During our Las Vegas trip that I wrote about previously I mentioned Tenaya Creek Brewery, which we visited ostensibly for lunch. However, you may recall I found out that they currently have no kitchen! We visited Aces & Ales down the road instead for food, then came back to Tenaya Creek to check out the beers at one of the few craft breweries in Las Vegas. Here are a few notes and thoughts about that visit.
Tenaya Creek is located about 14 miles off the Strip in northwest Vegas, not far off the US-95 freeway; the surrounding environs feels a lot to me like Southern California, strip-mall-y with lots of asphalt, cars and concrete, though Tenaya Creek itself is a standalone lot and building. The other difference, of course, is that it’s murderously hot and the day we visited it was a (record?) 115 degrees F(!). Fortunately it’s nice and cool inside but it’s still a wallop when you step out into the heat.
They have actually been around for longer than you would expect—since 1999 when they opened as Tenaya Creek Restaurant & Brewery, and it was in 2008 that they closed the kitchen to focus on the brewery and expansion. From their About page:
In June of 2008 we ceased kitchen operations and began offering our draft beer around Las Vegas (which was previously only offered at our brewery). Due to our growth in the market, in July of 2010 we remodeled and expanded our brewery to keep up with the demand for our beer in our thirsty desert city.
Our expansion included a 22 oz. bottling line, which we launched our bottles in Las Vegas in October of 2010. Today, our bottled beer is available throughout all of Nevada, Ohio and a few hot spots in Utah. Our beers can be found in Nevada, Utah, Ohio, Arizona, and Vancouver, British Columbia.
The building itself is distinctive and nice-looking and which to me seems to befit the desert climate well, blocky with lots of pale- and adobe-colored stone adorning the building and ample windows.
Inside you’ll find mostly bar atmosphere: the centerpiece is the big rougly-horseshoe-shaped bar with tables and chairs bringing up the periphery. It’s very open with high ceilings sporting the open rafter look and classy bar lighting. And because it’s Las Vegas, the bar features the ubiquitous built-in video gaming machines that you’ll find everywhere—and to be honest, finding these at a craft brewery weirded me out a little. Sitting at the bar, trying a sampler of good craft beer and writing notes, while playing video poker and blackjack—only in Vegas!
It has an extremely inviting atmosphere, though, and the bartender was super friendly and accommodating, happy to answer my various beery questions about the brewery, the Las Vegas beer scene, and more, and had a good knowledge of the beers she poured for my sampler rack.
Here are the beers, and my brief notes:
- Hefeweizen, 5% abv: Crisp, lightly lemony and phenolic, a bit hoppy.
- Pilsner, 5.4%: Clean, nicely spicy and hoppy. [This beer won a GABF medal in 2002]
- Calico Brown Ale, 5.5%: Chocolate, malty, super balanced and drinkable.
- Hop Ride IPA, 7.2%: Nicely hoppy with a bitterness that’s sugar-sweet, almost imperial-level. Very nice and floral.
- Local 702 Pale Ale, 5.2%: Light, bright hops, nicely refreshing.
- Hauling Oats Oatmeal Stout, 5.7%: Roasty, easy-drinking, a really nice stout.
- Hauling Oats with Coffee, Cocoa and Vanilla: Nice variation on the base stout, I got more vanilla than the other elements here. Quite tasty.
- Old Jackalope Barleywine, 10.4%: Really nice, even for the Vegas heat! Sweet and sticky and nicely boozy, really well-balanced.
I found all to be solidly-drinkable beers, well-brewed and enjoyable, and Tenaya Creek is doing the Vegas beer scene proud to be brewing them.
Really the only downside to Tenaya Creek is the lack of a kitchen, but since they’re focusing on the beer—and it’s good beer—it’s kind of hard to be critical. One of things we noticed (and was additionally pointed) out was that they are still expanding: looking through the windows into the brewhouse from the pool table room, there’s a tank lying on its side, either waiting to be installed or just-removed to make room for something larger, I don’t remember which.
And, I was able to snap a picture over that into the brewhouse, but unfortunately without a tour there’s not much to see from that vantage point:
All in all, an enjoyable visit and the bartender promised if I called ahead next time I could arrange a tour. Plus, as I mentioned before, she comped our drinks—my sampler and my wife’s drink—though we weren’t sure if it was because we were also gambling on the bartop games or because I was a beer geek (I hadn’t introduced myself as a blogger until afterward). Or maybe she felt bad because we’d driven up that far from the Strip to find no kitchen. Regardless, I really enjoyed the visit and I do think it’s worth the trip if you make it to Vegas: yes, you can find their beers at some places elsewhere in town, but nothing’s quite as good as from the source.
Tenaya Creek Brewery
3101 N. Tenaya Way
Las Vegas, NV 89128