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Thank Nevada’s founding “fathers” for the state’s bevy of breweries.
Photo: Gary A. Reese (Big Dog's Brewing Company)
Brewing beer is as American as apple pie. After all, the Pilgrims and Founding Fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Samuel Adams engaged in this fruitful enterprise. Nevadans must be true patriots, evidenced by the medley of breweries that dot the Silver State. Three of Nevada’s earliest modern breweries have set a precedent of excellence and originality.
From Cow to Dog
Holy Cow! opened in 1993 as one of Nevada’s first brewpubs. For nearly a decade, an iconic Holstein cow perched atop the roof of a building on the Las Vegas Strip beckoned travelers. The cow beckons no more; the brewery has been relocated to northwest Las Vegas and the name changed to Big Dog’s Brewing Company.
Big Dog’s has won awards at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup. Variety flows here with styles such as Holy Cow! Original Pale Ale, light amber; Red Hydrant Ale, caramel malt with a hint of English hops; Dirty Dog India Pale Ale, full strength and hoppy; Tailwagger Wheat Bavarian Hefeweizen, with banana and clove aromas; and Black Lab Stout, with hints of coffee and cocoa. Brewmaster Dave Otto has a knack for creating adventurous seasonals, such as Barley Wine, Watermelon Wheat, and Pumpkin Ale. The flavors lean toward the strong side, making this a destination for the real aficionado, but the uninitiated can lean on such brews as the Leglifter Light.
The Wisconsin-themed Draft House, connected to the brewery, is a mainstay among northwest Vegas eateries. The exterior is shaped like an oversized barn; inside there’s a semi-private Silo Room that seats up to a dozen. In the dining barn you’ll find a loving tribute to cows and all things country, while the bar and gaming area is a shrine to Wisconsin football, with University of Wisconsin and Green Bay Packers displays adorning the walls. Show up on a Badgers or Packers game day and you can hoot and holler with hundreds of other fanatics.
If you’re not a Cheesehead, you’re still welcome, with college and NFL games playing on nearly a dozen plasma screens. On Sundays a $3 food-and-drink menu is rolled out, and if you like your beer to go, there’s a two-for-one deal on 64-ounce jugs. Large windows provide a bird’s-eye view of the brewers hard at work. Midwestern munchies include bratwurst, pecan-crusted walleye, cheese curds, meatloaf, and chicken-fried steak.
Nevada Beer Pioneers
Great Basin Brewing Company in Sparks began operation shortly after Holy Cow!, due in part to founders Tom Young and Eric McLary working with others to successfully lobby the Nevada Legislature to legalize brewpubs.
Great Basin has won more major awards than any other Silver State brewery, garnering eight GABF and three WBC honors. The beers are for the most part named after Great Basin themes, including Wild Horse Ale, a German Altbier; Ichthyosaur Pale Ale, full strength and hoppy; and Nevada Gold, in the German Kölsch tradition with a spicy hint from imported Saaz hops.
A uniquely Nevada beer is the Harvest Ale, made every fall with piñon pine nuts, juniper berries, sagebrush, and honey, resulting in a malt-accentuated, aromatic amber. It is often referred to as “Nevada in a Glass.” Pine nut-cracking parties are held in mid-October, when customers volunteer their services, giving real meaning to the phrase, “Will Work for Beer”.
Co-owner Young still brews often and is assisted by head brewer Jazz Aldrich. A UNR graduate with a biology degree, Aldrich applies his expertise in the brewery’s yeast lab, where he cultivates and propagates yeast used to ferment beer.
Open-mike comedy shows take place on Thursday nights, and occasionally you can catch a live band. The interior features two murals, one depicting Wheeler Peak and the other a collage of Great Basin themes. An outdoor patio allows patrons to enjoy the outdoors when the weather is pleasant.
Beer and food specials run throughout the week, including “Tightwad Tuesdays,” when most pints are $2. Dining choices include ale-battered fish and chips, steak and prawn skewers, desperado pepper steak, blackened salmon tacos, and shepherd’s pie with lamb.
Beer, Beef, and Bales
Ranches across Nevada produce some of the finest beef in the country, but one in Elko County offers something to wash your steak down with. In 1995, Steve and Maggie Safford, who have produced top-quality hay and cattle since 1991, started Ruby Mountain Brewing Company on their 1,500-acre Angel Creek Ranch in Clover Valley, six miles south of Wells.
