Beer necessities

Second Annual Craft Brewers Festival

Photo By Clint Demeritt

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Jamie Nelson and Ryan Tarver served beers from The Brewer's Cabinet in Reno.

American craft-brewed beer nearly went extinct during the dry days of prohibition. But after decades of cultivating yeast and malting barley, American beer is as diverse and rich as the country itself. To that end, the good health of Nevada’s craft brewing ecology was on display during the Second Annual Craft Brewers Festival, which took place Oct. 5.

“It’s really exciting to see all these other breweries come into the state and start up,” said event organizer Doug Booth, sales manager for Great Basin Brewing Company. “We’re really excited to work with them, collaborate with them and put Nevada on the map as far as great beer.”

Booth said the event was held to highlight and support Nevada breweries, and only Silver State institutions were featured. Hundred of attendees visited the 17 brewery tents from all over the state. As beer flowed into tasting glasses, around 66 varieties were poured, from golden lagers to pitch-black porters.

Two specialty beers were created for the event, a collaboration between Northern and Southern Nevada breweries. Southern hop-heads brought up “Rebel Rye Sin,” a spicy India Pale Ale. Northern brewers concocted the “Northern Ryeghts,” consisting of four different types of rye malts and wood essence gathered from local mahogany trees.

Crowd pleasers included Great Basin’s Hop-a-saur Double IPA, as well as Peace, Love and Hoppyness Pale Ale from Vegas brewer Big Dog Brewing Co. Other notable beers included the Raspberry Red from High Sierra Brewing Co. and Old Jackalope Barleywine from Tenaya Creek Brewery.

With so many different types of craft beer on tap, the question of what defines a craft brew comes up. Though the beverage genus can be a bit hard to pin down, many brewers and beer drinkers related craft beer to smaller production runs, quality ingredients and complex flavors.

Technically, a craft brewery produces less than 6 million barrels of beer per year. But Josh Watterson, the head brewer at Reno’s Brasserie Saint James, sees the cut-off at 100,000 or less barrels, along with some other key traits.

“I think a craft brewery is someone who takes the best ingredients on a small scale so they can really dive into the beer,” Watterson said.

Those types of breweries have been popping up all over the state, from Joseph James Brewing in Henderson, to High Sierra Brewing Co. in Carson City, along with 6-month-old Stoneyhead Brewing Co. here in Reno.

With so much beer flowing from new outlets in the state, Nevada has been experiencing a real brew revolution.

“Craft brewing is becoming huge,” said Paul Michelini, a brewer with Stoneyhead.

Michelini said though his brewery is less than a year old, it has already started to see some revenue returns. Other signs of craft beer’s rising popularity can be seen all over the state. Bottled beer sales are strong, according to Tenaya Creek and Great Basin, which both started bottling their own beers a few years ago.

Michelini said the brew fest was a great way to get lesser known breweries in front of the public. He said the festival is hopefully only the beginning.

The proceeds of the event will go into the coffers of the Nevada Craft Brewers Association. With its new charter, the association aims to proliferate craft beer in the state with more events and community engagement. The association was also set up to eliminate many of the legal obstacles that stand in brewers’ ways.

Many brewers in the association were excited about putting together a beer map for the state of Nevada. The map would point out local breweries and pubs for thirsty tourists and locals. Perhaps with enough hops, malted barley and sweat, California won’t be the only golden state in the West.