With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.
For the sake of clarity and with an eye toward avoiding any bias, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. We’ve managed to stagger our way to the 28th state on our list, The Silver State, Nevada. The state’s nickname comes from the huge silver boom it experienced after the discovery of the rare metal at the Comstock Lode in 1858. Millions of ounces of silver and gold continue to be mined in the state annually.
Nevada ranks 35th in total population (roughly 2.9 million), is ranked 42rd in population density and houses 34 craft breweries as of2015 (an increase of 16 since 2011) who are represented by the Nevada Craft Brewers Assocation. The state ranks 33th in total breweries (including D.C.) and 30th in breweries per capita as of 2015, according to the Brewers Association.
Joining the United States as part of Utah Territory (1850) afer 29 years under the Mexican flag, Utah became the 36th state in 1864, one of two states admitted during the Civil War. The foundation of it’s population boom was built upon the success of the gold and silver mining industry that had already begun in earnest a decade earlier.
The state’s first brewery, Carson Brewing in Carson City, opened 4 years prior to Nevada becoming a state. Open for 88 years, it lasted longer than any other brewery in the state, with Reno Brewing being the only other major competition.
It’s no surprise that large scale brewing did not pervade it’s mountainous desert landscape, evidenced by it’s slight population of 100,000 as of 1940. Statewide beer production completely came to a halt in 1957, primarily part due to the success of larger regional and nationally distributed lagers. While unable to confirm when it happened, the production of beer became illegal sometime between 1957 and 1993.
In a state known for it’s libertarian sentiment, prostitution has been effectively legal in smaller populated counties since the mid-1800’s. Further, in 1931, both gambling and divorce were legalized in an atte
mpt to keep the population from relocating by revitalizing the economy during the Great Depression, which hit the state especially hard.
It only made sense that even brewing would return to the state as well. With the decline of the mining industry in the early 90’s, it drove home brewer Tom Young to push legislation to enable the production of beer once again in the state. Opening Great Basin Brewing (Reno) in 1993, Young’s brewery was first brewpub, the largest and oldest operating in the state.
In total, Nevada brewers have amassed 54 GABF medals, going back to 1993.
4 More Nevada Breweries We Like and You Should Check Out
Big Dog’s Brewing (Las Vegas) – Opening the same year as the state’s first brewery, Big Dog’s was originally named Holy Cow!, a small brewhouse on the Vegas Strip. Now located 8 miles northwest of downtown, they’re known for their wide variety of dialed in styles from their Dirty Dog IPA to an English-style brown called Red Hydrant Ale – garnering 3 GABF medals alone and 10 total overall.
Brasserie Saint James (Reno) – Considered by many to be the best brewer in the state, BSJ has only been in business since 2012, though they garnered the GABF’s coveted Mid-Sized Brewery and Brewing Company of the Year in 2014. With two brewpub locations, including one in San Francisco’s Mission District, they specialize in high-end cuisine, paired with their predominantly barrel-aged Belgian styles and traditional German and English ales.
Chicago Brewing Company (Las Vegas) – One of the top rated and most award-winning brewers in Nevada, they’ve been open since 2000 in the more suburban west-side neighborhood of Summerlin. With a second location called Four Queens in Downtown Las Vegas, Chicago Brewing has won 13 GABF medals going back to 2002 (tied with Great Basin for most in the state). Seek out their Quad Damn it, Old Town Brown and Hardway IPA. You can’t miss
Tenaya Creek Brewery (Las Vegas) – Located just northwest of Downtown Las Vegas, they’ve been in operation since 1999 and are one of the most respected craft brewers in the state. Originally a brewpub, they now offer ever-changing food truck service, and are known for their Imperial Stout, European-style Pilsner and Hop Ride IPA. They’ve won 2 GABF medals, one each for their Bonanza Brown and Pilsner, and a definitely worth a visit while in Las Vegas.
Check out the Nevada Craft Brewers Association to find more great brewers in the state.