We can fight over the specific definition of “craft beer” later. For right now, let’s just talk about our mutual love of sitting back with some good friends and/or total strangers and knocking back a flight, a pint or a pitcher all to ourselves. Let’s talk about small batches, local brewers and people who know that IPA doesn’t have to mean “more hoppy than a rabbit in moon boots.” These beers abound with flavor and are filled with a secret ingredient perfected by the Vegas scene. No, not love. Where do you think you are? We’re talking sin. Sweet, savory sin.
Bad Beat Brewing
For the non-gamblers, a bad beat is when you played a hand exactly the way you should have and you still get screwed by that damn noob chasing an inside straight all the way to the river. How did a freaking 4-6 suited beat a pair of queens?! Sorry. We’re still bitter about that one.
The beer at Bad Beat Brewing is pretty much the opposite of that feeling. It’s sharp and collected like checking your way to a full a pot. And Bad Beat beer is available throughout the valley. You don’t have to drive all the way to the brewery in Henderson – though you can if you want to because they have old school NES set up. You can try bottles and drafts at a variety of locations like Park on Fremont, Naked City Pizza, Oak & Ivy, Five50 Pizza, Nacho Daddy and many others. It’s the only bad beat you’ll ever be asking for.
This spot is a little more accessible if you’re on Fremont Street. Located at the entrance to Neonopolis, Banger Brewing has a nice corner spot to pour the pints to all the people who get thirsty walking the Fremont Street Experience and trying to not make eye contact with the old guys in Speedos. It’s exhausting work and it deserves a reward.
Banger has a variety of beers with diverse flavors like coffee, pumpkin and the amazing jalepeno hefeweizen called El Heffe. It’s one of our favorites. It has amazing flavor without the spiciness of the peppers. But if you’re not that bold, they also have a great brown ale, stout and Black Eye P.A. Banger is the place to stop in for something unique on Fremont Street, which is really saying something since you’ll probably see more unique things on Fremont Street than you ever really wanted to.
Barley’s Casino and Brewery
Now we’re getting into a bit more of a drive. On Sunset Road in Henderson – that’s the suburb that’s basically Las Vegas and has lines that even locals can’t always identify – lies Barley’s, a casino, restaurant and brewery in a shopping complex just down from a luxury movie theater. If you’re having trouble finding it, just look for the big grain silo. If you don’t know what a grain silo looks like then just imagine the Tin Man’s head but 1,000 times bigger and filled with beer ingredients, or google it.
Once you find the spot, you can spend your time gaming in the casino or getting a great meal at the café. The spot has everything you need to pass the time while you enjoy the wonderful beer. The beers are named for areas around the city, like the Blue Diamond beer and Red Rock Oktoberfest lager. This is one of the oldest brewpubs in Las Vegas, and they really know their stuff.
Big Dog’s Brewing
Driving the other way from the Las Vegas Strip, Big Dog’s is toward the northwest part of the city, but the beer is available throughout the valley and other parts of Nevada. The creators of some classic names like the Dirty Dog IPA and Black Lab Stout, Big Dog’s makes beer that sits well and knows how to make you roll over just right. They’re also the producers of one of our favorite beers, the Red Hydrant Ale. It comes in 20-ounce bottles, but don’t worry, you’ll finish the whole thing. And if you don’t it’s great for sharing. And you can feel free to make your friends beg.
The winners of numerous awards, Big Dog’s has become one of those names that makes people come running whenever they hear it. If you can make it up to the brewery, definitely check out this beer. Otherwise just ask for it at your favorite bar in town, then stay until they serve it. Good tourist. Here’s a treat.
Chicago Brewery Company
Far to the west you’ll find a brewery that is named after a totally different city for reasons we don’t really care about. They could call it the Reno Brewing Company and we’d still love it. (Sorry not sorry, Reno.) Looking like an old fire house that the Ghostbusters bought and turned into a brewery after they realized they actually are afraid of no ghosts, Chicago Brewing has made a name for itself as one of the most award-winning and well-made beers in the area. And the space itself has a great gaming atmosphere and full food menu.
There are times when we specifically cut stuff out because we don’t always expect tourists to drive all the way across the city, but we’re not doing that here. Get a Lyft if you need it, don’t drive back to your hotel after drinking, and give Chicago Brewing a shot.
Craft beer can have a modern touch, and don’t let anyone tell you different. CraftHaus has a much more uplifting feel than many breweries. They’re connected and engaged and they know how to create some amazing beer that will bring people back. Their beers are available throughout the city at places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, Strip bars like Unami Burger at SLS, Pub 1842 at MGM Grand and the Pub at Monte Carlo and downtown hotspots like VegeNation and Artifice.
