Tenaya Creek: Tapping their newest beer, God of Thunder Baltic Porter, at 6PM. Sauced Food Truck will be serving food made with the beer, and Tenaya Creek will be raffling a growler of the beer at 7 and 8PM.
Khoury’s Fine Wine: Also tonight at 6PM, Khoury’s will be tapping 3 rare kegs of Ballast Point beers: Victory At Sea (imperial vanilla coffee porter), Barrel Aged Black Marlin (porter), and Abandon Ship (smoked lager). Sausagefest Food Truck will be serving food.
A shot of the festival grounds with local band Tribal Seeds
On October 20th, Motley Brews presented the follow-up to their 2012 Great Las Vegas Festival of Beer: The Las Vegas Downtown Brew Festival. After having a blast at the last Motley Brews presented festival, I was more than excited for this one. To start with, the location and timing of this event could not have been more perfect! The Clark County Amphitheater is a nice, large, outdoor venue, and the great October Vegas weather made for a phenomenal marriage!
For their first outing in 2011, I had complained that the event seemed disorganized, and way too compact. These problems were pretty much resolved on their second go around. This time, I can only tip my hat to the organizers and sponsors of this fantastic festival! We arrived a bit late (roughly 2:15 PM), but had no trouble finding parking in the large adjacent parking lot. Upon walking up to the entrance, we were quickly able to redeem our Groupons, and were inside and ready to drink within just a few minutes.
Upon entering, we made our way right to the Joseph James tent to try and wet our palettes with their R/D #11 Ginger Lemon Weizen. Thankfully, and remorsefully, we were able to get our hands on the very last drops, which may have proven to be the best beer I had the pleasure of experiencing. The beer tasted like a mix of spicy ginger ale with a refreshing lemon twist. I really hope this one sees a bottle release, as I want everyone to be able to taste this amazing local brew! Their other two R/D offerings did not disappoint either; both the Black Rye Session Pale and the Bourbon-Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout were quite the tasty offerings! Joseph James never ceases to amaze me when it comes to what they pull off for these special events. I will continue to look forward to more R/D batches, while still sipping on their great year-round fermented offerings.
Karl Herrera, the Las Vegas Beer Ranger, pouring some New Belgium brews
Our next stop was to the New Belgium tent to get a pour of their refreshing Shift Lager. Shift really is a perfect summertime beer with its light-body, and flavorfully crisp finish. While chatting with Las Vegas’ new Beer Ranger, Karl Herrera, he officially coined the term “Get Shift-faced!” which pretty much demands to be on the front of a T-shirt! New Belgium was also pouring their Red Hoptober, Ranger IPA, and of course, Fat Tire. Their Super IPA was also on display at the Get Hopped Up Tent, along with Stone 16th Anniversary IPA and Bear Republic’s Racer 5.
Tim and Alex from Tenaya Creek
From there we hit another local favorite in Tenaya Creek. They were happily pouring their new Dutch-style Belgium Tripel, Oktoberfest Lager, the recently bottled Hauling Oats Oatmeal Stout, and their iconic Hop Ride. Not to mention, they also decided to unveil a Hop Ride infused popcorn! Being a Las Vegas staple for years, you really can’t go wrong with anything that Anthony and Tim brew up. Their year round beers are top-notch, and their seasonal brews always leave you looking forward to the next one! If you haven’t been to the brewery yet, you should make it a point to do so. Hell, there’s a good chance you’ll see your’s truly at the bar sipping on a Hop Ride!
Another local staple, Big Dog’s Brewing Company was pouring just nearby. Their selections included Dirty Dog IPA, Las Vegas Lager, Lake Mead Monster Double Red Ale, and the Great American Beer Festival 2012 Silver Medal winning Red Hydrant Ale! Big Dog’s is another local brewery that you just can’t go wrong with! While I would have loved to have seen the seasonal Pumpkin Ale, or the monster that is War Dog IPA, I was more than pleased with what they had to offer! With 2 locations in the Valley, there is no reason not to stop by and grab a drink!
