Evolve or die is not just a motto, it’s a way of life for Las Vegas. This odd conglomeration of fantasy principalities existing incongruously in a harsh desert climate is continuously evolving and redefining itself. With Bob Barnes (a native of Las Vegas) as my capable and beer-savvy guide, I returned once again to check out the current state of beer in the city that really never sleeps.
The vast gaudy mausoleums of gaming and chance that populate the teaming Las Vegas “Strip” are windowless wonders of waging that unrelentingly transfer wealth from hopeful players to the house that spares no expense in creating an environment of anticipation and make-believe.
Good beer continues to be a part of the Las Vegas dining scene and some spectacular new attractions will be most welcome to the traveling beer lover. Bob and I met at the up-scale eatery Morels at one of the entrances to the Byzantine labyrinth that is the twin tower (soon to be tri-tower) Venetian/Palazzo resort casino. With over a dozen swimming pools and spas, and with all-suite luxury accommodations, the property also boasts numerous restaurants and bars scattered about the properties that made me concerned I might have missed one.
Good beer continues to be a part of the Las Vegas dining scene and some spectacular new attractions will be most welcome to the traveling beer lover
We met with Chipper Pastron, owner of Morels and the MCC Hospitality Group that at the time was building out a new brewpub soon to be open on the second floor of the Shoppes at The Palazzo to be called Trustworthy Brewing Company. Chipper definitely lived up to his name and gave us the background on the brewery operation starting with its inception as Verdugo West Brewery (named for the street it was on) in Burbank, Calif. When Verdugo kept getting autocorrected as Vertigo and with the addition of a second location, the company felt a name-change was in order. Hence, Trustworthy Brewing. The brewmaster (who will be overseeing both the Burbank and the Las Vegas breweries) is newly-hired Matt Crewe, who has some pretty impressive credentials, having come from Stone Brewing, where he was the #2 brewer for the past five years.
Chipper offered samples of the brewery’s main beers now on tap at Morels. Our tasting began with Gigil Rice Pilsner, a 4.7% abv pilsner made with puffed jasmine rice. It is pronounced just like giggle. In Tagalog, gigil is the irresistible urge to pinch something cute. Who hasn’t done that? This adjunct lager was crisp, clean and delicious. Perfect for the summer Las Vegas climate.
The Brass Jar Hoppy Amber Ale at 8.2% abv, was quite a bit stronger, and featured malt notes of caramel and toffee contrasted with earthy notes from Columbus and Chinook hops.
What Plane? Oatmeal Stout is named for how Burbank grew out of the aerospace industry. As secret planes were tested, residents were known to look up and marvel at what unidentified plane was passing overhead. This brew delivers a character of roast, baking chocolate and espresso rounded out by a silky body complemented by the oatmeal.
Trustworthy IPA’s name alludes to it being a beer you can count on to be a solid West Coast IPA. It’s not too bitter, but a representative of the style that lets the citrusy hop flavor dominate with bittering at a respectable 60 IBUs.
Trustworthy Brewing + BBQ should be a spectacular addition to the Strip which remains notably devoid of brewpubs (since the closure of Monte Carlo in 2007) and will be the only brewery on the Strip.
Chipper then introduced us to Robert Parekh who will be the GM of the new brewpub and led us up the escalator to the second floor plaza choc-a-bloc with Rodeo Drive-style shops and more restaurants plus a network of canals with gondolas full of guests floating about. Wait, isn’t there a casino below all this? It’s Las Vegas and they make the improbable possible.
Behind the plywood barricade was the construction crew hard at work bringing Trustworthy Brewing to life. We saw the elevated bar area up front at the entrance, the dining areas and open kitchen and, most importantly, the area set aside for the brewhouse. With Las Vegas resort retail space at a serious premium, the floor plot for the brewhouse seemed smallish by 10 barrel standards but Chipper assured us that the fermenters and additional serving tanks (positioned outside the brewhouse) would be sufficient for their needs. And the Burbank facility can provide additional house beers to take up any production issues.
A month after our meeting, in mid-July Trustworthy quietly opened, with its grand opening slated for August 2. In addition to the aforementioned core beers, also pouring during the soft opening are T-Shirt Weather, a hoppy continental pilsner; Turning Two, a barrel-aged golden blended sour in celebration of the brewery’s second anniversary; and Bear Temper, a barrel-aged American barley wine.
The finished product’s décor features an elevated 60-seat bar with an old school lighted movie sign marquee displaying the beer on tap, a wall-to-wall graffiti mural paying homage to the iconic Bill Murray, banquette seating and oversized booths, bright primary colors, a beer garden at the front and a game room with skeeball outfitted with couches.
