Brews You Can Use

A city of fancy cocktails gets a taste of craft beer at the Downtown Brew Festival

Six o’clock Saturday night will become beer o’clock in downtown Las Vegas—that’s when the glasses begin filling at the Downtown Brew Festival. Organizers say it’s the city’s “largest fall craft beer event.” We’re not sure how many contenders there are for the title, but never mind: An amphitheater filled with specialty beers should ease the transition from day’s projected 93-degree swelter to whatever people do on a Vegas Saturday night. Taps shut off at 10 p.m.

Some 60 breweries—about a dozen of them local—will pour 200 varieties of craft beer. Organized by a group calling itself The Motley Brew, the festival’s point is about more than sudsy good times. It’s about nudging the growth of a artisanal beer scene in Vegas, a goal locals and visitors alike can get behind. This city, after all, isn’t known for its beer scene; it’s all about clever cocktails at the high end of the drinking culture and yard-long margaritas at the low.

“Las Vegas is steadily growing in the craft beer scene,” says Lee Flint of The Motley Brew. “While the city does have a reputation for cocktails and cheap beer/steak combos, there is an audience that seeks out craft beer.” It’s part of what Flint sees as a “paradigm shift” away from the Vegas standard of smoky taverns where the big draw is video poker, and toward new breweries “eschewing those long held stereotypes in favor of something more refined.”

Speaking of refined, the festival has a nice charitable aspect: a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Neon Museum,  which preserves classic Vegas signage and counts as one of the city’s true gems.

It won’t be all swill and chill—one of the city’s best indie bands, A Crowd of Small Adventures will perform, along with several other acts.

The festival comes at an interesting juncture in the city’s relationship with outdoor booze. The government of Clark County, which oversees the Las Vegas Strip, this week banned glass containers on that thoroughfare; and in downtown Las Vegas, city officials have lately groped for the appropriate way to regulate open containers in the high-tourism areas.

Fortunately, none of that will be an issue with the largest fall craft beer event in Las Vegas—it’s being held in the amphitheater of the county government complex. According to Flint, the small-batch mentality of craft brewing will also apply to the evening’s admission policy: Motley Brew is capping attendance at 3,500 “to ensure a comfortable environment.” Admission is $45 at the door, with other pricing options available here.

And the weather? “The festival will happen rain or shine,” the Motley Brew’s website insists on its FAQ. “We will not cancel the Downtown Brew Festival.” Take that, possibly lingering remnants of Tropical Storm Odile!