Strange brews

Bars for beer nerds

Photo By erik stabile

A unique beer used to be hard to come by, while Coors Light and Bud Light were as ubiquitous as they are lacking in original flavor. Fortunately, the days of boring your palate with these predictable brews are fading. Many Reno bars are expanding beer selection in search of crafted microbrews, often from far-off places.

St. James Infirmary

445 California Ave., (775) 657-8484

St. James Infirmary’s beer list boasts 150 eclectic selections, ranging from 750 ml bottled microbrews to Belgian triples on tap to Pabst Blue Ribbon.

“We’re beer nerds, not beer snobs,” says Zak Girdis as he pours me my sixth tasting glass. “We want to be happy with the beers we drink, and we want to support the people that really care about their product.”

Across the bar, two young gentlemen drink cold, canned Olympia, and so I agree, there’s no snobbery in the air, just variety.

Owner Art Farley has traveled to Montreal, Canada, among other places, in search of beers that make up this variety. It was at a Montreal beer festival that he discovered Dieu Du Ciel’s “Aphrodite,” brewed with cocoa and vanilla, a favorite among women’s palates and described by my girlfriend as “PMS beer” for its dark chocolate aftertaste.

For a high-end beer, Girdis suggests Cuvé Prestige’s most regal “Deus,” an ale fermented in Champagne, France, like traditional champagne. This involves inverting the bottle to settle the yeast into the neck, then freezing the neck to solidify the yeast, which is removed. This beer had the texture of champagne, with a light taste.

The beer list at St. James Infirmary changes on a weekly basis. So be sure to ask about new beers not on the menu, or come in on Sunday evenings for Beer Flights—three beers in tasting glasses for $6.

Ole Bridge Pub

50 N. Sierra St. Suite 5, (775) 322-8877

This Irish pub, complete with shuffleboard and rugby games, offers a beer list pushing 90 selections. They carry about 30 beers year-round, leaving about 60 rotating spots.

One beer on their list is as eclectic as it is expensive. “Pangaea,” by Dogfish Head, brews its unique beer with ingredients from every continent, including water from Antarctica, Muscavado sugar from Africa, basmati rice from Asia and maize from North America.

Ole Bridge bartender Matt Shaw let me in on some favored beers. Among these, Deschutes beer wins in popularity. “They do a really good job making well-balanced beers,” said Shaw. “They have a good malt texture.” Aside from texture, some Deschutes ales are noticeably strong, such as the “Abyss” that earns its name at 11.0 ABV (Alcohol By Volume).

In the Irish pub tradition, I tried the Wexford Irish Cream Ale, similar in texture to Guinness with a caramel taste.

Shaw also suggested the Haandbryggeriet “Aqua Vita Porter.” This beer is laced with an herbal, earthy taste, which it develops after brewing in Aquavit barrels. What’s Aquavit? As Shaw explained, “Russians drink vodka; Scandinavians drink Aquavit.”

Lincoln Lounge

306 E. Fourth St., (775) 323-5426

Aside from their beer selection, which ranges from 85 to 90 beers, I was impressed by Lincoln Lounge’s atmosphere. It seemed as though bartender Chris Costa knew everyone’s name but mine. He explained why.

At Lincoln Lounge, everyone is eligible for their own personalized Lincoln Stein once they finish the 70 beers included on the beer card—within a year. Every beer drunk from the card gets you a hole punch. Once you finish all 70, Lincoln Lounge immortalizes your efforts on a plaque and gives you the personal mug, which grants you all the $4 tap beers you can drink. Consequently, said Costa, it’s also a great way to get to know the bartenders.

John Handson sat two stools down from mine. As he punched another beer off his list, he explained why he likes Lincoln Lounge.

“It’s cool to have a discussion about beers. I can’t think of another beer bar where you can have such a discussion,” says Handson.

Before I knew it, Costa, Handson and I were knee-deep in a discussion about our favorite cheap beers. As I hypocritically drank a Japanese beer called “The Carpenter’s Mikan Ale” from Baird Brewing Co., I divulged my allegiance to Coors Light, despite its lack of flavor.