A beer to remember
A new brewery on Fourth Street might signal the next phase of Reno's beer evolution
For one of my first RN&R feature stories—way, way back in 2005—I wrote a piece called “Strange brew” profiling the three local microbreweries then in town: Nevada pioneers Great Basin Brewing Co., casino-bound brewpub Brew Brothers and hip upstarts Silver Peak.
“There is one great beacon of hope for those of us who value a unique regional identity: beer,” I wrote then with hyperbolic sincerity. “Nothing is more indicative of real community flavor than the local beers. Locally produced beer is the local water—the basic substance of life—handcrafted by local artisans into a potable art meant to elevate the palate and the spirit.”
Heady stuff—pun intended—and my apologies for the self quote, but I needed a definite moment in the past to point toward and say, “Look how far we’ve come.”
So, look how far we’ve come in eight years. Beer might not be the singular savior of Reno, but it is one of the few industries that has grown steadily in the last few years, while most others have struggled. Beer has become even more central to the cultural life of Reno—we’ve always been a town of drinkers, but now we’re a town of more discerning drinkers. Eight years ago, the average Reno beer drinker might have known the difference between a red ale and brown ale (one’s a little darker). Now, we wouldn’t think twice about ordering a fancy foreign style like a saison or a doppelbock.
Great Basin and Silver Peak have expanded to multiple locations. Several new microbreweries have opened up—including the Brewer’s Cabinet and Brasserie Saint James—and many newer watering holes, like Chapel Tavern, Lincoln Lounge and Craft Wine and Beer, have put an emphasis on microbrews, imports and other specialty beers.
In a way, microbreweries and brewpubs are also part of the local food movement—the idea, popular in progressive circles, that food should come from local sources. Perhaps the brewery might one day be as central to the typical American neighborhood as the park, the post office or the grocery store. There’s already local evidence of this: Great Basin is a cornerstone of downtown Sparks. Silver Peak’s second location on the corner of Sierra and First Streets is a key dining spot for downtown Reno and the Truckee River crowd. The original Silver Peak Brewery and Brasserie St. James are hubs of Midtown. South Reno has BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse (a nationwide chain, though that’s somewhat fitting with the corporate, red-state vibe of those suburbs).
East Fourth Street is an area that seems poised for the sort of cultural renaissance that happened in Midtown over the last few years. Fourth Street already has a few great bars, as well as cultural amenities like the Reno Bike Project and the new Valley Arts Research Facility. And, come July, it will have a brewery: Under the Rose Brewing Company.
Under the Rose, which is still under construction, is at 559 E. Fourth St., in a location that was once an auto body paint shop, just a couple of doors down from the Reno Bike Project. The building covers 7,250 square feet, with a ceiling that peaks 36 feet off the ground.
Scott Emond’s business cards say “Beast Master,” but he’s the founder and president of Under the Rose. The brewery name might sound poetically obscure, until Emond explains that “Rose” refers to the nearby mountain.
He’s excited about the brewery’s location, which he secured last October.
“It has a great artists’ vibe,” he says of the neighborhood. “We want people to come in and stop by on a Saturday afternoon when they’re picking up a growler or a keg and slowly introduce people to the whole idea of Fourth Street, and how it is turning the corner, and it is becoming this cool little area, rather than where all the prostitutes hang out.”
“I think having any young, energetic business coming in and doing something that’s made of their own is going to help the neighborhood,” says Jeff Mitchell of the Reno Bike Project. “It being a brewery and intentionally inviting people into the neighborhood is good for Fourth Street.”
Under the Rose will be a brewery, not a brewpub, so no food, though they will have a tasting room, with games, including bocce ball and floor chess.
“We’re mainly distribution,” says Emond. “We want to support other businesses. In the sense that, yeah, we’ll be open til 7 here, but when we close at 7, we send everybody to X bar and do bicycle tours. We’re closing down here, let’s go hit up these three pubs, and give them business.”
“We’ll let you know where our beer is,” says Jesse Kleinedler, Emond’s wife and the brewery’s vice president.
Many of the hippest area bars, like Chapel Tavern, Reno Public House and St. James Infirmary have agreed to carry Under the Rose beers, and Emond is in talks with others as well as a few restaurants.
Emond and Kleinedler moved to Reno six years ago. He’s originally from Georgia, and she’s from Michigan. They met in the New York City area.
“We came out here essentially for the mountains,” says Emond. “It was that time in Reno when Reno was starting to get cool. People say, why do you live in Reno? Because the surrounding area is awesome! I love the hiking, Tahoe and everything. Then, a couple years in, things really started to pop.”
Not long after the couple moved here, a friend from Brooklyn came through town on his way to Burning Man. Emond had originally planned to go with him, but was unable to at the last minute. Still, Emond offered to give his friend, who Emond says is known by the mononym Boris, a ride out to the playa.
“Boris is the coolest dude ever,” says Emond. “He’s got this mystique. He’s like 5-foot-5 maybe, and walks around like he’s 6-4. He’s from the Ukraine. I would never fuck with him. I’ve probably got 40 pounds on him, but no way.”
Through some mystical insight, Boris decided to give Emond a homebrewing kit in way of thanks for the ride from Reno to the Black Rock Desert.
“Then I just started homebrewing and almost immediately I was like, this is amazing!” he says. He met former Great Basin brewmaster Ryan Quinlan, who he credits with helping to launch him in the industry, at the Reno Homebrewer shop on Dickerson Road. He took an online course, helped out at Great Basin for some experience, and before long was the brewer at B.J.’s in South Reno.
