The Beer Issue
- The brew crew: A guide to the local craft beer scene
- Talking beer with Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele
- The coming year could bring a craft brew explosion to Southern Nevada
- Tackling a $180 beer: Tactical Nuclear Penguin
- Five recommendations from local beer experts
- Great Vegas Festival of Beer
- April 27, 3-7 p.m., $30.
- Sunset Park, greatvegasbeer.com
When Brian Chapin moved to Las Vegas from Arizona five years ago, he found a craft beer scene still in its early stages. There were local breweries making and serving tasty beer in the suburbs, but the Strip was ruled by national heavyweights like Budweiser and Coors, and many smaller breweries that distributed here were pulling out of the Valley. There just wasn’t enough demand for handcrafted ales in a city built around mass-produced sin.
Today, Chapin says, things are changing. “We’re starting to see a resurgence of brands come into this town, and craft beer is definitely at a level where it’s never been before in Nevada.”
As the founder of Motley Brews, Chapin’s been part of that growth. His company puts on craft beer festivals that celebrate the art of brewing and introduce drinkers to drafts they’ve never tasted, from a New Zealand “breakfast beer” to alcoholic ginger beer. Motley Brews’ next event is the Great Vegas Festival of Beer April 27 at Sunset Park, an afternoon extravaganza that will feature around 200 brews from more than 50 breweries, including locals like Joseph James and Big Dog’s and visitors like Dogfish Head, Full Sail, Uinta and North Coast.
“The goal is for everyone to try a lot of things that they’ve never tried,” Chapin says, “and hopefully at the end of the day, to sit back and say, ‘Wow, I’ve never had that. I love that. I’m going to seek that out.’”
The Nevada Craft Brewers Association will debut its first collaboration brew, Pyrite Ale, at the festival, and seven local breweries will be pouring during the annual event. “I want to see local breweries be at the forefront,” Chapin says, imagining a day when tourists arrive on the Strip eager to drink beer made right here in Las Vegas. “It’s not just beer; it’s a local product—and we don’t have very many of those.”
While Chapin expects 5,000 attendees at Motley Brews events this year, his parties started small, with fewer beers, fewer drinkers and fewer staffers keeping the party going. “Our first event at the end of 2010, it was definitely a sh*t show,” Chapin laughs. “There were like three of us running around trying to unload kegs and hook everything up.”
These days, he’s far more prepared. Smaller samples are key, and Chapin’s hired Designated Drivers to take fest-goers home for free if they have a car with them.
He wants attendees to find their own favorites among the hundreds of brews being served. “Don’t let anyone tell you what’s good and what’s bad,” Chapin says. “Try a lot of different things.
“There’s a lot of love that goes into the beers that we have there, and there’s a lot of them that are still handcrafted and hand-stirred in the mash by the brewers. … There’s always something that surprises me at the festival, and that’s kind of the cool thing about it.”