President of Beers: #45

Calico Brown Ale: Tenaya Creek Brewery, Las Vegas, Nevada

We're drinking the flagship craft beer from every state in the Union, counting down from 50-1, to find which is home to the President of Beers.

#45: Calico Brown Ale: Tenaya Creek Brewery, Las Vegas, Nevada

Initially known for its precious metal spoils, the Silver State is now spoiled by its gaming industry, as well as prostitution. As the state with the highest concentration of nuclear-detonated weapons, it may host a nuclear waste repository.

: Tenaya Creek Brewery began as a brewpub in 1999 but ditched food service to focus on beer making. You’d think the result would’ve benefited the taste of their beers but you’d be wrong. Luckily they have a full bar and loose slots to keep revenue flowing.

: It’s surprising that Tenaya Creek’s flagship isn’t a “gold” beer to match the sun or visions of bullion piled high at a craps table, or even a red ale to pair with the desert rocks. Instead, since Vegas knows nothing of subtlety, this 5.6% ABV brown ale follows suit and clobbers with treacly artificial toffee flavor.

Difficulty of Obtaining in Oregon
: Moderate. Distributed to Utah, Ohio, Arizona and British Columbia. Then again, LAS is the fourth most serviced airport from PDX so you should have no problem finding a flight to Vegas.

: 53.25

PHOTO: Cameron Browne

Nevada boasts ‘bout a dozen and a half breweries. Contrast this with neighboring California, Oregon, Utah, and nearby Colorado and you wonder why there’s so little thirst for great beer there. But it’s the freaking Mojave Desert: nothing good nor wet has a fighting chance.

Nevada has been a tough place for craft breweries. It seems the local populace, and visitors, prefer other sources of alcohol. Just a few months ago one of Reno’s most ambitious breweries, the award-winning and widely distributed Buckbean Brewery, was shuttered. It’d seem that Tenaya Creek is hoping for better. But Nevada is not a place known for great taste, is it?

And Tenaya Creek’s quotidian beers do little to better their chances at the table.

Yes, there are better breweries including Great Basin up in Reno which has won some estimable awards, and Vegas’s own Big Dog’s or Chicago Brewing—but Tenaya Creek is the one getting wider distribution. And, on the whole, given those town’s proclivity for artifice, how much could genuine craft beer really be in demand?

But, hey, everyone ends up in Vegas at some point. Even beer drinkers. I was there to see Sir Tom Jones at the MGM Grand. The Voice, as he’s rightfully known, tore the roof off the mother with one of the best sets I’ve ever seen. ToJo has often proclaimed his affinity for Real Ale—I wonder what he drinks in Vegas? The hotel—home to Vegas-style fine-dining restaurant Craftsteak which doesn’t know dick about offering Craftbeer—wouldn’t know cask-conditioned ale if spurted from Siegried or Roy’s tiger-mauled necks. With so many people from around the country flying in to limit their children’s choice of colleges at the craps table, surely there’s some market for good beer?

Unfortunately, Tenaya Creek isn’t dealing it in.

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