On April 26th, the fine folks at Motley Brews, along with 80+ breweries, descended upon downtown Las Vegas, and unleashed the 2014 Great Las Vegas Festival of Beer. This year’s incarnation was both the biggest, and arguably the best festival to date, boasting more events, breweries, and food than ever before. Downtown was a fantastic setting, giving plenty of space for festival goers to enjoy the event without feeling like a sardine. It was also the perfect location to continue the festivities once the festival had ended. All in all, I hope that this location is utilized again.
Yesterday, in partnership with The Great Vegas Festival of Beer, Joseph James Brewing Company held a special event at the brewery to celebrate the upcoming festival and the partnership of Nevada Craft Brewer’s Association.
Firstly, Joseph James debuted a beer brewed as the festival’s official beer: Sweet ‘N Funky Desert Junkie. The beer is an easy drinking 5% alcohol blonde ale brewed with local desert honey and Saaz hops. In my tasting of the beer, I found it to be extremely refreshing, with a sweet and floral finish. Saaz hops are a favorite of mine in a style like this because they contribute a sort of herbally, spice character that provides some earthiness to a beer. (more…)
Serious Eats put together a cool map of the country that highlights a favorite beer in each state. It was put together by all the various contributors to Serious Eats’ drinks section. I always enjoy infographics like this, as it helps me to hear about other breweries that I don’t have access to here in Nevada. Later, if I’m in another state and I see something I recognize, I’ll know to pick it up. (more…)
This upcoming Friday, July the 26th, the Nevada Craft Brewers Association is having a tap takeover at the new Aces & Ales on Tenaya. Expect to see most of the local breweries in attendance as they pour specially brewed beers for the event. Additionally, $1 from each pint will be donated to the Nevada Craft Brewers Association.
The event begins at 7PM.
Aces and Ales did it again, and in a big way. I’ve been to their Strong Beer Fest, Winter Beer Fest, Stone Domination, etc., but never have I felt the sense local community like I did a week ago Saturday. Aces and Ales presented their first ever Homegrown Tap Takeover, which brought together Las Vegas’ four most well known breweries: Tenaya Creek, Joseph James, Big Dog’s and Chicago Brewing Company.
Before I get into the beer, much praise needs to be heaped upon everyone that had a hand in making this special event happen. The organization and execution was flawless, and the Aces crew were in high spirits as they hustled to deliver great craft beer and delicious food to the insatiable palates of their patrons. The breweries put their best efforts forward and really were able to come through with some memorable offerings. A huge thank you to everyone involved. (more…)
Pliny the Elder is a fascinating beer, and not only for the fact that it is an incredible IPA. There is such an allure, mystique, and reverence for this beer.
It is one of the highest rated IPAs in the world. Despite it’s year round availability, it never seems to be available in its distribution markets. And when it is available, retailers often limit the amount that can be purchased at a time, or, it is hidden in the back and must be requested for by name, possibly with some sort of secret password. Combined, this makes it a sort of liquid gold amongst craft beer enthusiasts.
Is Pliny that significant? Are there no other IPAs that are as good as Pliny? Is it truly, a one of a kind beer that cannot be recreated by any other brewery than Russian River? When you word it like that, it begins to sound ridiculous. Of course there are other incredible IPAs that are just as good as Pliny, so why the hype? Answer: It’s always fresh.
How much, exactly, does freshness matter? If you travel deeper into the inner craft beer circles, you’ll start to hear the purists declare that Pliny should only be consumed within 30-45 days of bottling. They say that it has to be as fresh as possible, otherwise it’s not as good. But the same can be said for any IPA. As I mentioned in my aging guide, hop aroma and bitterness fade rather quickly. Being as the whole point of an IPA is the hops, it makes sense that the fresher it is, the more vibrant the aroma and flavor is.
Owner Vinnie Cilruzoe is extremely cautious of growing too fast, to the point where Russian River’s slow growth is causing an exponential expansion in demand for their beers. But this has ensured that the hop forward beers, like Pliny the Elder, don’t sit on the shelf very long, meaning that if you are lucky enough to find it, it is likely to be extremely fresh.
Stone Brewing Company is another brewery that comes to mind that emphasizes how important freshness is. They have repeatedly stated that none of their year-round beers should be aged. The above image can be found on the back of their IPA bottles. The above link serves as a method for consumers to report Stone beer that was not available within the ‘best by’ date. Most notably, this past summer Stone released a new IPA titled “Enjoy By XX-XX-XXX,” with the ‘X’s’ being replaced with a specific date. Stone has a significantly larger distribution map than Russian River does. To ensure that Enjoy By is available as fresh as possible, Stone limits each batch to only 2 or 3 markets at a time, determined by consumers voting at the Enjoy By site.
