All-American April: Craft Beer in Las Vegas

While the Ontario craft beer scene has just started to really pick up, the US craft scene has been alive and kicking for a good while. We can’t resist checking out the local beer wherever we happen to travel, so we decided this month we’d do an “All-American April” to feature some of the US places we’ve been.

It’s true: you can get craft beer in Las Vegas. Here’s our take on what breweries and beer bars were easy enough to visit from a casino/hotel on the Strip.

Sin City Brewing

Sin City Brewing

With four locations serving up their own beer list on The Strip, we’d venture to say that Sin City Brewing is the easiest Vegas brewery to locate. We visited the location inside the Grand Canal Shops, a stone’s throw away from the canals, gondoliers and palazzos of “Venice”. To our Canadian eyes, the walk-up bar within a mall (with to-go beers as well) was both peculiar and should absolutely be a thing here.

Sin City Brewing

Sin City serves up five beers + a rotating seasonal. We found that they were all pretty basic or traditional styles – but done quite well. We were even surprised by their Light Lager, which we tried with some serious hesitation, as light lagers are not a style either of us is generally a fan of. But we found it quenching, and much more malty than your average light lager, and both of us enjoyed even that.

Ellis Island Brewery & Casino

Ellis Island Casino & Brewery

One long block off the Strip, on Koval Lane at E. Flamingo Dr, Ellis Island Casino & Brewery is what’s often described as a “neighbourhood casino” – meaning it’s not on the glitzy Las Vegas Strip, and their clientele is primarily the locals. The slots were low value (heavy on nickels and pennies), and it had a more casual atmosphere than the rest. It’s also a brewery, with a window you can peek into on-premises to the see the inner workings.

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The beer was also dirt cheap, for Vegas or anywhere. A $7 flight, which included 6 beers and a root beer, was a great deal. Like Sin City, they focus on 5 key styles that are relatively traditional and common-place, and a rotating seasonal. The standards were decent, but our major winner was the seasonal – at the time, it was a Winter Spiced Ale which had the taste of cinnamon and mulled cranberries.

Banger Brewing

Banger Brewing

If you decide to take the Deuce from the Strip and head up to see the Fremont Street Experience, find this neon among all the rest and don’t miss Banger Brewing, located right on Fremont Street.

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Banger went into fully inventive craft territory, with a long list of their own beers and some local guest taps. Josh loved the Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout Dark Angel, and we both found the Morning Joe, a kolsch with hazelnut and caramel coffee, really tasty. And that’s saying something, considering Jessica doesn’t drink coffee – it was more like a beer version of a Coffee Crisp than a cup of coffee.

The vibe was that kind of industrial-hipster aesthetic that you see in a lot of breweries back home. We were into it. Felt like a good hang-out place, appropriate for locals and tourists.

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BEER BARS

Public House

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Inside the Venetian’s Grand Canal Shops, not far off the casino floor is this gem of a gastropub. Prohibition-themed with a look that’s kind of industrial meats swanky, Public House’s menu looked good (we were between meals), and the beer and liqour lists were fabulous.

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We were delighted in trying US craft from all over, with a special focus on Vegas and the surrounding area. Since we were between meals, we sidled up to the bar, conveniently located near their interior entrance, and chatted with the bartenders on beer, beer regulations and politics.

Yard House

Advertised as having the world’s largest selection of draft beer, even though Yard House is a chain, we couldn’t resist heading over to the Vegas Strip location, which is in the row of outdoor shops at The LINQ. After all, we don’t have any of them near here! The food was pretty good, and seemed to have a sort of Mexicali focus (we enjoyed the fish tacos), and the staff was particularly friendly.

A bartender hams it up for the camera
A bartender hams it up for the camera

And yes, the beer list is pretty amazing. Multi-page and organized by stylistic tendencies, it also featured a lot of the US craft beers we’d hear about but would never be able to try. Too bad that the closest installment of this restaurant from our house is all the way in Ohio.
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MISSED THIS TIME

There’s a few more breweries in Vegas, but we found them a bit further afield and trickier to access as a non-car-having traveller staying on The Strip (e.g., Tenaya Creek Brewery, Hop Nuts Brewery, and Big Dog Brewing Co)

We know there’s some good beer bars in Vegas, but again some were further out and we just couldn’t see everything! Two on our wishlist included: Aces & Ales and Atomic Liqours. And then there’s Hofbrauhaus, a classic German beer hall like it’s namesake in Munich . .  but as we’ll be at the original in May, we decided we could leave it off.

