Now an annual event, Mandalay Bay’s Beer & Barrel Project returns for its end-of-summer beer weekend August 28-30, this time adding barrel-aged spirits to the mix. “I find that sometimes people can get beer’d out. Those are like dirty words to me,” says Mandalay Bay Director of Food and Beverage Sarah Johnson. “[In] Vegas we like to do more, it’s always about bigger. So we just went a little bigger this year.”
Beachside Beer and Barrel Festival The weekend’s main event (August 29, 7:30-11 p.m., $75) features a number of breweries bringing special releases and rarities that aren’t distributed in the Valley. “One of the breweries we’re most excited about is Left Hand,” says Johnson, adding that the Colorado brewing company is launching Nevada distribution at the event and even brewed a special, Mandalay Bay-branded variety of milk stout for the occasion. Other breweries not distributed here, such as Washington’s Elysian, New York’s Blue Point and Oregon’s Ten Barrel, will also be sampling their suds in the sand at Mandalay Bay Beach.
Seminars Johnson is stoked about all of the panel discussions and demonstrations at this year’s event, but she’s most excited about the seminar on beer and food pairing, Beer Got Your Tongue (August 29, 1-2 p.m., $30; seminar day pass $99). “Having a culinary background [and] attending culinary school, I think that beer with food is absolutely where it’s at.” Moody Tongue brewer Jared Rouben, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, leads the lecture, which pairs beers with bites by chef Shawn McClain of Aria’s Sage and Five50 Pizza Bar. “[Rouben] has a really unique approach to brewing and marrying culinary ingredients in the brewing process,” Johnson says, noting the inclusion of Moody Tongue’s shaved black truffle pilsner, which is only distributed to fine-dining outlets.
“The two cocktail seminars are going to be pretty killer, too,” says Johnson, who is excited to learn beer mixology from Wirtz Beverage experts Andrew Pollard and Michael Shetler during The Last Gaff: Misconceptions of the Beer Cocktail. “These guys bring such passion and interest and experience to their approach with beer cocktails … I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to beer, and spirits to be honest, so I’m really excited to see how they can approach this subject.”
The other cocktail-focused discussion, Experiencing American Whiskey, concludes the seminar series and also features a hands-on demonstration. “You’ll actually be making your own cocktails, so you can take that home with you and impress all of your friends with your new mixology skills.”
Beer for Breakfast Attendees can cap off the boozy weekend with a beer-pairing brunch (August 30, 6-9 a.m., $50) featuring brews curated by Johnson to go with celebrity chef Hubert Keller’s globally inspired menu at Fleur. Johnson says the featured brews run the style gamut from lighter varieties (including fruit beers and sours) to pair with pastries to saisons that “are killer” with eggs and the “no-brainer” coffee beers. “The idea is to experience the different flavors and play around and see what you like best.”