Betting on Craft Beer
The fact is that there are millions upon millions of visitors to this city each year and they all bring cash that they know they probably won’t leave with. Many of these visitors will end up drinking macro brewed beer, for some way too much. So why aren’t they drinking craft beer? Why is Las Vegas not a craft beer destination? Let’s look at the first question, “Why aren’t they drinking craft beer?” Well, first off, it isn’t quite as easy to get a craft beer as it is a watery, fizzy, light beer. Also, those light beers are being pushed on people for a dollar and they are everywhere! It’s hard not to see the signs and specials every single place that you go. These big guys pay for space and pay for placement so that they are the first thing the tourist sees and will probably buy if they are unsure of the other choices.
Options on The Strip
So who is betting on craft beer? Now this is probably where the biggest changes I have seen come in to play. You can now get a New Belgium Fat Tire on tap at Monte Carlo Casino and buy bottles of it at the Golden Nugget for instance. I never went crazy looking at every bar in every casino on the strip, so I am sure there must be a craft beer option at most casinos but there is probably not much variety or choice. Now, when you are buying beer at a casino it is way more expensive then at the corner store obviously. Everything you buy at a casino bar is way too expensive, but at least there is a craft beer option. Now remember that in Vegas the alcohol rules and regulations (for the consumer) are probably way more relaxed than wherever you are from. Remember you can pop into an ABC store anywhere on the strip and find craft beer from Stone Brewing, Sam Adams, New Belgium among others. You can usually get a six pack of bottles for around nine bucks, not too bad. Most liquor stores that you see will have cold six packs of craft beer. Now remember you can walk around and have a beer in the casino, on the strip, in the sports book or pretty well wherever you like. We love craft beer but also try not to waste money so we often go the BYOB route in Vegas. When we went to see the rematch of Silva vs Weidman we watched it in the theatre at The Golden Nugget. It was $15 to get in and had big comfy chairs and several screens to watch the fight, so we brought a couple of six packs in bags of ice and enjoyed the fight. My wife even asked the girl at the door if we could bring our own beer in and her response was, “Of course, it’s Vegas!” So if you love craft beer, you really should make Las Vegas a spot to visit and try some great local craft beer and of course many west coast beers make it into the bars and pubs. The one major issue for travelers is location, so what is available on the strip? For me I find The Pub at Monte Carlo to have a really nice selection of craft beer on tap and in bottles. The menu is sorted by types and symbols identify if the beer is on tap, bottle or local; this makes it nice and fairly efficient to navigate. The Pub is fairly well hidden on “The Street of Dreams” which is where the shops are at the back of the casino. So if you walk past the food court turn right at the pool and you will be there in a few steps. Public House in The Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian is a great option as well. They have several taps of craft beer and also have rotating casks of real ale. Again, you won’t probably stumble onto this spot but it’s easily accessible from the strip and now you at least know about it if you didn’t before. Sin City Brewing Co. has a few spots that you can grab a pint. They have locations at Planet Hollywood (Miracle Mile Shops), The Venetian (The Grand Canal Shoppes) and Flamingo Casino. Todd English P.U.B. is another spot that has a large variety of craft beer and the slyles are varied from Belgians and Local brews to Sours and Cask Ale. You can find them in the Shops at Crystals at City Center.
Now let’s look at why it may not be a craft beer destination. First off, the big guys have most of Vegas locked down and have their beer brands everywhere. There are light beers everywhere and it is impossible not to see them. If you are like me and seek out only good beer you will always find it, it just takes more effort than it probably should, but it’s worth it. If you know where to go and do a little research it’s not really that hard to find local beer, breweries and brew pubs. So let’s have a look at some of the local craft beer that you can find in Vegas (in alphabetical order):
- Banger Brewing (Just opened in late December 2013)
- Big Dog’s Brewing Company
- Boulder Dam Brewing Co.
- Camo Brewing Company
- Chicago Brewing Company
- Ellis Island Casino & Brewery
- Gordon Biersch Brewery & Restaurant
- Joseph James Brewing Inc.
- Sin City Brewing Co.
- Tenaya Creek Brewery
- Triple 7 Restaurant and Brewery
Some Off-Strip Spots
Tenaya Creek Brewery is a great spot with some really well done beer; I am a big fan of their IPA’s. This brewery is a bit of a drive from the strip but plan it out so that you get by this place for a couple of pints. Please note that they have removed all of the kitchen equipment in order to expand the brewery. Since they no longer serve food the accommodate their loyal customer by having food trucks come by or letting you bring outside food in or have food delivered to the pub. Ellis Island Casino & Brewery is just a few blocks off the strip, east of Bally’s. Join the players club and take advantage of the great deals. We were just there and had a nice steak dinner with a 22oz beer for $8.99. Doesn’t get much better than that, does it? They also have a great BBQ place there and it’s always a great value too. Up in the Freemont Street area you can find Triple 7 Restaurant and Brewing at Main Street Casino (a few blocks north on the east end of Freemont). You will also find Chicago Brewing Company has a spot on Freemont at the Four Queens that you can grab some of their brews if you can’t make it to their brewery. Over by the new Slotzilla, in the Neonopolis, is the brand new Banger Brewing; The only brewery on Freemont Street that brews their beer on-site and has a modern place to sit and enjoy your beer. The large glass wall allows you to see into the brewery as you drink your pint. There is no kitchen here and they do not allow you to bring food in, so eat before you go. The only options they had for food when we were there was a tiny cup of popcorn for $4 – no thanks! We would have stayed much longer if we could have brought in some food. Also note that there is no table service, just head up to the bar and order. If you have a vehicle or are renting a limo or party bus you really should get out and see the other breweries. Vegas has a lot to offer craft beer lovers, you just have to seek it out a little. Also be sure to check out Lee’s Discount Liquor and Whole Foods for some craft beer to take back to your hotel or to stash in your luggage. I was very surprised by the huge selection that is offered up at Whole Foods an their prices are pretty good too! The Whole Foods is at the Town Square (just south of Mandalay Bay) which happens to be the same location as The Yardhouse. They have a great selection of craft beer on tap and if you go during happy hour the prices are really good and the food is also fantastic. I’m sure that I may have missed some places that may be on your Las Vegas craft beer radar. If I have, please let me know in the comments below. We are always trying to find new places or hidden spots that locals may be more aware of. We are looking forward to our next trip to Las Vegas; not just to sit at poker tables to dawn or to take countless spins on the slots, but for the great craft beer scene that is developing all around Sin City. No matter the reason that you head down to Vegas, be sure to keep some of your money aside for great beer. Cheers, Steve