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Thirsty Nevada

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Old School Brewing Company’s Christine Johnson (aka Redd) fills a growler with beer. Photo: Kami Beckwith

Breweries and distilleries old and new steep spirit in the Silver State.

BY NELLIE DAY & ERIC CACHINERO

Suds, booze, brew, hooch, firewater…the list goes on. Many Nevadans love their alcoholic beverages. And though the days of running illegal moonshine across the Colorado River to buyers in Arizona are long gone (we think), there are other ways the Silver State imbibes. Breweries and distilleries have become an important part of the culture in many towns across the state—both rural and urban—each with its own atmosphere and flavors. Buy your booze from an in-state manufacturer, and decide for yourself which one best satiates your thirst.

With so many alcohol-oriented social hubs popping up all over Nevada, there’s no way we could cover them all, but we hope this list gives some insight into some of the clever concoctions cooking up across the state.

SOUTHERN NEVADA

CRAFTHAUS BREWERY

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CraftHaus beer kegs include signature lime-green labels. Photo: Kami Beckwith

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CraftHaus Brewery owners Dave and Wyndee Forrest stand beneath a brewery sign. Photo: Kami Beckwith

Boasting Nevada’s only female head brewer, it’s no surprise CraftHaus Brewery in Henderson threw a Glitter Bomb Party to celebrate its first anniversary and the release of its Glitter Bomb sour table beer in September. But if you think the innovative team of Dave and Wyndee Forrest is all fluff, think again. The husband-and-wife owners took it upon themselves to lobby for change in Henderson licensing laws, allowing craft breweries throughout the state to open without the previously required video poker machines.

CraftHaus is known for its IPAs and Saisons, though its seasonal craft brew selections offer something for nearly everyone. Having paved the way for other brewers to get off the ground easier in the state, the pair is very enthusiastic about supporting the beer community. They offer beer from other local outlets in the Pallet Lounge, which, like the taproom, has large windows that let the guests see the brewery team—another husband-and-wife pair—in action.

Aside from traditional events like tastings and tours, CraftHaus offers a selection of beer-centric activities. Groups can enjoy childhood games like Connect Four, or they can get physical during Booze Yoga. Those who prefer to sit back and observe can do that as well. CraftHaus offers movie screenings of classics like “Sharknado 3,” in addition to dinner and brunch pairings with some of Vegas’ standout eateries like Downtown Las Vegas’ O Face Doughnuts.—Nellie Day

LAS VEGAS DISTILLERY

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Las Vegas Distillery’s George Racz (left) and Sid Kindler II pose near the distillery’s equipment. Photo: Kami Beckwith

Nevada’s first post-Prohibition distillery has all the hard alcohol needed to brighten your spirits. Whether you want to learn about the distilling process or taste some of Grandma’s Apple Pie Moonshine the locals are talking about, Booze District pioneer George Racz has you covered. The distillery offers daily guided tours and tastings, which include its vodka, gin, rum, moonshine, standard whiskey, bourbon, and Rumskey—a 50-50 blend of rum and whiskey.

Larger groups can schedule private tours or rent out the distillery for private events. Speaking of events, George and his head distiller, Sid Kindler II, have been known to throw quite the party since opening in 2011. They celebrate everything from the day Prohibition was repealed to the barreling and release of their next genius batch of craft spirits.

Their next big shindig takes place at the distillery Saturday, Nov. 14, when the pair plans to release seven new whiskeys, including a single-malt barley, rye, oat, and millet whiskey. Those looking for a side of education with their shenanigans are also in luck. George offers a variety of courses that focus on the distilling process.

Photo opportunities also abound at the Las Vegas Distillery. It’s hard to walk out of the place without a bottle of something special, but it’s equally as difficult to pass the famous “Copper Angels”—George’s two gigantic pot stills—without a snap or two.—Nellie Day

BAD BEAT BREWING

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The Heater imperial stout is brewed with Serrano peppers. Photo: Kami Beckwith

Bad Beat Brewing owner Nathan Hall might have had gambling on his mind when he initially moved to Vegas to play poker professionally when he was 21. Though he put every last penny of his savings into opening the brewery in July 2014, he didn’t see this venture as a gamble—and it shows.

