Taste

Speedee Mart—yep, the convenience-store chain has become a craft-beer mecca

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“Selling energy drinks and water is a lot better for the bottom line, but it’s not nearly as fun.”
Photo: L.E. Baskow

Looking for a good craft brew in Las Vegas? You’re probably headed to your local Lee’s or Khoury’s. Or a nearby Speedee Mart. Wait, what?

Yeah, you read that right. Unless you’ve delved deep into the local craft scene, you’re probably unaware that Speedee Marts across the Valley—yeah, the gas station convenience stores—are go-to destinations for sought-out brews, thanks to VP of Store Operations Paul Orluske.

Orluske started in the business early in his youth, working summers for his Pop Warner coach’s beer wholesaler long before he could legally drink. That dalliance led to a lifetime of beer, working for SoCal distributors and landing in San Diego as the craft beer scene was beginning to develop. After relocating to Vegas in 1999 to help his father-in-law open his second Speedee Mart, Orluske began putting craft beers on the shelves. “And I watched it sit,” he says. “We couldn’t move it.”

But as the local beer scene has matured, so have Speedee Mart’s offerings. A dozen locations feature solid selections, heavily focused on locals like Big Dog’s Jameson barrel-aged Man’s Best Friend, alongside out-of-state rarities like Founders’ Canadian Breakfast Stout. Last year, Orluske added growler fill stations at a quintet of stores—which he says are now “killing it”—rotating in kegs of Pizza Port’s Bacon & Eggs coffee porter, Bad Beat’s lactose-tinged Milky Way New England-style IPA and Lovelady’s peanut butter-laced Paleo Porter, among others.

Orluske acknowledges hitting a gas station for a great brew might seem a little strange. “There are a lot of negatives to [convenience] stores as far as perception,” he says. “Just watch an episode of Cops. Something’s going to go down at the convenience store.” But at Speedee Marts, what’s going down is amazing beer. “Selling energy drinks and water is a lot better for the bottom line, but it’s not nearly as fun.”

Tags: Drink, Beer
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