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Craft Beer: The Art Of The Brew

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The craft beer industry has exploded recently in Las Vegas and around the country.

Beer is no longer just the yellowy, kind of bubbly lager that your dad bought in a can from the grocery store.

In recent years, craft beer, or beer from microbreweries, has exploded from a few dedicated brewmasters around the country to a multi-million dollar industry of big and small brewers, experimenting with flavors and techniques.

Sarah Johnson knows that growing industry well. She is the first female in Nevada to earn the title of Certified Cicerone, which is a beer expert similar to what a sommelier is to wine, and she is the director of food and beverage at Mandalay Bay.

She got her start while at culinary school in Portland, but like many of us, beer was an acquired taste.

“It takes some practice, like all good things, but what fun practice it is,” Johnson said.

Unlike big beer brands that are marketed in every sporting event ever, microbrewing is about relationships.

“In the craft world, it is more about the people behind the beer,” Johnson said. “The artisans that are making the beer and the relationships and the community around that.”

Las Vegas’ section of that world has improved dramatically recently with several new breweries opening in the valley from the Henderson booze district to downtown.

“When I moved here from Portland, I would consider it comparatively a wasteland as far as craft beer is concerned, in the last 10 years, not only in Las Vegas has craft beer taken off but across the country,” Johnson said.

According to Johnson, 10 years ago there were only 1,400 breweries in the country that would be considered craft, now there are 3,400 and more are coming online every year.

“People want flavor,” she said, “They want varied experiences and they want to know who’s making their beer and where it comes from.”

Las Vegas is also lucky because of its closeness to West Coast breweries like Sierra Nevada, Deschutes, New Belgium, Lagunitas and Stone, which have all pushed the envelope in craft brewing and helped the industry grow.

Beer lovers will actually get a chance to meet brewmasters during an event Johnson put together for Aug. 28 through Aug. 30 called the Las Vegas Beer and Barrel Project.

Beers Tasted:

Firestone Walker – Paso Robles, California

Pivo Hoppy Pils

Tasting notes: smooth, German-style, American hops, firmly bitter, refreshing

Crafthaus  - Las Vegas, Nevada

Evocation Saison

Tasting notes: fruity, floral, smooth, complex, softer carbonation

Lagunitas - Petaluma, California 

Indian Pale Ale 

Tasting notes: very hoppy, floral, piney, tropical fruit, balanced 

New Belgium - Ft. Collins, Colorado

La Folie 2014 Sour brown ale

Tasting notes: sour, tart, berries, oaky

 

Sarah Johnson, Certified Cicerone and Food and Beverage Director, Mandalay Bay

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)
Natalie is an Emmy-award winning journalist who has worked in the Las Vegas market since August 1996, starting as a newscast producer for KLAS-TV Channel 8, and later as an online editor for 8newsnow.com.