The Reno-Tahoe region has a history with beer. Saloons and small breweries sprung up alongside the region’s towns, but by the latter part of the 19th century, residents eagerly awaited large shipments of beer from companies like Anheuser-Busch, especially during the winter months when delivery could be slow. In fact, when shipments from Anheuser-Busch arrived, they were announced in the newspapers.
Local breweries also sent barrels of beer to mining and logging camps in the Virginia Range and Sierra. One of them was the Boca Brewery near Truckee.A Reno Evening Gazette story from Oct. 3, 1879, noted that, at the time, the brewery was producing “five lots a week, making 450 barrels of 30 gallons each.”
The Boca Brewery burned to the ground in 1893, but other producers, local and national, supplied the region with beer until the start of prohibition. But after that dark period ended in 1933, small breweries in California and Nevada still had a fight on their hands. The owners of many of today’s breweries were among those who lobbied legislators in their two states for the legalization of brewpubs—which occurred in California in 1982, and in Nevada in 1993.
Chris Smith is co-owner and head brewer at South Lake Tahoe Brewing Company. The brewery distributes its beer on the California side of Lake Tahoe as well as Sacramento, Placerville and the East Bay. California breweries have to establish a relationship with a distribution company to bring their products to Nevada—a process many consider onerous. But Smith said his brewery hopes to get it done in 2019. In the meantime, he’s preparing to release several seasonal beers.
“We’ll have our Helles Dee, and that’s our light, drinking lager,” Smith said. “That will come out in the next couple of weeks. And then right after that, we’ll have our pilsner. We call it Pilsner of Society.”
Around Thanskgiving, they’ll release one called Hall and Oatesmeal, a “strong oatmeal stout.”
The brewery just released an Irish red beer called “Rippers” and is planning to release an Irish stout called “Dublin Down” and a new double IPA called “Measure D” in the next few weeks.
“That’s a little bit of a political joke there for the Measure T people in town,” said Sidell, referring toa ballot measure to reduce vacation home permits South Lake will vote on next month.
Over on the Nevada side of the lake, Alibi Ale Works founding brewer and co-owner Kevin Drake knows Truckee Meadows residents are accustomed to regular new releases from his brewery.
“We have new beers coming out literally every week—at minimum four beers a month,” he said.
Alibi released a new IPA called “Chance of Clouds” and its 2018 holiday beer—part of a rotating line of sour beers called “Mr. Tartacular’s”—on Oct. 22.
“’It’s called ’Mr. Tartacular’s Awkward Family Dinner’—and it’s a sour ale with tangerines, cherries and cranberries—so very much … those holiday, fall flavors. … This one, we kind of took it to the ’home for the holidays’ kind of vibe. It’s got really funny art on the front—a totally crazy, rowdy, awkward family dinner.”
Tahoe residents can get their hands on cans of it as of press time, but valley residents will have to wait a week or so. But Drake said his brewery has plans for some rapid-fire releases in conjunction with the brewery’s fourth anniversary on Dec. 13.
“We’ll be releasing a bunch of one-off, specialty beers for that as well,” he said.