definitely worth the trip to stock up – not to mention that Green Valley Ranch has a lot of nice restaurants and places to hang out that are a bit less touristy. (Bonus points for them carrying a full Unibroue Lineup as well as Rose d’Hibiscus and Peche Mortel from Dieu de Ciel. Gotta rep the homeland).

Chicago Brewing CoChicago Brewing Company (West Las Vegas/Summerlin)
Tucked into the western side of the city is the confusingly-named Chicago Brewing Company, a two story brick building in the parking lot of a strip mall. Adorned with classic neon signs, CBS has been brewing craft beer for Las Vegas locals for quite some time now. Styled in a classic Chicago-prohibition look, the pub features gaming and an upstairs cigar lounge. The brewing style at Chicago Brewing is your typical broad market selection of a 6-8 classic styles that don’t jump  out at you for their creativity. They are competently-made though, and the atmosphere is relaxed enough to justify the trip out there. While I was there they featured a seasonal West Coast IPA that surprised me with its dank character, which showcased what I think was a healthy dose of nelson sauvin hops – definitely more delicious than it had any business being.

Holsteins (The Cosmopolitan) / Public House (The Venetian)
Of course, if you are visiting Vegas you are likely spending the majority of your time on the strip and believe it or not, there’s a few great craft beer pubs that have popped up in casinos over the last few years. Holsteins and the Public House are owned by the same restaurant group so I figured I would include them both together here. Holsteins is upstairs in the Cosmopolitan and is an ultra-modern bar and restaurant that features upscale burgers and dogs, boozy milkshakes and craft beer. While being a little cold and overly stylized (an odd complaint considering where it is), grabbing a few pints at the bar is quite fun and the staff is knowledgeable about their beer list. They feature beers from all over the U.S. as well as locally brewed fare. The Public House in the Venetian is the complete opposite, as its styled as a classic British pub with wood panelling anywhere. It gets special mention for always featuring a cask-conditioned ale, which just happened to be Union Jack from Firestone Walker when I visited (although, I have to wonder how old it was considering the distance…). Both of these spots are a great break from the macro lager filled casino floors and definitely worth seeking out while visiting the strip. I’ve heard recommendations of other spots on the strip as well, including ‘The Pub’ at the Monte Carlo, which reportedly features over 300 beers.

Tenaya CreekTenaya Creek Brewing (North West Las Vegas)
It may not be in the most convenient location for tourists, but Tenaya creek is one of a couple true craft breweries in Las Vegas and definitely worth the drive. At one point Tenaya Creek was a brewpub, but the owners opted to shut the kitchen down a few years ago in order to focus on their real passion of brewing. Since then they have been able to build a respectable brand, with a few of their beers finding distribution in California and other states. The vibe of the brewery bar is typical Las Vegas, with gaming consoles in every seat at the bar and cigarette smoke lingering in the air despite the omnipresent hum of air purifiers. Tenaya Creek has a ton of space though, which is a nice break from the tiny tasting rooms of many craft breweries. The beers vary widely, with about 9 beers featured on the day of my visit. While the Hop Ride IPA seems to be a local favorite, I was more impressed with their Hefeweizen, which, while a tad watery, felt closer to a berliner weisse, with a slightly tart character and very little of the banana/bubblegum yeast flavor that’s so common in hefs. It was refreshing and proved that Tenaya Creek was working with greater skill than some of these other regional breweries. The other standout was the Southern Nevada Collaboration Imperial IPA, which featured beautiful tropical aromas and a great bite from the hops. At 10.6% there was very little burn from the booze. Overall Tenaya Creek is a standout for the Las Vegas brewing community and when a flight of ALL their beers goes for $8 you really can’t go wrong.

While Tenaya Creek feels like a bit of a trailblazer, Vegas otherwise still feels like its a few years behind the rest of the country in terms of craft beer. Most of the breweries seem to be doing the typical ‘blond, Wheat, Amber/IPA and stout’ selection at this point, and the quality of the craft hasn’t quite developed. Part of the problem is that liquor licenses in Vegas, I’m told, are tied to gaming licenses, which are incredibly expensive, so its difficult for a small upstart brewery to open just a tasting room. Right from the get-go brewer’s need to be backed by significant coin. But that will change as the community develops a taste for craft beer and I’m sure we’ll see a number of breweries open up soon, especially with the renaissance currently happening in Downtown Vegas near Fremont Street.

So next time you’re in Vegas, make sure you stop by some of these places and let them know that you want to see more craft on the Strip!