Hot pub

Morning bartender Staci Cockling and cocktail server Michelle M. Czarka raise a toast.

Morning bartender Staci Cockling and cocktail server Michelle M. Czarka raise a toast.

Photo/Eric Marks

Oct. 1, 2009: Through the magic of Twitter, I learned that Greg Koch, founder and CEO of Stone Brewing, was passing through Reno and was looking to grab a beer. Stone is best known for Arrogant Bastard Ale, found at even the most mediocre mini marts and the Scolari’s in Tonopah, based on my recent holiday travel research. Beer geek that I am, I leapt at the chance. In retrospect, I am a little embarrassed by how fanboyish I felt at the time. Still, a chance to sit down over beers with a respected and well-liked figure in the craft beer scene doesn’t happen every day. Through a few exchanged tweets, we settled on a bar he had heard about, Shenanigan’s.

I had been there a few times over the years, maybe as a side trip to the sister bar nearby, Scruples. They had the same ownership, but Scruples is now gone and Shenanigan’s under new owners. Nothing distinct stood out in my mind. I vaguely remember slaying some nachos on a previous visit and a decent lineup of beers. We ended up drinking Mammoth 395 IPAs that night—a great beer with a flavor that truly evokes our eastern Sierra high desert.

I’ve haven’t visited Shenanigan’s much since then either, but when I casually perused a list of bars, it just kind of spoke to me that I was due for a visit, and I’m really glad it did.

Dropping in on a random Friday mid-afternoon, I sort of expected to have the place mostly to myself, what with most people having jobs and stuff. I had hoped to chat up the bartender about the place. Nope, not happening. I barely got a seat at the bar.

Let’s get one thing straight. Shenanigan’s is not any of these kinds of bars: college, dive, hipster, fancy cocktail, tourist or sports. No, Shenanigan’s Olde English Pub is the epitome of the working class neighborhood bar. As the name implies, it’s got some of the classic English pub vibe—stamped tin ceiling, dark wood and lots of regulars whom the bartender knows by name, knocking off work early for the weekend. Blend that with modern American bar—set in a strip mall, several TVs with sports on, video poker machines, and an impressive food menu that goes way beyond average bar food. The French dip I saw made me regret already having had lunch.

This is a good bar for drinkers, though. I counted about 30 taps, virtually all really good craft selections. One local beer, several seasonals, a few poured on nitro, some imports, and it’s obvious the beer selection has some thought put into it. The obligatory Bud/Miller/Coors options appear to be bottles only, almost an afterthought. Tack on two menu pages of good-looking whiskies, a nice selection of wines, and blimey, you’ve got a first-rate watering hole. Mixed drinks with wacky names are not part of the program, but with a full bar, the standards are a given. (Note to self: go back for that Irish coffee. It will be great this winter.)

As I settled in with a fresh holiday seasonal beer, I felt like I should be gambling. Isn’t that what one does in the local pub? A spectacular losing streak has conditioned me not to play, but it just felt right, and I was sitting in roughly the same spot that Greg and I sat in seven years ago, so I put in a fiver. A few rounds of video poker later, and I walked out with a profit. No shenanigans here, just good libations and a welcoming place to enjoy them.