The NFL has taken over Las Vegas for this Sunday’s clash of the football titans. Celebrities, Hall of Famers, and die-hard fans of the Niners and Chiefs (including a certain high-profile Travis Kelce fan…yes, we’re talking about Jake from State Farm) will spend this weekend and the days ahead of it taking in the dual spectacle of Sin City and events leading up to the big game. We felt there was no better time to provide a primer on Las Vegas’ burgeoning local beer scene. Hop on the bandwagon as we take you from The Strip to the suburbs in search of the finest thirst-slaking ales and lagers this desert oasis has to offer.
The Arts District
Over the past half-decade, the City of Las Vegas has worked with entrepreneurs to create a “Brewery Row” in its redeveloped Arts District. That walkable area is home to a half-dozen brewery venues, along with bars, eateries, galleries, antique shops, thrift stores and more, providing a perfect setting for a day of beer-touring and general meandering.
Allow a grain silo masquerading as a rubber duck to guide you to the district’s south end and a brewery considered by many to be Vegas’ best. Going by the name Able Baker Brewing (referencing a pair of atomic bombs, Able and Baker, detonated at a Nevada test site in 1951), it’s an eight-year-old operation boasting a whopping 30-plus taps dispensing the widest array of styles you’ll find in the district, the city or most cities for that matter. From multiple takes on the ubiquitous IPA to hard-to-come-by Old World gems, multiple lagers and farmhouse ales, adjunct sours and a cache of barrel-aged specialties, there’s something for every palate. The same is true of an in-house kitchen serving inventive takes on street food (tikka masala tacos, enchilada burgers, Nashville hot fries). And later this year, Able Baker’s versatility and quality across diverse styles will be extended to the company’s first-ever satellite venue. That upcoming pint-slinging pizzeria, “The Bomb Shelter”, will be located 10 miles south in Southern Highlands.
Also popular for providing a broad assortment of beers is CraftHaus Brewery. Based in nearby Henderson, it’s a block off the district’s main drag and decked out in an artsy contemporary motif that belies a clear-and-present fun factor denoted by its beer monikers (Giggle Juice, Welcome to Fabulous, WunderNutz!). Lagers (including a year-round Munich-style dunkel) are done particular justice, thanks in part to a side-pull providing an authentic, worth-the-wait slow-pour experience. Ales run the entire color spectrum and include numerous IPAs and stouts. There’s even El Dorado-infused hop water for those abstaining from alcohol, beer slushies for those who aren’t, plus sausages and charcuterie for all.
Two blocks down you’ll find the hop- and alcohol-heavy product of a pair of San Diego transplants, HUDL Brewing. The beers here harken back to a time when IPAs were evergreen, resinous and bracing (in a good way), IBUs were off the charts and the American strong ale was a thing. Sure, they make lighter-bodied beers, but it’s clear where their passions lie. As the name implies, Hop Nuts Brewing is similarly enamored with alpha-laced green matter. Most of the beers at their cavernous shotgun bar are of the pale and India pale variety, with English, Irish and Belgian numbers dotting the menu.
Family-run brewpub Nevada Brew Works offers burgers, brick-oven pizzas and straightforward beers. Guests can hunker down on a large patio looking out onto Main Street or, for the more industrially inclined, head inside to eye the stainless and hoses of the brewery and cellar. Last up is the newest entrant to the Arts District (but not the last, read on), Pennsylvania-based Voodoo Brewing, which opened an outpost serving its Keystone State products last December.
Standout Beers: Nevadan Amber Lager, Able Baker Brewing; Gerboise Blanc Chardonnay Barrel-aged Saison, Able Baker Brewing; Czech Plz Czech-style Pilsner, CraftHaus Brewery; Final Boss Bourbon Barrel-aged Double Oatmeal Stout with Hazelnut, Vanilla & Coffee, CraftHaus Brewery; NAC NAC West Coast IPA, HUDL Brewing; The Nelsonator Single-hop IPA, Hop Nuts Brewing; Ariana Rye PA rye IPA, Nevada Brew Works
Able Baker Brewing, 1510 S Main St, #120; CraftHaus Brewery – Arts District, 197 E California Ave, #130; Hop Nuts Brewing, 1120 S Main St, #150; HUDL Brewing, 1327 S Main St, #100; Nevada Brew Works, 1327 S Main St, #160; Voodoo Brewing, 1415 S Commerce St, #105
The Strip & Downtown
Local beer has been a part of Downtown Las Vegas since 1996, when Triple 7 Restaurant & Microbrewery opened inside Main Street Station at the former site of a dueling piano bar. Over its nearly three decades in the beer biz, the brewpub has garnered brewing-competition medals while, even more importantly, amassing regulars who return for a reliable lineup of beers leaning toward the lighter, more drinkable side of the spectrum (golden ale, hefeweizen, porter). Those year-rounders are supplemented by fun, often higher-alcohol one-offs. News you can use: For under $60, you can nab a seat at Triple 7 to take in the in-air-quotes big game along with food and bottomless house beers (not a misprint).
