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Why Brews and Blues is one of our best beer festivals

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A toast to the Banger Brewing tent at the Las Vegas Brews and Blues Festival.

The fifth annual Las Vegas Brews and Blues Festival took over the Springs Preserve on May 31, sponsored by Lee’s Discount Liquor, Southern Wine and Spirits and the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. It’s one of the more familiar fests in the city—and one of best ways to introduce the public to the preserve—but it was my first time at the event, and I came away impressed.

The "watering can" was a popular beer booth, pouring North Coast and Kronenbourg Blanc brews.

Why? Lots of reasons. The most obvious is the venue itself. The Springs Preserve is one of the true jewels of the Valley, a historically significant site and a beautiful demonstration of how awe-inspiring the desert can be. Strolling around its pristine gardens with unlimited frosty craft brews at the ready beats an ashpalt-centric festival any day of the week.

Because of the venue, the music lineup, and the fact that portions of ticket sales benefit Keep Memory Alive, I assumed Brews and Blues would be a casual affair without a serious beer lineup. I was wrong. Hot brands like Brooklyn Brewery, Anchor Steam, Dogfish Head and Firestone Walker joined familiar favorites Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Unibroue, North Coast and Innis & Gunn, with locals Banger and Big Dog’s thrown in for good measure. The Banger Brewing crew was particularly outgoing and their tent was especially popular, and for good reason—they were pouring the vibrant El Heffe Jalapeño Hefeweizen and the easy drinking, completely refreshing Sandia Watermelon Wheat, two ideal summer beers.

Ace's champagne cider: crisp, light and bright, perfect for summer drinking.

Another popular booth was manned by Ace Ciders from Sonoma County, California. Its light, crispy ciders proved another perfect fit for a dry, warm Vegas night, and the limited edition pineapple and champagne varieties went fast. Some beermakers ran out of product before the scheduled 8 p.m. finish time, but it didn’t disturb the flow of the event. Organizers limited ticket sales to 2,500 to prevent overcrowding and long waits for the next pour.

Throw in backyard-style grub from Quality Food Service and twin food trucks Sausagefest and Tacofest, a peaceful VIP area, and solid tunes—concert closers Mac Arnold and Plate Full O’ Blues slew the happy crowd—and you’ve got a memorable beer fest. Las Vegas’ brew scene is getting bigger and better all the time, and Brews and Blues should be considered a key cog, one of our best annual events.

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Brock Radke is Las Vegas Weekly's food editor and author of the Strip-focused column The Incidental Tourist. He has written ...

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