He doesn’t get acknowledged as often as the local brewers who have energized the Las Vegas beerscape in recent years, but Rich Johnson is one of the godfathers.
“I came here to install three breweries in 1996, and at that time there was only the Holy Cow! [Casino and Brewery] on Sahara and Las Vegas Boulevard,” says the brew vet who helped open Barley’s in Henderson and two Gordon Biersch locations. “It does make you a little nostalgic, thinking back and seeing where Vegas was, then to now. I’m not sure if I’d call it a boom, but it’s been a nice little pop recently, and hopefully it continues.”
Johnson, who started working in breweries in California in the late ’80s, anticipated that local growth and launched Sin City Brewing Co. in 2003. He opened his first “tasting bar” at the Miracle Mile Shops two years later, and now also operates bars at the Grand Canal Shoppes, Harmon Corner and the new Grand Bazaar Shops—all on the Strip, another reason Sin City might feel a bit disconnected from the local brew scene.
“We’ve knocked on a lot of doors over the years as potential landing places. ... We came close to a couple projects Downtown,” Johnson says. “Ultimately it was always something on the Strip that took our focus away, but we’re always kicking things around to see what comes next.”
Sin City’s most recent endeavor is its new Spring Sour, a refreshingly tart seasonal offering that’s totally customizable. “Instead of adding fruit purées during the brewing, we went with a pure sour with no flavoring and allow our guests to try their own added flavor—raspberry, blood orange, pineapple or passion fruit,” Johnson says. “It’s been a welcome addition, and it gives us a broader base for this new beer, our first sour.”
Sin City Brewing Co. Four Strip locations, sincitybeer.com.