Here's the RN&R's guide to local breweries—in the valley and beyond
Over the last two or three years, since the recovery of the local economy slowly started to pick up, there have been innumerable stories in the local news media, on social media, and chattered about in bars, coffee shops and churches, about the supposed progress of one industry or another, or one neighborhood or another. The Reno restaurant scene, according to many local observers, seems to grow wider, more diverse and more sophisticated. Same with the coffee scene. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that Reno’s art or music scenes are on the verge of “blowing up” into the national consciousness. (I’ve even, on occasion, been guilty of writing that claim myself.) Businesses in every sector of the city have started to claim that their blocks are poised to become “the next Midtown,” revitalized and rejuvenated. Every industry, be it outdoor recreation, medical marijuana, tech start-ups, or a damned battery factory, is going to “replace gambling” as the cornerstone of the Northern Nevada economy.
Often, these claims are hyperbole—harmless exaggerations of the modest successes experienced locally after a half-decade of bitter recession. But in a couple of cases the claims are not too far from the truth. Anyone who dines out regularly in Reno can’t deny how eclectic the local offerings have become—dishes designed in places all around the world are now made fresh with ingredients delivered daily from local farms. And whether downtown Reno, downtown Sparks, Wells Avenue, Fourth Street, the university area, or any other neighborhood becomes “the next Midtown,” it’s clear that Midtown is definitely Midtown. Where once there were only a few streets and unrelated businesses, now there’s a district where people walk and shop. And there is one local industry were progress is quantifiable: beer.
“It’s definitely booming and we’re excited to be part of that growth,” said Matt Johnson, co-owner and brewer of Imbib Custom Brews, 785 E. Second St., 470-5996. “It’s tangible. Not just in how much is being produced, but in how many jobs are being created. People are just excited. … If you look at the national data, the beer market has continued to grow, and the craft beer market is growing significantly faster than the big boys, and that’s reflected in Reno’s economy as well.”
“There’s huge, quantitative growth—both in the quality and in the volume of sales,” said Ty Martin, the proprietor of Craft Wine and Beer, 22 Martin St., 622-4333, a wine and beer store that isn’t a brewery but sells brews from many of the locals. “It’s a good time to be in beer.”
Back in 2005, for one of my first feature stories for the RN&R, I wrote “Strange brew,” a guide to the local breweries around town. Back then, there were three: Silver Peak Restaurant & Brewery, Brew Brothers in the Eldorado Hotel and Casino, and Great Basin Brewing Company in Sparks. Now there are about a dozen in Reno and Sparks, plus more in development, and more breweries around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Virginia City, and all around the region. Great Basin and Silver Peak have expanded to multiple locations. And many of the best local watering holes, like Chapel Tavern, Lincoln Lounge and Reno Public House, always have local stuff on tap.The brewery district
Local beer aficionados have started to refer to a stretch of Fourth Street east of downtown as “the brewery district” because of the high concentration of breweries there. It's a still-not-totally-gentrified area where funky, old, large buildings, perfect for brewing operations, are still affordable. The Depot, 325 E. Fourth St., 737-4330, is a large brewpub in an old railway building. The Voyager IPA is one of their popular brews, served at several local restaurants, and Martin recommends The Explorer, The Depot's pale ale. “They're just solid, balanced beers that have good flavors,” he said. “It's also the kind of beer that people can drink a lot of.”
Under the Rose, 559 E. Fourth St., 657-6619 was the first brewery on Fourth Street. Its focus is on European-style brews, like their popular Saisonbeer, a French-style saison, a fruity, spicy pale ale. “It’s a light saison that you can pour someone who drinks Budweiser, and they will enjoy it,” said Martin. “That’s not a knock on the saison. It’s just so approachable. It’s light, clean.”
“Under the Rose is putting out some very approachable styles that are a little different from what your typical American breweries are putting out,” said Johnson.
Pigeon Head Brewery, 840 E. Fifth St., 276-6766, specializes in lagers, including their very popular pilsner. “Pigeon Head is kind of a new local favorite go-to,” said Ryan Gold, co-owner of several local bars and restaurants that carry local brews, including Imperial Bar & Lounge, Old Granite Street Eatery, Lincoln Lounge, and Royce Bar. “We have Pigeon Head Pilsner at all our spots. … They did a really good job of being super consistent and filling that void of an everyday, easy-drinking session beer, like a pilsner, that’s local. A lot of people like to go nuts with the sours and all these crazy beer geek beers, but I think they did a really smart thing by just making something really accessible for everyone in town.”
Another brewery is currently in development in the Alpine Glass building, also on Fourth Street, and spitting distance from Under the Rose and The Depot.
Johnson’s brewery, Imbib, is not far from the district. “We’re an operational brewery that focuses on barrel-aged, old-world style beers,” he said. Imbib also has an educational component, with beer-making and tasting classes, a beer club where members are able to give input on the brewery’s offerings, and, in a unique twist, Imbib offers custom brews for weddings and other events where customers can request a specific ingredient or theme. It’s a place not just to drink beer, but to learn about drinking beer.Midtown
Back in 2005, when I first wrote a round-up of the breweries, Silver Peak Restaurant and Brewery, 124 Wonder St., 324-1864, was still sort of the new kid on the block. Now, it's a venerated veteran. “Silver Peak is super reliable,” said Martin. “They've been doing it for a long time, and it's still good. … They have great people working there. The food is super reliable. And the beer is good, comforting.” He recommends the Peavine Porter.
Nearby Brasserie Saint James, 901 S. Center St, 348-8888, kickstarted the local interest in Belgian-style beers when it opened in 2012. “Their style of beer was unique in Reno at the time when they opened up,” said Johnson. Art Farley, the owner of the brewery and the bar Saint James Infirmary, 445 California Ave., 657-8484, is developing a music venue, The Saint, near the Brasserie, as well as another location in San Francisco.
“I think they’re excellent,” said Martin. “The awards they’re getting nationally are well earned, particularly the saison. … And the ambiance there—of any of the breweries in town, it’s by far the best. It’s cozy. It’s warm. I can’t think of a nicer spot to be sitting, with the fire, the wood, a couple of nice beers, and a warming bowl of food.”
On the corner of Arlington and California avenues, The Brewer’s Cabinet, 475 S Arlington Ave, 348-7481, is another staple of the local beer scene. “I really like the Tahoe Pale Ale that they just released,” said Martin. “I always like the regular, everyday kind of guy beer. Nice hops, crystal malt. Especially in the can, it’ll be something that’s fun to drink all around the coast.”
Gold said that the Brewer’s Cabinet brews were consistent sellers at his establishments, especially their Tahoe Amber Ale. “They have really cool branding,” he said. “It’s a good, hoppy amber, and there’s not a ton of local ambers.”Downtown Reno
Downtown isn't necessarily a hotbed of brewing activity, although Silver Peak also has a prime second location, 135 N. Sierra St., 284-3300, near the Truckee River and the Riverside movie theater. But visitors to one of the cornerstone casinos of Reno's downtown might be pleasantly surprised that there's beer made on site. Reno's oldest still-active brewery is Brew Brothers in the Eldorado Resort Casino, 345 N. Virginia St., 786-5700. “They've won plenty of awards and their brewers—Aaron Halecky in particular—are super talented,” said Martin. “They're just great people. They understand that their main goal is to provide beer for the casino customers, and they do really good job of delivering a reliable product.”Sparks
High Sierra Brewing Company was a Carson City brewpub that moved north to Sparks last year and is now inside Baldini's Sports Casino, 865 S. Rock Blvd., 358-0116. It places as much emphasis on its food as its beer. There's all-you-can-eat chicken wing nights and specials during football games.