To clarify however, Pliny the Elder is an amazing IPA. It has a sweet, lemony nose with a rich piny taste. Pliny has a crisp, light body, likely from using an addition of sugar in the boil. The freshness factor definitely helps, as it accentuates the pine and citrus flavors. But even if you drink a bottle 2 months past bottling, it is still a fantastic IPA.
If you want a clear example of how important freshness is in beer, visit one of our local breweries, like Tenaya Creek, Big Dog’s, or Chicago Brewing Company. There is no travel time in the beers that are served at these brewpubs. The beer is brewed and served on premise, making it the freshest beer you can find. Joseph James is another local brewery that makes a fantastic IPA. While they don’t operate a brewpub, their beers still have a very short travel time to our local retailers. You’ll notice that IPA’s from all of these breweries have an aroma and bitterness unlike most other IPA’s available in our state that were distributed from somewhere else.
For more information in understanding freshness and aging, check out our aging guide.
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.
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.
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!
The above hash tag is used often, even by me, on twitter and untappd when talking about local breweries. I want to take a moment and expand this loose definition even further.
First and foremost, I am not trying to discredit any of the breweries here in Las Vegas, or take away from the work that they do. Instead, I want to give credit where credit is due to the other small businesses in town who are also working hard to impact the craft beer community.
First, breweries like Tenaya Creek, Joseph James, and Big Dog’s Brewery do an amazing job of making incredible beers, and distributing these across not just the state, but in other states as well. But don’t forget about everything else they do besides brew great beer. Tenaya Creek and Big Dog’s both operate brewpubs where they not only serve their own beers, but they include guest taps as well. Big Dog’s holds several beer fests each year with incredible beer lists from a lot of great breweries across the country. All three of these breweries are incredibly helpful and supportive of the growing homebrew community and the local homebrew club, SNAFU. Tenaya Creek and Joseph James participate in GABF Pro-Am competitions and offer to brew winning homebrew batches of beer in their breweries. Big Dog’s offers classes for people to come and brew Big Dog’s beer at the brewery, and take home a growler of beer that they helped to brew.
In addition to these breweries, there are several other smaller breweries who also operate brewpubs and beer fests. Altogether, without these companies, not only would we have less beer in Nevada, we’d also have a smaller pool of bars available that offer craft beer. There would be less support for homebrewers, and as a result, there would likely be fewer homebrewers and fewer new breweries in planning.
Second, I think it’s worth mentioning the other businesses who are also deserving of the #drinklocal tag, even if they do not brew their own beer. Places like Khoury’s and Aces & Ales, offer a tremendous service to Las Vegas craft beer drinkers.
Khoury’s not only has a great bottle selection, but they even offer beer on tap and let you drink beer in the store. As a result, Wednesday nights have become a weekly gathering of craft beer drinkers across the the city. Guests are welcome to open and share beers with other guests, whether they are purchased at Khoury’s or not, and best of all, there’s no corkage fee! Wednesday nights also feature local food trucks, and often a brewery tapping or serving of a new beer.
Aces & Ales has the best beer list in the city. Best of all, the prices are just right too. They hold several yearly beer fests, and even brewery tap takeovers, like the yearly Stone Domination, featuring Stone CEO Greg Koch. They offer several weekly specials, like discounted growler fills on Sunday, and Tuesday Night Tastings, which feature a specially prepared dish paired with a featured beer. In addition to their tap list, they also offer a range of beers available in bottles, including several aged beers.
Both Khoury’s and Aces & Ales, among others like Money Plays, The Dillinger, and even Public House and Todd English’s PUB, are helping to spread cask ales, double dry hopped beers, beer sharing, food pairing, aged vertical tastings, and beer fests across Las Vegas.
Supporting these local breweries and businesses also supports craft beer in Las Vegas. The more support we can give to our retailers and restaurants who serve craft beer, then the more we are building a stronger craft beer community in Las Vegas, and the more distributorship this city will get, the more craft beer events will be held, the more breweries will get started, and more retailers and craft beer bars will open. Support your local businesses and #drinklocal!
