The following is the first installment of my reporting on the burgeoning beer scene in Reno, Nevada, “the biggest little city in the world,” which currently has the same number of breweries as Las Vegas, a city 10 times its size in terms of population.
For several years Art Farley had been providing Reno beer lovers with a bevy of interesting beers spanning the globe at his St. James Infirmary pub (with a list of more than 80 beers) before branching out in October 2012 to open Brasserie St. James, a large Old World craft brewery & restaurant.
The massive 13,000 square-feet-space is divided between the 25,000 bbl capacity brewery, formal dining room, upstairs and downstairs beer gardens, bar and game room. Located in the up-and-coming Midtown District of downtown Reno on the corner of Taylor and Center Streets, the historic building built in 1929 was the previous home of Crystal Water & Ice, and sits atop an artesian well 285 feet below, providing an excellent water source that is tapped for the brewing. The interior has a rustic, antique feel to it, with reclaimed wood and rocks from the original building having been transformed into the flooring, ceiling, tables and fireplace; and the original door was even re-purposed as a storage room entry.
The Brasserie quickly distinguished itself for making world class beer; and only two years later, at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival (GABF), was awarded the Best Mid-Size Brewpub and Best Midsize Brewpub Brewers award; and earned a gold for its Daily Wages Saison in the French and Belgian style, a category that was hotly contested with 115 entries.
The brewery team of brothers Josh & Matt Watterson shared the prestigious accolade and were given high praise by St. James Owner Art Farley who said, “They are easily among the best brewers in the nation by a stretch. Josh and I built this place from the ground up, and then when I thought I couldn't be any luckier to have found this brilliant and mercurial head brewer and friend, he brings his brother Matt into the fold. Matt, whose charms, wit, intellect and work ethic match perfectly with his brother, make for, in my very biased opinion, the best brew team anywhere.”
This incredible recognition was followed up with 2015 Best of Craft Beer Awards gold and silver medallions for its Daily Wages and Red Headed Stranger.
With all this acclaim they need to keep up with increasing production and have installed a bottling line, four new 47 bbl fermenters and two more arriving within weeks, which has allowed them to expand distribution into Las Vegas, Southern California and Phoenix. In addition, slated for a September opening and dubbed The Saint, their new barrel house located at 761 S. Virginia Street in Midtown Reno will house open fermented and barreled-aged beers; foeders (wooden barrels used for long term fermentation or primary fermentation and inoculations); a bar with 20 taps, stage and concert area; and eventually a distillery making gin, rye, bourbon and vodka.
The Brasserie has also added another brewer to its team, Manager of Brewery Operations Madison Gurries, who is equipped with a biology degree and received an international education in brewing technology at the prestigious World Brewing Academy in Munich and Chicago, the same institution Head Brewer Josh Watterson attended.
Brasserie in the brewery’s name implies a slant towards Belgian style beers, and judging from the farmhouse-forward brews it creates, it’s much more than an inference. New releases include 1904, a 100% Brettanomycesbeer aged in stainless steel with a subtle sourness that I consider a gateway beer for the uninitiated to sour beer; White Downs, a Saison brewed with Nevada-grown white sage; and Lambic Grand Cru, aged for 29 months in Syrah and Pinot Noir wine barrels and mixed together before bottling.
Speaking of barrel aging, this is a huge aspect of the Brasserie’s offerings. 150-175 barrels are used in rotation to age beers for a minimum of six months to five years. Even beers not barrel conditioned are aged for a minimum of six weeks to allow the beer to fully condition.
Brasserie St. James is a must-stop during any beer lover’s visit to Reno and its new barrel aging facility located steps away will soon be another.
My next features will spotlight six new breweries that have opened in Northern Nevada within the past 12 months: The Depot, Imbib and the new production brewery of The Brewer’s Cabinet in Reno; Lake Tahoe Brewing in Carson City, Fernley and Reno; Virginia City Brewing; and Alibi in Incline Village at North Shore Lake Tahoe.
Bob Barnes is editorial director of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional, regional correspondent for Celebrator Beer News and writes the Top 10 Beer lists for Gayot.com. He welcomes your inquiries and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.