After making our rounds with the local breweries and New Belgium, we decided to hit the outside circle and try and get our hands on some beers we haven’t had before. Our next stops were to Tommyknocker’s and Moa. Tommyknockers, from Colorado, is fairly new to the Las Vegas craft brew scene. They had with them a nice assortment, including Vienna Amber Lager, Maple Nut Brown, Imperial Nut Brown, and a nice, mild, Pumpkin Ale. All of their offerings were solid, and can be found locally at this time.
Moa, from New Zealand, is a brewery that I have yet to try, but I’ve always been curious about. They had samplings of their Breakfast, Pale Ale, and Blanc Evolution. I only tasted the first two, but I was quite fond of both! As a nice contrast to most breakfast inspired stouts, Moa’s Breakfast had a bright, wheat, sweet cherry flavor that would pair nicely with a berry muffin or eggs. While it won’t be for everyone, I think it would be a nice substitute for a mimosa at brunch. The Pale Ale had a subtle citrusy hop nose and flavor, which was balanced by a bitter malt aftertaste.
From here, we went along the line, sampling well known beers from the likes of Dogfish Head (Namaste and Midas Touch), Firestone Walker (Pale 31, Union Jack), Sierra Nevada (Hoptimum, Pale Ale, Torpedo, Kellerweis), Lagunitas, Indian Wells, Three Monkeys, Chicago Brewing Co., and a newer name to the Las Vegas scene: Riley’s
To be honest, I had not heard much about Riley’s until this event. Riley’s is a smaller brewery from Madera, CA, who are in roughly their fifth year of existence. Their lineup consisted of: Sancha, which reminded me of a cross between a pale ale and a honey ale; Vixen: a coffee/chocolate inspired stout; and Wildcat IPA. All three were quite tasty brews, and show a lot of promise for this new brewery. I’ll be looking forward to what they decide too cook up next!
If there is one beer trend that I really enjoy, it’s the new “Session IPA/Pale Ale” trend. Something just appeals to me about a low ABV, flavorful IPA that won’t make you feel all nice and fuzzy after just one glass. Thankfully, one of our last stops, Ballast Point, brought along a beer that is a perfect pale ale for this occasion. Their Even Keel Pale Ale, was just fantastic, and perfect for this mild October day. It had a perfect pine aroma, with just enough citrus to hit your nose. The taste was quite the same, with a great dry finish that didn’t linger for too long. Not be outdone, they also brought along an arsenal of their other lovingly-crafted brews: Big Eye IPA, Calico Amber, Pale Ale, and the incomparable Sculpin IPA.
I can’t finish this without giving a shout-out to all of the food vendors that made it out to quench the hunger of the beer sipping crowd. From restaurant representatives to food trucks, there was something for everyone. Our eatery of choice ended up being Haulin’ Balls, who serve a variety of gourmet sandwiches based around, you guessed it, the meatball. The food was nothing short of remarkable, and I would recommend that any carnivore seek them out.
All in all, this may have been the most pleasant beer festival that I’ve had the opportunity to attend. A big thanks is in order to all the vendors, sponsors, and especially Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada for all the phenomenal brands that they helped bring together! As a group, we’d also like to thank any of our followers that found us and said hello. It’s always great to meet you guys in person, and we appreciate all of the kind words and constructive feedback that we receive.
In closing, if you have not had an opportunity to attend one of these festivals, then you are missing out! Do yourself a favor and make sure that you clear your calendar off and come out and have a blast! …I’m sure you’ll see us there!
Your’s truly filling in for Karl at New Belgium, while he took a well deserved bathroom break
The Great Vegas Festival of Beer is back again this year at Tivoli Village on April 21st!
This was one of the better Las Vegas beer fests I attended last year. A lot of great beers from some great breweries.