“Making it in the beer world isn’t a gamble, it’s a game of skill. At Bad Beat Brewing, we play to drink, and drink to win,” reads the motto on the brewery’s website.

If your life motto also involves playing, then you’ll appreciate the trivia, shuffleboard, darts, original Nintendo Entertainment System, and card games offered at Bad Beat Brewing. Somehow, it’s doubtful you’ll go just for the shuffleboard, though. Bad Beat offers six craft beers year-round, including the poker-themed Ante Up Amber, the Bluffing Isn’t Weisse Hefeweizen, and the Ace in the Hole basil pale ale. The brewery also provides a selection of rotating and guest taps.

The creativity doesn’t end with the catchy names, however. Nathan and his team go out of their way to keep guests on their toes. For instance, if you happened to stumble upon the brewery around 10 a.m. on Sept. 13, you would’ve encountered a gaggle of pajama-wearing, beer-drinking adults who were celebrating the release of Morning Pay Off imperial breakfast stout with a little food from Kraken Cafe. A “bad beat” may be a seemingly strong hand that nevertheless loses in poker, but Nathan’s crafts are flush in flavor and creativity—a winning combination.—Nellie Day

OLD SCHOOL BREWING COMPANY

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Old School offers Tabletop Tuesdays game night, where guests can drink while they play. Photo: Kami Beckwith

The newest entry into southern Nevada’s craft beer scene is Old School Brewing Company, which opened in the northwest part of Las Vegas in January. The brewpub currently has six of its beers on tap, including a root beer porter and a peach honey blond. It’s also known for its food menu, which features crafty concoctions like a bacon pb&j and a whiskey bread pudding.

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The team at Old School Brewing Company poses next to brewing equipment. Photo: Kami Beckwith

Owner Jim Wilson and his two partners purposely designed Old School Brewing to be part family friendly, part Sin City fun and full Seattle Seahawks supporters. The restaurant portion of the brewpub offers old-fashion Milton Bradley-type board games even the kids can enjoy, while the rowdier pub side features Cards Against Humanity, Drunk Quest, and an Atari filled with old school arcade games many of us grew up playing.

In addition to being known to rock a kilt when his March Irish Red Ale is on tap, Jim is also famous for bringing people together. The brewpub offers Tabletop Tuesdays where all are welcome to bring their board games, as well as Geeks Who Drink live-action trivia. Then there are the bi-monthly speed-dating events and lock-and-key parties where participants must find their other half. Being a Seahawks bar, Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays are naturally dedicated to the NFL. True to his Pacific Northwest roots—Jim started homebrewing while working as a mechanic for a Porsche race car team sponsored by Portland Brewing Co.—the brewpub also sponsors the Washington State University Alumni group on college football Saturdays.—Nellie Day

NORTHERN NEVADA

BRANDED HEARTS DISTILLERY

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Branded Hearts Distillery offers several different types of rum and whiskey, and is constantly cooking up new spirits. Photo: Eric Cachinero

What is a branded heart? When owners and founders Joshua Nichols and Ryan Cherrick opened their distillery, they wanted not only to brand the oak heart barrels that they use to flavor their spirits, but also sought to brand the hearts of each and every person lucky enough to have a taste. The duo came on to the Reno scene in August 2014 and have been perfecting recipes—and trying some completely new ones—ever since.

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Single malt scotch is pulled straight from the barrel and delivered to a tasting glass. Photo: Eric Cachinero

Branded Hearts does things differently. From charring their own oak barrels on site to experimenting by warming the barrels in the setting Sierra sun and even using unorthodox ingredients, their spirits certainly reflect the hard work and care that is put into creating them. Their signature Dark Panela Rum—smooth rum made using panela (unrefined whole cane sugar)—is available in both 90 and 120 proof. Branded Hearts Single Malt Whiskey—revered for its complex characteristics and chocolate and toffee flavors—is made using malted barley. The spirits are cooked up in the on-site 1,000-liter-capacity still—an impressive contraption that uses mineral oil to ensure proper heat distribution.