“So we ended up staying in Reno,” he says. “At that time we were ready to go anywhere to make brewing a career. Since then, I’ve kind of hopped around on a couple of different ventures, but ended up here.”
Emond says he hopes to partner with nonprofits organizations in the future. He’s launching Under the Rose with his own funds, as well as some funds from family and friends, and is launching a Kickstarter campaign. As he’s been getting the brewery going, he’s also been working part-time at Craft Wine and Beer.
“He was a very easy hire for me because he’s passionate about beer,” says Craft owner Ty Martin. “Being a specialty shop, we have so many new things coming in all the time, I really rely on my employees staying current on their own. We have a weekly staff meeting, we taste things all the time, we stay on top of education, but there’s so much happening and so much new stuff that if you’re not personally engaged in it, you can’t keep up. That’s why Scott’s so great, because this is what he wants to do and what he’s passionate about.”By any other name
Emond describes the Under the Rose brews as “French cuisine with an American twist—that really classic, clean blend of flavors. There’s a lot going on but you don’t necessarily know it.”
The beers hit a nice middle ground: It’s not like you have to dismantle the flavors with your mouth, but if you want to enjoy the complexity, there’s enough subtle nuance to award contemplation.
Rather than naming their beers after clever cultural references or local geographic features, Under the Rose’s beers have simple, one-word names that identify the style and append the word “beer”: Kolschbeer and Saisonbeer are two initial offerings.
“This also helps with the labeling because you have to say it’s a beer, and you have to say what kind of beer it is, so if we just name it Kolschbeer, it’s just done,” says Kleinedler.
Though some new brewing companies launch with a plan of specific styles to promote as a flagship beers, Under the Rose plans to take a different approach.
“We’ll release two or three beers at a time, and each season we’ll pick up and drop brands accordingly,” says Emond. “And we’ll kind of have this really—head’s up, cheesy term—organic approach to the way we’re selling and marketing our beers. It’s a community-based thing. If people don’t want a certain beer we’re selling, we’re not going to sell that beer.”
That said, the Kolschbeer, a German-style ale brewed at lager temperatures, seems to be an early favorite. It’s a light, refreshing beer with some subtle summer fruit flavors, like apple, but drinkable enough to throw back without navel-gazing.
“This is our lawnmowing beer,” says Eliot Hartley, whose business card reads “Lord of the Mash”—i.e. brewmaster. “It’s an approachable beer. It’s a way of getting people into craft beer. In all honesty, it can be kind of snooty. At times resembling the wine world in certain ways. And a lot of people don’t care. They just want a beer.”
Hartley’s originally from Indiana. He and Emond met when they both worked in “corporate America” at BJ’s.
“It’s great experience,” says Emond of his time working at the chain brewpub. “You work on a 50-barrel production system. You understand the ins and outs of large scale production, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of a large corporation—what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong. Great learning experience.”
“There’s a lot of small businesses starting up in Reno,” says Hartley. “I don’t know if you want to call it a renaissance or what, but it is enticing to be in a place where you can feel that energy. You see a lot of artists and local businesses. There’s a lot of startups and the community is pretty receptive to that. That’s why I’m here.”
Hartley exudes the air of a soft-spoken deep thinker.
“The main reason I like beer is the social cohesion it can facilitate,” he says—a highfalutin way of saying that it’s fun to party. “It’s one of those cornerstones to a community to have a place where people can come together and they have a common thing they all appreciate. … I really think craft beer should hold onto its blue collar approachability. It’s something that should be accessible to everybody. … There are some beers that you can really into and talk about if you want to. It’s really interesting and I geek out about that. But I realize the vast majority of people just like to drink beer. Myself included there.”
Martin praises his employee’s company’s brews as “very solid.”
“It’s very exciting to me especially having local products that are high quality,” he says. “That’s the key to me. Local, if it’s not very good, is a pretty poor offering, but if a local product is good and competitive, then it’s the best because you’re supporting people that are usually going to enjoy your services as well, be part of the community that pays taxes. The important part is supporting people who are doing good work, working at a high level, and are passionate about what they are doing—making sure those are the people that stick around because they raise the game for everybody.”
Though it might seem that the local beer scene has grown at an exponential rate, everyone at Under the Rose believes that there’s still for more breweries.
“Other breweries have been super supportive,” says Hartley.
“I think it’s going to be great,” says Tom Young, owner of the Great Basin Brewing Co. “The laws in the state of Nevada are very difficult to deal with, especially when you’re a start-up brewery. I think we’d have a lot more breweries if it wasn’t for some of the stupid restrictive legislation we have in this state. So, I’m glad these guys are jumping in, and I think it’s only going to enhance the whole brewing scene in Nevada and make this place a little more of destination for great beers.”
“It’s part of the international upswing in craft beers,” says Martin. “It’s not something that’s unique to Reno. But in Reno we have the benefit of being a small market that has some pretty active distributors, so we’re able to stay at the curve if not ahead of it. And because it’s a small market it seems really abundant.”
“We all have a greater purpose,” says Kleinedler. “We all have a common enemy, and it’s the big MillerCoors, InBev, Budweiser. Our goal collectively is to broaden the craft brewery market share. And we’re all in it together, so we have this camaraderie in the industry.”
“You go up to Portland or somewhere, and you see the possibility of having some place that’s seemingly oversaturated, says Hartley. “But really all those places have a substantial following. And everyone’s doing well up there and it drives up the quality of the product because there’s so many beers there the more places you have the more it does that. It raises the standard.”
“How great to make Reno a beer town?” says Kleinedler. “Like, forget the casinos, have people come here for the beer.”