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Craft Beer’s Golden Age My A**: Craft Breweries Are Just Getting Started.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles and posts recently about the state of craft beer. Much of the literature paints a doomsday scenario, going as far to say the golden age of craft brew is upon us (I’m sure much of that, like most things on the internet, is due to regurgitated copies of copies with little to no analysis or original thought.) Well…I beg to differ with those profiteering plagiarists.

As an avid craft beer drinker who has been enjoying and brewing craft beer since college in the early 2000’s, I truly appreciate the plethora of choices on the shelves. Back then, in San Luis Obispo at least, craft beer meant Firestone Walker and Sam Adams. Of course, Rolling Rock, Natty Light and Pabst were always available and affordable, but one had to have a few more bucks to get the top-shelf brew. You certainly weren’t going to throw a kegger with or pass out those special beers to your friends. It’s a different day now and I’m glad craft beer has finally gotten to the point of recognition, acceptance and choice.

Is there some perversion of the term “craft” by mega producers snatching up small-brew outfits? Sure, without a doubt. “Crafty” beers are here to stay as long as the monopolies of big beer are allowed to thrive. However, still the vast majority of craft beer is still brewed by microbreweries (facts).

Given this fact, I feel craft beer is just starting to take off.

Look around…a lot of cities and towns in the United States–maybe yours–with a bustling and growing economy are showing signs of life. In down towns and main streets old restaurants are filled. New restaurants are popping up. Art galleries actually have interesting art to ponder. There is usually a wine tasting room nearby. And, by an incredible accident of sorts, there may be a brewery or two serving as the anchor of the epicenter of prosperity. All this activity nurtures a local culture while nourishing its economy.

Breweries have a long history of being economic catalysts. Not only do they create jobs directly in the operation, but the stakeholders are plenty. Local suppliers, bottlers, shippers, and surrounding business all benefit. For example, if there’s no downtown, because many breweries are located in industrial parks, the brewery will invite food trucks to set up shop creating a win-win-win scenario for the customer, chef and brewer alike. Not to mention the tiny bit of extra visibility unrelated or “hidden” businesses get from the increased foot traffic.

I only mention the economic factor because towns and cities are growing and breweries seem to be the bellwether of development. At the same time, Millennials’ tastes and preferences are finally coming to the forefront as their purchase power increases and Baby Boomers’ finances are reduced to fixed income and medical bills, and the need for gathering places is only increasing as social media dominates folks lives. With all the changes going on, how can one say the golden age of craft brew is waning? Simply because profits aren’t as large or market share is stagnating or there’s too many beers out there? Rather than focus on those metrics, allow me to introduce one more: customer satisfaction.

It seems customer satisfaction keeps growing as craft beer drinkers can get nearly any type of beer they can dream of. So let’s not lose sight of the goal that customer satisfaction is paramount in any industry. No matter the other metrics, if beer drinkers aren’t happy with the beer they’re drinking, the market will surely dry up and perish like a raisin in the sun. Until that time, plan to see more microbreweries come into the fold and introduce the dawn of craft beer–putting all that “golden-age” talk to the side.

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What The Hell Is A Brut IPA?

brut ipa

You’ve seen it in the grocery store, sitting proud on the shelf, next to the other myriad Sierra Nevadas. Rather than try something new, though, you reach for something more familiar…perhaps a Firestone twelver or your favorite local craft beer. The beer you have yet to try is that damn Brut IPA.

Say what?

A Brut I-P-A!

To be nontechnical, a Brut IPA is a beer brewed with the enzyme “amyloglucosidase” (say that five-times fast). The enzyme is known to break down complex sugars that may not otherwise ferment. The end result is a less sweet beer that can have big booze like imperial stouts.

There is a nice article by John Holl speaking with the credited creator of this style, Kim Sturdavant of Social Kitchen & Brewery in San Francisco.

Granted I have yet to try anything in the Bay Area that carries a brut IPA moniker–I live in Las Vegas–but what I have tried from Sierra Nevada and New Belgium in the grocery stores in Vegas has been disappointing. Before you put a nasty comment below, I know I need to try the real deal before I judge this style. These are just my first thoughts–so take it easy…have a beer!

