Two of a kind
Let’s get the full disclosures out of the way. First, I’m an admittedly huge fan of Craft Wine & Beer (referring to the store with that name, not the beverages described by that phrase). I consider it a badge of honor that I was the first customer through the door the day Ty Martin opened his shop on—no relation—Martin Street, and I happily throw my hard-earned dollars in his direction on a regular basis. Second, the owner of Piñon Bottle Company, Clinton Neuerburg, is in a band with the editor of this publication. Ideally, neither of those facts clouded my assessment of those two establishments.
Now, let’s take a look at what I would humbly suggest are the two top purveyors of quality beer in the greater Truckee Meadows. I’m not suggesting this is a competition—think of it more like a school essay, compare and contrast. Bottom line, if you’re a lover of craft beer, you’re doing yourself a great disservice if you’re not patronizing these two Midtown spots.
So let me ask, are you looking for a place to have a pint and hang out for a bit, or do you just want to get some bottles and go? Because either way both have you covered. For a good time with friends over beers, Piñon is more bar than bottle shop, a long lineup of taps, a veritable beer buffet, filling glasses and growlers with everything from hyperlocal Magpie Coffee Brown (Pigeon Head Brewing) to pilsners, hop bombs and ciders. A long bar, ample seating and the recently opened branch of Noble Pie Parlor next door suggest this is a great spot to be social and drink some beer.
Craft offers three taps, rotating often so you never know what you’ll find, as well as several wine options at the bar. Both places allow on-site consumption of purchased bottles, easily increasing your options by several magnitudes.
For those who relish the vast selection of bottles available to us in this golden age of beer, ready to be considered and chosen, then squirreled away at home until just the right occasion, you simply won’t find a comparable selection anywhere in town. Remarkably, when I noted a handful of beers at Craft to compare prices, choosing ones I thought would definitely be at both places, not a single one was available at Piñon, either same beer in a different bottle, single bottle vs. six pack, or not at all. Conversely, I found bottles at Piñon that I never saw when Craft had them. For example, in a slight nod to the hip neighborhood, Piñon stocks a few retro, mass-market lagers. It’s like the two shops complement each other without trying, a yin and yang of beer merchants mere blocks apart. My casual, clearly non-scientific comparison, for those wondering, suggests pricing is fairly comparable between the two, but as connoisseurs know, sticker shock is a risk if you’re just getting into beers of this caliber.
One factor for both on-site imbibers and takeaway shoppers—Piñon is strictly a house of beer, whereas Craft offers a great selection of wine, often from small, independent producers you won’t find at even the best stocked supermarkets. You’ll also find a literal wall of quality whiskies, rums, tequilas and other spirits, again, typically handcrafted artisan products from around the world.
In the end, I reinforced my love for one beermonger and discovered another. Like many small brewers, these shops won’t consider each other as the competition but as brothers in arms, promoting the common cause of good drink.