August 4, 2011

Drinking in Vegas

I spent the last weekend in Vegas, enjoying the drinking, eating, gambling, shows, pools and people. Surprisingly, Vegas was cooler than Dallas while we were gone. While in Vegas we got rain that brought the temperature down to 79F, but Dallas was still burning in the triple digits. Not only was the temperature a few degrees lower but Vegas is much dryer, which helps make the heat more manageable than more humid climates. The wife and I drank good beer at a few places during our stay. This is not an exhaustive list of everywhere on the strip but it is a good starting point.

1. The casinos -- the casinos like to get people to loosen up, so they offer free drinks. Some casinos are more generous than others but sadly, I am not aware of any that have a great beer selection. However, I have found that most of the major casinos will give you call and top shelf liquor in mixed drinks if you ask for it. I only put down a couple casino drinks, but I did get scotch so that was easily a good $10-15 of drinks for free. Think about ordering usually pricey drinks like old fashions or mojitos. My wife and I rarely play together so when she plays, I drink and vice versa, so that way neither of us play tipsy and lose money.

2. The pools -- the pools are a great way to make use of the sun and heat in Vegas. The pools are not particularly great places to drink for their selection -- often being sponsored by one of the big three beers -- but who can hate on being half-naked? Some pools are more kid-friendly than others. The big pool at the Flamingo is 21+ so it is all adult fun (but not nasty-adult fun) but it is solely Miller beer. Might be a good place to sneak in a flask and order soda. Stay hydrated.

3. The buffets -- people are either hot or cold on the idea of buffets in Vegas. The food is actually pretty good at the higher end buffets, although not as good as the food at many of the restaurants on the strip. Buffets are worth the money if you are willing to fill up on a couple meals worth of food. Many buffets offer some sort of unlimited drink option (champagne/mimosas/bloody marys in the brunches, wine with dinner). If you can find buffets where the wait staff frequently visits the table, you can drink a lot for a very small price. Unfortunately at many buffets the wait staff is not the best about refilling drinks. We found the champagne brunch on the weekends at MGM Grand to be reasonably priced and the servers were more than happy to fill our drinks. Between the two of us we drank 11 mimosas over 2.5 hours. We were buzzed and very fat afterwards, to say the least.

Ok, now let's talk good beer.

4. Sin City Brewing -- Sin City is a Vegas-based microbrewery that only sells in keg and only exists in Vegas. They have five taps going at any one time. A hefeweizen ("weisse"), oktoberfest ("amber"), stout ("stout"), light ("American pilsner") and the seasonal -- currently a pilsner. You can find various taps at bars around town but I have only found all five at the handful of Sin City outlets on the strip. I have also only found the hefe at their outlets. I am aware there is one in the Flamingo, one in the Venetian and one in the Miracle Mile shops. I believe there are others sprouting up. The stout is billed as a dry Irish stout, but it is the opposite of dry. It is slightly sweet with very prominent fruity esters and butter (diacetyl). It is a decent stout but halfway through a glass and the diacetyl becomes overwhelming. I also tried the pilsner, which is mediocre and hopped with typical German hops but no Saaz. The gem of Sin City is the hefeweizen, which reminds me of Live Oak's hefeweizen. Solid mix of banana and clove with a full mouthfeel. The Sin City outlets were running specials for two pitchers for $15 so we drank a lot of it. Definitely a recommended stop for weizen lovers.

5. The Burger Bar -- this upscale burger joint is housed in the underground shopping in between Mandalay Bay and Luxor. The burgers are delicious and the beer menu is worth the trip to the end of the strip. We visited the Burger Bar on our trip before this one and were impressed with the beer selection then. We were slightly less impressed this time, although it might have been because we were more aware of the selections on their list. We didn't want to pay Vegas prices for beers we could get at home. As a result, we only had a couple of beers with our food. The only thing I really dislike about the Burger Bar is it doesn't feel like a place I want to sit and sip beer for a long period of time. It has a bit of a rushed feel to it.

6. The Pub -- if you're heading to the Burger Bar, you should save room to come back to The Pub at the shops in the Monte Carlo. The Pub has a lengthy set of taps matched by a very interesting bottle selection. Their seven page beer list sports a robust selection of west coast hopbombs along with an interesting mix of various other kinds of beers. They had an interesting range of extremely expensive bottled beers but a nice blend of draft beers. It is reasonably priced for Vegas but not somewhere I would go for BMC beers, since it is so easy to obtain on the strip. Food is delicious. I enjoyed some Firestone Walker beers there. We don't get FW in Dallas so given all the great things I have heard I wanted to give it a try. I don't like hopbombs but I did enjoy the APA. Sit at the bar -- the bartenders are friendly and offered us several samples from taps -- the waitstaff were rude (even to the bartenders) and clearly had no beer knowledge.

7. The various bars on the strip -- obviously, all the casinos have plenty of bars to keep the alcohol flowing. Unless you are out for truly interesting beers, you can find a good beer or two on tap at the bars around most casinos. You may want to survey the taps at a bar or two but you shouldn't have a problem wetting your whistle to something enjoyable.

I have heard good things about Axes and Aces as well as Freakin Frog, although both are off-strip. Neither have such a good selection that I would be willing to go off strip, but if you find yourself at either place you should be in good company. As I said before, that is not an exhaustive list. I know there are some other places well received on the strip (e.g. La Cave in Wynn) that I have not visited. What's your favorite spot? Leave a comment and share.

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