By Bobby Bush
When a West Coast business associate suggested that we meet at his weekend home in
Squaw Valley, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, I responded positively before he even
finished the sentence. The fact that this was an area of California that I'd never frequented
before, and that five brewpubs awaited, had nothing to do with the personal sacrifice that I
would be making- working on a Saturday morning.
Our plane touched down in Reno right on time. Rental car secured, luggage
loaded, we headed west toward Tahoe. The most direct route, baring a mudslide or two,
took us right by Truckee, CA, home to Truckee Brewing Company, also known as
Pizza Junction. Snow lined the road, water- from the previous weekend's flooding
-puddled in the gravel parking lot. To our left, two antique railcars served as the
brewery's office. A large single story room, split into pub, restaurant and game areas,
It was hard to believe that Pizza Junction has been brewing for eleven years. An
all-lager brewery (still unique among brewpubs), we found the beers mediocre and boring.
The Truckee Amber was a golden (not amber) lager with no noticeable hops. The
Truckee Dark, billed as a German lager designed for pizza consumption, was listless and
light in mouthfeel for its dark hue. And Boca Bock, their other regular offering advertised
as "true dark for beer lovers," was thin and malty. Truckee seasonals, High Sierra Pilsner
and Wolf Berry (a blueberry brew honoring the University of Nevada-Reno), were slightly
Pizza Junction is obviously a local hangout. I bet they come for the food. We left
vowing never to return.
From there we high-tailed it southward to our Squaw Creek hotel rooms, hungry
and thirsty. After dinner at GarWoods (a Carnelian Bay/Lake Tahoe landmark named for
the notorious 1920s boat designer and racer Garfield Wood), we located the warm,
friendly confines of Bluewater Brewing Company[closed in 1999]. This Tahoe City non-smoking
brewpub, hidden behind a Safeway super market, had been closed unexplainedly for
several months during the summer. Our entourage found this large, three-year old
establishment very much open. At this late hour, kitchen business had slowed, but pool
tables and bar activity was feverish.
We settled in at the crowded counter and ordered up refreshing pints of Bluewater
brews. The bartender was attentive and informative as we sampled the pilsner-style
Palisades Pale Ale and well-rounded Arrowhead Red. The Sabertooth IPA was pleasantly
bitter, while Misty Mountain Oatmeal Stout was chewy, practically a meal in itself. We
left the fruity Eagle Rock Raspberry for another visit, but liked the hefty, spicy seasonal,
The Kind Holiday Ale, so much that a half-gallon growler, along with a selection of shirts
and glasses, left with us that night.
Saturday welcomed with an early business meeting and afternoon ski runs. Up
Sunday to watch the Panthers take it on the chin against eventual Super Bowl champ
Packers, snow fell lightly as we later made our way back toward Reno. The pesky white
stuff continued to pelt down as we slipped into the infamous Nevada gambling town. We
discovered the Eldorado Hotel Casino on the strip, neon flashing and slot machines
calling. Not a quarter was lost while we searched within for The Brew Brothers
Restaurant Microbrewery. Operated by the founder's four sons, this casino brewpub
was well appointed. Overhead copper ductwork (pretty but nonfunctional), shiny copper
tanks, brickwork and waxy stained wood greeted a throng of thirsty and football hungry
Brew Brothers brews were well made and tasty, especially the Double Down Stout
with its brown, smooth, fluffy head and strong, dry taste. Dollar slots built into the bar
went unattended as we partook of Wild Card Wheat, done Bavarian style and served with
a slice of lemon. The Redhead Amber Ale was properly colored and rich. Eldorado Extra
Pale Honey Ale, light in body, left an orangey aftertaste, while Big Dog Ale bit back with
high alcohol content and full body.
There were three more brewpubs to experience before these bad beer boys would
find their way home. Stay tuned next week.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush