Back to the lake

Bartender Shawn Trudell hoists two six-packs of Tahoe Beer.

Bartender Shawn Trudell hoists two six-packs of Tahoe Beer.

Photo/Eric Marks

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My wife knows by now I almost always have an ulterior motive. Vacation planning? While she researches fun things to do with the kids, I’ll be looking up breweries and bottle shops. Where to go for dinner? I’ll have to consider the draft list when giving my vote. Fortunately, she understands this, and, to a degree, shares my enthusiasm for quality beverages. So on a recent night when the girl child had a school dance, she and the boy and I went for dinner at The Brewer’s Cabinet. Food and beers were enjoyed, and it dawned on me that I hadn’t given much thought to Tahoe beers lately.

You might think Tahoe beers are those you savored at Sand Harbor last summer, or maybe enjoyed at any of the charming establishments where you can reflect on the beautiful blue waters and raise a glass, but I’m talking the trio of approachable beers brewed at the “BC” bearing the historic brand name and slogan, Tahoe Beer, “Famous as the Lake” since 1862. The original Tahoe Beer was, in fact, brewed at Carson Brewing Company (now the Brewery Arts Center). The Tahoe Beer brand didn’t exist until 1913, but the brewery began operations in 1860. After decades of success, including surviving Prohibition (Tahoe near beer anyone?), the brewery closed in 1948. The Tahoe brand vanished until 1982, relaunched and brewed in Wisconsin to be trucked to the Reno-Tahoe area.

Back to the present. The Brewer’s Cabinet offers a rotating portfolio of craft beers in its brewpub, and you’ll find at least one of their draft beers at any number of beer-friendly local bars and restaurants around town. But if you’re looking for a six-pack to take to the beach or to enjoy at home, BC offers the Tahoe Beer trifecta—the eponymous blonde, the Tahoe Pale Ale and the Tahoe Amber. All three I would call “gateway” beers, or as described on the BC website, “entry-level.” They are not challenging to drink, and your friend who drinks nothing but Coors Light would not find them too fancy for his palate. These three beers are fresh, local craft beers, enjoyable even for people who aren’t normally into that.

The blonde, as the style name implies, is a light golden straw-colored beer, slightly malty sweet, no major hop presence to scare you away. Think about beer to drink at a ball game or after mowing the lawn. Tahoe Amber shifts things a bit, showcasing the sweet malt side of the brewing process. Hints of caramel and toffee come through in the aroma and flavor. With a reddish amber hue, this is a fairly full-bodied beer. Finally, the Pale Ale highlights hops over malt, bringing a slight bitterness and floral note. While not as aggressive with hops as the style-defining Sierra Nevada, this is another step in embracing the full palette of flavors modern craft beer has to offer.

As the only packaged options from The Brewer’s Cabinet, the Tahoe Beers are canned at the production brewery in West Reno. Besides local supermarkets and liquor stores, you can also buy directly from the source, either at the brewpub or during Friday afternoon dock sales at the brewery. Beyond attractive pricing, a brewery visit to peek “behind the scenes” makes for a fun field trip for beer lovers.