The one and only Aces & Ales is celebrating their 3rd anniversary, and they’ve enlisted the help of the local Joseph James Brewery to help them. Together, they’ve made a beer commemorating the 3 years that Aces & Ales has been punishing palates in Las Vegas with their intense craft beer selections.
Porters have got to be one of the best styles of beer, simply because they perfectly balance dark, bitter, roasted malts, with sweet, chocolatey goodness. Not only does this beer boast both of these elements, the barrel aging gives this beer a nice smokey aroma and flavor to complement the dark chocolate. For a beer that’s 10.8% alcohol, this is extremely drinkable.
If you are reading this, and it is still Saturday the 14th, GO TO ACES & ALES RIGHT NOW! Not only is this a very limited offering, they are giving it away for free. The keg was tapped at 3PM today, and your first round is on the house, today only or until they kill the keg, whichever happens first.
As for the bottle seen above, I got bottle 34/120. So yeah, bottles are also very limited, and will probably sell out tonight, if not already.
Congratulations Aces & Ales! Las Vegas wouldn’t be the same without you!
April 21, 2012 marked the second annual Great Las Vegas Festival of Beer, held once again at Tivoli Village. Last year’s festival was a bit underwhelming. There was little room, and a strong lack of organization. I’m pleased to say that this year, they seemed to alleviate both of those issues. The space given to the event was three times larger, and the overall professionalism of the event was greatly improved. While I could do without loud bands playing throughout the event, I’m sure that many people enjoy the live music atmosphere. Now…on to the beer!
My wife and I decided to be fancy and go with the VIP tickets this year. This allowed us to enter an hour early, and to enter a “Brewer’s Lounge” with food and special beers. The special beers were simply bottled Ommegang beers, which are available at most liquor stores, and Tailwagger Wheat, and Rebel Red from local Big Dog’s Brewery. While these are all solid beers, there is nothing really special about them. With that being said, the VIP tickets were worth the extra $10 for the early entry. By the time Tivoli Village started filling up, we had already made one lap around the area.
I was very happy to find some nice surprises amongst the beer selections this year. Noble Ale Works was in attendance, sampling their IPA, Pale Ale, and phenomenal Alpha Red. Hopefully we will see these on Las Vegas shelves sooner than later! (UPDATE: Khourey’s Fine Wine is currently carrying Noble Ale Works) Dogfish Head were pouring both their refreshing Aprihop, as well as their coveted 120 Minute IPA in the “Hop Tent.” Stevens Point and Three Monkeys, both new to the Vegas market, were also in attendance. I quite enjoyed the Brown Barrel Ale from the latter, and their Tres Vasqueros Amber Ale is about as fine of an amber ale as you will find! I was only able to try the Cascade Pale Ale by Stevens Point, but it was a nice, if unspectacular pale ale. Other breweries in attendance, included Wasatch, Squatters, Crispin Ciders, Unibroue, Green Flash, New Belgium, Left Coast, Uinta, Firestone Walker and Ballast Point.
Not to be outdone, Las Vegas’ locals had a fantastic showing of their own! On hand were breweries, Tenaya Creek, Joseph James, Big Dog’s, and local craft beer bar Aces and Ales. Aces and Ales were pouring two fantastic Rogue selections in XS Imperial IPA and Brutal IPA. Tenaya Creek had a fine selection of their own local brews, including Calico Brown and their Hop Ride IPA, which made it to the Elite 8 in the National IPA Championships! Thankfully, if you missed out on either of these brews, you can always visit the brewery year round! Big Dog’s really managed to surprise me with their Alpha Dog double red imperial ale. Big Dog’s has always been hit or miss for me, but this hoppy concoction won me over at first sip! Last, but not least, is Joseph James. Joseph James had their stellar Hop Box and Tahoe Blue on hand, but what really blew me away was their “experimental” crafts. The first beer they unveiled was a Cherry Pie Blonde Ale. In my opinion, this was a splendidly refreshing beer with nice subtle notes of cherries. The second new brew that they unleashed, was appropriatley titled Baby J’s German Chocolate Cake Stout. All in all, this may have ended up being my favorite beer of the event! Just as the name implies, this was German chocolate cake in a glass! Big, chocolate and coffee stout flavors, with a perfectly balanced coconut flavor throughout. I really hope this one ends up in a bottle someday soon!
Overall, I would highly recommend that any lover of craft beer does not miss this event next year! Las Vegas craft beer needs your support, and the prices ($27 for regular, $37 for VIP) are very reasonable when you consider the amount of beer you will be experiencing!