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“Good people drink good beer.”― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
By Meagan Wilson
You’ve heard parts of this story before. An American couple spends some time in Germany, learning to appreciate beer, not just chug it. They learn about the culture and community that surrounds well-brewed beer, and they decide to bring some of that back home to their town.
This is where the story takes some less-familiar turns. What if the couple who want to open a community-centered brewery to share hoppy, malty joy with their neighbors, have the bright idea to do that in Henderson, Nevada? Just 16 miles from Sin City itself, Henderson hasn’t exactly been famous for its craft beer, or family-friendly vibes.
When Wyndee and Dave Forrest were looking into licensing and zoning for their production brewery with a tasting room, the local licensing options would allow them to have a brewery with no tasting room, or a brewpub license + gaming license.
“If the community has nowhere to commune to, it kind of defeats the purpose,” Wyndee said, and she also wasn’t trying to open a venue with alcohol and slot machines, and no soul.
This is the point where most people might decide to take their great ideas to a more welcoming location. But, no. Four years of planning, lobbying, working and petitioning later, CraftHaus Brewery opened (with no gaming license) in what is now the Artisan Booze District in Henderson. They also have a second taproom location in the Las Vegas Arts District. CraftHaus will be celebrating their eight-year anniversary this September. Yeah, there really is more to Las Vegas than fear, loathing, and the Strip.
CraftHaus sent us half a dozen of their rather wide selection, so we drank ‘em and made notes.
They brew eight core beers, and they have special releases quite often. If you want to see their own descriptions, here you go. Ours (for the six cans they sent) are below.
Evocation Belgian Saison:
This is one of the drier examples we’ve tasted, from any American brewery. A little bit of Belgian funk in the nose. The can is a little beat up, because it was shipped to Anchorage from Henderson. It’s a little more full-bodied than expected, but quite dry. After decanting the yeast into the glass, it’s slightly cloudy. Pepper notes, with a little bit of brettanomyces funk, or something similar. A little bit of leathery-ness, and no lemon. To my surprise, this saison paired decently with a chicken burrito.
Decent amount of funk in the nose, and lemon or other citrus fruit. Initial taste is tart, and a bit fruity. Hint of diacetyl, resulting in a slightly milky appearance. Highly effervescent, with a quickly-disappearing, thin head. Easy drinking, tart summer beer. Not much salinity, which you do expect a bit of, with a gose. This gose could be mistaken for a kettle-soured berliner-weisse. That doesn’t make it harder to drink.
So-named, as Wydee explained, because it was crazy for a brewery of their size to brew a dunkel lager, but also because it was crazy not to brew it sooner. They’ve won two medals for it, and they brew it year-round. Cuckoo smells the way I’d expect, with Munich and some dark malts evident in the nose. The color is very dark brown with ruby highlights, slightly opaque. A little more clarity wouldn’t hurt it, but again, the can traveled from Nevada.
Medium-thin body, malty flavor, effervescent. Pleasantly malty and caramelly upfront, with a hint of roast malts on the back end. There’s a hint more mineral character where we’d expect a touch more maltiness. However, that does contribute to a more sessionable mouthfeel. Based on talking to Wyndee, the hard local water is probably accentuating the hops, rather than the malt. It’s a tasty, drinkable beer, and you could even drink it in hot weather, which Nevada certainly gets.
All the Guava Fruited Sour:
The nose is a touch dry, almost like a slightly fruity white wine nose. Minerally, and tart. Not quite a sour. Complex, with muted guava hints. Thin bodied, with a cloudy appearance. Very fizzy, but without much head. We tried this at the height of an Anchorage summer day, drinking out of scientifically engineered, blue opaque drinking vessels (Dixie cups). Easy drinker. Quaffable. I’d expect the pleasant acidity to pair well with the sausage and charcuterie selections available in the CraftHaus taprooms.
Nose is characteristic of lagering. Touch of sulfur, which is expected in the style. Body is relatively thin. The head is white, with fine bubbles. There’s a hint of DMS softening up the mouthfeel. Light touch of citrus. Cleaner than almost any American-made craft pilsner we’ve tried. The other best examples we’ve reviewed are from Victory and Cooperage. Czech Pilsner is a hard style to brew right, and it’s one of my favorites when done well. I’d be quite willing to have this one again.
Hop Vegas West Coast IPA:
Earthy in the smell. Slightly dank, but not weedy. Smells like a pine forest loess. Medium mouthfeel, with a little bit of the tongue-coating character that certain hops give. Hint of pickle, cleanly fermented, light mineral character. Hint of alcohol vapor on the tongue when you exhale. Highly carbonated. Dry, not sweet or sticky. There’s a little bit of pine straw in the flavor; a little bit resinous. Traditional west coast hop character. Tastes a bit like Stone IPA used to, before they got thin and watery. Color is golden. The hops hide any malt complexity, if it’s there.
Would I go drink CraftHaus beers on tap? Yep. Both of their locations are in artisanal districts that seem to be doing their damndest to build up their communities and bring positive vibes to an area known for all kinds of craziness. So props to ‘em. The next time we find ourselves traveling down that way, we’ll have to stop by, and visit some of their neighbors, too.
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