Want to know where to start tasting at the Desert Hops International Beer Experience? We do, too. So we asked Clyde Burney, who, as vice president of beer and trade development for Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada (the event’s co-sponsor, with Vegas Seven), has helped build the company’s portfolio of 1,200 brands. Burney’s first piece of advice: “Start gently, and work your way up.” Second: “We’re going to mix it up a bit,” he says of the festival floor plan. “Don’t be scared of any beer.” Finally, he says, if you do nothing else, make sure you explore these latest beer developments:
Why: “There are only seven Trappist breweries in the world [six in Belgium and one in Holland], and four will be at the festival. These will be a key sampling to try, since dedication to quality—the monks’ rules for brewing—and their contemporary brewing methods make Trappist beers unique and desirable. Expect an alcohol-by-volume content [ABV] of 6-11 percent, and colors ranging from blonde to dark amber.”
Where: Booth 14 will have Trappistes Rochefort and Westmalle. Booth 17 will have Chimay. Booth 33 will have La Trappe.
Why: “Lambics are just fun, and they’re very approachable as a soft fruit beer. There are different types of lambics, but the ones trending now are mixed with whole fruits. This makes them a little sweeter, a little lower in alcohol. Another type called faro blends lambic with a light and freshly brewed beer that sometimes has sugar added to it, like brown sugar or molasses. Both show well.”
Where: At Booth 14, look for Timmermans framboise lambic (raspberry) and Timmermans kriek (sour cherries). Booth 16, there will be two Lindemans: peach and faro. At Booth 18: Mort Subite Framboise and Mort Subite Kriek Lambic.
Why: “You know how most brewers keep the yeast as far away from their brew as they can, because wild yeast can contaminate the whole system? Well, some brewers only brew sour ales, which allows wild yeast or strains of bacteria (sometimes fruit, too) to grow in the brew, which creates a sour ale. The process makes low-alcohol beers that are pretty tart (think sour cherries). Rodenbach was a catalyst at the beginning of it all, and we’re lucky [Southern] has that brand now.”
Where: Bosteels Tripel Karmeliet will be at Booth 15. At Booth 16, there will be two varieties of Petrus, a sour brown ale: Petrus Aged Pale Ale and Petrus Oud Bruin Ale.
Why: “Europeans have been doing this for a long, long time, primarily aging these beers in oak, rum or whiskey barrels. They’ve had a good response in the Las Vegas market, and are types of beer that do well at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants because they complement food. They’re a little sweeter than most because of what they were aged in, but they’re just bloody good, and not too sweet for the average beer drinker.”
Where: Booth 1, where Scotland’s Innis & Gunn will present three varieties: Original, Rum Cask and Winter Beer.
Why: “Italian beers are growing hot, and they’re all about being food-friendly. Because of Italy’s proximity to the rest of Europe, Italians have been drinking Belgian beers for centuries. Although the country isn’t really [widely] known for anything but Moretti and Peroni, breweries such as Collesi and Oro Di Milano are making beautiful beers. Since Oro makes several lagers and ales that differ in intensity and alcohol content, look for names like ‘Puro,’ ‘Reserva’ and ‘Doppio.’”
Where: Booth 20, where you’ll find Oro’s Puro Malto, Reserva Special and Doppio Malto.
Alcoholic Ginger Beer
Why: “If you like ginger beer, ginger beer with alcohol is just awesome, and it’s starting to come to America now. All ginger beer starts with alcohol in it (when sugar and yeast come together it creates alcohol), but what most people know of as ginger beer has the alcohol strained out. Both taste basically the same. It’s been around for hundreds of years because of the spice trade, and Crabbie’s from Scotland is bloody beautiful.”
Where: Find Crabbie’s Spiced Orange at Booth 2.
Why: “Even though it’s not a full percentage point of beer sales in America, cider is very hot right now. People are getting into it because they’re easy to drink—different, refreshing—and with a lot of cider being gluten-free, that aspect makes it highly attractive. Blending cider and beer also makes cider a little more sophisticated and gives you different tastes (for example, cider and stout makes a Black Velvet; lager and cider gives you a Snakebite). Blending also helps female drinkers who are used to cider get more used to beer. Blending will be the next trend to watch.”
Where: Booth 6 will have two by Aspall: a Blush Cider and a Dry English Cider. Booth 9 will have Strongbow.
A Beer for Wine Lovers
Why: “Any of the fest’s Belgium ales will take care of anyone with a thirst for wine. Known for spicy ales such as Chimay and St. Bernardus, Belgian beers are sophisticated and have a lot of character. They’re stronger in alcohol, too.”
Where: Taste them all at Booths 14-18.
A New Zealand Gem
Why: “Moa from New Zealand has a whole family of great beers flying under the U.S. radar (they even make a breakfast beer!). And they’re made by Joshua Scott, the son of world-famous Sauvignon blanc producer Alan Scott, who decided to try brewing beer as an experiment and ended up opening a brewery.”
Where: Booth 31.