Sunday, June 15, 2014 | 2 a.m.
• Joseph James Brewing Co.
155 Gibson Road, Henderson
• Big Dog’s Brewing
4543 N. Rancho Drive, Las Vegas
• Banger Brewing
450 Fremont St., Suite 135, Las Vegas
Summer is here, and like grilling and swimsuits, few things complement the Las Vegas heat better than ice-cold beer. Mainstream staples are good and well, but the city’s burgeoning craft beer scene offers interesting brews perfect for poolside sipping or pairing with summer cuisine.
Much like mixology, beer has taken off as a culinary trend in recent years, with craft breweries making up 98% of breweries in the U.S. Though the craft beer movement has been slower to catch on in Las Vegas than other parts of the country, events like this spring’s Great Las Vegas Festival of Beer, organized by local suds enthusiasts Motley Brews, have helped raise craft beer’s profile in town by catering to aficionados and newcomers alike. The event drew more than 6,000 people to the streets of Downtown to sample more than 250 beers from more than 80 regional breweries, including 15 from Las Vegas and Nevada (not to mention a dozen local eateries offering tasty brew-pairing bites). Motley Brews' next gathering will be the Downtown Brew Fest, held September 20 at the Clark County Amphitheater.
Here’s a look at our favorite must-try finds for the summer season from Las Vegas breweries and a breakdown of some craft beer basics:
Belgian ale: Raz-barrel Saison
Joseph James Brewing Co.
• 9% ABV
• The lowdown: Aged in merlot wine barrels with raspberries, it’s ideal for summer, with a not-too-sweet kiss of honey balanced by hints of pepper and light hops for a full-bodied flavor.
• Pair with: Salad, seafood, chicken, mild cheeses, curried dishes.
• Did you know? Belgian ales often have clove-like, herbal aromas and fruity notes such as banana or citrus.
Fruity wheat: Sandia
• 6.4% ABV
• The lowdown: Banger’s signature brew is also one of its most approachable, a light Hefeweizen mixed with fresh watermelon puree for a clean, refreshing flavor perfect for beating the summer heat.
• Pair with: Salad, chicken, seafood, mild cheeses, light desserts.
• Did you know? Banger Brewing isn’t shy about unorthodox beer infusions. Its El Heffe hefeweizen is brewed with jalapenos.
Red ale: Lake Mead Monster
Big Dog’s Brewing
• 8.9% ABV
• The lowdown: This double red American strong ale evolves with each sip, offering a smooth, medium body with light hop bitterness balanced by floral notes for a slightly sweet finish.
• Pair with: Burgers, barbecue, sausage, grilled vegetables, potato dishes.
• Did you know? Reds get their color from caramelized or roasted malts.
Brown ale: Downtown Brown
• 6.0% ABV
• The lowdown: Downtown Las Vegas’ first craft brewery named its finest offering accordingly, a malty beer with a touch of chocolate and toasted aromas for a subtle sweetness and crisp, clean finish.
• Pair with: Grilled meats, pork, sausage, barbecue.
• Did you know? Banger Brewing’s taproom is the latest addition to the local craft beer community, having opened in late December.
Black rye IPA: Rye’d N Dirty
Joseph James Brewing Co.
• 6.7% ABV
• The lowdown: This spring seasonal release is more complex than your average IPA, balancing the hoppiness of the style with a distinctive chocolate rye flavor and light-yet-creamy body.
• Pair with: Cured meats like Genoa salami and prosciutto, buttery and hard cheeses, spicy cuisine.
• Did you know? Founded in 2008, Joseph James produces seasonal craft beers and six year-round beers.
A beer novice's glossary
• Hops are female flowers on a climbing vine that are added to beer as a natural preservative and clarifying ingredient. They also give beer a bitter aroma and flavor, referred to as “hoppiness.”
• ABV, or alcohol by volume, is the percent of alcohol present in liquid. ABV varies from beer to beer, but some styles are generally stronger than others. Lagers and witbiers tend to have lower ABVs, around 5 percent, while IPAs and Belgian ales typically fall in the 7 to 10 percent range.
• Malt, derived from cereal grains like wheat and barley, is the main ingredient in beer. Malting is the process by which grains are sprayed or soaked with water to induce germination, then quickly dried. The process activates enzymes that release sugar and other compounds necessary to ready the grain for brewing.
Ales vs. Lagers
• All of the local beers we’ve described above are types of ales, the older of the two types of beer. Ales date back more than 5,000 years. They come in dozens of varieties, but all tend to yield more intense, varied flavors than their milder lager counterpart.
• Lagers are the most widely consumed beers in the world and the bread and butter of major breweries such as Anheuser-Busch. While pale lagers are most commonly stocked on American shelves, European brewing styles include bocks, pilsners and marzens. Lagers are fermented and served at cooler temperatures than ales, giving them a more mild, clean flavor and aroma.