Tapping into ‘live’ beer

Try not to recoil in horror when the beer you ordered from the cool-looking kegs behind the Public House bar arrive a little warm and seemingly flat—Russell Gardner really does have your best interest at heart. In addition to his job as beverage manager, Gardner is also a cicerone, basically a beer somm. And he knows that serving these cask-conditioned or “real ales” at 55 degrees brings out the flavors and textures. Major beer brands want you to believe that your beer should be served ice-cold to be refreshing. “That cold, it’s actually numbing your taste buds,” he says. “Therefore you’re not really appreciating what the beer should taste like.”

Like a méthode Champenoise sparkling wine, secondary fermentation has taken place in the final receptacle, in this case a small barrel, and sometimes citrus peels, spices are added for flavor. The result is fresh, live beer that once tapped only lasts a few days. No CO2 is needed to move it from cask to glass, making this the only direct-draw system in Las Vegas. “It’s a true interpretation of what the brewer wanted,” he says. It’s also the fastest-moving product at Public House.

Three cask beers are behind the bar at any given time, one or two tapped. Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery gets great rotation with every third or fourth cask being the Inversion IPA or Black Butte Porter. Firestone Walker Brewing Co.’s Union Jack IPA, too. Then there’s the wild card, such as a Russian Imperial Stout from Henderson’s Joseph James Brewery. Of all the ways to gamble in Las Vegas, this seems like the safest bet you could make.