Taste this 6 pack of favorite brews from Tahoe’s booming craft beer scene
Special to the Sun
Read more in Tahoe Magazine
This article is adapted from the winter 2016-17 edition of Tahoe Magazine, a joint publication of the Sierra Sun, North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe Action. The magazine, which features loads of features and advertisements about all that the Tahoe winter has to offer, is on newsstands now across Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Reno. Click here to read it online, and be sure to pick up a copy today!
TAHOE-TRUCKEE — The craft beer revolution has finally arrived at Lake Tahoe, and it’s exploding. While microbreweries are staples of West Coast cities like San Diego and Portland, a plethora of craft brewed options is a newfound joy for our mountain community.
Three new craft breweries having opened in the past two years alone, spanning both sides of the lake, and more are on the way.
To find out what local brewers are up to, I grabbed my beer-loving boyfriend and hit the road to sample the smooth, the hoppy and the deliciously sour.
BEST ENGLISH-STYLE PORTER
Alibi Ale Works
Opened by two home-brewers in December 2014, Alibi Ale Works passed on creating fancy beer names, preferring to let the beers speak for themselves.
With wood paneling made from warehouse pallets and a bathroom floor of laminated pennies, Alibi offers a cozy, public house atmosphere that could just as easily exist in Portland or San Diego.
As breweries along the West Coast compete for the hoppiest IPAs, Alibi has gone the other direction, offering a rotating IPA program and focusing on its flagship porter, saison, pale ale and barrel-aged beers.
The porter, in particular, is a favorite among Alibi’s brewers and patrons alike. Lighter bodied and extremely drinkable, Alibi’s English-style porter is rich but not too heavy, with balanced notes of chocolate and coffee.
“Porter is the beer that got me into beer,” says Kevin Drake, Alibi’s co-founder and head brewer. “I always had a passion for a great porter, so when we opened, I knew I wanted to make a Porter you could drink year-round.”
As Lake Tahoe’s only brewery without a kitchen, Alibi’s food offerings are limited to a small snack shelf, but the ale house encourages outside food, including everything from local take-out to picnics and full-blown potluck dinners.
Alibi also hosts a pop up sushi restaurant every Wednesday evening at 5 p.m., as well as Paint & Pint events and collaborations with local food trucks.
Must-Try Beers: English-style Porter, Golden Mocha Stout, Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, Dark Saison, rotating dark sours
Sidellis Lake Tahoe
Sidellis Lake Tahoe opened in January 2016 in South Lake Tahoe with a simple, warm interior and friendly, community vibe.
Though Sidellis’ IPA is its biggest seller (they sell more IPAs than all the other beers combined), the brewery has made a name for itself with its barrel aged sour program. The brewery’s rotating sours change roughly every two weeks, meaning there is always a complex and tart new brew to sample.
The rest of Sidellis’ beer list is also worth a try, with a delightfully hoppy IPA, surprisingly light and dry white ale, an earthy farmhouse ale and light-bodied brown-style porter.
The brewery offers a straightforward and affordable food menu, with some favorites including the pulled pork and French dip sandwiches, triple play, taco salad and varying house-made pickle jars. Preferring to keep their prices low all the time, Sidellis doesn’t have a happy hour, so stop by anytime daily from 12-9 p.m.
Must-Try Beers: Brewocracy “Red Tape” IPA, Clockwork White Ale, Claunie Farmhouse Ale, Petey’s Porter, rotating sours
BEST EXPERIMENTAL FRUIT BEERS
Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company
Located off the beaten path in one of Truckee’s industrial parks, Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company’s brewery and cozy tap room serves up an array of barrel-aged, sour and wild beers, with respect for traditional styles.
Best known for experimenting with fruit, TMBC bottles all of its non-traditional beers, while its flagship staples are available only on tap. This winter, head brewer Andrea Keil is most excited for Tahoe Mountain’s oatmeal stout, named Ms. Coco & The Delicate Oatsters. Other beer list favorites include the hoppy passion pale ale; a dry, roasty porter; their Récolte Du Bois barrel-aged farmhouse ale series; and the delicately sour Evolution of the Barrel Gueuze-style beer.
