Russell Gardner looks like he should be hanging out in an old-timey saloon challenging men to duels with his Pringlesque handlebar mustache. In reality, he oversees beer for Block 16’s burgeoning empire—LBS, Holstein’s and soon Public House at the Venetian—and he simply wants “to make craft beer a part of everyone’s vocabulary.”
A Cicerone Certified Beer Server, Gardner is a food industry veteran with an immense infatuation with quality brews. As these words are being written, he’s attempting to become a Certified Cicerone—one of only about 200 in the country and the first in Nevada to hold the beer equivalent of an Advanced Sommelier designation.
Gardner has always liked drinking good beer, foregoing his friends’ $5 12-packs for Newcastle growing up, then experimenting with homebrew. Gardner says he was “bitten by the bug” and eventually founded local brewery Backyard Brewing Company. While under temporary production hiatus, Gardner’s been contemplating new ways for you to drink better beer.
Cocktail drinker? Try one where beers substitute for mixers. Maker’s Mark with Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout and a splash of Big Sky Moose Drool Brown Ale could be the perfect breakfast drink. Don’t like what’s on tap? Let your bartender play mixologist and meld a medley of beers, combining as many as three or four at a time with tastes changing based upon seasonal availabilities. At the very least, if Gardner can get a Bud Light drinker to try Stella Artois or a Newcastle drinker to try Moose Drool, he considers his day a success.
With a nod to expanding Vegas’ palates, Gardner offers four beers you should try as soon as you’re done reading this issue. “If you don’t like anything on this list, something’s wrong with your palate,” he says.
Deschutes Black Butte Porter One of Gardner’s favorite session beers, Black Butte is so dubbed because many can be imbibed in a single session. It’s a roasty, dark brew that’s surprisingly easy drinking.
Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale This beer makes barrel aging accessible, and while it’s malty with some hops, its oakiness isn’t overpowering.
Stone India Pale Ale A slightly bitter IPA with fresh hoppiness that’s not overwhelming.
The Bruery’s Marrón Acidfié A Southern California sour you’ll either love or hate. Unfortunately with sours, if you love them they’re hard to find and can be somewhat expensive when you do.