The Most Essential Craft Breweries in Las Vegas
You’ve got your work cut out for you.
The Las Vegas craft beer scene has been growing steadily the past few years, but is being reshuffled like a casino card deck in 2020. First, the bad news. Joseph James, Sin City Brewing, and PT’s Brewing Company all ceased operations in recent months. However, new breweries are more than picking up the slack. The Downtown Arts District is suddenly a hotbed of beer producers and taprooms, with HUDL on the way and Nevada Brew Works just getting started (but not serving beer until at least October). On the other side of the valley in Henderson, a new wave of intriguing breweries are planting a flag on historic Water Street and in a small business park known informally as the Henderson Booze District.
As we continue to climb our way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, taprooms are following strict social distancing guidelines to remain in business. So show some love and patience while spending money at these local businesses. You may experience limited seating and required food orders when buying a brew. But here’s the good news -- it's totally worth it. The beer in Las Vegas is better than ever with ambitious producers offering a variety of options. Here's a look at the top Las Vegas breweries worth your dollar.
CraftHaus Brewery was founded by Dave and Wyndee Forrest, a husband and wife inspired by the craft beer culture in Europe. The brewery established the first taproom in the Henderson Booze District, emphasizing a social sense of community in place of gaming machines. A second taproom opened last year in the Downtown Arts District, featuring local artwork and a specialized Czech tap that controls the flow of foam to beer for an authentic slow-pour pilsner. There are usually around 24 CraftHaus beers produced at any given time with lagers, sours, and IPAs that rotate with the season. As for food, try the soft pretzels made from the brewery’s spent grain with beer cheese or bacon bourbon jam on the side.
Beers to try: The Belgard Stout is made with coffee from Vesta roasters and the Sour Chad uses hibiscus and prickly pear from the Ethel M Cactus Garden. The Silver State blonde ale is a familiar sight in bars, grocery stores, and even hotel rooms in Las Vegas. For the health conscious, the brand new Electro-Lite is a low-calorie IPA with electrolytes added to take the edge off any hangover.
Tenaya Creek Brewery
This family-owned and operated brewery has been around for nearly two decades, moving Downtown after outgrowing its previous facility in the northwest valley. It’s not your typical Las Vegas watering hole: no gaming, smoking, or liquor. Just great craft beer and a little bit of wine. There are 28 handles -- about half from Tenaya Creek and half from other highly regarded microbreweries. The house brews are also available by can or bottle. There are a few exceptions, but they’re generally well-balanced and drinkable -- not super-hoppy.
Beers to try: Favorites include the Hauling Oats oatmeal stout, and the easy, light-bodied 702 Pale Ale. Come by on Pint Night Tuesdays, beginning at 6pm, where the first pour is $7 with a pint glass and return pours just $3.
There are a few breweries in the Downtown area, but Banger Brewing is the only one surrounded by the high energy and bright lights of the Fremont Street Experience. Despite the location, the brewery and bar is a favorite of locals and a welcome detour for tourists. Opened by a group of service-industry friends, Banger Brewing is proving to be a great Las Vegas success story. Even in a crowded tourist spot, prices remain reasonable. Happy hour is 1-3pm and 9-11pm with $5 beers. Banger is also offering buy-3-get-1-free crowlers and 2-for-1 crowler refills on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Beers to try: The beer list is constantly revised, but El Heffe -- a hefeweizen with a jalapeño kick -- is probably the most popular mainstay. The golden Wild Bill kolsch is a light, refreshing choice to fend off the notorious Nevada heat.
Lovelady Brewing Company
Open just a few years, Lovelady is a relative newcomer to the Vegas brew scene, but already making a big, sudsy splash. Built from the ground up in Downtown Henderson, the company was founded by four brothers (and yes, their last name is Lovelady), who got their start experimenting with at-home brewing back in their high school days. It made them popular at parties, and the love for producing beer was hard to shake. One of them is the former head brewer at Gordon Biersch in Las Vegas.
Beers to try: Fun choices include a tangy pineapple sour and a porter made with beans from Mothership Coffee roasters. We’re hoping the limited-edition Original Cinn -- a strong cinnamon and apple ale -- sticks around through fall and winter.
Bad Beat Brewing
Nathan Hall got into homebrewing on a whim. It started with a coupon for a five-gallon beer kit and quickly grew into a full-blown operation in his garage. Hall developed his own recipes and tested them out with friends during UFC viewing parties. He was encouraged to open his own brewery -- which finally happened after selling his house. The four core beers (a German pilsner, hefeweizen, IPA, and the signature I Love NV amber lager) are available canned in stores throughout the valley. But make a point to visit the brewery's taproom in the Henderson Booze District.
Beers to try: Gose varieties seem especially popular. Ask about the Poppin’ Bottles Imperial Grose, aged in chardonnay and champagne barrels to mark Bad Beat’s six-year anniversary.
Big Dogs Brewing Company
Founded in the mid-’90s by the late Tom Wiesner at the old Holy Cow casino, Big Dog’s was the first-ever microbrewery in Las Vegas. It eventually moved north when the Holy Cow was demolished -- a Walgreens is currently in its place -- and led the way for the craft beer movement in Southern Nevada. Despite being ahead of the game, Big Dog’s encourages friendly rivalries from other breweries, and has even produced collaborations with Tenaya Creek, Bad Beat, and Joseph James. The brewery also has its own full-service restaurant -- modeled after a large barn -- that’s designed with Midwest hospitality in mind. If you’re a Green Bay Packers fan, you’re among friends. There is also limited seating on the patio and in the beer garden.
Beers to try: Some of the beers are given a dog theme, with the Red Hydrant English Brown Ale and Black Lab Stout among the popular choices.
