What’s on Tap: Las Vegas Beer News May 2023

Read up on more beer news in the Eat & Drink latest.

Salute to Joe Pickett (1941-2023)

A sad item to report is the passing of Joe Pickett. Joe set up and designed the Ellis Island brewery and was its initial Brewmaster when it opened in 1998.

“Joe was truly instrumental in putting the Ellis Island Brewery on the map,” said Gary Ellis, CEO and owner of Ellis Island Hotel and Casino. “Joe played a critical part in the building of our brewery at Ellis Island and in creating our beer portfolio. I can’t begin to express my gratitude for him, his work or his decades of friendship. Everyone at Ellis Island sends their heartfelt condolences to Joe’s family and to everyone whose lives he touched.”

A Chicago native, Joe’s brewing experience was vast, and included being a graduate and then an instructor and vice president of the renowned Chicago Siebel Institute of Technology for advanced training in brewing; owning his own brewery; working in senior management at Pabst Brewing Co. and G Heileman Brewing Co.; and lending his expertise to help set up and design numerous breweries throughout the world on every continent except for Antarctica over the past 40 years. Joe probably knew more about brewing than anyone in Southern Nevada.

I remember several years ago he told me he first began working in breweries in 1956 (when he was just 14 years old!), which stood out to me, as that is the year I was born. Cheers to a true brewing legend, who blessed us with his brewing talents, incredible stories and friendly spirit. 

More Brewer Musical Chairs, Brewery Changes and Another Brewery Closure

It seems every month there are more updates to brewers coming and going amongst our local breweries, and I have more to report on. Last issue I wrote about Tom Harwood leaving Triple 7 Brewpub to take the head brewer job at Bad Beat. Taking the head brewer position at Triple 7 is Casey Jacobson, who has been brewing for almost a decade, three years professionally. He began his career at Manhattan Project Brewing Company in Dallas, TX, where he was hired after interning during a journeyman brewer’s class he was taking through Eastfield Community College.

He also held brewer positions at Hamilton Family Brewery in Rancho Cucamonga, CA and most recently locally at Able Baker Brewing where he says, “For a couple of years I soaked up all the knowledge I could get from (head brewer) Matt Marino.”

Casey tells me he especially loves estery Belgian styles followed by malt-forward and moderately-bitter beers like an ESB. Regarding what he plans on brewing at Triple 7 he says, “Not much is off the table. I plan on engaging customers to see what sounds interesting, and then try to follow up by taking them to new beer experiences that I think they will love.”

Image courtesy of Dave Canela

Joining Tom Harwood at Bad Beat is Assistant Brewer Dave Schwaller, who after homebrewing for 10 years brewed professionally at Banger Brewing for a year and a half and had just been promoted to head brewer shortly before Banger closed. Dave actually started at Bad Beat a few months before Tom and one of his first creations was Lei’d in the Shade, his recipe that is a brown ale base with 50 lbs of freshly roasted coconut.

I had the pleasure to try it and can attest it is quite tasty with toffee, caramel and toasted malt flavors combining nicely with the roasted coconut flavor.

You may have heard that Neon Desert is closing. It is definitely not, but rather is relocating to a larger facility. Its taproom did indeed close last month and the brewery location at 914 S. Main St. has been sold, and is becoming Cin-Cin (pronounced chin-chin) Brewhouse and Seafood Restaurant. Neon Desert Founder/Brewer Jimmy Doyle tells me he is still brewing Neon Desert and Sin City beers there and Jimmy’s assistant brewer Cisco Talley is brewing beers for the new owners until they get their TTB licenses. Cisco will stay on and brew for the new brewhouse owners.

Look for an update next month on Neon Desert’s new home and Cin-Cin’s opening.

Sad to report on yet another brewery closing. Gordon Biersch, which was one of the first breweries to open in Las Vegas in 1997, closed after service on Sunday, April 30. The brewery chain once had more than 25 locations in the US, but after several closures in recent years and with this permanent closure, there are now only five left.

It seems the closing came with only a few days’ warning. Head brewer Julio Lanzas brewed there for 10 years and over those years proved himself to be an extremely accomplished and skilled brewer. Therefore, it’s no surprise at all that it didn’t take him long to land elsewhere, and the good news is he’ll still be brewing locally, at Hop Nuts in the Arts District.

What’s Pouring in May

Tom Harwood has brewed his first seasonal since taking the head brewer job at Bad Beat. Just in time for baseball season is Beisbol (Spanish for baseball), a traditional Mexican Lager with Magnum and Willamette hops. It’s being released at the brewery on Cinco de Mayo with several food trucks on hand offering a variety of food options.

Richard Lovelady is continuing his Lovelady Brewing Dead Casino Project paying homage to historic casinos that no longer exist. This time he’s featuring Royal Nevada, which was open from 1955-1958 before eventually becoming part of the Stardust, which was demolished in 2007 on the space where Resorts World now resides. As for the beer, it’s a 7.5% ABV double hazy IPA made with kiwi, oats, lactose, wheat and barley. Also pouring this month are Runner Sour, one of the 9th Island seasonal sour series, with blackberry, banana and orange; and Michelada LOVElady, which is a blend of Golden Nites Lager with Hatch chiles and Michelada Love Mix.

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