First thing(s) first: The 2016 Great Vegas Festival of Beer is going to be another awesome event you shouldn’t miss, taking over a portion of Fremont East on Saturday, April 9 and offering a wide variety of local and national brews for your enjoyment. Presenting sponsor PT’s Brewing Company will have a central tent serving up six original brews plus its signature pub dishes, and brewmaster Dave Otto will be pouring the official 2016 GVFB beer, a guava pale ale available only at the fest. Funky sours from Modern Times and Crafthaus will be paired with funky tunes inside the Funk experience zone. Zappos returns with the Human Arcade; there’ll be a silent disco and a preview of Topgolf Las Vegas and the BrewLogic sessions at Atomic Liquors ... it goes on and on. You should go.
Now that that’s been decided, doesn’t it seem like this beer festival has been around forever? It hasn’t. This is the sixth year Motley Brews has presented the event, “hard to believe,” according to founder Brian Chapin. “The first year it was all education. We didn’t really know how the city would accept it, not just from a craft-beer standpoint, but also there just weren’t a lot of these kinds of events going on. There weren’t nearly as many craft beer drinkers as there are today.”
Over time, the local landscape—okay, pretty much every landscape—has become more accommodating as craft beer has evolved from trend to new normal. “We used to hear all about having too many IPAs and not enough lagers, and now it’s the opposite,” Chapin laughs. More breweries started popping up in Northern and Southern Nevada, along with more events, though nothing quite as big as this one. And, perhaps most prominently, food and beverage programs in the Strip’s casino resorts have embraced the glory of beer.
“That has been a huge factor, but to me it’s a combination of local breweries doing well and gaining notoriety, smaller events at places like Khoury’s [Fine Wine & Spirits] and Atomic, and on the Strip, understanding how spending habits have changed over the years,” Chapin says. “We know gambling revenues are not increasing and people are shifting investment more toward entertainment and food. That’s paved the way for a rapid rise for craft beer on the Strip.”
It’s hard to believe Las Vegas wasn’t serious about its beer six years ago, but things tend to happen fast around these parts. Most scenesters are quick to concede the city isn’t on par with other beer-crazy towns just yet, but we’ve come a long way. Look how much easier it is for Motley to get big sponsors and more participants every year for the festival, and you’ll see the sudsy signs that Vegas is on its way.
“We’re finding many more people want to reach our audience and be with our locals, and they’re willing to create things to add to the festival,” Chapin says. “We’re still growing it. We have people committing to it much earlier every year, and we’re just continuing to try to outdo ourselves from last year. As long as people continue to come, we’ll continue to push the envelope and have fun doing it.”
Great Vegas Festival of Beer April 9, 3-7 p.m., $40-$55. East Fremont Street, greatvegasbeer.com.