Four styles, all award-winning, are produced: Angel Creek Amber Ale, slightly sweet with a roasted flavor; Wild West Hefeweizen, a fruity and spicy Bavarian-style wheat; Bristlecone Brown Porter, a roasted chocolate-malt character; and Vienna Style Lager, a lighter version of an Oktoberfest beer with a toasted malt flavor.
Ruby Mountain is the only brewery in the state to bottle its beer, which is distributed throughout northern and central Nevada and southern Idaho. The brews are truly Nevadan with water pumped from a well derived from the melting snow of the Ruby Mountains. The company’s labels are adorned with the snow-white mountain goats that frequent the East Humboldt Range next to the ranch.
Although there isn’t a pub or tasting room, you can call to set up a tasting and free tour of the facility.
Reno Welcomes New Brewing Company
The Truckee Meadows’ newest brewery, Buckbean Brewing Company, will host an official grand-opening party on June 14, 2008, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. with complimentary food and drinks, beer sampling, music, giveaways, and cooking demonstrations by Reno’s own Jennifer Bushman. The establishment offers Original Orange Blossom Ale and Black Noddy Lager and limited editions such as Tule Duck Red Ale.
Buckbean is one of two Nevada breweries to distribute its beer (Ruby Mountain Brewing Company in northeastern Nevada is the other) and the only one to do so in cans. “Canned beer suffers from an image problem,” says Dan Kahn, brewmaster and co-founder of Buckbean. “People got used to the idea that good beer only comes from bottles because that’s all microbreweries had to work with in the beginning.”
Read more at blog.travelnevada.com.
Big Dog’s Brewing Company &
The Draft House
4543 N. Rancho, Las Vegas
Big Dog’s Bar and Grill
1511 N. Nellis Blvd., Las Vegas
Big Dog’s Cafe and Casino
6390 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas
Great Basin Brewing Company
846 Victorian Ave., Sparks
Ruby Mountain Brewing Company
H.C. 60 Box 100, Clover Valley
Buckbean Brewing Company
1155 S. Rock Blvd., Ste. 490, Reno
Brew HaHa: Late January at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks. More than 20 microbreweries represented.
UNR Young Alumni Chapter’s BeerFest: April 25 at Grand Sierra Resort. Constructed as a scholarship fundraiser, the event also is a tribute to northern Nevada’s brewers and beer vendors.
Lee’s Beer Experience: Early May in Las Vegas, with more than 150 American microbrews from around the West.
Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews, & Blues Festival: June 28, celebrated on Virginia Street in downtown Reno. Features more than 150 microbrews from around the West and live bands.
eldoradoreno.com, 800-879-8879, 775-786-5700
Beers of the World: July 12, food and brew-pairing event brings beers from all over the globe to be tasted in the Summit Pavilion at Grand Sierra Resort.
Brewery Arts Center Beer Tasting: August 15-17 in Carson City, fundraiser, part of the Jazz and Beyond Festival.
CasaBrewski: August, at the CasaBlanca Resort in Mesquite, features cuisine paired with beers from around the world.
Nevada Northern Railway Oktoberfest Beer Train: September 20 & 27, gourmet fare paired with German-style beer while touring the foothills of the White Pine Range; departs from Ely.
nnry.com, 866-407-8326, 775-289-2085
Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas Oktoberfest: September through the end of October. Features German bands, German beer, and contests.
WORTH A VISIT
Selection of 24 bottled and 24 draft beers
New-York New-York, Las Vegas
MORE NEVADA BREW PUBS
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse
(two NV locations)
13999 S. Virginia St., Reno
10840 W. Charleston Blvd., Summerlin
Silver Peak Restaurant & Brewery
124 Wonder St., Reno
Silver Peak Grill & Tap Room
135 N. Sierra St., Reno
Doppelgangers Bar & Grill
302 N. Carson St., Carson City
Chicago Brewing Company
2201 S. Fort Apache Rd., Las Vegas
Ellis Island Casino & Brewery
4178 Koval Ln., Las Vegas
Monte Carlo Brew Pub
3770 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas
Sin City Brewing Company
(two Las Vegas locations)
Miracle Mile @ The Planet Hollywood
Flamingo Las Vegas
Tenaya Creek Restaurant & Brewery
3101 N. Tenaya Way, Las Vegas
Triple 7 Restaurant & Brewery
200 N. Main St., Las Vegas
Boulder Dam Brewing Company
453 Nevada Way, Boulder City
Barley’s Casino & Brewing Company
4500 E. Sunset Rd., Ste. 30, Henderson
Boiler Room Brew Pub
2100 S. Casino Dr., Laughlin