Open afternoons and evenings Thursday to Sunday, the Truckee taproom typically keeps 15 beers on tap, as well as a full selection of bottled beers.
The brewing company also operates a brewpub in downtown Tahoe City, where you can find TMBC’s flagship beers on tap and a pub menu with favorites like pretzel bites and the cheddar bacon burger. However, the brewpub only carries TMBC’s non-traditional beers in bottles, so if it’s the beer you’re after, stick with the Truckee taproom.
Must-Try Beers: Ms. Coco & The Delicate Oatsters, Porter, Evolution of the Barrel, Midnight in Reno, Reno Noir, Récolte Du Bois ales
Cold Water Brewery
Longtime South Lake Tahoe local and the brewery owner Debbie Brown opened Cold Water Brewery in November 2014 as a community gathering place with handcrafted food, beer and great service.
Billed as California comfort food, Cold Water Brewery offers the most robust lunch and dinner menus of any of the region’s craft breweries. The kale artichoke dip can best be described, in our opinion, as “spicy goodness,” and the BBQ beets and bacon wrapped dates with pickled mustard seed were delicious. One regular articulately summed up the menu saying, “I haven’t found anything I don’t like.”
Cold Water’s housemade beers pair nicely with their fare and incorporate local ingredients such as juniper berries and mountain sage. Among the best days to visit this winter are Flannel Shirt Friday, offering $4 beers all day long those who arrive sporting flannel. The brewery also offers mouthwatering $10 chef specials and beer in off-peak months.
Must-Try Beers: Citra-Ass Down IPA, Preacher’s Pale Ale, Stillwater Stout, Mr. Toad’s Wild Rye
BEST BOURBON-AGED STOUT
FiftyFifty Brewing Co.
A well-rounded brewery with great beers and a solid food menu, Truckee’s FiftyFifty Brewing Co. has made a name for itself in the industry as a boutique barrel-aging brewery.
FiftyFifty’s most renowned beers are from the Eclipse series, an imperial stout aged in various bourbon barrels (each barrel color coded by a colored wax seal on the bottles). The Eclipse beers are made using the brewery’s Totality Imperial Stout as a base beer, which is chocolatey and extremely drinkable in its own right.
Other favorite FiftyFifty beers include the light Basecamp Golden Ale, the hoppy and smooth Session 267 IPA, Donner Party Porter and the CAPA California Pale Ale.
On the menu, the brew pub’s “Gatherer” pizza was delicious enough to impress two pizza-picky Northeasterners, and other popular items include the Kale n Ale and Tahoe Food Hub salads, organic chicken wings, Petaluma Farms fried chicken and Mountain Valley Meats sausage platter.
Must-Try Beers: Basecamp Golden Ale, Session 267 IPA, Rockslide IPA, CAPA California Pale Ale, Totality Stout, Eclipse Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
BEST STRONG RED ALE
The Brewery at Lake Tahoe
Tahoe’s longest running brewery, The Brewery at Lake Tahoe is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, 365 days a year. The Brewery’s “Brew Pub” style food is markedly good — the burger was one of the best we’d had in years, and the half-rack of ribs was seriously fall-off-the-bone delicious.
Across the board, The Brewery’s beers were light-bodied and extremely drinkable, with a not-too-sweet Belgian-style Witbier, light pale ale and smooth “Bad Ass” strong red ale (a favorite of locals).
The beer list also includes a solid, introductory IPA that doesn’t blow your taste buds and tastes more like a session IPA, despite ringing in at a full 7.5% — a great choice for those wishing to induct new IPA lovers.
And back by popular demand, The Brewery’s oatmeal vanilla stout will return this winter. The Brewery’s beers are also notably affordable with $5-$5.50 pints and $15-16.50 pitchers, as well as happy hour everyday from 3-5 p.m. with $1 off beer, wine and cocktails, and food specials.
For a more upscale experience, the owners of The Brewery also operate Stateline Brewery & Restaurant in the Heavenly Village, which offers a rotating selection of ales and lagers to pair with a host of appetizers and entrees.
Must-Try Beers: White-Out Wit, “Indian” Pale Ale, Bad Ass Ale, Oatmeal Vanilla Stout