Sunday, December 30, 2007

Vegas: Not a beer town

Kansas City, where I've spent most of my holidays, is emerging as a good beer town (see post below). I can't say the same for Las Vegas, where I spent three days last week celebrating my best friend Todd's 40th birthday.

Yes, I know — there are other, overriding reasons that one goes to Vegas. And I indulged myself mightily in those reasons. Well okay, there were no naked chicks involved, but I hit the gambling end of things pretty hard. Even got fourth place in a 40-person poker tournament (good for $100)! For a fuller accounting, read M'Lady's write-up.

But if you're hunting good beer, well, I hope you had better luck than I. For the most part, the casinos make only token efforts at appeasing beer snobs. Most places had only one tap of anything good, and it generally seemed to be either Sam Adams Boston Lager or Newcastle.

Now perhaps I just wasn't looking in the right places. Maybe there are good brewpubs hiding off the strip. We found one such place that was at least trying, Ellis Island Casino & Brewery. I had a respectable, albeit unspectacular stout there. The real reason to visit is the atmosphere, just dripping with 1970s cheesiness — red vinyl booths, bad karaoke, and a $6.99 steak dinner! (See the photo above: l-r, that's Todd's friend Mikail, Todd, and me.) This was old-school Vegas, baby.

The only real beer bar we found was a nameless island bar inside the New York New York
casino at which we stayed. If you go up on the second floor, across the casino floor from the registration desk, it's right at the top of the escalators next door to Coyote Ugly. It has a beautiful bartop made of glass and bright blue geode stones. Their selection almost made up for the lack thereof at the other places: Just off the top of my head, I remember taps of Sierra Nevada Celebration, Arrogant Bastard, Stone IPA, and some kind of coffee porter. I finally tried Alaskan Amber, which my dad has been hounding me to try since he went to Alaska last summer; ambers aren't usually at the top of my list, but it was quite good for the style. If I'd had time, I'd have also sampled the Alaskan ESB.

Maybe some other readers out there know of a good Vegas brew scene that I missed? Please let me know. As for casinos, I think they're making a mistake not offering more variety in their beer selections. After all, love of great beer is just another form of hedonism — and c'mon, Vegas is the nation's capital of that.


Unknown said...

Try going downtown. There is a brewery inside Main Street Station that is attached to the California Hotel and Casino. I always enjoy their beer. On the strip I have found a couple of places. There is a brewery inside the Monte Carlo, and there is a small brew pub on the northern end of the strip called the Holy Cow.

Lee said...

Hey, thanks! I'll keep those tips on file. In fact, I was thinking that the next time I go, we might stay downtown instead of the strip. I kind of liked the downtown vibe better.

Bob Hewett said...

Unfortunately, the Holy Cow brewery shut down years ago. It makes me so sad since that place was awesome. I think the owners have a new place way off strip/downtown.

The Monte Carlo brew pub quit brewing beer a year ago, but it still has a nice selection of beers. It really sucks that you can't get their brew at the tables anymore. That was why I would go there every year!

Las Vegas' Sin City brewery supposedly has a tasting bar inside the Hard Rock.

Did you try the Nine Fine Irishman bar inside the New York Casino? That's become my favorite place.

Also downtown the Golden Nugget has a beer bar with a 100 beers to choose from.

But really, you have to take a pricey cab to get to any of the good beer bars.

HumuloneRed said...

You have to get off the strip now that the brewpub in Monte Carlo quit brewing and they shut down the Holy
Cow! (The brewer at Holy Cow! is now at Big Dog Brewery, which has pretty good beer but is a long drive from the strip).
Chicago Brewing Company has good beer. Their main location is bit of a drive but they have a tap room in the 4 Queens downtown.
Next time use along with the reviews on Beer Advocate and Rate Beer and you will have a better time.