Besides their spirits, Branded Hearts is working with several local businesses to spread the love throughout the community. IceCycle Creamery in Reno serves up “A Gentlemen’s Affair”—an ice cream Sunday made with pecan, pralines, butterscotch, and Branded Hearts Single Malt Whiskey. Nevada Brining Company has created a boozy pickle using Branded Hearts Single Malt Whiskey. They even send their used whiskey barrels to Under the Rose Brewing Company, which uses them to brew up special beers before sending them back to Branded Hearts to be reused, and the cycle continues.

Branded Hearts is open to the public and has a comfortable and rustic tasting room, where tasters interact directly with Joshua and Ryan. The duo also has plans to convert a portion of the distillery into a lounge area where guests can sip on local spirits and watch the distilling action happen. Not surprisingly, Branded Hearts has no intentions of slowing down.

“We would like to be known throughout the west as one of the most innovative and sought-after spirits labels,” says Ryan.

“It’s all about quality,” adds Joshua.—Eric Cachinero

VERDI LOCAL DISTILLERY

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The brewery specializes in creating colorful and edgy spirits.

Verdi Local Distillery is testament to the saying “good things come in small packages.” As the smallest distillery in the world (unofficially, pending validation from Guinness World Records), the 744-square-foot operation specializes in producing flavored whiskeys and other unconventional spirits. The distillery is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Jeremy and Katey Bauman, who do all of the distilling, bottling, labeling, and the many other jobs that come with producing their distilled drinks.

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The exterior of the distillery features rustic wood paneling.

The Baumans pride themselves on doing things the nontraditional way, and it shows in their creations. Apple Cinnamon Whiskey—the distillery’s first release—is a hand-crafted spirit with hints of cinnamon that complement the subtle sweetness of apples, made using real and all-natural ingredients. Other whiskeys include Lemon Whiskey—a special summer release perfect for enjoying outdoors—and the newly released Mahogany Whiskey—a corn- and rye-based whiskey that is aged for a minimum of 30 days with locally-harvested mahogany. If bloody Mary’s are more your thing, try Garlic Whiskey blended with Verdi Local Distillery’s award-winning bloody Mary mix. If whiskey isn’t doing it for you, the distillery also produces Yeti Jackalope Gin—an orange/yellow-colored gin that is distilled with juniper berries, Nevada-grown juniper needles and leaves, and orange peel.

It’s not just the spirits that have spirit, though. The distillery offers warm and inviting décor that keeps tasters occupied while they sip. Guests can swing by and see where the action happens, or they can grab a taste at several bars and stores around Reno.—Eric Cachinero

RUBY MOUNTAIN BREWING COMPANY

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The sign at Ruby Mountain Brewing Company greets visitors of the rural location. Photo: Sydney Martinez/Travel Nevada

Anyone who’s ever been to the Ruby Mountains in the winter has witnessed their splendor. Tall, snow-capped peaks seem to carry on to the ends of the state. These peaks are covered in cool, clean snow, which is what gives Ruby Mountain Brewing Company beer the taste it’s become known for.

When owners Steve and Maggie Safford entered their Angel Creek Amber Ale into the Great American Beer Festival in 1996, their brewing success took off. Fast-forward to 2015, and Ruby Mountain Brewing Company now can be found in stores across the region. With many different beers available in bottles—including Angel Creek Amber Ale, Wild West Hefeweizen, Bristlecone Brown Porter, and Vienna-style Lager—Ruby Mountain is truly a success story.

Part of what lends to the Safford’s success, besides delicious beer, is their location and the experience they offer. Many breweries never offer the chance to meet the people that create the beer; that’s not the case here. Located roughly 10 miles south of Wells in Clover Valley, the tours are by appointment only and Steve himself pours the beer. It’s humble Nevada spirit that makes this gem in the desert so much more worth the trip.—Eric Cachinero

SEVEN TROUGHS DISTILLING CO.

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Seven Troughs offers a selection of hand-crafted spirits.

In Nevada, history can lend spirit to spirits, and Seven Troughs Distilling Co. naturally achieves this. Located in Sparks, the distillery aims to create spirits using old-fashioned ingredients and methods. “We’re intensely handcrafted,” says CEO Tom Adams, whose passion for distilling spirits started at a young age. Such is the case with Old Commissary—a 100-percent barley white whiskey that is reportedly made using the same recipe that Nevada’s first commercial whiskey was made with circa 1862. Seven Troughs’ Recession Proof Moonshine also lends itself to history, modeling a 19th century recipe for sweet-mash corn whiskey.

