In the house

Bar manager Dave Serna pours a beer from among the more than 12 available on tap at Public House.

Bar manager Dave Serna pours a beer from among the more than 12 available on tap at Public House.

Photo/Eric Marks

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There’s something about rarity and elusiveness that makes collectors and hobbyists drool. Whether your passion is comic books, LP records or craft beer, the human spirit yearns for and celebrates that which few others have. So when someone posted online that a couple of bars in Reno would be locations for a limited beer release, I was interested—to say the least.

This wasn’t just any release, mind you. This was a beer brewed to commemorate the 25th anniversary of a record release—the 1992 debut album by my favorite band, Sublime. To recognize the anniversary of 40oz. to Freedom, San Diego brewery Alesmith partnered with the surviving band members to brew and release Sublime Mexican Lager. Mexican lager—a currently popular style that amounts to decent craft versions of Dos Equis—is fine, just nothing to get excited about. The thing is, we can’t normally get Alesmith in Reno, and they make great beer we would be lucky to have access to. So a special release from a respected, unavailable brewery commemorating one of the seminal albums of my musical life was pretty compelling.

Unfortunately, luck being what it is, we already had great seats for an Aces game for my son’s birthday the same night as the release parties,—which was to be held simultaneously at breweries and bars in San Diego, Long Beach and Reno.

The following night, I decided to stop by Reno Public House, one of the “offsite release party” locations, hoping that the keg would still be flowing and I could enjoy some Mexican lager leftovers. I strode in, optimistic that the audience for this beer was small enough that it wouldn’t have run dry overnight.

A relatively empty bar gave me further hope, but I scanned the chalkboard listings of more than a dozen beers and didn’t see what I came for. The bartender finished up with other customers and when I asked, gave me the bad news: “That was a rumor … we were supposed to get it … didn’t come in.” Alas, not the first time I’d been disappointed by the whims of alcohol distribution, and it won’t be the last. I often remind myself, “It’s just beer.”

I tried to shrug off my disappointment. I was still awash in elite beer, after all. A good variety of quality European imports, locals and other tempting craft beers is nothing to be sad about, so I settled on a Lairy, a novel, hoppy brown ale by The Brewing Lair. Besides the ample draft list, a comparable variety of bottles, cans and wines is available. The back bar was stocked full of quality spirits for any number of cocktails, like the Moscow Mules ordered by the young ladies next to me. It’s a sad commentary on our time that the bartender held collateral for the traditional copper mugs.

The crowd made up for its small numbers through enthusiastic banter with each other and the bartender. My past visits to Public House were focused on other things—a meeting or celebration with friends—so when I actually took the time to take in the surroundings, I was charmed. My wife described it as “kind of dark like a bar, but also clean and crisp,” and I think it’s exactly how you might picture a modern midtown bar for cool, youngish people—concrete and steel, white subway tile, Edison bulbs and an antique cash register.

I certainly enjoyed my beer at least as much as I would have the Sublime beer, even though it lacked that rarity and “specialness” I wanted.