Las Vegas casinos typically have uninspired beer selections, but The Venetian has one big exception.
Walking into any casino on the Las Vegas Strip, you’re almost immediately greeted by a bar. But though finding a place to grab a beer in Vegas is easy, finding a good beer in a casino can be trickier. At first blush, The Venetian would seem to be no exception. The nondescript bar by the entrance has an equally unassuming beer list featuring a “craft and microbrew” section that isn’t very micro at all – Sam Adams Seasonal, Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, Sierra Nevada. But if you walk across the casino floor, you’ll eventually come to a row of restaurants that includes Yardbird – home to likely the best selection of local Nevada draft beers of any casino on the Strip.
Interestingly enough, despite its homegrown beer choices, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar itself isn’t homegrown at all. The James Beard Award-winning eatery that specializes in deliciously upmarket takes on southern classics including its signature fried chicken originally launched in Miami, and as we wrote last month, “is swiftly conquering the world.” However, for the restaurant’s second outpost in Las Vegas, which opened three years ago, the growing brand decided on a unique twist for their drinks menu: Almost the entire draft selection – 14 of the 15 total lines – consists of beer produced in Nevada, a rarity for a state not known as much of a beer mecca.
“The original location in Miami has always been as farm-to-table as we can do, as local as we can do,” explained General Manager Stephen Stoltz. “So when we opened here in Vegas, the thought process was to do that as best as we can as well. We knew it was going to be a larger market – there’d be some difficulty in some areas – but the draft beer was one way we knew that we could definitely do that.”
On the night I dropped in, patrons could grab a pilsner, hefeweizen, brown or pale ale from the always solid Tenaya Creek Brewery. Able Baker Brewery’s Atomic Duck IPA was a hoppy winner without being too strong. Save that designation for Hop Box from Joseph James Brewing, a thick double IPA that clocks in 9.3 percent ABV, or Able Baker Chris Kael Impale’d Ale, an 11.1 percent imperial brown. Other local brewers represented on the list were Bad Beat, Great Basin, Craft Haus, Barley and Big Dog’s. For those counting at home, that’s eight different Nevada producers in all, not bad for a state that, at last count, only had 37 craft breweries total.
Stoltz said another special Nevada brew is in the works as well: a beer crafted by Able Baker specifically for the restaurant. “They’re in the test phase right now,” he told me. “It’s going to be pretty awesome when it comes out.”
Probably Yardbird’s only flaw with its beer list is that, though the beers are local, the prices won’t keep the locals coming back: Be prepared to pay from $7 to $15 for a standard pour of any of the aforementioned brews. Still, Las Vegas locals aren’t regularly hanging out at The Venetian anyways; meanwhile, if you’re a visitor staying on The Strip, it’s certainly worth the markup to have a one-stop shop to try a bunch of local breweries without running all over the city.
Overall, The Strip has gotten better in recent years when it comes to offering good beers. Though the casinos themselves still lag behind, preferring to focus on the mass market stuff, many of the independent restaurants inside are finally stocking good beer. Case in point, literally next door to Yardbird in the Venetian is Public House, home to a wide-ranging beer list that includes cask beers and sours. But if you’re specifically interested in trying something local, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better bet than Yardbird. And Vegas is all about making good bets.