In 1993, within months of a new law allowing brewpubs in Nevada, Las Vegas’s first brewpub, Holy Cow!, opened on the north end of the Strip. In 2004, the brewery relocated to the site of the Draft House at Rancho Drive and Craig Road, and the name was changed to Big Dog’s Brewing Company, in honor of the late founder Tom Wiesner, whose Wisconsin college football nickname was “The Big Dog.”
Today, Big Dog’s continues to lead the way, and is the only local brewery to host quarterly beer festivals, which feature more than 40 beers, including several of its own and those from most of our local breweries. Next up is its annual DOGtoberfest and Brat Party on October 28 from 3-9 p.m. Like all of Big Dog’s beer festivals, admission is free, but to sample the brews you’ll need to purchase a commemorative pint glass for $5 and tokens which can be redeemed for beer or food (tokens are 10 for $10, and quarter-pint pours are $1-$3). This rendition will include Wisconsin brats and Bavarian pretzels, Halloween contests for both beer lovers and canines, and live bands. For the complete lineup of beers, visit dogtoberbeerfest.com.
Man’s best friend is known to be his canine companion, but can a beer also qualify for that title? In the case of Big Dog’s latest specialty beer release, Man’s Best Friend, it just may. The local brewery was one of only 16 U.S. breweries that were asked to team up with the Jameson Whiskey folks as part of the 2017 Caskmates program, in which the breweries were provided casks that had previously contained Jameson Irish Whiskey in which to age a beer. Big Dog’s chose to brew a Belgian-style dark strong ale, and then aged it in the casks for more than five months.
Aging beer in bourbon and whiskey barrels is currently wildly popular in the craft beer arena, and for good reason: The time beer spends in an oak barrel that formerly contained spirits allows it to pick up nuances of vanilla and other flavors of whatever was aged in the wood. Such is the case with Man’s Best Friend, which pours reddish-brown in color with aromas of wood and barrel, along with caramel, dark fruit, banana and bread. The mouthfeel is medium with a slight lingering sweetness and a medium-low carbonation. This 9.5-percent ABV brew may sneak up on you, as the considerably high alcohol content is masked well in the overall taste.
In the coming months, look for special Big Dog’s tappings and beer dinners with a Jameson twist, and in mid-October, head brewer/director of brewing operations Dave Pascual and lead brewer Amanda Koeller will head out to Manhattan to be part of a special Caskmates launch event for national media.
Thus far, Man’s Best Friend has been flying off the shelves at Total Wine & More, Khoury’s Fine Wine & Spirits, Lee’s Discount Liquor, Speedee Mart, Top Shelf Liquor and Liquor Outlet, and at the August 31 launch at the brewery, more than 20 cases were sold. Try it for yourself at DOGtoberfest, or check out this complete list of 25 venues where it is being poured on draft until Thanksgiving … or till the taps run dry.