Tourism is about personal style. Some people want to see all of the landmarks. Others just want to relax poolside with a drink in hand. Las Vegas is unique in that allows each person to find what they are looking for out of their trip. Whether it is sitting in a Parisian cafe, taking a ride down a Venetian canal or soaking in the azure skies of Rome, it is hard not to get lost in the magic of this town. Certainly the crowds and ever present street promoters can kind of ruin the romance of the moment, but the experience is always reminiscent of the real thing while also being something wholly different. This adult Disneyland is known worldwide for its food, drinks, and art (among its other vices). A recent business trip took me to Las Vegas and although many of the casinos still follow the Bud/Miller/Coors model, with a little searching there’s some good craft beer to be found in sin city.
Drinking on the strip
The Las Vegas Strip is by far the most popular area in town. With a slew of casinos, shopping, and dining, this area is the most vibrant part of Las Vegas and where many tourists spend the majority of their time. Each of the hotels have their own flare but not all of them have good beer. The Cosmopolitan is a visually stunning hotel with a three-story chandelier bar and modern décor throughout. Visit Holstein’s Shakes and Buns within the casino for a great (and well priced) selection of exotic burgers, monstrous shakes, and range of craft beers. The restaurant has a large wooden bar with white-tiled walls and bottle lamps lighting their range of beers and spirits. A cartoon of Holstein’s cow mascot decorates the walls and restaurant. The menu has imaginative burgers like The Fun-Ghi, which is topped with forest mushrooms, caramelized onions, Gruyere cheese, frisee, & truffle mayo. The Rising Sun was a standout with a kobe beef patty slathered in teriyaki glaze and adorned with nori furikake, crispy yam, spicy mayo and a tempura avocado. It is highly recommended to add a fried egg on top. When paired with a Green Flash Le Freak Belgian IPA, the two make a potent mix of savory and sweet flavors. The restaurant has a few rotating draft beers and then fourteen core taps covering a range of craft breweries and beer styles.
Public House in The Venetian is another spot to check out while along the Las Vegas Strip. Electronic lounge music plays softly along the deep mahogany interior and black and white patterned stone floors with the warm glow of Edison bulbs providing some mood lighting. If on a budget, the dishes are of decent size and can be split between two people, especially if a side or two are added. The beer menu is presented on an iPad which keeps their offerings up-to-date and allows guests to get more information on their various beers. The beer selection is very well rounded, featuring brews from around the globe and even some local options like Joseph James Citra Rye or Hop Nuts Hopathon IPA. Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde goes particularly well with their lobster mac and cheese appetizer. The beer has flavors of red apple and praline that compliments the buttery lobster and accents the bits of crispy prosciutto peppered on top of the dish. Red Headed Stranger by Nevada-based Brasserie Saint James is a red saison with a wheat bread flavor and a hint of strawberry that goes nicely alongside the herb roasted chicken with pork belly and fingerling potato hash. If splitting, try adding a side of roasted Brussels sprouts with pearl onions and smoked bacon and their superfood slaw with mustard dressing.
Beer Park by Budweiser is a surprisingly nice space to grab a brew. The open rooftop restaurant and bar is located next to the Paris Hotel. The spacious and unenclosed environment makes for a great place to people watch as the crowds stroll down the strip. The beer selection largely pulls from the extended family of AB Inbev-owned brands like Goose Island, Elysian, and Golden Road, however there are a few local choices on the menu like the Joseph James’ I’m Out Imperial Stout as well. If you are hungry, their menu covers a lot of classic American dishes and at good prices.
Sin City Brewing Co. is one of the most established breweries in the area and they have several tap rooms located along the strip including one at the Grand Bazaar Shops at Bally’s. This small bar offers the chance to grab a pint in between shopping. Their other three locations in the Miracle Mile Shops, Harmon Corner, and Grand Canal Shoppes provide similar opportunities. Light, a premium light lager has a touch of grain in the aroma. The Amber is a clean and balanced example of an Oktoberfest with a hint of bready malts. The Weisse is a German-style Hefeweizen with a smooth banana flavor that is light on the clove aroma typical for this type of wheat beer. The IPA is an English-style which means it has a more prominent malt character than American versions. Their IPA has an earthy and herbal hop aroma with a honeyed toast flavor. The Stout is in the Dry-Irish style with a deep roasty finish. Sin City’s rotating brew was a Double IPA with a gentle citrus and pine character and some caramel malt character.
One of the unique things about Vegas is the ability to drink openly on the streets. There are some intricacies to the law and places like the Las Vegas Strip or The Fremont Street Experience has its own rules due to their location so it is worth looking into the laws before sauntering down the street with bottle in hand. Main Street Station is located near Fremont and is a charming casino with Victorian décor and a western saloon flare. They promote themselves as a casino, brewery, and hotel, with their Triple 7 Restaurant & Brewery located just off the casino floor. The beers are pretty straightforward but extremely well priced ($2.50 pints at the casino bar) in a city that is known for its high prices. In addition to a seasonal brew, they have six mainstays: High Roller Gold, Royal Red, Marker Pale Ale, Double Down Hefeweizen, Black Chip Porter, and Carlsbad IPA. The porter was of note in the bunch with a touch of mocha in the aroma and a clean finish. While the restaurant has a full food menu, the hotel’s Garden Court Buffet (hey if you’re in Vegas you have to go to at least one buffet) is one of the more popular buffets in its price range. The food choices covers the globe, offering Mexican, Italian, and Asian cuisines among others. You can also purchase their house amber and blonde there, which is a nice change from the Bud and Coors typically served in these dining options.
Las Vegas is a city of many tastes. With their array of world class hotels, eateries, and bars, it offers an experience that can suit any personal style.
Originally published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel, November 16, 2017