Visit date: February 2017

Beer Touring in Burlington, Vermont

When people think craft beer, it might be Colorado or Oregon springing to mind. But you might be surprised to learn that it’s Vermont that has the distinction of having the most craft breweries per capita.

Burlington, Vermont, the state’s largest city, is a student town with a hippie vibe. The downtown is extremely walkable, particularly the pedestrian-only Church Street Marketplace, lined with shops and twinkle lights, the big white church steeple overlooking it all. The sun sets over Lake Champlain. And the craft beer culture is hopping.

THE BREWERIES

In a brief trip to Vermont, we visited 10 breweries in and around Burlington. Due to our short timeline, we had to miss some great breweries around the state. But we’ll just have to save them for another trip.  Here are our top 5 of the ones we made it to:

  1. Zero Gravity Craft Brewery, 115 St Paul St, Burlington

Downtown, but hard to spot – it’s inside American Flatbread, a wood-fired pizza restaurant. It has an extensive beer list, inspired by all sorts of Old World styles. There was a special push for IPAs, though there was enough beyond that for the non-IPA-lovers. We went home with a growler of Whole Lotta Lov, a cream stout. And by the way, the pizza is outrageously good.

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Lake Champlain Waterfront in Downtown Burlington, VT
  1. Fiddlehead Brewing, 6305 Shelburne Rd, Shelburne

They had just two brews on tap: their flagship Fiddlehead IPA, and our favourite, Hodad, a porter with chocolate, toasted coconut, and vanilla bean. You can actually taste each flavour in the porter, and we both fell in love with it. We didn’t stop by the attached pizzeria, but it smelled delicious.

  1. Citizen Cider, 316 Pine St, Burlington

A hip little bar with food and a friendly buzz. Jess was in cider heaven, as she’s a fruit fiend. We ended up trucking three ciders home with us: Unified Press (their flagship, quite dry), The Dirty Mayor (a ginger cider, named for the mayor of Fort Ethan Allen), and Americran (a cran-apple).

Growlers from Queen City & Burlington Beer Co.
Growlers from Queen City & Burlington Beer Co.
  1. Burlington Beer Co., 25 Omega Dr, Williston

It’s in the back of a loading dock, with mis-matched couches, ping pong tables, and a bar. And it was overflowing with patrons. We’d hang out there too if we lived nearby! Beer styles – and names – are creative, and it was good stuff. We ended up with Mason Jar Mild (brown ale), Chasing Rabbits (American pale wheat ale), and Barista (coffee porter).

  1. Queen City Brewery, 703B Pine St, Burlington

There’s a pub-style atmosphere where you can see right into the brew works, and a beer list that focuses on English and German styles. We went home with one of their English bitters – 7 Oaks, plus a smoky Rauchbier, and the Munich Dunkel (classic Bavarian-style dark lager).

MORE DRINKING IN BURLINGTON, VT

There’s Drink, an aptly named place on St Paul in downtown Burlington, with excellent cheap pint deals and in-shop infused liquors. Small and simple, but exactly what you’re looking for in a casual bar.

And there’s Three Needs Tap Room’s “Duff Hour” weekdays at 4pm, where they open their doors and there’s $1 pints of some mysterious light beer until the keg is kicked, then $1 pizza slices for an hour. We made sure to be there at 3:50, and stood in line with a bunch of university students, feeling like we were in on a local secret.

EATING IN BURLINGTON

Penny Cluse Cafe was our breakfast winner, using fresh, local ingredients to make themed breakfast plates from across the United States. These ranged from  Cajun (the “Zydeco breakfast”),  huevos rancheros, biscuits and gravy, and New England-style sourdough French toast with Vermont maple syrup

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill was Josh’s favourite dinner spot, with farm-to-table fine dining in a casual setting, and a giant beer list with a comfortable beer garden out back.

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Skinny Pancake was Jess’s winner, a creperie right on the waterfront to satisfy all crepe cravings. Sweet crepes. Savory crepes. All the crepes. Holy crepe!

We were thrilled with how the craft beer culture was so integrated into Vermont society. And we intend to go back as soon as we can, to visit all those breweries we missed!