While you were getting up to speed on your craft-beer game, charming Reno was busy doing the same. A visit to Northern Nevada’s “Biggest Little City” is no longer complete without hitting its hip Midtown neighborhood and its surrounding environs for a brew crawl infused with all the fiercely independent spirit of the city beside the Sierra Nevada.
Brasserie Saint James
Part midsize brewery and part labyrinthine brewpub and restaurant, this is a great place to get your bearings before sampling all that Reno has to offer. Built on an active spring in Midtown’s historic Crystal Springs water plant dating back to 1929, Brasserie Saint James (now undergoing an expansion) has an old-world look and feel befitting founder Art Farley’s vision and head brewer Josh Watterson’s award-winning brews. Head to any of the multiple patios to fortify yourself with solid brasserie fare, including bratwursts and ’kraut, duck confit poutine, Basque mussels and bone marrow “canoes,” then line them up. The Rose D’Oren sour raspberry ale goes with everything.
The Gateway Pint: Red Headed Stranger red farmhouse ale, 6.6% ABV
Sessionable: Koln Concert German-style Kolsch, 4.9% ABV
Grad School: Lambic Grand Cru Belgian-style lambic, 6% ABV
Imbīb Custom Brews
The area’s latest entrant, Imbīb, is tiny, like 1.5-barrel-system tiny. In other words, there are homebrewers with larger setups in their garages. But that’s how this trio of owners rolls out the barrels. Before opening the tasting room in late May in an open-plan brick building they took down to the still-exposed beams, partners Matt Johnson, Jason Green and Bart Blank brewed kegs for neighbors and friends. The custom brewing biz continues, along with the guys’ membership club, entitling locals to all sorts of experimental rarities. But if you’re just passing through, know that there are no year-round brews; everything here is a one-off based on whatever the guys are tinkering with at the moment (hello, sour cucumber Berliner Weisse!). You might even sample a leftover from a custom brew, ensuring your flight will be truly one of a kind.
The Gateway Pint: Scottish Ale, 4.6%
Sessionable: Berliner Weisse and seasonal variation, 3.2% ABV
Grad School: 100 Percent Brett American wild ale, 4.5% ABV
Under The Rose
This brewery is staged inside a former Earl Scheib auto-painting warehouse. It’s airy, spacious and filled with the kind of bar games that appeal to beer drinkers. There’s neither heating nor cooling inside, but the fine beer augments the forecast nicely either way. Come thirsty for pours that are interesting, but not so off the wall as to be odd. Founders Scott Emond and his wife, Jesse Kleinedler, will guide you from the entry-level BroBeer through their English-style pale ale BritishBeer to their chocolate rye PorterBeer and even seasonal tap-room-only specials. Note that the place is only open to guests a few hours each day, Wednesday through Sunday. Since food trucks regularly rotate through on Thursdays, that’s the time to settle in for the full complement.
The Gateway Pint: BroBeer dry-hopped American table ale, 4.2% ABV
Sessionable: SaisonBeer French-style farmhouse ale, 4.8% ABV
Grad School: English-style young barley wine, 9.5% ABV
Picnic tables, a chalkboard menu and a creepy painting of a man in a hoodie with a pigeon’s head on his shoulders. Squint and you’re in Portland. This industrial-looking taproom even sits in the shadow of an overpass. A friend of co-owner Eddie Silvera did the painting that gives Pigeon Head its name. But don’t get so stuck on that as to overlook the rustic, hearty and highly allocated (i.e., hard to find anywhere but here) brews coming off the tap. Unlike most other breweries in the area, Pigeon Head specializes in lagers, bottom-fermented beers with clean flavors. But there are also specialty beers and a wheat wine (like barley wine). You can also get tasters for a couple of dollars, or a flight of the whole shebang. If you’ve been fearful to try black lagers, let barman John Wilson talk you into a sample and, maybe, even into taking a growler of it home with you.
The Gateway Pint: Red Rye Lager, 7.3% ABV
Sessionable: Pilsner, 4.9% ABV
Grad School: Black Wheat Wine, 11% ABV
Open since New Year’s Eve and housed in downtown Reno’s former train depot (naturally), the Depot is a brewery, distillery and a restaurant in one, meaning this is a great place to stop for lunch. Plus, it’s just steps from Under the Rose. Beers here are of the category-defining kind, so beer aficionados should bypass some of the simpler offerings and go straight for Il Padrino, a Belgian-style quadrupel with rich aromas of dark fruit, toast and light caramel with just a touch of spice. If you have the time and fortitude, sample spirits from the distillery — this includes vodka, gin and, if you ask really nicely, the young Biggest Little Bourbon aged in itty-bitty, honeycomb-char barrels in the attic — along with a flight of four beers. You can even do a yeast tasting of American Ale brewer’s wort made with four different yeast strains. Before you laugh, remember: the beer geeks shall inherit the earth.
The Gateway Pint: The Emigrant sour wheat ale, 4.2% ABV
Sessionable: The Ranch Hand American ale, 4.6% ABV
Grad School: Il Padrino Belgian-style quadrupel, 10.8% ABV
It’s a little out of the way — you’ll need to drive or take a taxi — but it’s worth traveling all of 15 minutes to check out Nevada’s first legal brewery since the repeal of Prohibition. Founded in 1993 by Tom Young, Great Basin now has three locations and is widely distributed in the West (love that Icky IPA, now in a can!), but a pilgrimage to the somewhat off-the-hipster-path spot is a must. Once there, try Young’s famous Outlaw Milk Stout (preferably on nitro), Bitchin’ Berry (Reno is raspberry county, to be sure) and Bourbon Barrel Sour Ale, among countless other superstar brews. While it might be tempting to chow down on burgers, nachos or fish and chips, resist the call of the bar grub and hold out for the next spot. You’ll see.
The Gateway Pint: Outlaw Milk Stout, 4.9% ABV
Sessionable: Daypack Session IPA, 4.6% ABV
Grad School: Cerveza Chilibeso jalapeño-kissed Pilsner, 5.5% ABV
Pignic Pub & Patio
Assuming you’ve worked up a proper appetite, this is the obvious next step. As owner Trevor Leppek will tell you, though, Pignic is a “bar first.” But what a bar. Set in the parlor of a quaint home built in 1916, Pignic is actually a bar with benefits: Bring your own meat and grill fixins, and fire up any of Leppek’s numerous grill choices, including the Green Egg, for just $10 in food and beverage purchases. The bar features 20 ever-changing draft options, ranging from Coors Banquet and Genesee Cream Ale pints to the aforementioned Brasserie Saint James’ Red Headed Stranger. You can also find smoky cocktails that pair nicely with charred meat. If you can’t get to the store beforehand, Leppek will even sell you everything you need for that barbecue for grocery-store prices, including meats, marinades, rubs, side dishes and more. Instant cookout, no cleanup — Pignic is the perfect place to wrap up your Reno beer crawl.
The Gateway Pint: Brooklyn Brown Ale, 5.3% ABV
Sessionable: Firestone Pale 31 California-style pale ale, 4.4% ABV
Grad School: Dogfish Head Festina Pêche neo-Berliner Weisse, 4.5% ABV