Another Downtown brewery that laid a foundation for Las Vegas’ brewing culture is Tenaya Creek Brewery. Opened in 1999, the company brewed solid, award-winning beers, many of which remain local favorites today. Last December, the pioneer behind the business sold it to Beer Zombies Brewing. Launched as a beer-centric art and merchandise project in 2013, “Beer Zombies” caught on among the ale-and-lager intelligentsia, leading its Las Vegan beer-nut founder to advance the project by putting on massive beer festivals and opening a quintet of taprooms offering top-notch beers, including his collaborations with breweries across the nation. In 2020, he worked with a San Diego brewery to start his own brand, beers of which are now proudly produced in Las Vegas along with those from the Tenaya Creek portfolio in a cozy two-tiered tasting room with a view of the production area, and soon, a proper outdoor biergarten. Expect ultra-modern styles from the undead side of the business (New England-style IPAs, sours, smoothie-style ales, pastry stouts) balanced by tamer Tenaya Creek fare with roots in the U.K. and U.S. of A.
Due to sky-high rent as well as the efforts of macrobeer conglomerates to keep smaller competition out, The Strip is a tough place to find local beer. That said, it’s possible to procure beer that is brewed on Las Vegas Boulevard following the 2022 arrival of a brewpub operated by international brewing concern, BrewDog. While the majority of the beers at this two-story spot – which features an open-air rooftop with views of The Strip – are brewed at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Ohio, an on-site brewer adds local flavor care of specialty beers both traditional (pale lager, weizenbock) and modern (hazy IPA).
Standout Beers: Space Kaboom Hazy IPA, BrewDog Las Vegas; Scotch Ale, Triple 7 Restaurant & Microbrewery; Black Chip Porter, Triple 7 Restaurant & Microbrewery; Baron Zombie Blood Orange Hazy IPA, Beer Zombies Brewing; Zombie Staycation Sour Ale with Cherry, Vanilla & Cinnamon, Beer Zombies Brewing; Old Jackalope Barleywine, Tenaya Creek Brewery; Bonanza Brown Ale, Tenaya Creek Brewery
BrewDog Las Vegas, 3767 S Las Vegas Blvd; Triple 7 Restaurant & Microbrewery, 200 N Main St, inside Main Street Station Casino & Hotel; Beer Zombies Brewing / Tenaya Creek Brewery, 831 W Bonanza Rd
There’s more to Las Vegas than what most visitors are familiar with, and a great deal to be found beyond the bright lights of its flashy core, including local beer that’s well worth a drive (or Uber). Let’s start our survey of the outlying areas with the brewing pioneers that started it all.
Opened in 1993 under a different name in a different location, Big Dog’s Brewing is Las Vegas’ first post-Prohibition and longest continually operating beermaker. But this storied operation has way more claims to fame than longevity. It’s in a two-way tie for most brewing-competition wins by a local brewery (read on to see who they’re tied with) thanks to a legendary head brewer who is, by far, the most decorated fermentationist in the history of The Silver State. Behind a breakneck production schedule supporting Big Dog’s brewpub and sizeable distribution, he and his team produce what many local brewers consider the highest-quality hoppy beers in the area, along with a many-medaled English brown ale and a lager that’s taken its namesake city by storm. Assorted scrambles and breakfast dishes are available in the morning at this three-squares establishment, followed by four pages of varied pub grub the rest of the day. Savor it all in a recently revamped bar and dining room replete with mural art paying homage to the business’ dearly departed founder, the “Big Dog” himself.
With brother and sister founders who installed North Las Vegas’ first and only brewery at the site of their father’s former restoration company, and a pair of brothers serving as its head and assistant brewers, North 5th Brewing is a family affair through and through. It’s also a small-business success story the City of North Las Vegas hopes is the catalyst that brings more breweries and artisanal businesses to their budding municipality. In two short years, North 5th has made a name for itself behind a line of clean, crystal-clear lagers (three pilsners and tres Mexican-style lagers), and all manner of ale, from a West Coast IPA sharing the name of the brewery’s street to rotating fruit-pie sours. Canning is on the near horizon, but for now the best place to experience what this small but mighty up-and-comer has to offer is at the source.
