One of my objectives during my most recent Vegas vacation was so sample the finest beer Vegas has to offer. I wasn't looking for beer from elsewhere that is available everywhere else, but beer born in brew kettles hidden behind the lights and rows of slot machines, poured into patrons' glasses fresh from the serving tanks.
I am not a professional beer judge, and I don't yet have a very well developed vocabulary for describing how beer tastes. As of yet, you won't see me writing stuff like "It has a hickory and walnut nose with toffee and loliberry notes." But I have recently taken up the hobby of home brewing, and I know when I like a beer or not. So I will pass unto you, the web surfer, my recommendations
There are five microbreweries in Las Vegas that I am aware of. I was able to visit four of them and sample their product. Like many microbreweries, each one allows you to order a sampler, usually a set of 5 once glasses containing a sample of each brew.
The Holy Cow Brewery & Restaurant is the smallest of the brewpubs I visited, as you walk in the front door there is a small restaurant on the left side, an equally small casino with slot machines and video poker on the right side, with a bar in the middle.
Holy Cow offers two options for the tester: four five-ounce samples, usually their three "core" brews and one seasonal "Brewmaster's Special," or eight five once samples, one of everything they've got.
Since I had to drive back to Main Street Station, I opted for 20 ounces of four beers rather than 40 ounces of eight. I sampled each as I sat at the bar which seemed to contain video poker machines, although I am not sure as they had no place to drop a coin, nor did the except any of the currency I tried to insert.
The atmosphere while I was there was rather quite. It seemed a good place to get away from the noise and crowds of the big casinos, to a relatively quite place to enjoy a good beer and a meal, and maybe a little bit of slots or video poker.
Holy Cow tries to be faithful to beer styles, and with its Hefeweizen it succeeds. It had a healthy clouded appearance and rich creamy, almost fruity taste.
Good with a hoppy bite. This is a solid pale ale for its style, but not outstanding.
The appearance was much darker than I expected. When I held it to my face, I could not see anything through it. The flavor was very full and bitter on the side of the tongue. If you come here, there are better beers to drink, folks.
I usually don't care for fruity beers, but to my surprise I liked this one. It has a pronounced peach bouquet. In the mouth it is a creamy light beer with little peach taste, until you swallow and realize there is little but a pleasant peach in the aftertaste!
The Triple 7 brewpub is in a large room with high, inlaid ceilings, and with the usual beer-brewing hardware on the other side of glass walls. In the center is a stage area for live entertainment at night. They have a few tables with built-in video poker. This is an excellent place for lunch after arriving in town, or relaxing after a day of casino resort hopping for an appetizer, some music, and a good beer.
If you try their 5-beer sampler as I did, and you have a favorite, ask for some while playing Main Streets machines or tables. They'll happily bring you a complimentary glass of it.
This wheat beer is clear, unlike many wheat beers. It is a good tangy flavor, but is not special.
Well balanced between toasty malt and bitter hops. A very good choice if you come here.
Smokey bitterness with chocolate and tangy notes.
This is the ever changing "brewmaster's special" selection available when I was there. It had a slightly cloudy appearance, and an overwhelming lemon aroma and flavor. It smelled and tasted more like lemonade than beer.
This had the good strong bitterness that PAs should have, but lacks the creaminess that I have tasted in the very best of its category.
The Brewpub at Monte Carlo is decorated in a dimly-lit an industrial loft motif, with high tables and chairs and low fans. The words "Drink Beer" are projected in light on a wall near the entrance, and other messages in light adorn the floor and other walls. There are plenty of TV's strategically placed around the room allowing beer drinkers to follow the games they've bet on. For those not as fond of sports, there is a large window and small patio at one end facing Monte Carlo's pool area, although there is no direct access between the pub and the pool.
This has an excellent balance between the toasted malt and bitter hop flavors. I highly recommend this brew when visiting Monte Carlo.
The lightest of Monte Carlo is positioned to be the home brewed version of the traditional American mass-marketed beer. However, its flavor is much fuller and much better than the Anheiser-Busch products we all drank when we were ninetee-ahh-make that twenty-one years old.
Depending on whom you talk to, Guinness and other stouts are either an acquired taste, or are not worth drinking unless the bartender knows the proper techniques for serving it. Well the brewmaster and bartender here must know their stouts, because if I have another serving or two of State Stout, I may be converted. A rich malty bouquet rose from the glass, and the flavor was a wonderful mix of coffee and chocolate nuances. I'm trying to talk my company into having some sort of training meeting in Vegas just so I can get my Irish co-workers expert opinions on State Stout.
The appearance was cloudy as is common for wheat beers. The flavor was well balanced with no dominating flavors, even from the lemon slice that was served with it.
After giving great reviews to several of the Monte Carlo brews, I'm sorry to report that I found Jackpot Pale Ale to be too hoppy, its bitterness drowning out all other nuances.
The Sunset Station Brewpub is the most brightly lit of the brewpubs I visited. There wasn't much of a theme, but they did have high tables & chairs, as well as comfortable looking booths.
Unfortunately, I only liked two of the beers, and found the others undrinkable. So go out of your way to Sunset Station and if you want to gamble while the kids are seeing a movie. Go if you want to see a rock group you listened to in high school. If you go for one of those reasons, stop and enjoy a glass of Beach Blonde. But don't go out of your way just for the beer.
Billed as Sunset's version of American style beer, it is actually much better. When brew pubs like Sunset and Monte Carlo compare their offerings to those from Anheiser-Busch and Coors, they are really insulting their own fine light beers. They should call them what the really are: pilsners, which is what Budweiser and Coors allegedly are.
Both of these offerings were over-carbonated and had unpleasant tastes and aftertastes. Avoid them.
The first of the two "brewmaster specials" was not as over-carbonated as the above two selections, but it was still a bit bubbly for my taste, with a nice creamy flavor under the bubbles.
The second brewmaster special selection has the typical wheat cloudy appearance, with a well balanced, fruity flavor. I detected lemony nuances, although that could be from the lemon slice that arrived on the lip of the glass.
In deciding what we did and did not have time for this visit, we decided to skip Gordon Beirsch this time. Although they do serve beer brewed on-site in Las Vegas, the restaurant/brewery is part of a national chain, and they do not have a casino. It did not appear to me that they offered an experience significantly different from what they offer at Gordon Beirsch locations in other states, so we decided to use our available time elsewhere.
Maybe next time!
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