Upon opening, BBQ was added to the restaurant’s name, which is indicative of Executive Chef Lloyd Bansil’s menu of smoked meats (yes, they have a pellet-burning smoker!) and barbecue dishes such as grass-fed, hand-rubbed smoked beef brisket; beef ribs with Trustworthy’s garlic and herb rub; and 16 oz. thick cut hickory-smoked prime rib.
Trustworthy Brewing + BBQ should be a spectacular addition to the Strip which remains notably devoid of brewpubs and will be the only brewery on the Strip, the first to grace Las Vegas Blvd. since Monte Carlo (now Park MGM) closed its brewpub in 2007. Be sure to call 702-607-7777 for information.
The menu at La Cave is designed by Corporate Executive Chef Billy DeMarco, who is a culinary mastermind in his own right, and oversees all of the aforementioned Morton Group restaurants
We managed to eat twice (!) at a Palazzo restaurant called Yardbird. We happened to hear about it from other customers at a bar we were enjoying just across what is called Restaurant Row. In a thick Brooklyn accent, a woman told us the fried chicken was “to die for!” AND, best ever mac and cheese! Well, now, better check that out.
Brooklyn lady was right! The fried chicken was tender and moist with a crunchy nicely seasoned crust. Oh my. What she failed to mention was the amazing beer list. All draft beers at Yardbird are from Nevada! Most are local and freshness is not an issue.
The house beer is Yardbirt’d The Unforgritable, a pale ale that is unforgettable and delicious at 5.7% abv and made by the very capable Able Baker Brewery in town. Tenaya Creek Pilsner and Hefeweizen provided the lighter beers. Wild Horse Ale from Great Basin, Citra Rye Pale Ale (yum) from Joseph James Brewing, Gutshot Dry Irish Stout from Bad Beat and Hauling Oats from Tenaya Creek provided much appreciated session beers.
Stronger beers include Dirty Dog (Big Dog’s), Icky IPA (Great Basin) Atomic Duck IPA (Able Baker), Hop Box (Joseph James) and Chris Kael Impale’d Ale (Able Baker) round out the collection.
Many other domestic craft beers are available in bottle or can along with some unexpected treasures like New Belgium Trippel, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Sour Monkey from Victory in Pennsylvania. Great food and a serious beergeek-worthy beer menu. You gotta love Las Vegas!
One of our ventures off property was an easy stroll across the street (or in this case, over the street via the pedestrian walkway) to Wynn Las Vegas, where Bob had arranged for us to be wined (as well as beered) and dined at La Cave Wine & Food Hideaway. This casual eatery is the creation of Owners Jenna and Michael Morton (yes, of the Morton family of which Michael’s father Ernie founded the Morton Steakhouse empire and his brother Peter the Hard Rock Cafe). Michael and his wife Jenna have built a restaurant empire of their own, with restaurants across the city covering a variety of cuisines including Crush and Greek Sneak at the MGM Grand, La Comida in Downtown Las Vegas and MB Steak at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
The menu at La Cave is designed by Corporate Executive Chef Billy DeMarco, who is a culinary mastermind in his own right, and oversees all of the aforementioned Morton Group restaurants. The options are a creative, wide-ranging collection of shareable small plates, helpfully divided into sections on the menu of From the Sea, Farm, Oven, Garden, Grill and Side. We managed to try something from every section of the menu, as the spread we were treated to included Chilled Ahi Tuna, Salmon Sashimi, Bone Marrow with onion jam, Beef Carpaccio, Crispy Eggplant Parmesan Flatbread, Beet & Burrata Salad, Charred Octopus, Beef Filet Crostini and Truffle Mushroom Grits.
As luck would have it, or more likely Bob making the suggestion to dine there, in addition to having a quite extensive wine selection (350 bottle selections and 50 wines-by-the-glass), the beer section covers a variety of beer styles, with the likes of Avery Maharaja Imperial IPA, Unibroue La Fin Du Monde, Delirium Tremens, and local representatives of Able Baker Test Site Saison and Big Dog’s Las Vegas Lager.
The restaurant recently completed a $1.4 million expansion, which included more than doubling its space from 3,000 to 6,300 square feet, the addition of a floor-to-ceiling living wall filled with succulents and an extension of the outdoor patio that overlooks the Wynn pool area, which we had the pleasure to be seated in. This was really upscale casual but Las Vegas is like that. Come as you are and enjoy being pampered.
Sadly, I was not able to try much else of the Las Vegas beer scene as this was a short trip. Thanks to Bob and his wife Lally, we really covered a lot in just a few days whetting the appetite for more Las Vegas beery adventures to come.