Your Downtown Beer Fest is at the Clark County Government Center in the fall. Why did you bring both festivals Downtown?
It’s a central location, a home base for the city. And they’re two of the best venues in town: the amphitheater—green, lush, grassy—and Downtown, where there is a lot of excitement. We’re able to grow the festival as the city grows.
You’ve said that the biggest challenge last year was the festival footprint, so you’ve overhauled it. What’s different?
We’ve shifted it closer to what most people consider to be Downtown’s 50-yard-line. We are staying along that Fremont corridor, but we’ve shifted just a little bit east, closer to Eighth and 10th streets. It’s going to include the Western Hotel, the Llama Lot and Atomic Liquors. This footprint makes more sense, just being a little more put together and not so spread out.
What’s the state of beer today?
One word: insane. Limits are being pushed and boundaries are being expanded. Craft beer has always been innovative, but the collaborations, pairings, how far craft beer has spread—it’s been awesome. Five years ago I would say “craft beer,” and people would ask, “What’s crap beer?” There is no doubt now it’s hit, people know it, they get it. It’s really neat seeing all these local breweries pop up, too. This year alone we had, like, five open.
How will local brewers represent at the festival?
We’ll have the biggest collection of local breweries that we’ve ever had for Great Vegas Festival of Beer. The Nevada Craft Brewers Association tent will feature from 15 to 20 one-offs, and [the traditional collective one-off brew] Banana Split will debut. It’s an easy-drinking German-style hefeweizen brewed with cacao nibs and vanilla beans. We’ll also debut a fifth anniversary brew that we created with CraftHaus Brewery. It’s an extra-pale ale that’s brewed with five different hops and malt grains.
Will any of your personal beer crushes be in attendance?
Man, there are too many to mention—Pizza Port Brewing Co. [of San Diego] and Able Baker Brewing Co. [Las Vegas] were crowd favorites last year, and both are returning. They always represent with unique brews. Rough Draft Brewing Co. and Alpine Brewing Co. are both stellar breweries out of the San Diego area that will debut.
You recently said that co-sponsor Alpine from San Diego will change my life. How so?
Until recently, that brewery created a very finite amount of product. They’re just as good, if not better than most, in the art of harnessing the hops and making a really smooth, distinguishable, balanced, yet unique IPA. They’re known for their Nelson IPA, and they’ve also got Duet, Pure Hoppiness and Exponential Hoppiness. These guys are a cut different. They’ve been able to niche themselves in an amazing way.
Lately I’ve embraced the silky milk stouts, oatmeal stouts, brown ales and porters. What should I look for?
Local breweries have seriously upped their game. Look out for Big Dog Brewing Co.’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Red Hydrant Ale and Joseph James Brewing Co.’s Milkshake Stout, both of which are spectacular. Old School—a brand-new brewery—is bringing a Vanilla Porter that is out of this world. If you’re a VIP, the Bruery is bringing its Bourbon Barrel-Aged Smoking Wood, which is nothing short of transcendental.
Any advice for festivalgoers?
Taste a lot and find something—or many things—that you like. Don’t be afraid to try new things. You may not like old traditional Irish stouts, but maybe you’ve never had a milk stout and you’ll absolutely love it. Or maybe you’ve never had a peanut butter chocolate stout, and you’re just like, “Holy crap, I’m gonna seek this out!” The idea is to get people out of their comfort zone and to try things they maybe wouldn’t pull off the shelf or try at a bar, because they don’t want to commit to it. I also encourage pacing and getting a safe ride home. We have designated-driver tickets, and we have hotel blocks.
A little birdie tells me—OK, it was you—that your event production company, Motley Brews, is expanding to San Diego.
Who told you that? Yes, we are, and we’re excited about it. San Diego is a mecca for craft beer. We’re bringing a unique festival experience to a market that touts almost 100 craft breweries. We’re targeting late summer.
Great Vegas Festival of Beer
April 11, 3-7 p.m., general admission $40 ($45 at door), GreatVegasBeer.com.