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Skiing Reno

April, 1997

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, loomed ahead.

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 more interesting.

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 patrons.

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

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