Editor’s Note: This month we invited established beer journalist and book author Pat Evans, who recently joined our LVFNBPro writing staff, to guest host our monthly beer column with his take on his relocation to Las Vegas from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
~Bob Barnes, Editorial Director
Photo courtesty Brewers Association - Charlie Papazian, Sam McKinney, Kurt Wiesner, Beau McDonald, Amanda Koeller, Tylere Pascual, and Dave Pascual accepting GABF medal.
Las Vegas isn’t known for beer.
In fact, the city holds a downright rotten reputation when it comes to beer. The lack of respect much of the rest of the country holds for Las Vegas, and Nevada beer is a shame, really, because in reality the beer industry here is beautiful, albeit smaller and on the backburner than in many other communities.
I’ve spent the last five months discovering the Nevada beer scene and have been pleasantly surprised at the revelation of an innovative, creative and superb group of brewers.
In August, I was preparing to move across the country from Grand Rapids, Michigan. I had put in my four week notice as a reporter at the region’s business journal and was saying goodbye to my many sources. As a reporter, I spent quite a bit of time on West Michigan’s sizeable beer industry and even wrote a book on the subject, Grand Rapids Beer. Those two facts made many of my goodbye meetings take place over a beer or several.
Multiple times people apologized to me, sorry I was moving from a place known worldwide for its beer—Grand Rapids twice had won a poll as Beer City, USA and been named Best Beer Town by USA Today, not to mention it’s home to Founders Brewing Co., one of the largest breweries in the nation and fastest growing—to a city they all had deemed void of a beer scene.
I knew of a few breweries, namely I had seen Joseph James Brewing Co. at a Great American Beer Festival in the past. But the only previous time I’d been to Las Vegas, in 2013, we were relegated mostly to the Strip and the lack of tasty beer was noticeable.
The Strip is a major curse when it comes to the beer reputation of Las Vegas, though it’s getting better. When any one of those number of people who warned me of a beer desert as I prepared to leave Grand Rapids, the only real experience they had in the city was the Strip. The same goes for a legion of beer friends and media I spoke with at the Great American Beer Fest in October, a month after I had moved here.
The Strip has historically not been known for its beer, instead offering free light beers with restaurants focused on the high-end world of wine and spirits.
Thankfully, the trend of beer is putting pressure on the city’s main attraction. You see places like Beerhaus and Robert Irvine’s Public House supplying lengthy lists of notable beers from around the country and right here in Las Vegas.
The idea of a socioeconomic ladder of beverages is slowly diminishing. I’ve chatted with chefs across the country about the barriers of pairing food coming down and wanting to conceptualize meals where each course can be paired with a beer, wine or cocktail—or even coffee. Straight wine and beer dinners are great of course, but a true beverage lover can easily glide from one to the next over the course of a two-hour dinner.
Those effects are now showing their face on the Strip, so far as I can tell, so I’m not sure what those people were speaking of when they warned me of a lack of beer.
Now that I’m in Las Vegas, I see not only a glut of great California beers—seriously with Nevada’s proximity to the best beer state in the country, really not sure what those people were thinking—and a high concentration of great breweries here, I’ve not been disappointed.
I was recently chatting with Clyde Burney, VP of Beer and Trade Development at Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits, about the local breweries in Las Vegas. Clyde related that the ratio of award-winning breweries in Las Vegas compared to other cities has to be out of whack. He pointed out that whether it’s Big Dog’s Brewing Co., Joseph James Brewing Co. or PT’s Brewing Co. you’re drinking beer from brewers who have won multiple Great American Beer Festival medals. That’s not to mention Tenaya Creek Brewing Co. or Lovelady Brewing Co., or Hop Nuts Brewing Co., Bad Beat or CraftHaus.
Other than Founders and a few other large breweries, most are declining in sales. Beer continues to go more local and cities across the country are onboard and Las Vegas, despite perceptions from the outside, is making beer with the best of them. It’s too bad the beer trend of local will negate the likelihood Las Vegas breweries will go much further than Nevada’s borders, because they’re lovely beers.
Most of Las Vegas’ breweries are making beer I would gladly serve those friends from back home in Grand Rapids and say, “See what you’re missing out on.”