Saturday, September 26, 2009

vegas (beer!)

One thing that surprised me about Las Vegas is that it's not a complete beer desert. You have to search around a bit, but there is good local beer to be found. It's worth the effort (assuming you like good beer), and this post is a mini (very mini) guide to some of the beery options in Las Vegas. I should point out that I didn't go to Vegas with the idea of posting about local brewpubs, and the notion only occurred to me after the fact, so I don't have a comprehensive set of photos to go with the post. Also, a couple of the pubs are right next to slot machines and blackjack tables, where photography isn't really appreciated, and I wasn't inclined to push it. So I do have a few photos of the outside of various places where beer is available, and I think we'll go with those.

Besides the four listed here, there are also several more establishments I missed entirely. This only means that I had limited time and beer wasn't part of the original plan, and no slight is intended to anywhere I missed; I'll just have to catch them next time around.

Flamingo Las Vegas at night

Flamingo Las Vegas

Sin City Brewing

Three locations on the Strip, including one that recently opened inside the Flamingo Las Vegas casino. We'd tried their Sin City Amber on a previous trip since at least one bar in the airport carries their beer. They offer a short list of beers - the amber, a wheat beer, a pilsner, etc., nothing hugely exciting. No IPA or even a pale ale, which apparently you can get away with in Vegas. I found it kind of frustrating, though, as I firmly believe "IPA" stands for "I Purchase Always". Still, we would've tried one of their other beers but were unable to get the bartender's attention, and eventually we left without beer. Granted he was busy with a bunch of wedding parties at the time, but still. They didn't seem to have food anyway, just beer, and we were hungry. I also considered getting a t-shirt but decided against it. I like the logo, but where on earth would I ever wear a t-shirt like that? Not to work. Maybe to local beer festivals, if I cared about impressing people at beer festivals, which I really sort of don't.

A general rule of mine is that any bar or restaurant (brewpubs included) that wants to sell you a t-shirt probably isn't spectacular in the food & drink department. I think that pretty much applies here. Meh.

Main Street Station, Downtown Vegas

Fremont Casino, Downtown Vegas

Triple 7 Brewing

This is a proper, decent-sized brewpub, located inside the Main Street Station casino in Downtown Vegas. I've heard the food's good here, but we were just interested in a beer at the time. The Marker Pale Ale is quite excellent. It's kind of an English-style pale ale, similar to Bridgeport's. I would happily drink more of it, whether in Vegas or here in Portland, if it was available here.

Main Street Station is one of three downtown casinos belonging to Boyd Gaming, the other two being the Fremont and the Hawaii-themed California (which is just across the street from Main Street Station). There were signs indicating that Triple 7 brews were available at least at the Fremont, so if you're on Fremont Street and don't feel like walking a couple of blocks west and north to Main Street Station, you may still be able to find some tasty beer.

4 Queens, Downtown Vegas

4 Queens, Downtown Vegas

Chicago Brewing

This is a tiny nook inside the Four Queens Casino, right on Fremont Street. It's a little triangular space in one corner, up a flight of stairs, overlooking a sea of slot machines. It has a sort of Edwardian mens-club feel to it: Dark wood everywhere, vintage photos on the walls, and a swanky little bar area. The place even doubles as the casino's cigar lounge. I think the idea is that you can pop up here for a beer, a bourbon, and a cigar, while the little lady's busy playing the slots.

The main Chicago Brewing location (including the actual brewery) is somewhere out in the 'burbs, apparently. Unless you're a local resident, the Four Queens location is probably more convenient. Plus you can get there and back without driving, so everyone gets to have a cold one, or two.

I get the sense they don't pull in a lot of beer geeks here. The menu cautions that the Hardway IPA clocks in at 6.9% ABV and is very hoppy, even highlighting it in red to make sure you know in advance what you're up against. We both saw that and immediately ordered the IPA. The waitress cautioned us it was very hoppy, and isn't to everyone's liking. We responded that we were from Portland, and she smiled knowingly and nodded and brought us our tasty IPAs. Not bad at all. Kind of a Northwest-style IPA, lots of citrusy hop goodness. My impression is that they brew the IPA they want to brew, and they warn people about it just in case, instead of toning it down for tender non-geek palates. I like that kind of attitude. And anyway (as I've said before), my policy is to always order the beer that the beer menu warns you about.

Food at this location is standard pub grub. I wouldn't go out of my way for it, but it was fine. Tasty beer, though, and a great location. Recommended.

The Orleans, Las Vegas

The Orleans, Las Vegas

Tenaya Creek Brewing

As with Chicago Brewing, the Tenaya Creek brewery itself is somewhere out in the 'burbs, which we didn't visit. Instead, we ran across that rarest of things, a local LV beer with a bit of local distribution. We ran across their Nut Brown Ale at the lounge attached to the bowling alley in the Orleans Casino. It was a good brown, malty but not overly sweet the way some can be. It was a great beer to bowl with. I would've gone back for another round, except that we were getting sore from all the bowling, and we still had to go souvenir shopping after this.

So I don't know anything about their pub, but I can recommend the Nut Brown, and I can also recommend bowling at the Orleans, for whatever that's worth.

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