Tourists come from all over the world to Vegas: for work, for vacation, for bachelor parties, for playing roulette. But the city's great craft beer culture remains one of its best kept secrets.
On the surface, the strip gives the impression that the city is completely devoid of any good beer. Casinos and nightclubs typically pump their guests full of light import lagers and cheap liquors. But you needn't drink boring beer when you're in Vegas...you just need to know where to go to find the good stuff. (One note: many of these spots are off the strip, so you'll either need to rent a car—and convince someone to be your designated driver—or take a cab across town.)
Tenaya Creek Brewery
Whenever you're visiting a new city, a great first move is the check out what the local breweries are up to. The beer will be fresher than anything else you find, and you may stumble upon something unexpected.
Located on the north side of town, Tenaya Creek dedicates 6 to 8 of their taps to their own meticulously crafted beers, and a few more for guest breweries. Their Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal-winning pilsner is available year round, along with their Calico Brown Ale, Hefeweizen, and Hop Ride IPA. Some of their seasonal offerings include stouts, porters, barley wines, double IPAs, and several variations of their beers, including double dry hopped beers, or beers infused with coffee, coconut, cacao nibs, and oak.
This brewpub doesn't offer any food, but they often have a food truck available once or twice a week. There's also an outdoor patio that is great when the weather is not too hot.
Aces & Ales II
Just a block away from Tenaya Creek, Aces & Ales has opened their second location. The original spot on the east side has long been known as one of the best craft beer bars in Vegas, with a selection featuring brews no one else in town has in stock. The bar is owned by Alice Cooper guitarist Keri Kelli.
While the original location has around 20 different beers on tap, the second location has 50 taps available, with a focus on barrel aged and special limited-edition beers—they often have the only keg shipped into all of Nevada. The bottle list here is equally impressive—you'll find several vintages of anniversary beers from a number of different breweries, for example.
If you can, you should come in on Tuesday night, when $20 will get you six 4-ounce beer tasters along with a specially prepared dish.
Big Dog's Brewing Company
Big Dog's Brewing Company is just highway exit away from the new Aces & Ales. The brewery's pub has a bit of a sports bar vibe. If you happen to visit while the Green Bay Packers are playing, don't get caught rooting for the wrong team!
Big Dog's produces a very wide range of beers, many of which have won awards at the Great American Beer Festival. Depending what day you walk in, they may be having a tapping party for a new beer, they may have something special available on cask, or they could be serving an oak-aged or dry-hopped variation of one of their beers. Be sure to try the War Dog Imperial IPA, which is remarkably refreshing despite its high alcohol content. I also like their fruity Dog Gone Saison.
Khoury's Fine Wine
We love a good bottle shop, but this one is even better than you might expect because you can purchase any bottle from the great selection of beers (and wines) and enjoy it on the spot with no additional corkage fees. They also serve beer and wine on tap (and sometimes feature a beer served through a Dogfish Head Randall.) Most Wednesdays you'll find a special keg being tapped or a brewery hosting a free tasting. The tap list nearly always features beer from several of the local Las Vegas breweries. They often also have a sour beer on tap as well.
If you simply cannot make it off of the strip, then your best option for good beer is in the Venetian, at Public House. Public House features a very extensive beer list, including fresh IPAs, barrel aged sour beers, beers on cask, and beer cocktails (plus plenty of food to soak it all up.) The well trained staff here can help you to find the best beer to pair with your meal. If you can't decide on a single beverage, you can also purchase a flight of beers. This is much more of fine dining experience than the previous locations on the list, however there is a lounge area near the bar if you are just looking for drinks.
Todd English P.U.B.
Located in Crystals at City Center, Todd English P.U.B. offers a more British-style pub environment, with a great selection of both American and European beers available on draft, including a few strong Abbey ales. They also regularly have one or two beers available as cask pours (including the creamy and delicious Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery, which is great with a burger.)
About the Author: Luis Tovar is a Certified Cicerone based in Las Vegas. You can find him at Hooked On Hops.