For starters, the hype just wasn’t worth it for me. I’ve seen it a few times on the shelf and didn’t want to “splurge” on a new style when all I wanted was a tasty beer to hold me down for the weekend. It took me a couple weeks of seeing it before buying and trying it. (Marketers’ note: maybe distributors should price new beers lower so I can be more inticed to try them).

When I finally got home, cracked open the bottle, poured it in my glass and took a whiff, then a swig, memories of St. Pauli Girl came crashing to my mind. “Champagne-like” my ass. I could have gotten the real St. Pauli for a whole lot less and been just as happy.

So much for that experiment for a while. I’ll have to wait until the style matures a little bit before trying that heap of hops again. So long Brut IPA! Until you actually get good…

“My name is Broot!”

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Hop Nuts Brewing

hop nuts brewing

A couple of good friends of mine came to visit in Las Vegas. Rather than do the typical Strip stuff like gamble in a casino and lose all their money, I opted to show them an area that’s being “revitalized” and, what I would consider, a pretty chill kick it spot with a lot to offer. The area is right near Main & Charleston. Somewhat reminiscent of a Melrose, but with a more laid-back vibe, the street is lined with restaurants, bars, more restaurants and a brewery: Hop Nuts Brewing.

We met at Hop Nuts in the mid-evening. There were a few groups of people there playing games, watching the World Series, and…drinking beer. Many laughs can heard while I waited for my friends for a few minutes, enough time to try something on tap and see who’s on deck.

The tables featured dark wood with heavy stools. Each table was large enough to fit a party of 6 or more. Also worth noting, the tables weren’t too far from the bar and taps, so it made getting a drink pretty easy.

The open-air patio was pretty cool (both literally and figuratively, as the night was a cool 50 degrees–who said it doesn’t get cold in Vegas?). The only drawback to the patio was that there were a few patrons puffing on and suffering from little cancer sticks (cigarettes). Once the breeze blew, it also blew some smoke into the bar area. Cough…cough…cough.

These days, I’ve been to enough breweries and have drank enough beer to not be wowed by a whole lot. The beer at Hop Nuts was tasty, clean and inexpensive. Three great qualities if you ask me. Although the beer didn’t stand out to me, I would still go back and grab a couple brews to throw back.

What does stand out, though, is what Hop Nuts is; it is essentially a dive bar with a brewery component. This may seem strange, but they have something going here. Too many times, I’ve seen the run-of-the-mill brewery in an industrial warehouse; with their cold stainless steel and try-too-hard-to-fit-the-mold ambience where beers run over $8 a pop and name brand over quality becomes the trend. Maybe that’s why I appreciate Hop Nuts. They don’t try to be fit what has grown to be the norm in microbreweries. They simply provide a fun place to grab a craft beer or two and keep your night moving.

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Waikiki Brewing Company – Honolulu, HI

waikiki brewing company - honolulu hawaii

Waikiki Brewing Company – Honolulu, HI

Just a half mile walk from Honolulu BeerWorks, lies another craft brew treasure, Waikiki Brewing Company (one of two locations in Honolulu).

The walk is not just easy on the legs, but on the eyes as well. Tons of murals showcase artists’ talent along the way–an art district of sorts. honolulu arts district Taking in the art prepares you for a cultural experience when you get to Waikiki Beer Company.

Open air, clean, with a chill vibe, Waikiki’s beer doesn’t disappoint. Nestled in the middle of what seems a quasi-industrial block, Waikiki shines like a beacon of refreshment against a backdrop of much-needed-renewal.

Oasis In Hawaii?!

In this oasis, you get a chance to to see the operation in action. That always makes for a nice treat. Plus the slight aroma of wort helps to enhance the overall experience. waikiki brewing company patio

This brewery, you can tell, is a kick it spot for many. WIth a food trailer tucked to the side and a fairly extensive menu, I can envision chilling here for while in order to gear up for an afternoon at the beach (which is just a few blocks away).