The things I didn’t like about last year was the length of time it took to get into the festival, and how small and crowded the festival area was. It looks like Motley Brews learned from last year by adding an express lane for online ticket holders and three times more space than last year! Also exciting are some of the breweries that will be present this year that are new to the festival: Brewery Ommegang, Ballast Point, Uinta, and Green Flash, to name a few. Expect to see the local breweries on hand as well: Tenaya Creek, Joseph James, Chicago Brewing Company, and Big Dog’s Brewing Company.
More details, and pictures, can be found at Motley Brew’s website.
India Pale Ale. Better known as it’s modern day, and less historically accurate cousin, IPA. One of the most popular craft beer styles in America, especially here on the west coast. In 2011, I had 52 different IPAs total. Of these 52 different IPA’s, I’ve managed to choose my favorite 10 that I had the pleasure of consuming this year. And by 10, I really mean 17. Enjoy, in no particular order:
Dogfish Head 120 Minute/90 Minute/60 Minute IPA/Aprihop
This might look like 4 different beers, but to me I see 4 different variations of the same beer. These are the most approachable of the IPAs, with more so a strong hop aroma and flavor rather than bitterness.
The 60 and 90 are available year round. The 120 is only available a handful of times a year, and is hard to find when it is. Aces and Ales happened to get it on tap and Whole Foods and Khoury’s sold out of the bottles immediately. Aprihop is a variation of the 60 Minute with apricots thrown in, available in the spring time.
Stone Cali-Belgique IPA/IPA
Stone IPA is one of my favorite IPAs and a great example of the “west-coast style IPA.” This is a strongly bitter beer with a bright, citrusy aroma. It is available nearly everywhere that sells beer and on tap at nearly all the PTs as well as Millers Alehouse and Yardhouse.
Cali-Belgique is the same beer, but made with a Belgian yeast strain. This is the best Belgian style IPA I’ve had. The Belgian yeast adds a little bit more fruitiness to the beer that compliments the citrus flavors.
Despite being a year-round brew for Stone, Cali-Belgique can only be periodically found in Las Vegas.
Lagunita’s Sucks Holiday Ale
Probably the heaviest hop aroma of all these beers, this IPA is incredible. Loads of sweet, citrusy aroma. Very sweet and smooth body and very drinkable.
This is only a seasonal ale that was brewed in place of Brown Shugga’. This is still available in bottles around town and is currently on tap at Tenaya Creek Brewery.
Coronado Cask Idiot IPA
Neither the cask version, or the normal version is available in Las Vegas. I had this beer in San Diego. I never had the normal version, but the cask version was probably the smoothest IPA I’ve had. It wasn’t overly bitter and had a bit less aroma then the other IPA’s on this list. Being as it was on cask however, is what made this beer stand out from the rest. Soft texture, lightly carbonated and full of earthy, piny hop flavor.
Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA/Sculpin IPA
Sculpin IPA is one of the highest rated IPA’s on Untappd. It is another “west coast style” IPA in that it has a strong bitter bite with huge grapefruit flavors and aromas.
Ballast Point recently started distributing to Las Vegas, but are keeping Sculpin in California.
If you visit the brewery in San Diego, they may have Habanero Sculpin on tap. This is a version of Sculpin with habanero peppers thrown in. The pepper flavors compliment the hop bitterness perfectly, and it adds a nice burning finish!
Baird/Ishii/Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA
A truly incredible and unique beer. This one had mixed reviews from people as they felt that the citrusy hops didn’t go well with florally aroma and tea flavor. Like I said, it’s very unique and I thought it was awesome. Sadly, it was only brewed once and was never available in Las Vegas.
Maui Flyin’ Hi.P.Hay/21st Amendment Hop Crisis
Technically two different beers from two different breweries, but I’m grouping these together as they were both amazing IPAs and both from cans. Both had amazing hop aroma bursting out of the can and a great citrusy flavor.
Maui Flyin’ Hi.P.Hay is apparently a limited release beer, but I feel like I saw it in town recently. Maybe not?
21st Amendment Hop Crisis is also a limited release beer and sadly, the brewery does not distribute to Nevada.
