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LOCAL HOPPINESS

Tapping into Reno-Tahoe’s craft breweries, which showcase talent, passion, and taste.

WRITTEN BY SUE EDMONDSON
PHOTOS BY JAMIE KINGHAM

Craft beer fans can relax — the craft brewery business is anything but flat. It’s a growing industry nationwide, and our region is no exception. In fact, according to the Brewers Association, in 2016, the economic impact of craft breweries in Nevada alone surged to $434 million.

“Breweries are coming in like gangbusters, and distribution spreads the gospel of good Nevada beer all over the country,” says Don Vetter, owner of Vetter PR Inc., and co-founder of Reno Craft Beer Week.

But craft beer drinkers aren’t thinking about that. They’re wondering what to try next and where to try it. If you’re a newcomer to craft beer, no worries — you don’t need to know what makes you happy or beer hoppy. Craft brewers and their staff members share their passion and knowledge as readily as they pour their beer.

From session beers to saisons to sours, from ales to lagers to stouts, and from traditional to experimental, there’s no shortage to choose from and there are dozens of places to enjoy them. So lift a glass and sit back as we tour a sampling of our area’s breweries and brewpubs.

LIFE IS BREWTIFUL

10 TORR Distilling and Brewing Co.

Niche: Easy-drinking session beers filtered with a custom-engineered, hand-built centrifuge system that allows craft to shine.

Know this: Great parking, bring or order in food. This brewery-distillery offers both spirits and beers on tap.

Edible Brewery MillStreet 010From left, Will Whipple and Melissa Test, co-head brewer and distiller, of 10 TORR Distilling and Brewing Co.

Everything about 10 TORR Distilling and Brewing Co. is larger than life. The reclaimed-wood and metal entry door stands close to 15 feet tall and looks fit for a castle. The taproom, located in the old Ring-Lee Grocery Store building on Mill Street downtown, is one of the most spacious around, with sizable windows that offer a view of brewery/distillery operations. The place shows its engineer-owners Will Whipple and Randy Soule’s appreciation of sleek steel, yet there’s enough brick and wood to make the place inviting. And that’s the whole idea behind 10 TORR.

“We wanted to make crushable beers, so you can sit around with friends and easily drink two or three,” says brewer Melissa Test.

Edible Brewery MillStreet 005Melissa Test, co-head brewer and distiller of 10 TORR Distilling and Brewing Co.

Ales dominate the tap list — no surprise since many fit the profile of easy-drinking beers. For haze lovers, there’s Haze Wagon IPA, but most brews take a spin in the centrifuge.

“Our micron filtering system gives us better control over our product and allows us to maintain its flavor,” Test says.

10 TORR is a winning combination of drink and atmosphere, which makes the team happy.

“It’s very cool to be a part of what’s happening locally with craft breweries,” Test says. “For us, it’s all about community.”

FLOURISHING BUSINESS

IMBIB Custom Brews

Niche: Old World barrel-aged sours.

Know this: Great parking, bring or order in food. Warehouse-brewing area is available at no charge for events as long as they include imbibing house-made brews.

Sours reign at IMBIB on East Second Street in Reno, where the beers may sit in barrels for up to three years.

“You can’t rush the process, and you can’t fake it,” says co-owner Matt Johnson. “Beer geeks will know.”

IMBIB’s sours aren’t, well, lip-puckering — think tart, spicy, citrusy, tropical, or earthy.

“The elements of sour are subtle in a well-rounded beer, and that’s what we strive to make,” Johnson says.

Its efforts are paying off. IMBIB earned gold, silver, and bronze awards at the 2016 and 2017 Best of Craft Beer Awards, the gold most recently for Nevada Weisse.

“It’s a simple, subtle sour, aged with fruit,” Johnson says. “Adding the fruit character makes a nice, light beer. Even wine drinkers who claim they don’t like beer like our sours, especially this one.”

Rounding out the rotating lineup are hoppy ales and IPAs as well as malt-forward porters, stouts, and pilsners.

“I think we have the most diverse sours list in Reno,” Johnson says. “But we want to have something for everyone.”

CAPITAL CITY BREW

Shoe Tree Brewing Co.

