Booze Blog: Staff picks from the Downtown Brew Festival

The Downtown Brew Festival was held at the Clark County Government Center Amphitheater on Saturday, September 21, 2013.
Donoghue Photography, Inc.

On September 21, local events company Motley Brews held its second annual Downtown Beer Festival at the Clark County Government Center Amphitheater with more than 150 beers from 50 breweries and lots of drunk people. Sipping and stumbling among the crowd were some Weekly staffers, who managed to remember which beers tasted the best. From chile beers to American pales, here's what they recommend.

Innis & Gunn’s Canadian Cherrywood Finish I got hung up in the southeast corner of the Downtown Brew Festival grounds, sampling suds from some terrific big-name brewers that were sadly lacking in obvious signage. Oh well, more New Belgium Coconut Curry Hefeweizen for me. But just when I thought that light, well-spiced beauty would be my beer of the night, along came the rich, silky Canadian Cherrywood Finish, an English ale from Innis & Gunn. Subtle notes of oak, cherry, maple and vanilla danced about thanks to plenty of carbonation, a lovely combination that never stretched fully into sweetness. Where can I get more? —Brock Radke, food editor.

Rio Grande Pancho Verde Chile Cerveza The best and most interesting beers at festivals reveal themselves through word of mouth, passed from drinker to drinker like gossip in a high school hallway. That’s how I discovered this light, spicy brew from Albuquerque-based Rio Grande. With a mild vegetal nose, fresh green chile flavor and just a hint of spice, the cerveza was a supremely drinkable flavored beer and a refreshing break from the festival’s hoppier fare. —Sarah Feldberg, editor.

Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin As an enthusiast of both craft beer and all things pumpkin-flavored, I’ve been searching for the perfect pumpkin brew on what’s proved to be a Goldilocksian quest: Pumpkin beers tend to be either too watery and underspiced, or, on the other end of the spectrum, the sticky-sweet equivalent of getting smacked with a slab of pumpkin bread. They’re hard to get just right.

So, after all the hype built up around Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin, I was almost hesitant to try it—and it did not disappoint. A velvety pour, the beer hit with a cinnamon aroma and rich, creamy—but not too sweet—pumpkin flavor that gave way to the mild spiced hops that autumn ales are all about. The high ABV (9%) adds just the right amount of warmth and robustness without being too overtly boozy—a little fire in your belly for the crisp fall days ahead. —Andrea Domanick, contributing writer.

Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer I thought I had found my beer early on in the evening, but after a countless number of tastings, all of my favorite stouts started to blend together. I’m a huge fan of ginger, so when I spotted Crabbie’s Ginger Beer toward the end of the night, I knew I’d found my match. At only 4.8 percent ABV, the alcoholic version of the popular sweet and spicy drink was tame in comparison to the festival heavyweights. The first sip, a powerful and bubbly snap of fresh ginger, woke me right out of my beer haze. Followed by a simple, sugary sweetness, Crabbie’s Ginger Beer was as memorable as it was drinkable. —Leslie Ventura, calendar editor.

Alaskan’s Freeride American Pale Ale Originally released as a springtime selection for the brewery’s backcountry skiing and snowboarding crew, this pale ale is on the lighter side – crisp and refreshing, with only a 5.3% ABV – making it perfect for any outdoor activity (yes, that includes cornhole at Saturday’s beer fest). A fellow beer geek gave me a bottle of the stuff back in April, but the citrus and floral notes really come alive with a fresh pour – I can’t wait to find this delicious, totally drinkable pale on tap again. —Mark Adams, web editor.

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Andrea Domanick

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Sarah Feldberg

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Brock Radke has been writing about Las Vegas for more than 15 years. He currently covers entertainment, music, nightlife, food ...

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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