The beers themselves are fresh and delicious and they bring new presence to their names like the Evocation saison and the Any Which Way double IPA. We’re partial to the Tantalus hazelnut brown ale, but if you hand us anything with the CraftHous logo on it we’ll be delighted.
Every local knows Ellis Island. It’s the place you go when you want some delicious beer and you just have a burning itch to get up on stage a bust out your rendition of “Wanted Dead or Alive” without feel the judgmental looks your pets give you when you do the same thing in your kitchen.
A full casino and restaurant, Ellis Island brews some fantastic beers that everyone can enjoy. They also have karaoke, in case you haven’t figured that out. We weren’t suggesting you just get up on the bar and start singing. The American Lager is a classic with an amazing taste, and they also have an authentically brewed root beer that’s non-alcoholic and perfect for the DD in your life who you’ve forced to endure your singing sober. You could spend an entire night at Ellis Island and never stop having fun. We’ve done it many times.
Hop Nuts Brewing
The Las Vegas Arts District is a unique place all its own. Full of galleries, antique and vintage shops and hipsters as far as the bespectacled eye can see, it’s the perfect place for a brewery and bar to thrive. And Hop Nuts is the perfect accompaniment to any artistic area.
Their taps serve their own beer, which you can view through the windows beside the bar that show you the brewery space, as well as other local and guest favorites. And their own golden ale and hefeweizen are superb. Hop Nuts is chill and relaxing and the perfect place to not just enjoy craft beer but to talk about it with your friends as well as their knowledgeable staff. They also host an open mic night on Mondays that a certain Vegas.com writer may or may not perform in on occasion. *cough* Shameless self-promotion. *cough*
Old School Brewing
Old School is slightly smaller than some of the other spots on the list. But their beer is totally deserving of a spot. The Varsity Vanilla Porter is traditional and full of flavor and their Hoppocrates IPA makes us wish Hoppocrates was a real person. They’re available at the Old School Brewery tap house on Desert Inn Road and at various beer fests throughout Las Vegas. They’re something to ask for when you hit up a local bar. We’re gonna get a bit personal here, but we had the Homeroom Hefeweizen at one particularly exciting beer fests in town. We don’t know if it was the beer, the fact that our date was cuter than a 4 percent ABV or a combination of both, but we instantly knew that Old School Brewing was a place to watch out for.
Sin City Brewing
If you’re not a local, and you took your expectations about Vegas and put them in a vat with hops and turned them into beer, you’d have Sin City Brewing.
This company is unapologetic and all-around fun. And they’re the only spot that has their own specialized locations in major casinos like Planet Hollywood, the Grand Canal Shoppes and on the corner of Harmon and Las Vegas Boulevard. Taking the concept of craft and infusing it with the sin, decadence and over-the-top-ocity of Vegas, Sin City brewing has become one of those spots that everyone notices whenever they walk past. This is where you get local beer on the Strip without having to search for it and it’s where you get to go home saying you drank a stout called “Dark Side of the Sin.”
Some places just feel right to locals. It’s probably the way people in Philly feel about their favorite cheesesteak place. Tenaya Creek is one of those spots to us. Over the years they’ve expanded and created new flavors, and now their beer can be found in several other states. But they’ll always be pure Vegas to us. Like most craft brewers, their names are clever and their labels intriguing – look at the label of the Monsoon IPA if you ever need an awkward moment at work – but what’s inside the bottles is every bit as delicious and balanced as a great beer should be.
You can head up to the brewery just north of Downtown, or find bottles in just about any decent bar in the city. When you’re not sure what you want, try a Tenaya Creek brew. And if you find them in another city, be sure to tell everyone that you got the tip from a Vegas local.
Triple 7 Brewery
Main Street Station is located downtown where Stewart meets Main Street. That description might not mean much to you if you aren’t familiar with the area or don’t have your phone in your hand right now staring at the map Siri was kind enough to look up for you. But you should know that this is part of Old Vegas, the Vegas you think of when any Sinatra song comes on or you have the brief flicker of a thought that goes like “I could knock over a casino.” First off, no you couldn’t. You couldn’t have even done it 50 years ago. But what you can do is get amazing beer at Triple 7 Brewing in Main Street Station. It’s classic and distinguished and it’s the kind of place where Frank may go if he were half as into beer as he was whiskey and inappropriate flirting. They also have a sushi menu, and if you ever thought beer didn’t pair well with sushi then you were heartily mistaken.