Niche: Unfiltered beer.

Know this: Talk about location, adjacent to Carson Hot Springs Resort and the eclectic restaurant Sassafras, Shoe Tree literally is a minute off the freeway. Taps also offer non-alcoholic, house-made root beer and sparkling cherry limeade.

Edible Brewery ShoeTree 011Shoetree Brewing Co.’s Horn DIPA (9.2 percent ABV 87 IBU)

Named for the iconic former Shoe Tree landmark east of Fallon, the brewery gives old-school techniques a fresh spin, turning out creative versions of ales, IPAs, sours, and stouts, all without filtering. While co-owner Paul Young recognizes there’s an IPA haze craze, he says unfiltered is more than a phase for Shoe Tree — it’s central to the brewery’s craft.

“We think by not filtering, we create a more robust, flavorful beer that keeps its edge, without palate-wrecking bitterness,” Young says. “We’ve had to do some educating with our customers, especially with our IPA. We add dry hops during fermentation, and it’s definitely hazy.”

Clarifying agents add refinement.

“They don’t affect the flavor and result in lower gluten levels,” Young says. “People who have minor gluten issues often find our beer is easier to drink.”

Young says Shoe Tree may eventually branch out to make different types of beer, or even try to develop a more shelf-stable beer for marketing purposes.

“Nothing is set in stone. We’re continually experimenting with our beers so we have something for everyone,” Young says.

Edible Brewery ShoeTree 004Paul Young of Shoe Tree Brewing Co.

INCLINE/TRUCKEE MIX

Alibi Ale Works

Niche: Diversity — Alibi’s Truckee Public House rotated 50 unique beers through its taps in three months.

Know this: Alibi’s brewery/taproom is in Incline Village, which means that all its beer is made with pure Lake Tahoe water. Alibi’s Truckee Public House location has free parking, and children are welcome until 9 p.m. most nights.

Edible Brewery Alibi 021From left, Kevin Drake, co-founder/head brewer, and Richard Romo, co-founder of Alibi Ale Works

Alibi began with a brewery/taproom in Incline, but its owners jumped on the opportunity to open the Truckee Public House when a former bank-turned-gym building in Downtown Truckee came up for sale.

“We want to be a brewery with a connection to our community,” says co-owner Kevin Drake. “We set out to create a true public house atmosphere by offering a wide range of lower-alcohol beers, where people relax and socialize over two to three pints. We want it to be a place where people can have a whole experience. They can come in and try our beers, meet our staff, maybe have a plate of nachos, and enjoy live entertainment.”

Still, beer remains the primary focus — European styles are favorites, and it shows. Alibi won gold at CANFEST 2016, and gold and silver at the 2017 Best of Craft Beer Awards.

New beers rotate into the taproom lineup nearly weekly.

“During winter, we’ll have more malt-forward beers and lots of lagers,” says co-owner Rich Romo. “New beers reflect the creativity of our brewers and keep it fun for us and our customers.”

Edible Brewery Alibi 037Pilsner, Farmhouse Red, and Nitro Oatmeal Stout at Alibi Ale Works

Edible Brewery Alibi 017

TWICE AS NICE

Under the Rose Brewing Co.

Niche: Taking a chef’s approach to crafting beer, tweaking and combining ingredients in novel ways.

Know this: Great parking. Bring or order in food, using the food-pairing suggestions UTR offers for each beer.

Owners Scott Emond and Jesse Kleinedler had a specific vision for their brewery/taproom when they opened in the former Earl Scheib shop on Fourth Street.

“It was a hidden gem, and we wanted it to have a speakeasy vibe,” Emond says.

Vision accomplished — the taproom is open without feeling cavernous, thanks to a cleverly situated bar and picnic-style tables. It’s also likely the only brewery in town where you can get in a game of ping-pong.

UTR has a loyal following large enough to warrant expansion into Midtown (opening soon) and a foray into experimental brews, such as the seasonal maple and cinnamon-flavored saison.

“We’re playing with end-point blends with teas and tinctures. They’re aged in individual kegs before [mixing them with beers],” Emond says. “We really want to encourage creativity here, to have happy and inspired employees who forget how hard they’re working because of how much fun they have while doing it.”