Just off the 574 is Las Vegas Brewing, the only local brewery ever to bear the name of its fair city or feature an all-female brew crew. Installed in Tenaya Creek’s original location, it features a horseshoe bar with gaming, a kitchen serving up a menu flush with “pubcuterie”, salads, sandwiches and flatbreads, and a beer roster that, despite having ten core offerings, remains fresh care of seasonal “Brewer’s Batch” pilsners, sours and IPAs. Two short years after launching, ownership has secured a spot in the Arts District for a kitchen-equipped tasting room with a covered patio. This will put them in the same dual-location class as Chicago Brewing, a 24-year-old operation on the west side of town with a small offshoot inside Downtown’s Four Queens Hotel Casino. Chicago’s brewing program was once led by the current head brewer of Big Dog’s and…you guessed it…is tied with that business for most competition medals. Every now and then an old-school award-winning beer will return to the taps, like a certain Belgian quad, the name of which sounds like the exclamation of a gambler who has just crapped out.
Standout Beers: Las Vegas Craft Lager, Big Dog’s Brewery; Red Hydrant English-style Brown Ale, Big Dog’s Brewery; Flor de Mayo West Coast IPA, North 5th Brewing; North 595 Japanese-style Lager, North 5th Brewing; We’re All Going to 1134 German-style Pilsner, Las Vegas Brewing; Chantilly Cream Ale with Vanilla, Las Vegas Brewing; Quad Damn It Belgian-style Quadrupel, Chicago Brewing
Big Dog’s Brewing, 4543 N Rancho Dr; North 5th Brewing, 60 W Mayflower Ave; Las Vegas Brewing, 3101 N Tenaya Way; Chicago Brewing, 2201 S Fort Apache Rd; 202 Fremont St, inside at Four Queens Hotel Casino
Best Beer Bars
If you’re in a hurry, perhaps making the most of downtime during a conference or a layover at McCarran Airport, and only have a small window of time for local beer enjoyment, hitting up a beer bar is the way to go. Sin City is home to a trio of outstanding craft-driven watering holes, starting with The Silver Stamp. Considered by most as tops in its class, it’s located in the Arts District, as is Servehzah, which has a sister location in North Las Vegas. Last but certainly not least is a spot in Spring Valley that not only has great brews, but tremendous food, as well, 595 Craft & Kitchen.
Not everyone – in fact, most people – can’t make it to the NFL’s championship spectacular. Fortunately, the city’s breweries bring it 365 days a year and there are plenty of annual beer festivals worth planning a Vegas visit around. The next and most prestigious is the Great Vegas Festival of Beer, which will take place on April 6 at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center and feature beers and other adult beverages from more than 70 mostly local purveyors. When polled, this is the event the majority of Las Vegas brewers look forward to the most each year.
A close second are the far-out fermentation fetes put on by Beer Zombies. Those include their May the 4th Be with You (you’ll never guess when it takes place) and Free the Whales festivals. The former offers an immersive, avant-garde-to-the-point-of-warped spin on the Star Wars subculture in tandem with an extensive tap list featuring breweries from galaxies far, far away, while the latter challenges trendy-for-a-reason breweries from across the country to bring the rarest of their archived or otherwise limited stock to pour during one unforgettable beer blowout. Both will take place at Beer Zombies Brewing’s headquarters on May 4 and September 14, respectively.
Other noteworthy events held following Vegas’ impactful sunny season include the Downtown Brew Festival. Executed by the same events outfit that puts on the Great Vegas Festival, it’s a scaled-down yet just as high-quality suds soiree that will take place at the Clark County Government Center on October 19. And come December, there’s Brewfestivus, a wintry ode to local beer held at The Lawn at Downtown Summerlin on the west side of town.
Where to Stay
Visitors who plan to spend their time in Vegas touring tasting rooms need not jockey for position on The Strip. Instead, head to resorts connected to locals’ casinos. They are away from the frustrating traffic, construction detours and pricey parking of Vegas’ touristy thoroughfare, making for relaxing home bases to return to after hitting several breweries. Tops in that class is Durango Resort & Casino (6915 Durango Dr), a recent addition to the southwest Las Vegas landscape. Rooms and suites are spacious and decked out in modern décor based around a desert-toned palate with sleek furnishings and plenty of convenient in-room tech. Downstairs, the gaming floor is bathed in natural light with a simple layout, allowing for easy navigation to restaurants, including several diverse culinary concepts comprising a next-level food hall, providing variety for post-beer-hop supping.