But the grandfather of all Northern Nevada breweries is also in Sparks: Great Basin Brewing Company, 846 Victorian Ave., 355-7711. The brewpub’s original location in downtown Sparks opened in 1993 and has been going strong ever since. The company’s Ichthyosaur IPA, commonly known as “Icky,” is the one local beer that every local drinker has at least tried.
“Great Basin is like the local hero,” said Gold. “We’ve got it all the places. Similar to Pigeon Head, everyone enjoys drinking their beer. They’re always consistent, and we sell quite a bit. … They’re the ones who started the whole thing.”
“They’re doing it right,” said Martin. “They’re offering things that both beer geeks and regular folks want to drink.”South Reno
Great Basin Brewing Company also has a Reno location, 5525 S. Virginia St., 284-771, near Meadowood Mall. Stoneyhead Brewing Company, 5301 Longley Lane, 829-2337, is in an industrial part of town that probably doesn't attract a lot of foot traffic, but their beers, including their Honey Pale Ale, can be found at several popular establishments like Laughing Planet, 650 Tahoe St., 360-2592.
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, 13999 S. Virginia St., 853-7575, is even further south, near the Mount Rose junction. The brewery is part of a national chain, but has made real efforts to connect to the local scene. (There’s also one in Sparks, 425 Sparks Blvd., 398-3550.)
“They’re putting out a pretty good product, and a lot of what they’re putting out around the country is being made right here in Nevada, which is interesting,” said Johnson. “Even though they’re this sort of corporate model, they’ve been friendly and collaborative, which is cool.”Regional brews
Outside of the Truckee Meadows, there are even more nearby breweries within quick driving distance. Even Virginia City has a brewery: Virginia City Brewery and Taphouse, 62 N. C St., Virginia City. Around Lake Tahoe, there's Stateline Brewery & Restaurant, 4118 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, (530) 542-9000; Cold Water Brewery & Grill, 2544 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, California, (530) 544-4677; and The Brewery at Lake Tahoe, 3542 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, California, (530) 544.2739, which also serves excellent pizzas. Tahoe Mountain Brewery has a brewery and taproom in Truckee, 10990 Industrial Way, Truckee, California, (530) 587-3409, and a brewpub in Tahoe City, 475 N. Lake Blvd.
Tahoe City, California, (530) 581-4677. Truckee is also home of the brewpub Fiftyfifty Brewing Company, 11197 Brockway Road, Truckee, California, (530) 587-2337.
There’s also Alibi Ale Works, 204 E. Enterprise St., Incline Village, 298-7001. “For Tahoe, they’re adding to the brewing scene up there,” said Johnson. “They’re doing a lot of sour beers, funky, wild beers. They’re very experimental, which can be dangerous but can encourage people to expand their palates a little bit.”
Lake Tahoe Brewing Company has taprooms in Carson City, 302 N. Carson St., (775) 386-6655 and Fernley, 1330 Highway 95A North, (775) 386-6655. They also have locations in development in Truckee and on Fourth Street in Reno’s brewery district. Martin has praise for Lake Tahoe Brewing Company brewer Elijah Pasciak: “His process is really intriguing—the way he approaches making beer, the flavors that he comes up, the complexity of his beers.”
Another regional brewing attraction is The Brewing Lair, 67007 CA-70, Blairsden, California, (530) 394-0940, near Graeagle. “They have a super loyal following here in town,” said Martin. “Those guys are great. They make really delicious beer that everybody loves, and their spot—you’d do yourself a disservice not to go check out their venue. They have a cabin brewery in the forest of Graeagle with a gigantic lawn and a barbecue and a huge stage now. It’s kind of an amusement park of a brewery.”
All these breweries in the valley and around the region might seem like the local beer market might be in danger of oversaturation, but beer lovers and brewers disagree.
“A question I get from a lot of people when they come into our brewery is, ’Hey, aren’t you guys worried about all these new breweries opening up?’” said Johnson. “I think in general there’s consensus across all the brewers in town that by working together and being supportive of the beer scene and being positive, we can all help each other rise, and Reno can really become a beer town, and I think that’s what’s happening.”