Reminiscent of my home brew, although way better than anything I could conjure up–some of the beer at Waikiki Brewing is rather “yeasty.” You can probably chalk it up to the malt as well, but I appreciate that bready complexity only a brewery can churn out. It reminds me how fresh the beer is as some of the flavors may not have had a “full” conditioning period before it hits my lips.

Proper Chill Mode

Sitting inside, because it was cooler, we grabbed a four-top table. The bar would have been a good choice too if I was with less people. The bar was centered in the room with seats wrapped all around it. The bar’s location was inviting and could provide a good view of the entire room with plenty of TVs to boot.

At our table, service was friendly and speedy with glasses not even empty for a second before another round was ordered and displayed on our table for our delight. A plethora of styles can be found and suited to your tastes. Out of the tasters I had, Skinny Jeans was my favorite. A nice punch in the mouth of hops followed by a tinge of sweet akin to most West Coast IPAs.

For a little more alcohol to finish my day, I went with the Eee Pah IPA 7.65% ABV. Surprisingly smooth, the Eee Pah was harder to pronounce than drink. More malty than other IPAs I’ve had, it was unique, refreshing and a great beer to end my day with.

I highly recommend Waikiki Brewing Company for a relaxing afternoon before hitting beach and taking in the sunset. Not too far from Ala Moana Beach Park, grab some cans before you go.

waikiki brewing company brew room

Visit Waikiki Brewing Company

Waikiki Brewing Company, Kakaako, 831 Queen St, Honolulu, HI 96813

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Golden State Brewery – Santa Clara, CA

golden state brewery santa clara

Golden State Brewery – Santa Clara, CA

golden state brewery santa clara

Walking into Golden State Brewery for the first time I was impressed at first sight.

golden state brewery santa clara

Never mind the proximity to the railroad tracks and the industrial setting (most craft breweries tend to reside in tucked-away locations like this anyway). A few smiling fermenting vessels, happy to contain the deliciousness inside, greet patrons upon entrance. In fact, the seating area is snuggled right next to the brewing operation, so connoisseurs can further appreciate the brew being enjoyed. Pleasingly, the place doesn’t smell “yeasty” or like a bar as other breweries can, which means you can sit and enjoy your beer a while longer.

golden state brewery santa clara

Behind the bar, friendly staff pours craft beer in front of dozens of old-school California license plates sporting the vintage black, blue, and occasional sunset designs (a really cool idea). The bar itself is made of a rustic hardwood that helps bring outdoor Cali inside. With only a handful of tables scattered throughout, the brewery feels open, but cozy enough to have a conversation.


Golden State Brewery has awesome beer and you can enjoy all six in their sampler. Each beer is unique and taste like it should for its style. You’ll have to go on our tour to taste them all, but I’ll say my favorite is the Golden Gate Red–a smooth and interesting red ale with a nose that intrigues the olfactory nerve then delights the taste buds.

Another favorite of mine has to be the Eureka! IPA which offers up 90 IBUs and packs a powerful first sip. After the tastebuds settle down, the nuances of citrus and sweet round out the finish. A must try for IPA lovers.

golden state brewery santa clara

Golden State Brewery is definitely worth checking out, if not for their welcoming and pleasant environment, then for their delicious take on classic styles which lend to the Santa Clara Valley’s innovative culture.

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Lovelady Brewing – Henderson, NV

Lovelady Brewing – Henderson, NV

A local Henderson family with generational roots, Lovelady Brewing pays homage to the art and heritage of craft beer in more ways than one. First, it’s location in downtown Henderson is part of an economic revival of sorts; another reason to visit downtown Henderson. This pays respect to the heritage of craft beer as breweries were often centers of economic activity and opportunity. From farmers to banks to distributors, breweries have supported supply lines and have been bellwethers and cornerstones of local economies for a long time.

lovelady brewing henderson

First Impressions

Many breweries offer a very industrial and cold feel which can be off putting to some. Not at Lovelady Brewing. As I parked and walked up to the building, the first thing I noticed was the great signage reminiscent of historic signs that flagged downtowns of yesteryear. Elevated-patio seating faces Water Street and makes a great vantage point for downtown’s many events. As it’s usually a beautiful day in the Las Vegas valley, I would normally elect to sit outside, but, of course, I wanted an opportunity to soak up the interior ambience.

Stepping through the front door I appreciated the bright and open appearance with no cigarette smoke–which made for a more neutral background for tasting Lovelady Brewing’s delicious brew and a welcomed departure from the smoky Strip.

Unique Character

The first things to visually pop are the large fermenters and brewery operation tucked off in the corner. The shiny concrete floor helps draw attention to the bar and tabletops made from reclaimed wood from the Sierra Nevadas. (Quick story: The trees were damaged and destroyed by a bark beetle as a result of the long drought in northern California and northern Nevada. The beetle creates little dark areas where they burrow and lay eggs making for a very unique effect. Don’t worry…no beetles are present in the wood now of course). Using the wood not only adds a ton of character to the place, but is another example of how breweries preserve local and regional history and culture.

Tasting Lovelady Craft Beer

Sitting at the gorgeous bar, I was lucky enough to be graced by the presence of Bob, one of the owners and brothers of the operation, who was pouring me samples of their craft beers. Bob is extremely knowledgeable and a pleasure to have a conversation with. There were many styles to choose from. Amongst my favorites were:

  • HopAtomic IPA (a double IPA) with a vibrant fruity nose, and for 8.2%, goes down really smooth with a nice balance of bitter and sweet at the end.
  • Love Juice (a Northeast-Style IPA), with a cloudy and juicy body is very clean and refreshing with a hint of orange peel to finish.
  • Nutty Pumpkin (a dunkel/brown lager), a pumpkin beer like none other. This one is brewed with hazelnuts and doesn’t have the full frontal assault of spices on your senses. The pumpkin is a good role player to let the hazelnut shine. Unique, yet delicious.

Besides picking up some brews directly from the brewery, you can find Lovelady beers at your Las Vegas’ Total Wines & More or other local grocers like Albertsons.

lovelady brewing henderson https://craftbeertix.comWelcoming Vibe

For a microbrewery, Lovelady attracted people outside of the typical demographic for craft beer, which speaks to how good the beer really is as well as the comfortable, welcoming vibe folks feel when they walk in. There were a few “first time” craft beer drinkers who were delighted with their choices. There were also a few regulars who certainly had their favorites, but still adventurous and tried some of the newer beers the brewery was creating. At Lovelady there is something for every person to enjoy.

More than just another reason to visit Henderson, Lovelady Brewing is a reason to try craft beer for the first time or revel in their masterpieces as a passionate beer drinker.

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Honolulu BeerWorks | Off The Beaten Path – Honolulu, HI

Honolulu BeerWorks

Honolulu BeerWorks

Honolulu BeerWorks

Craft Beer: A Family Affair.

Honolulu BeerWorks | Off The Beaten PathAfter a little too long with the kids, my brother, father, father-in-law and I wanted a fellas day to ourselves. We decided to make the hour-long drive from Laie to Honolulu and check out a couple breweries.

Sure we could have went to Kona or Maui Breweries, but we wanted something off the beaten path. We decided to hit Honolulu BeerWorks. Parking was on the street, but pop in a few quarters (which you can get from the bar inside), and off we went to indulge in some fermented libations.


Honolulu BeerWorks
Honolulu BeerWorks Sampler

The brewery sits not too far from Kakaʻako Waterfront Park. Just a tad off the main drag as you head in to the Ala Moana area.

One if the first things I noticed was the how the entire block of buildings the brewery is housed in are made of tin or some type of metal (I can thank my brother for my architectural critiques). The cold look of the metal stands out like the dew on your beer bottle against the backdrop of the beach and surrounding high-rises, refreshing.

Honolulu BeerWorks

We arrived just after 11:30 am (on a Wednesday) and the place already had beer connoisseurs sipping away. The open-air dining area was nice, but we still had our pick of tables and elected to sit outside. It is Hawaii after all!

Under an umbrella, we sat at a wooden picnic table. (I believe the picnic table to be the best table for drinking beer. No frills. Non-delicate. And it forces you to sit up with elbows on the table, grasping your glass, getting you ready for the next sip, while your stomach has room to stretch between your thighs as you consume more beer). Service was friendly, prompt and attentive. Hungry, we ordered sandwiches and a pizza–other food is available after 4pm. Seeing the food come out was a real surprise. The portions were huge! Definitely reserve a couple hours to kill the sandwich and drink more beer.

The beer selection, from what I’m used to, was lacking in quantity, but the quality was certainly there. At the same time, they offered a good mix of styles that each had unique flavors I haven’t had before. Such a beer was El Guapo. Brewed with honey, limes and cilantro (not coriander!). The first sip of it had me say, “hmm…that’s good.” With hints of lemongrass and a crisp finish it was my favorite beer of the day.

Upon enjoying your craft brew you will notice, at least if you sit outside,  beautiful artwork on the walls as well as some unique plants and flowers (one of which looks like it has a tongue sticking out trying to Zamboni any spilled beer).

Honolulu BeerWorks review

Honolulu BeerWorks

We stayed there for about an hour and a half and moved on the next brewery right down the street, Waikiki Brewing Company.

Tasters and pints are available. I always recommend to go with the tasters first, then decide which pint you want to get or keep the tasters coming. Just drink responsibly.

Honolulu BeerWorks

328 Cooke St, Honolulu, HI 96813

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The Best Coconut Beer In The World – Fieldwork Coconut Milk DIPA fieldwork coconut ipa

Coconut IPA From Fieldwork Does Not Disappoint

One of my best friends lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Whenever I visit, we always visit the latest microbrewery to pop up. Some time last year, I met him and a few other buddies at Fieldwork in Berkeley, California for a rainy-day beer hop around the East Bay. Fieldwork was our meetup spot.

After arriving, I was pleasantly surprised to see a very open, family-friendly atmosphere. Small kids were toddling around, while we adults treated ourselves to tasty craft brew. I downed a couple beers, enjoyed great conversation and was ready to move on to the next spot. Nothing really stood out to me then.

Fast forward to 2018 and my opinion of Fieldwork has changed completely. Now I can’t wait to get back to The Bay and try to see what they have on tap. What changed over just several months? I had a chance to try the best coconut beer in the world: Coconut Milk Double IPA.

I tried Coconut Milk for the first time at small place in San Francisco called The Crafty Fox. Once my friend saw it on the menu, he immediately recommended I get it. I was hesitant at first. Being lactose intolerant, any mention of milk and my stomach churns (luckily I carry lactase pills). Besides, other coconut beers I’ve had before were dark, heavy and thick–something I don’t really want to drink as a first beer of the day. My friend assured me it was different than any other coconut beer I’ve had. He said, “It’s even better than Maui Brewing’s Hiwa Porter.” With that kind of billing, I had to try it.

I’m glad I did.

Full Flavor

I never had anything like it before. From the full aroma of toasted coconut to the fresh taste of the sport to the lightness of the water, it was like eating and drinking a fresh coconut! Drinking it took me back to walking the swapmeet grounds in Honolulu while sipping out of a fresh coconut.

The most profound experience was in the hops and the alcohol. It was a double IPA afterall. The 8.6er was extremely smooth to drink, yet the hops lended a bitterness that rounded out each sip and brought the coconut to the forefront. Some doubles to me can be overdone with bitter and the sweet to cover up the big alcohol making for a terrible contrast on the palette. The Coconut Milk bucks that trend and offers enjoyable flavor and aroma throughout the entire beer.

I love Coconut Milk so much, I ask for it every time I’m in a taproom or at the store. Hopefully I’ll request it enough that folks will start to carry it. If you’re reading this and know where some Fieldwork Coconut Milk is available, please send some my way. If you can’t (or won’t) do that, then please enjoy one for me and leave a comment about it below.

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Firestone 805 – Easy Trip To The Central Coast firestone 805 review

Central Coasting

I grew up about 30 miles away from where Firestone first started its venture into craft beer. I remember my dad drinking Firestone Double Barrel Ale in the mid 90’s. It was one of the few craft beers he could find in Lompoc. He would bring a sixer backpacking on the Davy Brown Trail for enjoying the chill night air. When he opened Mad Mack’s BBQ & Grill, Firestone DBA was the first beer he listed on the menu. So naturally, when I came of age and could appreciate craft brew, Firestone was my first choice.

During late May in my part of the desert, the weather starts heating up, but a cool, gentle wind blows from the East. A little bit of moisture can still be felt in the air as the dry summer sweeps through the valley. Trees and flowers are in full, vibrant bloom. Birds chirp off in the distance, while propeller planes hum parts of the city to an afternoon snooze.

Sunny days like this drum up memories of growing up on the Central Coast of California, riding “the jumps” at the riverbed, hiking to Manzana Schoolhouse and grubbing on some fall-off-the-bone ribs. Ahh…The Good Ol’ Days…

Lighter Beer In Summer

After living in Las Vegas for a couple years now, I tend to drink lighter beers in the summer. I still shy away from the macro lights since something about their quality literally makes my stomach churn and can throw my day off. Besides the local Sin City Light, one of my other favorite light beers, although not out of Las Vegas and not as micro as most craft brew houses, is Firestone 805.

At just 4.7% ABV, it won’t dehydrate me like some of my go to IPAs, yet it still possess some flavor, a slight bite and a smooth drinkability that makes it great for a backyard BBQ or chill smoke sesh with friends.

Since I’m a Cali kid heart and Firestone brings back memories from long ago, I’ll always have a spot in my fridge for their beer. The best part is, whenever I want to go back to the Central Coast and reminisce, an 805 takes me there.

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Tenaya Creek Brewery – Las Vegas, NV

tenaya creek sampler craft beer tix 2

Tenaya Creek Brewery

Las Vegas Craft Beer Tenaya Creek Is One Of My Favorites

tenaya creek sampler craft beer tix 7Tenaya Creek Brewery sits right across from the historically-significant site of the Moulin Rouge. The Moulin Rouge was once known for acts like Louis Armstrong and The Rat Pack, but that same West Las Vegas area is also known for being the center of Las Vegas’ civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s where integration was first introduced to Las Vegas. Paying tribute to this legacy, Tenaya Creek Brewery integrates flavors and aromas that defy assumptions of what craft beer is supposed to be while bringing people of different backgrounds together.

Entering the front door, one can’t help but notice the large brew operation in the back. It’s partitioned off by large glass windows so you can get a glimpse of the inner workings. The aroma of unbaked bread fills the taproom from the yeasts used in the process.tenaya creek sampler craft beer tix 5

The taproom is spacious, light, and comfortable with no cigarette smoke to linger in your nostrils. Wrapped in stainless steel, the industrial theme conjures up an image of a mad alchemist in the back laboratory, bubbling with delight of the elixirs fermenting away that will send his patrons into a drunken euphoria and keep them coming back for more.tenaya creek sampler craft beer tix 4

Pulling up a seat at the bar, I was greeted by a smiling Katy, who was extremely knowledgeable and guided me through the myriad of micros on tap. Tenaya has a number of small-batch test beers on hand too. These test beers are not around for long so be sure to get a taste while you can. Of the beers I tried, all were great, but several stood out:

  • Phantasm – A beautiful blend of vanilla pleases the nose while a nutty backdrop comforts the maple and cocoa finish. Every ingredient gets a solo through the taste while helping each other achieve a great performance.
  • Tandem – At 9%, this double IPA possess an enormous bouquet of citrusy hops, yet is as smooth and silky as the tunes that played across the street decades ago.
  • Hop Ride IPA – The citrus aroma captivates, while the Magnum & Summit hops influence your taste buds to seek another sip and fall in love with the bitter side of the craft.

tenaya creek sampler craft beer tix 3Tenaya Creek is easily a favorite of mine to visit and recommend to friends out of town. It’s not too far off The Strip and you get sip some stellar Las Vegas craft beer right on the historic Pioneer Trail.

Update: I recently brought my father here to pregame before the Mountain West Men’s Basketball Tournament. Not only did we have a great time, but the delicious craft brews on tap helped start the day of right.


Visit Tenaya Creek Brewery

Tenaya Creek Brewery, 831 W Bonanza Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89106