The New Kid on the Bock

The cards were stacked against Nick Tribulato when he started working at Money Plays in January 2011. The little family-owned gaming bar with the lively open-mic scene wedged between a taco joint and a title loan office on West Flamingo Avenue has been the kind of place where locals ritually suck down commercialized “macro” beers since 1989. But no more.

Slowly and patiently, Tribulato has introduced craft brews and seasonal specialties to the menu, and even as the regulars pound away on the video-poker machines, they now willingly trade in their Blue Moons to try out a German hefeweizen.

Before graduating from UNLV in 2009, Tribulato, 27, put in three years working with UNLV beverage professor Adam Carmer at the Freakin’ Frog. Today Tribulato is both the marketing and beverage director for Money Plays, and still bartends there three nights a week in addition to his day job selling custom screen-printing and embroidery to the entire Southwest. He has his Culinary Union pour card and could probably be cleaning up at any of Las Vegas’ high-volume nightclub bars, but says he prefers the unique challenge Money Plays poses: The bar’s limited liquor license excludes anything above about 55 proof, so in addition to the craft beers, cocktail craftiness is a must.

“I want to be able to show that despite a limited budget, a blue-collar bar can absolutely succeed in having a unique beverage program,” Tribulato says. “Our goal is to provide variety and depth of style.” Since he started, Tribulato has increased Money Plays’ draft offerings from 15 to 24, and has focused on educating the staff and himself. He’s currently eyeing an MBA and studying for his cicerone certification.

Next month Money Plays ( rolls out its first beer-flight program, highlighting six benchmark brews for $15-$20. One test run featured Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch Golden Elixir, Goose Island’s Sofie, Brasserie Dieu du Ceil’s Equinoxe du Printemps and a trio from Utah’s Wasatch, Uinta and Squatters breweries. Tribulato also threw in one beer not yet available in Nevada. It’s a tease, but all’s fair in the war on macro beer.

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