Meet Your Craft Beer Makers

These are the hands that make Las Vegas’ handcrafted beers

MattMarinoMatt Marino

Head brewer, Joseph James Brewing Co.

What I’m Drinking: Lake Mead Monster by Big Dog’s Brewing Co. “It’s all about the centennial hops.”

Favorite Hop: Centennial, for its aroma. “It comes across to me as a quintessential American hop.”

Brew-Ha Moment: At 20, when he tasted a friend’s homebrew. “I thought that whatever he’d brewed was better than anything I’d ever tasted before. And it was so easy, I said, ‘I gotta get into this.’” Predictably, his first batch was terrible. “I was the only person who would drink it.”

Root For The Home Team: “Vegas is a weird town; everyone’s from somewhere else. So local beer brings us together.”

On Tap: Joseph James’ brewers have started playing around with a sour-beer program. We will have to wait till 2015 to taste the fruits of that labor.

David Pascual

Head brewer, Chicago Brewing Co.

What I’m Drinking: Strawberry Rhubarb and Serendipity by New Glarus Brewing Co. “They do fruit beers really well. It’s something we really don’t do here, because we don’t have many local farms for the fresh fruit.”

Favorite Hop: Citra, for “the aromatic citrus, that passion fruit—all those characteristics that make it so nice and tropical.”

Brew-Ha Moment: As a UNLV biology and chemistry student who excelled in his beer class, Pascual was offered an internship by Michael Ferguson, his professor, who is the head brewer at Barley’s Casino & Brewery. After that, he was hooked. “To be able to make a product from start to finish … it’s really satisfying.”

Do Your Part: “Show up to these beer fests—give us a try! People are very tentative about that.”

On Tap: Pascual has an eye toward some seasonal brewing, and his all-draft brewery is looking into possibly opening a production brewery, bottling and canning, and getting its product into larger markets.

DaveOttoDave Otto

Head brewer, Big Dog’s Brewing Co.

What I’m Drinking: Dawn Patrol Crystal Pale Ale by Great Basin. “It was nice and clear, nearly dry and refreshing. A great beer for those nice 80-degree days we just had.”

Favorite Hop: Mosaic, a new variety that he used in his Peace, Love & Hoppy-ness Pale Ale. “I just fell in love with it. It has such an up-front tropical, citrusy, fruity aroma.”

Brew-Ha Moment: “I love the camaraderie. And those aha moments happen again and again—at Motley Brews festivals, at the Great American Beer Festival—and you realize what a cool industry you’re in.”

Why Drink Local: “It’s a good, quality product made by a local artisan. That always gives me satisfaction—whether its bread or cheese or beer. It’s fresher. We put the bottling date on it so the consumer knows when it was put in a bottle—a guideline of freshness.”

On Tap: When we spoke to him, Otto was experimenting with root beer and nitrogen. Stay tuned.

Brewmaster4placement-7474Jeffrey “Bubba” Amas

Brew master, Barley’s Casino & Brewing Co.

What I’m Drinking: Quad Damn It! Quadrupel, by Chicago Brewing. “Dave [Pascual] over there puts out the best Belgian-style beers in town.”

Favorite Hop: Sorachi ace, from Japan. “More of an aromatic hop, with very interesting lemon characteristics when you first bring it to your nose.”

Brew-Ha Moment: After brewing his first batch of Märzen as assistant brewer at Gordon Biersch Brewery, he sat at the bar and watched everyone drink it. “That’s what made me want to become a brewer: watching the people enjoy our hard work. It gave me a wonderful feeling inside.”

Hands-On Beer: “I might be a little biased, but the beer we brew in town is fresher, better quality beer, and you can meet the person who made the beer and tour the facilities.”

On Tap: Barley’s Imperial Nut Brown Ale. It’s strong, with toasted-malt character and an assertive hop profile, brewed with chocolate Munich and crystal malts, pure Vermont maple syrup and Willamette hops. We’ll be able to enjoy that in time for Thanksgiving.

Anthony Gibson

Head brewer, Tenaya Creek Brewery

What I’m Drinking: Citra Rye Pale Ale by Joseph James Brewing Co. “A nice flavorful, sessionable beer with a decent amount of bitterness.”

Favorite Hop: El Dorado, which was made widely available only about three years ago. Gibson dry-hops his Tandem Double IPA with El Dorado for the “interesting stone fruit flavors like cherries and peaches. Some people even get pine out of it.”

Brew-Ha Moment: In high school, he visited Tim Etter at Utah’s Uinta Brewing Co. “When I saw what he was doing, I really just got an early idea of what it meant to be a brewer.” Gibson continued his architecture studies, but when Etter and his family opened Tenaya Creek in 1999, Gibson came running.

Beer Appreciation 101: “The majority of craft breweries throughout the country do make sessionable [you can have more than one] beers. We have 10 of our own beers on tap right now, ranging from 4.8 percent alcohol-by-volume up to 10.4 percent.” The key to converting a macro-beer drinker is staff education: “Sorry we don’t have that, but we do have this.” At Tenaya Creek, start off with the pilsner or American hefeweizen.

On Tap: Stop by Public House in the Venetian on November 11 for the tapping of a cask of Tenaya Creek’s Belgian Golden Ale, which the gastropub commissioned for its second anniversary.

Joe Pickett

Executive director of brewery operations, Ellis Island Casino & Brewery

What I’m Drinking: Leglifter Light by Big Dog’s Brewing Co. “I think it’s age; when you get older, you don’t want the full, full beers, and I’m really happy the microbrewers are making light beers.”

Favorite Hop: Galaxy, from Tasmania. “It’s got a beautiful bouquet, and it’s hard to get, but it’s in tune with the microbrewery movement.”

Brew-Ha Moment: “I was born into the business; my father was in it. I started when I was 15, and I haven’t left it.” At Chicago’s Schoenhofen Brewing Co., Pickett loaded a semi with half barrels. “I was a little skinny boy, but let me tell you: At the end of that summer, I was a strong guy.”

The Brewers’ Gene: “They call it gemütlichkeit. In what industry can you share secrets? The beer industry. What you’re doing, how you’re doing it. It’s like a building block, and we all contribute. The consumer is the ultimate winner.”

On Tap: “I’m going to start making an American lager—by Americans, in America, for Americans.”

Kenjiro Tomita

Head brewer, Triple 7 Brewpub at Main Street Station Casino

What I’m Drinking: The brand-new Flipside Red IPA by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. “It’s kind of piney, a little sweet, a little caramel—a real easy-drinking beer.”

Favorite Hop: Centennial, for its clean bitterness. “Not too harsh, not too astringent. It’s got a nice, floral, pine-y, citrusy note, so you get the whole spectrum of hop flavors from that one hop.”

Brew-Ha Moment: Las Vegas’ newest head brewer, Tomita, 27, recently graduated from the UC Davis brewing program. But he started helping his homebrewer father 20 years ago. “My passion and love for brewing started with him.”

Drink to Your Health: “I really like to educate people on the health benefits of beer. There’s been a lot of scientific research about it: The amount of polyphenols in beer is just as high as in red wine, and in some cases can be even higher. The trace minerals you find in beer—calcium,magnesium, zinc, selenium, sulfate, potassium—and yeast are highly nutritious. A lot of people aren’t aware of that.”

On Tap: Look for Tomita’s new red IPA featuring spruce tips in late November or early December.