Seven Troughs isn’t strictly whiskey, though. The distillery carries Black Rock Rum, Reno Rodeo Legacy Vodka, and is in collaboration with Great Basin Brewing Company in Reno to create a Great Basin Single Malt Gin.

Seven Troughs is also intensely local. The distillery sources grains from area farms, ensuring ingredients come from producers that are as passionate about the quality of their grains as Seven Troughs is about their spirits. In addition to being able to drop by and try spirits straight from the source, those curious to taste for themselves can expect to find Seven Troughs being served and sold in many bars and stores in northern Nevada.—Eric Cachinero

VIRGINIA CITY BREWERY & TAPHOUSE

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The brewery features four 15BBL fermenters, one 15BBL Brite, and one 15BBL Brewhouse system that runs on steam in the 1,300-square-foot facility.

Housed in a building constructed after a devastating fire in 1875, the Virginia City Brewery & Taphouse holds true to the town’s historical roots. Though some of the building has been modified, the original brick interior and structure remains along with a cooler from the 1930s—when the location housed a grocery store—that is now used to store kegs. Opening its doors in summer 2015, the brewery became the first to operate in the town since 1995.

One thing that makes the brewery special is the source of its water. Beer brewed with pure alpine water from Marlette Lake—a water source located in the eastern Sierra Nevada 009mountain range—tastes just that much better. The names of the beers are also inherently Nevadan. Yellow Jacket Honey Pale Ale—a deep-gold American pale ale with hints of caramel and honeysuckle—pays tribute to the nearby Yellow Jacket Mine. The C Street Wheat—a golden wheat with hints of bread and citrus—pays tribute to Virginia City’s most happening street and goes well with a slice of citrus. The brewery serves up many other special brews, including a stout, IPA, and more.—Eric Cachinero

DRINK UP
CraftHaus Brewery
7350 Eastgate Rd., Ste. 110
Henderson, NV 89011
crafthausbrewery.com, 702-415-9184

Las Vegas Distillery
330 Eastgate Rd.
Henderson, NV 89011
lasvegasdistillery.com, 702-629-7534

Bad Beat Brewing
7380 Eastgate Rd., Ste. 110
Henderson, NV 89011
badbeatbrewing.com, 702-463-4199

Old School Brewing Company
8410 W. Desert Inn Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89117
oldschoolbrewing.com, 702-273-9782

Branded Hearts Distillery
121 Woodland Ave #160
Reno, NV 89523
brandedheartsdistillery.com, 775-336-8195

Verdi Local Distillery
1155 Old Highway 40 Unit B
Verdi, NV 89439
verdilocaldistillery.com, 775-247-4628

Ruby Mountain Brewing Company
H.C. 60 Box 100
Clover Valley, NV 89835
rubymountainbrewing.com, 775-752-2337

Seven Troughs Distilling Co.
1155 Watson Way, Ste. 5
Sparks, NV 89431
7troughsdistilling.com, 775-219-9403

Virginia City Brewery & Taphouse
62 North C St.
Virginia City, NV 89440
virginiacitybreweryandtaphouse.com

SILVER STATE VINO

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Nevada wouldn’t be complete without its wineries. With four operating wineries in the Silver State, vino lovers have no reason to leave the state to taste good wine. Visit one (or all) of these to get your taste of red, red wine.

Churchill Vineyards
1045 Dodge Ln.
Fallon, NV 89406
churchillvineyards.com, 775-423-4000

Sanders Family Winery
3780 E. Kellogg Rd.
Pahrump, NV 89061
sanderswinery.com, 775-727-1776

Tahoe Ridge Winery & Bistro
1105 S. Carson St.
Carson City, NV 89701
tahoeridgewinery.com, 775-473-1790

Pahrump Valley Winery
3810 Winery Rd.
Pahrump, NV 89048
pahrumpwinery.com, 775-751-7800

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CAN!

According to Time magazine, the first can of beer was sold on Jan. 24, 1935. Be sure to wish canned beer a happy belated by cracking a cold one in its honor.

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