OFF THE BEATEN PATH

Pigeon Head Brewery

Niche: Specialty lagers.

Know this: Tucked away near the east end of Fifth Street, it takes some effort to find, but there’s great parking available. Once inside, enjoy the intimate taproom with an open view of the brewing area. Bring or order in food.

At Pigeon Head, passion for lagers is both professional and personal.

“Lagers are a staple and a large part of the U.S. market. At the time we opened, there wasn’t another brewery in the area that did a lot of specialty lagers,” says head brewer Bryan Holloway. “We saw an opportunity to make a style of beer that we not only enjoy, but one we knew the local community would get behind.”

Holloway graduated from the World Brewing Academy, a move that took him from a homebrewer who made “some pretty terrible beers” to professional. Now he’s using his experience and education to create small batches of experimental beers.

“We’re testing the limits of craft beer to give our taproom customers something new to try that they can’t find anywhere else,” Holloway says.

MIDTOWN MAVEN

Brasserie Saint James

Niche: Traditional methodology with a focus on French, German, and Belgian beers.

Know this: Parking is pretty easy on nearby streets. Brasserie is the only Nevada brewery/restaurant/bar to win the coveted Great American Beer Festival Mid-size Brewing Company and Mid-size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year award. Housed in the former Crystal Ice building on Center Street, its beer is made with its well water — so pure it’s untreated.

Head brewer Josh Watterson, a seasoned brewer and World Brewing Academy graduate, has led his team to more than 35 awards since 2013, most recently in 2017 with Best of Craft Beer Awards in gold and silver.

“We take our craft very seriously,” Watterson says. “Each of our beers has its own story, and we give them the time and quality ingredients needed to develop. Letting beer age through its conditioning and maturation period is critical. You can’t make a great saison in 14 days. Our Belgian-style sours are very delicate, unlike an American sour. Ingredients also are incredibly important to us. We don’t have a house strain of yeast — we use 20 to 25 strains. Using top ingredients is expensive but worth it.”

IPAs are the minority on Brasserie’s taps, and that’s not likely to change.

“Hops are hip, but we’re not that into IPAs,” says brewery manager Madison Gurries. “We’re much more interested in saisons and sours. And our beers pair well with our great food.”

Gurries isn’t alone in his opinion about the food. The restaurant elevates comfort and bar food to gourmet, and earned Brasserie’s sister brewpub in San Francisco’s Mission District a spot among SF Weekly’s Best Restaurants of 2016.

SPARKS NEWBIE

Revision Brewing Co.

Niche: Hop-forward beer.

Know this: Revision’s team is experienced. CEO and brewmaster Jeremy Warren founded Knee Deep Brewing Co., a successful Northern California brewery. Great parking. Bring or order in food.

“We love hoppy beers,” says co-founder and head brewer Jeb Taylor. “But they’re not harsh, and they’re very drinkable.”

Although only open since March, Revision already has earned gold at the IPA Festival in Hayward, Calif. with its Revision IPA and Hop Anatomy pale ale.

“We’ve had the time to refine our process with our many years of experience,” Taylor says. “We also use the highest-quality ingredients available. Our baseline is flawless beer.”

Revision isn’t afraid to take beers to the outer limits — Dr. Lupulin 3x is a triple IPA with an alcohol content of 11.3 percent.

“We love to experiment and are open to new aromas and flavors,” Taylor says. “We’re planning to branch out with a barrel-aged program, too. Ultimately, we’re beer lovers who make beer we love to drink.”

TRIED AND TRUE

Great Basin Brewing Co.

Niche: You name it, Great Basin does it … and well.
Know this: Great Basin’s downtown Sparks location is Nevada’s oldest operating craft brewery, laying the groundwork for the craft brew culture Nevada’s experiencing today. It offers family-friendly brewpubs in Sparks and South Reno, and a separate taproom location, also in South Reno, is available for special events.

To Northern Nevadans, icky doesn’t mean yucky; it’s synonymous with Great Basin’s Ichthyosaur “Icky” IPA. With too many awards to count during its almost 25 years in business, the folks at Great Basin easily could rest on their Icky laurels. But groundbreaking is what Great Basin continues to do.

