Like many gambling towns, Reno has a somewhat alcoholic reputation. And it's hard to argue that the city hasn't earned it: Reno has far more dive bars, themed pubs, college hangouts, 24-hour grills and vigilant casino cocktail waitresses than most towns twice its size. While there's plenty of Budweiser to be had, several regional beer-making operations have taken hold in recent years, making Reno a worthwhile destination for connoisseurs as well as rowdy vacationers looking for a touch of local flavor. Here's what to expect from some of the area's best taphouses:
(846 Victorian Ave., Sparks, www.greatbasinbrewingco.com) Perhaps the most respected microbrewery in Nevada, Great Basin generally offers four flagship beers and a rotating cast of six seasonal brews along with excellent fish and chips, shepherd's pie and other gourmet bar grub. Beers such as the Ichthyosaur India Pale Ale continue to win national awards some 15 years after they were introduced.
Don't be deterred by the Sparks address, Great Basin is closer to the downtown Reno tourist area than many attractions, and on a summer night when the Sparks Hometowne Farmer's Market is in full swing, it's the best place around to grab a drink.
(253 West First St., www.myspace.com/sierrataphouse) The Sierra Tap House is the type of place that makes you remember why people have been going to bars for centuries. A smallish basement-level pub that faces the Truckee River, the Tap House is attractive, intimate and communal. In addition to serving a wide range of beers from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. that you're unlikely to find elsewhere, the bar hosts social events such as trivia nights and home-brewed beer contests. It can get fairly crowded, but the general upbeat attitude means fights and other "college night" problems are rare.
(135 N. Sierra St. and 124 Wonder St., www.silverpeakbrewery.com) The two locations of this Reno stalwart tend to attract different crowds, but they share most of the same award-winning beers and upscale dishes. The Sierra Street venue draws a downtown club set interested in mingling, while the Wonder Street shop is geared more for dining and relaxing. Both feature outdoor dining during all but the coldest months, with the rooftop patio on Wonder Street being one of the most pleasant lunch spots in Reno. Silver Peak's owners constantly emphasize that they are "a restaurant that makes its own beer" rather than just another bar, and indeed the food is good and unexpected. But the Red Roadster, Peavine Porter and the house IPA are the real stars here.
(345 N. Virginia Street inside the Eldorado casino, www.eldoradoreno.com) The Brew Brothers presents a conundrum to any beer fan. A casino bar and grill that hosts frequent rock concerts and dance parties, it's the sort of place locals love to hate -- and yet, it's always crowded with people having a good time. The beer selection, which may or may not pass through the copper-plated brewing equipment on full view in the bar area, is pretty standard microbrew fare and a definite step down from the brews mentioned elsewhere on this list -- and yet, it constantly wins local "best of" contests. In short, you should go to Brew Brothers for the atmosphere and nightlife, and if you discover that you like the beer as well, that's just gravy. A decent food menu is also available late into the night.
(77 W. Plumb Lane) Generally agreed to be as close to an authentic English pub as you're going to get in the middle of the West, Shenanigans imports many European beers and liquors and serves them in a relaxed environment. It may not be the best spot to find a date, but if you want to unwind with a Harp or a Guinness Double Stout while watching rugby, it's perfect. The food is surprisingly good as well.
(3611 King's Row, www.becksbrewhouse.com) Becks Brew House, a new lounge retrofitted from a failed college bar, focuses on unusual beers from around the country, as well as outside of it. The decor now leans toward hardwood floors and leather furniture, and there are several distinct areas with different lighting and seating schemes. An advanced ventilation system designed to trap smoke in the smoking section without walling it off seems to work well.
(1155 S. Rock Blvd., www.buckbeanbeer.com) Buckbean Brewing Company is less than two years old and still focuses more on making and distributing beer than on creating a venue of its own. The brewery hosts frequent daytime tours and tastings of its Orange Blossom and Black Noddy brews, but to get them after hours, you'll have to head to one of Buckbean's client bars (check the Web site). You can also buy Buckbean canned at local grocery stores.
(2335 Dickerson Road, www.renohomebrewer.com) For the most serious of beer fans, this is heaven. Reno Homebrewer has been training and equipping amateur brewers and vinters for decades, and several of the trainers have won national awards for their own creations. Since the shop is more a showroom than a bar, it's best to call ahead, especially if you're interested in taking a class. But for those interested in the art and science of making beer and wine, this is an unmissable stop.
Article written by Matt Farley. Farley is a Nevada native who has worked for the Reno Gazette-Journal and Nevada Magazine and been syndicated by The Associated Press, Gannett News Service and the Las Vegas Review Journal.