As I mentioned in the last post, this past weekend was spent on an anniversary trip to Las Vegas: my wife and I decided to road-trip our way down there (flying was hideously expensive this time) but on the bright side that afforded us more freedom since we had our own car to go places. We left Wednesday and got back Sunday—leaving three full days in Sin City itself. And yes, among everything else there was some beer involved.
You may have heard that Las Vegas is largely a “beer wasteland” (in fact you may have heard me call it that!), but in the past five years (since we were there last) the beer scene has grown quite a bit. There are several breweries and some spots to find good beer (among other research, this article from “Snob” Ritch Marvin was tremendously helpful), so don’t despair if you’re visiting.
Also this trip was a bit of a splurge (it was our 15th anniversary) so don’t be too jealous—but there were some cool moments and I have to brag a little! Like this:
The first day in Vegas we took a helicopter tour to the Grand Canyon, one that lands in the Canyon for drinks and brunch (or lunch). So of course I couldn’t pass that up!
Later that day we found our way to the Public House inside the Venetian (we were staying in the connected “sister” hotel, the Palazzo), a place that ranks up near the top of beer lists for Vegas. They have 24 or 30 beers on draft, one cask rotation, and a ton of bottled and canned beers—the majority of which are craft. We didn’t eat but I enjoyed the cask selection, a local brew: Dirty Dog IPA from Big Dog’s Brewing based there in Vegas.
It was quite a nice cask beer, soft and floral and a good cask choice. The Public House itself was a cool place, a class act as far as both Vegas joints and beer bars go, and definitely one to check out if you make it to Sin City. I wish I had been able to spend more time there, but I was only able to stop by one more time on our last night and get another Big Dog’s beer, this time their Dog Gone Saison (which I ultimately took to go). It was another nice beer, spicy and dry.
And I had yet another Big Dog’s on cask, but it was over a the Todd English P.U.B. in the Aria resort and casino on Saturday: their Red Hydrant Brown Ale.
Todd English has four cask beers on tap, and besides the Big Dog’s they had Deschutes Brewery’s Black Butte Porter and Mirror Pond Pale Ale on two, and I forget what the fourth one was. The Red Hydrant I had was a decent beer, a nice blend of malty and hoppy, but I thought the price was a bit much even for Vegas: $12! In fact while they have a really good tap and bottle list, they are very expensive—be warned.
Overall the Pub seemed a mix of sports bar and English-style pub (though more sports bar). They offer up a unique feature as well: “Draft Tables,” larger table with taps in the center, pouring two different craft beers, that can be reserved in advance if you really want to party. I don’t know if the two beers are selectable ahead of time or if you’re stuck with whatever the table pours, but it’s a clever idea.
We didn’t stay terribly long to try any food or more beers, as we were exploring the Aria and the Strip a bit (which also happened to be one of the hottest days ever, at around 115 degrees F!).
On Friday we had the car so decided to head off the Strip up north to check out one of the Las Vegas breweries I’d been hearing the most about lately: Tenaya Creek Brewery. The plan was to have lunch and try their beers, but once we got there we found out that they no longer have a kitchen! They had closed the kitchen some time back to accommodate their expansion and bottling line. No worries—Aces & Ales had just opened up their second location just down the street, so we went down there to find some grub before heading back over to Tenaya Creek.
Aces & Ales is one of the venerable locals’ favorites, located off the Strip of course, and the original is out in east Vegas. This was Aces & Ales II, and I had read that they had just opened up but I thought it had been the month before—not so! They opened up only the previous Friday—so were only one week old!
Unfortunately that youth was apparent as they were still having some “just opened” issues and were working out kinks. For instance, they weren’t set up to serve pizza yet, and were still dealing with kitchen order issues. Lunch consisted of Arrogant Bastard onion rings, chicken tenders for my wife and a turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich for me. It was decent food, but didn’t wow us. The beer list on the other hand was very impressive, and I particularly liked the beer menu:
They need a second screen, as this one had to cycle through their 50 different beers on tap, but otherwise it’s a pretty slick system, one I imagine is similar to what’s in Portland’s Bailey’s Taproom.
I had a glass of Citra Rye Pale Ale from Joseph James Brewing, which is local (located in nearby Henderson), and a glass of Tenaya Creek’s Hop Ride IPA. Both decent beers, though they weren’t the full glass size that they were supposed to be; the way the pricing works is, every beer is $6 but they all come in different sized glasses, as appropriate. Unfortunately both beers I ordered were in the 8 or 12-ounce size, not the 16-ounce; I didn’t actually mind though as I was planning more beers up the street at Tenaya Creek and still planned on driving back to the Strip.
Tenaya Creek is a cool brewery with some good beers that I will devote a separate post for; suffice to say, I got the sampler which consisted of eight samples and all were solid beers. I particularly liked the Barleywine (of course) and the Pilsner was quite good (it has won at least one award at GABF). They are in expansion mode, without a kitchen as I said before, so you can only get drinks there—though you can have food brought in.
We played some of the bar-top games and chatted with the bartender, and she ended up comping our drinks (either because we were gambling, or because we came back after lunch I’m not sure which). She promised a tour next time we visit, and overall I really enjoyed the brewery and the beers.
One last beer note to mention: Sin City Brewing. They are a production brewery with three outlets, one of which is located in the Shops of the Venetian/Palazzo hotel complex, so we stopped by so I could try a couple of beers and buy a T-shirt.
Interestingly, they share their production brewery with the Las Vegas Gordon Biersch brewery (according to the bartender): Sin City brews during the day, and GB brews at night. I haven’t verified if this is true, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
Of Sin City’s five house beers, I tried first the Amber (an Oktoberfest-styled beer) and the IPA (English style). Both were decent, drinkable beers, and provide another nice local alternative for craft beer seekers. I doubt their beers are going to win any awards in the near future, but they are certainly worth seeking out if you get the chance. And their logo and branding is kitschy and suited to the whole “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” theme—hence my buying a T-shirt (and keeping the plastic cup my beer came in).
Overall, we had a really good trip and though I managed to write a lot about the beer we found, that was really a minor part of the trip in general. (And I didn’t even mention the “regular” beers I had, like a Corona and Guinness Draft in New York-New York.) But rest assured, the beer scene in Las Vegas is definitely growing, and you’ll be able to find some good pours if and when you next visit.