“We’re constantly trying to innovate, using herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables to make new and different beers,” says director of sales Cameron Kelly. “We’ve never been afraid to experiment.”

Brewers have creative leeway to craft a new beer each year. While beer is brewed at all three of Great Basin’s locations, the experimental beers are brewed in Sparks. Kelly explains that its smaller system lends itself to experimental brewing. Still, small is relative — the Sparks facility has a seven-barrel system. In total, Great Basin puts out more beer than any other Nevada brewery.

“That’s why we can’t be stagnant,” Kelly says. “We have to sell all that beer.”

RISING TIDE

The Depot Craft Brewery Distillery

Niche: Nuanced representations of classic beers, with a nod to barrel aging.

Know this: The area’s first brewery/distillery/bar/restaurant offers upscale food at prices for any budget. Great parking and a broad selection of beers and spirits are available.

Open since January 2014 on Fourth Street in Reno, The Depot’s beers have earned one gold and two silvers at the Best of Craft Beer Awards, thanks in large part to brewmaster and co-owner Brandon Wright. A graduate of the World Brewing Academy, Wright has never worked outside a brewery since his first job at age 16. He’s experienced, educated, and dedicated to making the best product possible.

“I’m passionate about the care I take with every step of the process,” Wright says. “Any shortcuts manifest themselves in the finished product.”

However, brewing is more than process to Wright — it’s artistry.

“I’ve always loved and appreciated art, but I can’t even draw a stick figure,” Wright says. “Brewing gives me the ability to combine math and science with art.”

An example can be found in each carefully nuanced, barrel-aged beer.

“Our Depot Grand Cru is a Flemish Red-style ale two years in the making,” Wright says. “But it’s not just a sour. It has a lot of tartness with a dark cherry pie flavor and snappy acidic notes.”

The Depot’s large-scale production might cause some to expect quantity to outweigh quality. Wright isn’t about to let that happen.  

“We source the best ingredients we can find, and from there, my job is to make sure we don’t mess them up!” he says.

TAHOE CITY/TRUCKEE SIPS

Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co.

Niche: Barrel-aged sours and hop-forward beers.

Know this: Tahoe Mountain has two locations: a brewery/taproom outside of Downtown Truckee, complete with a fireplace, and a family-friendly brewpub in Tahoe City with a lake view and pub fare that’s anything but standard. Watch for a new location in Truckee’s historic downtown.

Sours are admittedly the brewers’ favorites at Tahoe Mountain, and they earned a bronze and silver in the two years Tahoe Mountain entered the Great American Beer Festival competition. But the brewers can’t resist hoppy beer either, so naturally the taps include both.

“Our IPAs all are popular, but Hop Song is a customer favorite,” says head brewer Thomas Lee. “We use the most sought-after hops, those with high-alpha acids and fruit characteristics.”

The barrel-aged program is impressive. Four large wooden vats called foudres (each makes about 13 barrels) allow Tahoe Mountain to turn out large batches with consistency. From there, sours may age for years in individual barrels.

“We don’t focus on seasonality in our sours program. It all depends on what’s ready,” Lee says. “We also don’t make kettle sours — barrel aging adds the flavor and depth we want.”

“Experimentation is part of the program,” says fellow head brewer Alyssa Shook. “That’s how our sour IPA and IPL came about. The lager tastes like a pilsner and [an] IPA had a baby!” 

“What we do is sometimes risky — you can ruin a tank,” Lee says. “But we always get the go-ahead. That’s one reason we love working here. Creativity comes first.”

See Resources for details and more breweries.

Freelance writer Sue Edmondson has written for various Northern Nevada and Northern California publications. She marvels at the enthusiasm, professionalism, and entrepreneurship of craft brewers.

Sidebar

On tap in South Lake

New Lake Tahoe Boulevard businesses are dipping their toes into the brewery scene.

Cold Water Brewery & Grill features all-grain beers, but with an extraordinary focus.

