By Bobby Bush
It may seem hard to believe, but the neon lighted, hot and horny city of Las Vegas, a.k.a.
Lost Wages, is not one of my favorite destinations. It’s tacky, usually hot, and way too
crowded with foreigners and octogenarians for my taste and sanity. But business sent me
there, so I might as well enjoy my sentence. Did I mention that there are about eight
brewpubs in the Greater Vegas area? So....
My first stop was easy. Our convention hotel just so happened to have a sizable
brewpub on its main level. A hectic place at meal times and even more packed at night
when Vegas show bands take the brewpub’s stage, since June 1996 Monte Carlo Resort &
Casino has been the home of Monte Carlo Pub & Brewery. Most of Monte Carlo’s
beers, as you would guess for a touristy establishment, tend toward the light side, like
Winner’s Wheat, High Roller Red and Las Vegas Lites. My first night in town I chilled
out at the bar, sipping pints of Jackpot Ale and Silver State Stout, watching people come
and go. Give Monte Carlo credit for trying, but a cask conditioned version of the Jackpot
Ale (I think) was nasty, spoiled and probably never at its prime.
I was looking forward to my second night in town. Following detailed directions
to a northwest Vegas tract, I found the home of Sara and Phil Doersam, former publishers
of Southern Draft Beer News. Along with Bob Barnes, a full-time teacher and part-time
beer-writer for Celebrator Beer News, we booked on over to a new brewpub just a few
blocks away. Open since November 1999, Tenaya Creek Restaurant & Brewery is
nothing like those flashy Strip brewpubs. Quiet, restful and ready for suburbia, this
family-owned brewpub was a local hangout in the making.
A ten barrel brewhouse, manned by ten-year-brewing-veteran Tim Etter, glittered
in all its brand new glory in the front window. Even the fermenters were copper clad. My
sampler selection was served in five small glasses suspended within a unique spiral wire
frame. Attractive as it was, it didn’t take long to dislodge each clear vessel for the ritual
of tasting. Pilsner was thin, yet flavorful. A quaffable session beer, Pale Ale was medium
bodied and moderately hopped. Light chocolate commentary embraced the dry finishing
Nut Brown Ale, while the reddish brown Porter presented a malty, smooth mouthfeel.
With three months conditioning, Barleywine was sultry sweet. A dry finish partially hid its
alcohol potency of 8% abv. Etter allowed us a taste of his unfinished Dunkelweisen,
direct from the fermenter. This dark wheat ale was yeasty and finished quickly with
obliging afterthoughts and aftertaste. At last, something new in Vegas. With just a few
month’s under their belt, Tenaya Creek is already one of Las Vegas’ top three brewpubs.
The following night found me at another one of top Vegas threesome. Founded in
1993, Holy Cow! Casino, Cafe & Brewery is Vegas’ oldest brewpub. Located on the
northern end of the famous Strip, this rather small establishment offers slot and video
poker machines and an appetizing menu of moderately priced food. Holy Cow seems to
pay a little more attention to their beer than other Strip and Downtown brewpubs. And it
shows. I passed on Rebel Red Red Ale and Vegas Gold Hefeweiss and ordered a pint of
Ambler Gambler Pale Ale. This medium bodied, hoppy ale was so good that I could drink
it all night long. But of course, I don’t do that. I chose between two Brewmaster’s
Specials for my next beer. A warm, nitro-smooth, hot chocolate-like Oatmeal Stout got
the nod over a lightish Cream Ale. Another special, the cloudy orange colored Kriek
Lambic, made with sour cherries, was citrusy sour with a dry finish. After several
mouthfuls, it took on the taste of lemonade. Mouth-puckering sour but so nice going
down. Click on www.HolyCowBrewery.com to learn more.
Sorry, but this brief trip to Vegas is over without return visits to Barley’s, and
Sunset Station in the south Vegas town of Henderson or to Downtown Vegas’ Main
Street Station, off-the-strip Ellis Island and a great Gordon Biersch (with no
gambling). Don’t worry, I’ll be back.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush