Where to start on the awesomeness that was the second annual Great Vegas Festival of Beer? For four hours, Tivoli Village in Summerlin was absolutely packed to capacity, but it never felt too crowded. Every beer tent had a sizable line, but event organizers were apparently ready for the enormous crowd, as the beer flowed well into the evening.
Luckily, the event was slated during the evening hours, and while the sun set, plenty of patrons could be found in the beer garden set up next to Greek restaurant Petra (which, incidentally, set up a great free food spread for VIP ticket buyers, including chicken and beef skewers, salad and sliders). In addition to some great product from local brewery Big Dog’s (the Brewmaster Special was a particular highlight), there were some great Belgian trippels available right in front of the food line. Right about the time we decided to get some food, Petra was having difficulty keeping the steam trays stocked, but hey, if you have to wait in line, what better way than with a free beer in your hand?
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m first and foremost a huge Stone fan. I knew there wouldn’t be a Stone booth at this particular event, but I still wanted to show my appreciation, so I wore my Stone T-shirt—which drew more than a few anxious looks from fans who thought that meant a Stone booth might be nearby. Each time, I had to deliver the bad news to crestfallen faces. Stone, are you listening?
But despite the absence of the mighty Stone, this event was a huge hit. It was a bit overwhelming deciding which booth to frequent first. There were so many great labels here—Uinta, Lagunitas, Dogfish Head, Widmer, Firestone, Pyramid—and each had at least one great product.
Even taking the smallest samples possible to ensure I got to taste as many as possible, I could only get through just more than a dozen before hitting my limit. Here were my favorites, in no particular order:
1. Aprihop by Dogfish Head. A crisp apricot aftertaste, coupled with an ultra-hoppy kick. Just a fun, refreshing beer, perfect for this particular day’s hot weather.
2. Big Dog’s Double IPA. It came with a bit too much head for my taste, but waiting for it to subside was very worthwhile. Easily on par with some of the best IPAs I’ve tasted. I can’t wait to begin buying Big Dog’s bottled products locally. They just do great beer. No two ways around it.
3. Widmer Rotator Spiced IPA. The best way I can describe this is it’s a cross between an IPA and a spiced winter ale. It sounds strange, but trust me, it’s delicious.
4. Pyramid Apricot Ale. Probably the most refreshing beer I had on the day, coupled with the fact it was served to me by Clyde Burney, vice president of beer for Southern Wine and Spirits of Southern Nevada, who I worked with on a “beer pairing” story last year. A great guy who knows his beer.
5. Uinta Baba Black Ale. The last beer festival I attended, I got to try Uinta’s “Dubhe” black IPA, one of the finest beers I’d had in a while. I was a bit disappointed there wasn’t any on offer here, but the Baba was a fine replacement. Silky smooth.
I also had great brews from Chicago Brewing Company, Lagunitas, Firestone, and several more. Really no disappointments in the bunch. Add in the venue (Tivoli Village was cordoned off, making it virtually impossible to take a wrong turn) and some terrific live music, and you have an event that no one wanted to end.
Best of all, a portion of ticket sales went to help the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada. Who can’t get behind that?