Where to Drink in Las Vegas, Nevada

Destinations by | Aug 2014 | Issue #91

Illustration by Sam Brewster

The promise of Las Vegas, from its roots as a pioneering outpost to the Mafia-ruled casino days, is that of possibility. Poker players and businesses alike are drawn to the Mojave Desert for not only the potential for success, but the thrill of pursuing it. Recently, local beer culture has drawn inspiration from this promise with the opening of dozens of new establishments and distribution gateways that have improved beer culture throughout the valley.

In a city that grew by a million people in only twenty years, this renaissance was fueled by a simple need. These new citizens needed places to gather and drink. As people from across the country populated the valley, they brought their traditions and interests with them. For the craft beer scene, this means a vibrant collection of new bars, restaurants and breweries that express not only where the owners are from but also their new roots in Las Vegas.

As a beer destination, Las Vegas is still in its adolescence, but despite some growing pains, there’s genuine enthusiasm across the city that is worth straying from the world-famous Strip to sample.

Aces & Ales Tenaya
Co-owned by Alice Cooper guitarist Keri Kelli, this establishment has quickly become one of the best places in Las Vegas to find a wide variety of beer. With 50 taps and a thoughtful selection of hard-to-find bottles like vintage Firestone Abacus, the second location of Aces & Ales has a little something for everyone. Check out the live tap list on their website complete with current keg status.

Bier Garten Beercraft & Foodery
In stark contrast to the Plaza Casino’s classic Vegas lights, visitors find a classic beer garden replete with antique benches from a 1980s Munich Oktoberfest, vine-covered trellises and grass. The setting is at once odd and purely Vegas, but it makes for an interesting place to sample a list that focuses on sessionable beers like Ballast Point Sculpin IPA or New Belgium Coconut Curry Hefeweizen.

Banger Brewing Company
Look for Banger Brewing’s Taproom on the east end of the Fremont Experience and a few steps away from SlotZilla, the Glitter Gulch’s massive new zip line. Started by five born-and-bred residents, the brewery focuses on small batches that allow for constant reinvention, aiming to make beer that reflects the spirit of the city itself. Cool off with Sandia, a watermelon wheat beer, or their most popular, El Heffe, a jalapeno Hefeweizen.

Atomic Liquors
Patrons used to gather on the roof of this historic bar to watch nuclear detonations at the nearby atomic test site. Originally opened in 1952, Atomic Liquors captures the Vegas zeitgeist—stars new and old, from Frank Sinatra to Anthony Bourdain, have sidled up to the historic wrap-around bar. Located in a locals-dominated extension of downtown on East Fremont, Atomic serves up sought after pints like Brasserie Saint James’ Red Headed Stranger and Ninkasi Tricerahops.

Freakin’ Frog
Just across the street from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Freakin’ Frog has long elevated the average college student’s knowledge of craft beer. Known as the city’s original craft beer bar, the Frog always has something worth drinking from the constantly rotating 15 taps that focus on great local breweries like Joseph James and Reno-based Great Basin. Better yet, sign up for one of their all-you-can-drink cask nights or show up for the biannual bottle sale to peruse over 1,500 bottles. [4.09]

Khoury’s Fine Wine and Spirits
A small bottle shop located in the suburb of Henderson, Khoury’s makes up for its lack of quantity with a quality selection and an always-friendly staff. There’s a small bar in the back with taps that are changed weekly and tables where you can open a bottle of Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout or Tahoe Mountain Récolte Du Bois Peach Saison from the shop. The staff is excited to chat about beer, and on Wednesdays the space becomes a veritable who’s who of local beer folk when special tapping events take over.

CraftHaus Brewery
After spending a few years as a local beer festival favorite, managing a successful Kickstarter campaign, and lobbying city officials to amend licensing policies, owners Wyndee and Dave Forrest finally found a home for CraftHaus. The brewery embraces tradition and quality ingredients, but still believes in pushing boundaries. The new open-concept taproom, in view of the fermentation tanks, is a welcoming place to sample their beers, like Evocation, a Saison loaded with Saaz hops, or Comrade, a Russian Imperial Stout brewed in collaboration with Las Vegas Distillery.

Public House
With certified cicerone Russell Gardner running its beer program, the Public House is a beer lover’s best bet on the Strip. The 24 taps with two rotating casks and over 200 bottles provide a wide selection. Flights are a great way to explore the beer menu and are artfully curated. Try the Cicerone Flight, selected by Gardner, which includes current cask selections like Wasatch IPA dry hopped with Mosaic.

Big Dog’s Draft House
Big Dog’s Brewing Company opened its doors in 1988, making it the city’s first brewpub. With a recent expansion, the brewery will be able to produce more beer and increase its distribution, too. The taproom offers 20 drafts, as well as 22-ounce bottles to go, like Double Dirty Dog, a massive Imperial IPA. Inside, the ambience is all Midwest kitsch, but the real draw is seasonal tap offerings like the refreshing Tangerine Wit or the biscuity Carlsbad IPA.

Mint Indian Bistro
Mint Indian Bistro transcends your standard lager-dominated Indian restaurant beer list with a sophisticated collection of Belgian beers, making the University District outpost possibly the best place in town to find European imports. Curious to learn which curry, dal, or Tandoori specialty pairs with Brouwerij Van Steenberge’s Augustijn Ale or a mild stout like Brouwerij De Musketiers Troubadour Obscura? The staff at Mint will steer you in the right direction.

Tenaya Creek Brewery
Founded in 1999 as a brewery and restaurant, the folks at Tenaya decided to focus solely on brewing in 2008 and closed the restaurant. This decision allowed them to expand operations to 4,000 barrels. The taproom is a great place to sample the high-ABV, intensely dark God of Thunder Baltic Porter or fill up a growler of the dry-hopped Hop Ride IPA.

3730 S. Las Vegas Boulevard
Focusing on contemporary American dining and high-quality ingredients, this restaurant inside Aria Resort & Casino has earned accolades for its food, but the curated beer pairings make Sage a special stop. Think grilled Spanish octopus, beech mushrooms, shishito peppers and cashews paired with Brouwerij Roman’s Rince Cochon Belgian Strong Pale Ale or kusshi oysters, Tabasco sorbet and aged tequila mignonette with Brasserie Dupont Saison. Aria’s attention to craft beer doesn’t end at Sage—check out Lobby Bar and FIVE50 Pizza Bar for well-curated beer lists, including Cabaletta, a collaboration between mixologist Craig Schoettler and Stillwater brewer Brian Strumke.