“When we look at development of a beer, we consider how well it goes with food. After all, when you’re drinking you’re usually eating, and food changes the flavor profiles of beer. They need to work together,” says owner Debbie Brown. “By the way, wine drinkers should know that our lager goes great with mussels.”

South Lake Brewing Co. founders Nicole Smith and husband Chris have the insiders’ edge — they grew up on the south shore of Tahoe and understand the area’s needs and interests. As a 10-barrel brewery, SLBC has the capacity to offer a variety of lower-alcohol beer styles, from blonde ales to IPAs, which makes it easy for customers to sit at its communal tables and enjoy several rounds.

“We’re community focused and want people to have a great place to hang out and drink great beer,” Smith says.

Resources

Carson City

Shoe Tree Brewing Co.

1496 Old Hot Springs Road • 775-222-0108 • Shoetreebrewing.com

Reno

10 TORR Distilling and Brewing Co.

490 Mill St. • 775-499-5276 • Millstreetstillandbrew.com

BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse

13999 S. Virginia St. • 775-853-7575 • Bjsrestaurants.com      

Brasserie Saint James

901 S. Center St. • 775-348-8888 • Brasseriesaintjames.com

Great Basin Brewing Co.

Reno Brewpub: 5525 S. Virginia St. • 775-284-7711

Taps & Tanks: 1155 S. Rock Blvd., Ste. 490 • 775-856-1177

Greatbasinbrewingco.com

IMBIB Custom Brews

785 E. Second St. • 775-470-5996 • Imbibreno.com

Lead Dog Brewing Co.

415 E. Fourth St. • 775-391-5110 • Leaddogbrewing.com

Pigeon Head Brewery

840 E. Fifth St. • 775- 276-6766 • Pigeonheadbrewery.com

Silver Peak Restaurant and Brewery

124 Wonder St. • 775-324-1864

135 N. Sierra St. • 775-284-3300

Silverpeakbrewery.com

StoneyHead Brewing Co.

5301 Longley Lane, Ste. 97C/84C • 775-829-2337 • Stoneyheadbrewing.com

The Brewer’s Cabinet

475 S. Arlington Ave. • 775-348-7481 • Thebrewerscabinet.com

The Depot Craft Brewery Distillery

325 E. Fourth St. • 775-737-4330 • Thedepotreno.com

Under the Rose Brewing Co.

559 E. Fourth St. • 775-657-6619 • Undertherosebrewing.com

Sparks

BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse

425 Sparks Blvd. • 775-398-3550 • Bjsrestaurants.com

Great Basin Brewing Co.

Brewpub: 846 Victorian Ave. • 775-355-7711 • Greatbasinbrewingco.com

High Sierra Brewing Co.

865 S. Rock Blvd. • 775-398-4200 • Highsierrabrewco.com

Revision Brewing Co.

380 S. Rock Blvd. • 775-331-2739 • Revisionbrewing.com

Virginia City

Virginia City Brewery and Taphouse

62 N. C St. • 775-847-7064 • Virginiacitybreweryandtaphouse.com

Lake Tahoe/Truckee

Alibi Ale Works

Brewery and Taproom: 204 E. Enterprise St., Incline Village • 775-298-7001

Truckee Public House: 10069 Bridge St., Truckee • 530-536-5029

Alibialeworks.com

Cold Water Brewery & Grill

2544 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe • 530-544-4677 • Tahoecoldwaterbrewery.com

FiftyFifty Brewing Co.

11197 Brockway Road, Ste. 1, Truckee • 530-587-2337 • Fiftyfiftybrewing.com

Sidellis Brewery and Restaurant

3350 Sandy Way, South Lake Tahoe • 530-600-3999 • Sidellis.com

South Lake Brewing Co.

1920 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe • 530-578-0087 • Southlakebeer.com

Stateline Brewery & Restaurant

4118 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe • 530-542-9000 • Statelinebrewery.com 

Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co.

Brewery: 10990 Industrial Way, Truckee • 530-587-3409

Brewpub: 475 N. Lake Blvd., Tahoe City • 530-581-4677

Tahoebrewing.com

The Brewery at Lake Tahoe

3542 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe • 530-544-2739 • Brewerylaketahoe.com

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