Pioneer beer

Bartender Jennifer Schaeffer pours a house brewed IPA.

Bartender Jennifer Schaeffer pours a house brewed IPA.


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There are just a few breweries in our area that I tend to lump together as the old guard, the founding fathers of the local microbrew movement, those pioneers who took some risks, crafting full-flavored, bold beers when this was mainly a BudMillerCoors town. One of those early pioneers still going strong after 18 years is Silver Peak Restaurant and Brewery.

It’s funny, I think of Silver Peak as a place that has been there forever. 1999 seems far too recent for them to have opened for business. And maybe because of that relative lack of local breweries that existed at the time, I still think of it primarily as a brewery. But as the full name reminds me, it is Silver Peak Restaurant and Brewery—“restaurant” first, and a brewery as well. The brewpub business model was booming in the 1990s, and the pairing of a restaurant with house beers is a good one. There’s little concern for shelf space, market trends, or staff and resources when you’re just brewing for the house, not concerned about packaging and production quantities to satisfy other taps and store shelves. A formulaic lineup of beers could be expected—something hoppy, a blonde, a stout or porter for dark beer fans, an amber, and the occasional seasonal brew to keep things interesting. This model and a reliable lineup has served Silver Peak well over the years: the same Red Roadster I (probably) ordered on the first date with my wife, the porter, the wheat beer and the blonde ale, cheekily named with a nod to the nearby adult theater.

Don’t get me wrong—I can vividly recall truly great beers at Silver Peak over the years—the barrel-aged imperial stout, the raspberry wheatwine, and the Sweet Mama Pumpkin Ale, among others. There’s still always something seasonal and different. There’s no reason to complain about a solid roster of well-made beers, made with consistent and familiar results. One of the best-kept beer secrets in town is their monthly $5-$7 growler fills on the day of the full moon. The beer world has evolved in dramatic and remarkable ways in the last decade, but Silver Peak remains steadfast, and successfully so. They expanded with their River Peak location downtown over a decade ago, and again in opening their—now closed—pizza place across from the baseball field downtown.

Sure, a beer geek like me would love to see Silver Peak rolling out crazy new IPAs, tart saisons and other popular, trending beers, but that’s not what they’re about. I should be the last one to complain. I’ve often praised their near-perfect combination of virtually everything I look for in restaurants: good food at fair prices, central location, good beer, kid-friendliness and decent service. For the whole package, a summer meal on the rooftop deck is one of my family’s top picks.

Nonetheless, this is the Drink column, so back to beverages. With the utmost respect and recognition of their place in Reno’s beer culture, I realized my epiphany today—Silver Peak is a restaurant that makes their own beer. And they make good beer! And like any decent restaurant, they have wine, and cocktails, and iced tea and soft drinks. They aren’t a brewery that also serves food. The brewery with artisanal small plates or a regular rotation of food trucks outside is so 2000s. When you want a consistent, agreeable selection of brewpub classics, look to the Peak.