Dogfish Head Hellhound on my Ale
As you can tell, many of these IPAs are being described as “citrusy.” This beer actually was brewed with lemons! As such, it had a nice sweet lemony flavor pairing with the harsher citrus bite from the hops.
This was a special release beer commemorating blues guitarist Robert Johnson. It was brewed twice last year and may still be available in town.
Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA
Variation of the IPA style, a black IPA is both hoppy and roasty. This particular beer is probably the greatest black IPA there is. Very full bodied, soft texture and a wall of leafy hop aroma.
Brewed this summer for Stone’s 15 anniversary, there are no plans to brew this again. Good news is that it’s still available in town. I recently saw it at both Khoury’s and the Las Vegas Blvd Whole Foods. If you can’t find it, then you should try…
Stone Double Dry Hopped Sublimely Self Righteous Ale/Sublimely Self Righteous Ale
This beer is available year round in bottles and can be found on tap at Yardhouse. Sublimely Self Righteous Ale is very similar to Stone’s 15 Anniversary ale except there is a little less alcohol and less body making this less filling and more drinkable. Still has the wall of hop aroma that hits you right before your first sip, this is one of my favorite beers!
Earlier this year Aces and Ales had a double dry hopped variation. What this means is that there was even more hop aroma bursting out of the glass, making this an even more flavorful beer than it already is!
All of the above images were taken from the respective brewers’ websites.
By far, the best beer fest I’ve been to, obviously, since this the biggest in the country. I finally had the chance to taste so many different beers that I don’t have access to in Nevada. In future posts I’ll write about some specific breweries or beers I tasted.
Downside of visiting the final day, a lot of the more rare beers were already out. However I do have a list of favorites that I did get to try:
Stone BELGO Old Guardian Barley Wine
Rogue Old Crustacean Barley Wine
Dogfish Head Tweason’ale
Ballast Point Victory at Sea
Left Hand Milk Stout
Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti and Espresso Oak Aged Yeti
Alaskan Smoke Porter aged since 2000
And the list goes on. Attached are a few pictures I was able to take. Yes I took a picture in front of the Anheuser Busch booth for fun, no I didn’t try anything there. I was surprised to see how busy the booth was, which is a shame considering all the great craft breweries that were there in attendance.
Got to meet Zane Lamprey from the TV shows Three Sheets and Drinking Made Easy, super nice guy. Also saw Greg Koch from Stone, he insisted that a picture be taken with him.
All in all, it was a great time. I highly recommend you take a trip to Denver for future GABF’s. It is impossible to not have fun.
Color: Rich Amber
Smell: Grapefruit citrusy hop aroma
Feel: Pillowy soft head, medium mouthfeel, medium to low carbonation.
Taste: Hop bitterness is very present but not overpowering. Same with the hop aroma. Low level malt sweetness.
Overall: This is a definitive, west coast American IPA. Very strong, very present hop character.
One of the better IPAs that I’ve had from a small San Diego based brewery. Sadly they do not distribute to Nevada. The brewery is worth making a stop at if you are ever in San Diego. They often have one-off/unique beers on tap. When I was there I had a habanero version of this IPA that had a very spicy finish!
Smell: Dark chocolate, espresso, burnt toast
Feel: Big foamy head gives this beer a smooth feel. Little to no carbonation.
Taste: Tastes like it smells. The dark roasted malts give this beer a very coffee-like taste.
Overall: Sea Monster is a beer for people who love dark beer. This is a very dark beer. Darker beers are made with malted barley that is roasted longer than the barley used in lighter color beers. Much like the darker coffee roasts, Italian, French or espresso roasts, darker roast beer has a very defined smokey, bitter taste.
This beer is very similar to World Wide Stout that I reviewed earlier. The tastes are almost the same. The main difference being that this has almost half the alcohol content that World Wide Stout has. This gives the beer a less alcohol pungent taste, and a little bit more carbonation. All in all, this is a very good beer.