Beer 4 Boobs. We could just stop there. Is there anything else you need to know to already have decided that, come May 26, there is no place you’d rather be than the patio at Barley’s Casino & Brewing Company? Of course, if you’re a beer lover, the brewery’s annual brewfest might have long been penciled into your schedule, even if a portion of the proceeds from the event didn’t benefit “Beer 4 Boobs,” an organization that provides funding to fight breast cancer and help those living with the disease.
Barley’s has kicked production into high gear in anticipation of 1,000 people stopping by for the outdoor barbecue and the more than one dozen guest breweries pouring, including Barley’s own brewmaster, Bubba.
On any given Friday afternoon, Jeffrey “Bubba” Amas is busy filling kegs for guest taps at other brewpubs in the Valley and deep-cleaning his equipment. “Being a brewer, it’s really one part engineer, one part chemist and two parts janitor,” the 28-year-old says lightheartedly. Like a cook, he has to clean as he goes, but that’s life when you’re a one-man show. For instance, Amas could probably take two days off each week but he can’t help coming in on one of them to check on his brew. And don’t even bring up vacation. “I could take four days off, but on the third day all I’m gonna be doing is thinking about my brewery.”
He put out 800 barrels (or 1,600 kegs) in 2011, but he anticipates doubling output when Barley’s beers go on tap in all the Wildfire locations and at select Station Casinos properties. And with brewfest coming up, the flight-suited Hawaii native is more pumped than ever. He started preparing in January.
Today it’s quiet in the brew house. But when it’s brew day, you’ll know. The turret out in front of Barley’s is a working grain silo. And with the flip of a switch, Amas brings grain through a pipe across the casino ceiling and lets it drop into the grist case, a loud operation that can last up to two hours; hence, you’re most likely to catch this action around 2-4 a.m. on a Wednesday or Thursday morning. Another two hours gets the water up to temp. Another two hours for sparging and lautering. An hour to boil in the kettle, and then over to a fermentation tank for a date with some brewer’s yeast.
The whole process fascinated Amas six years ago, when the former UNLV business-management student started bartending at Gordon Biersch Brewery. Like his hops, he was green. “I had no idea about the brewery world. I thought everything was a mass-produced product … I didn’t know beer could be made on this [smaller] scale.”
He spent the next two years assisting Gordon Biersch brewmaster Richard Lovelady and Sin City Brewing Co. owner Richard Johnson. Now home-brewers pop into Barley’s glass-enclosed “beerquarium” to pick his brain and to show him their brew log. “To me, craft brewing is freedom for the brewer to not be handed a recipe or be told, ‘Here is what you have to do.’ It’s the brewer making it his own.” Lately, Amas has been tinkering with a strong ale—a higher-alcohol, honey-blond using cascade hops for intense aromatics.
While the brewfest brings a great deal of attention to Barley’s in the early summer months, the brewery enjoys a brisk business year-round, and gets a boost from its growler and keg programs. “A lot of home-brewers come in with their keg, fill it and bring it home to drink while they brew,” Amas says.
And why not? Half-barrel kegs are $80, sixth-barrel (5 gallon) kegs are $35, and growlers cost just $9, including the beer, with $5 refills. It’s a no-brainer, and home-brewers are a safe barometer of what’s good to drink in town.
Head of the Glass: What Bubba’s Brewing
“I’m a very seasonal drinker,” Amas says. “In the warm summer months, I like a Hefeweizen or Belgian wheat. In the colder months, higher-alcohol dark beer gives you that warm feeling. The beer I can drink all year long is an IPA [India Pale Ale], and when I go to a bar, I’m drinking the beer I haven’t had before.” Here are four Barley’s Brewing Co. brews on his mind right now:
Blue Diamond helles-style lager. Pale, lightly hopped and malty; 5 percent alcohol by volume.
Red Rock German-style lager. The quintessential Märzen (Oktoberfest brew); full-bodied, malty, slightly sweet, auburn in color; 6 percent ABV.
Black Mountain German-style dunkel. Medium-bodied unfiltered dark lager with a roasted grain character; 5 percent ABV.
Boulder Gold hefeweizen. Unfiltered wheat ale with clove right up front and banana and bubble gum throughout; 5 percent ABV.