Hop Nuts Brewing
Blame Hop Nuts for kicking off the local beer craze in the Downtown Arts District. The name pays tribute to the brewery's Green Mamba Double IPA -- a hop-heavy West Coast-style DIPA that scores extremely high on the IBU scale. (That’s International Bitterness Units, so consider yourself warned.) A second taproom is now open in the west valley at Tivoli Village. Both options have an outdoor patio. The daily “hoppy hour” runs from 4-7pm with $2 off all pints, except hazies and stouts.
Beers to try: Aside from the Golden Ale, most of the brews have something of a hoppy bite, including the limited-edition Imperial Espresso Stout -- made with beans from Makers & Finders Coffee next door.
Chicago Brewing Company
Located on the eastern edge of Summerlin, the Chicago Brewing Company offers a little bit of everything for Las Vegans living in the West Valley -- including an outdoor beer garden, cigar lounge, and an overloaded menu of bar food and breakfast bites. Hang out and watch a game or try your luck on a digital gaming machine. The house brews come in six basic choices, with the nutty Old Town brown ale a good one to take home in one of the 64-ounce growlers.
Beers to try: Current limited-edition brews include the sweet Blueberry Vanilla Wheat and a medium-bodied (and appropriately named) Pandemic Ale.
Ellis Island Casino & Brewery
Just a block off the Strip, Ellis Island is a casino and hotel with its own brewery. Things were given a major upgrade a few years ago with the addition of Eddie Leal as head brewer. The improvements are striking. The light now has the bright, sweet corn flavor of a Mexican-style lager, the amber is more hoppy and robust, and the IPA has a vibrant, fruity character with a new Belgian yeast strain. Leal also gets to experiment with six additional taps in the Front Yard, a new two-level beer garden, restaurant, and atrium, where the beer often finds its way into the food recipes. The one thing that hasn’t changed is Ellis Island's dedication to low prices. House pints generally run $3-5.
Beers to try: The stout was dropped in favor of a rotating lineup of dark beers that changes about once a month. The latest -- a German-style schwarzbier -- has a light body and a subtle malt roast flavor.
Able Baker Brewing
This Arts District brewery gets its name from the first two nuclear bombs dropped in the Nevada desert. The decor reflects the theme, paying tribute to the state’s role in the Atomic Age. Yet the place is much more than a gimmick. Able Baker Brewing is a fun social spot with long wood tables and garage doors that roll up to an outdoor patio. Book a reservation in advance to take advantage of socially distanced seating.
Beers to try: Choose from more than 30 beers on tap, including collabs with Golden Knight Ryan Reaves’ 7FIVE brand (which just released a Shiver Giver IPA) and Chris Kael of Five Finger Death Punch (a barrel-aged dark Impale’d Ale). The Radioactive Duck IPA balances a fruity finish with the bite of serrano peppers.
Mojave Brewing Company
John Griffith has been sharing his own home brews with family and friends for more than 30 years. Griff got so good at it, he was convinced to open his own place -- Mojave Brewing Company, renovated from an old Bank of America building in Henderson’s historic Water Street district. It’s an engaging, industrial space with roll-up, garage-style doors, bistro string lights, and a long patio where doggies are welcome.
Beers to try: The small-batch beers change frequently, but the Bones Brigade IPA and Almost Famous Porter appear to be sticking around on a regular basis. There’s a strong dedication to ciders, too -- ask about the Freedom Peach or Flyin’ Hawaiian Pineapple.
Beer District Brewing
Beer District Brewing is the combined forces of Jim Doyle and Clyde Lipp, who together have won dozens of homebrew competitions around the country over the past 10 years. The new venture has 21 ambitious brews on tap, covering a lot of ground with small-batch recipes and a beer list that changes frequently. The operation, which opened in February, is already drawing especially strong attention for its dark beers. However, there’s something for everyone. There's always a few hazy IPAs on tap and either a German or Bavarian style hefeweizen. The team is excited to experiment with barrel-aging in the near future, but taking things as they come during the pandemic. The brewery was granted a restaurant license to stay open -- requiring the purchase of a $1 grilled cheese sandwich with each order.
Beers to try: Over-fruited sours and slushie beers have been popular this summer, including fun, decadent flavors like neapolitan, PB&J, and apple pie a la mode. If you want something darker, go with the signature Vegas In A Bottle Russian Imperial Stout.
Along with CraftHaus and Bad Beat, Astronomy Aleworks is one of three beer producers in the Henderson Booze District. The brewery has a sci-fi theme, but also describes itself as “science based” -- having hosted events with UNLV astronomy students and guest professors in the past. Special brews change every week or two and a canned rye IPA is in the works for the fall. While any Star Trek or Star Wars-themed events are on hold for now, the taproom remains open with limited seating and hot dogs to munch on in between sips of beer. As a side gig, Astronomy Aleworks also produces beer for The Mad Fermentist, a taproom in the Downtown Arts District.
Beers to try: There are 12 beers on tap at all times with the Speed of Light Kolsch and Hawking Hazy Pale Ale among the regular favorites.
Scenic Brewing Co.
Sometimes you need more than a taproom. Scenic Brewing Company is a full-fledged restaurant with beer produced on site. Head brewer Jamie Roberts is in charge of at least 17 recipes at any given time. Any of these creations can be enjoyed in the main restaurant or the sports bar (currently restricted to limited seating) with food honoring the Austrian heritage of Scenic Brewing’s owners. The name and decor are inspired by global travel destinations. Stop by for happy hour from 3-6pm, Monday through Friday, for a $2 discount on beer and well drinks.
Beers to try: There is a ton of variety -- from pilsners, lagers, and ales to coffee stouts and fruity fun stuff like a blackberry hefeweizen or the tart Key Lime Berliner weisse. The Tropical Hopanero pale ale mixes the sweetness of mango puree with the bite of habanero peppers.