Why Las Vegas is Lagging in the Craft Beer Boom

By Adam Campbell-Schmitt |
WONT FIND CRAFT BEER FROM LAS VEGAS FWX

© Sylvain Sonnet / Getty Images

With over 4000 active breweries in the United States and the biggest beer makers buying up several beloved craft brands over the past year, it might seem like the industry is at its peak. Almost every locality in the country boasts a slough of regional brews nowadays, right? Not Las Vegas. It seems like a city that's increasingly become a go-to spot for top chefs to serve high-end cuisine and where most visitors do their fair share of boozing would be a natural place for a beer industry to pop up. So why aren't there more "On the Strip" Stouts, "Aces High” IPAs or “This Was Comped Because I Lost $800 on Blackjack” Saisons on tap at the casino bar? As Fortune.com explains there are a variety of reasons why, when it comes to microbrews, the desert city isn't a hot spot. But fortunately for beer-loving gamblers, it is warming up.

While more taps are starting to pour out hometown labels, one reason Vegas is still lagging a few years behind is that, until recently, brewing licenses were incredibly expensive. Another is the lack of foot traffic to build business. Of the ten or so breweries in town, many are on the outskirts and not easily reachable by tourists without cars. All of the prime real estate is taken up by casinos and shops that have found a thousand ways to turn dice and poker chips into worthless souvenirs. That's why Sin City brewing has teamed up with casinos and opened pour houses in Planet Hollywood and The Venetian. Brewers might up their profile with a promotional takeover of a restaurant’s beer menu, even if only temporarily.

The other oddity of the Las Vegas beer scene is the lack of casinos brewing their own beer. Lots of culinary culture has gone commercial, and what better way to show off your extravagance than a house-branded brew? Right now only Ellis Island, an off-Strip casino, is making signature beer and apparently it's only so-so. Also, while people like to think they're educated about what they eat and drink, the mass market is less knowledgeable about styles of beer. Vegas is all about mass appeal, which has so far leaned toward the Buds and Millers of the world. But with even a few dedicated brewers trying to make a name, it's only a matter of time before folks who just lost a bundle at the craps table can drown their sorrows in a really good beer.

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