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Three Notable Breweries of the Wasteland

wasteland-drink

This post is sort of my way to put to use one of my favourite writing exercises. At the start of each creative writing class in school, our teacher would put some music on and allow us to do some freeform writing for 15 minutes or so. This would allow us to get the worries, thoughts, and memorization techniques of our other classes out of our systems and shake up the creative juices in our heads, which would better prepare us for thinking outside the box.

After a couple of years of writing beer columns and, now, two beer guides, I’ve kind of been feeling a little creatively stagnant. I’m still enjoying a lot of what I’ve been writing, but everything has been too steeped in the serious, and I like to think this blog is a mix of both serious and fun. So with that in mind, and in an effort to shake up my brain a bit, here is a fictional article for a fictional newspaper that features a few of my favourite breweries in the far distant post-apocalyptic future, where civilization has been destroyed and is currently in the process of being rebuilt.

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Originally printed in Wasteland Adventurer Magazine, Issue 35, 2242

It’s not a secret that the world is a dangerous place to travel. From the human threats of bandits, pirates, and cannibals, to the non-human ones of super storms, large insects, and of course creepers, one has to tread carefully when seeking out adventure or even simply visiting friends and family. But as readers of this magazine are no doubt aware, the ancient saying “travel broadens the mind” quite often rings true and makes such threats a reasonable price to pay. The world is out there and with it a wealth of experiences. Different people, different customs, different food…

And of course, different beer.

With the seemingly infinite number of settlements, towns, and cities out there it’s almost impossible to keep track of all the breweries contained within them, making small batches of beer using local ingredients and techniques, and brewing exclusively for their local communities. While a complete record of the world’s breweries hasn’t been created yet, word does travel fast on a few individual ones that have captured the imagination and excitement of travellers. So with that, here are three breweries that are worth seeking out in the wastes.

Nepho Brewing
Barker Square, Tuskin Cloud City
If you happen to be a sky sailor, on the hunt for Glow Mist or *cough* less legal rewards, sky-citystop by the Tuskin Cloud City at 56.156259, -40.517578 to refuel your ship, exchange your goods, have a nice rest, and most recently, try some new beer. Nepho Brewing, located in Barker Square of the city, is the result of two former pirates who became better known for their brews than their bounty acquisition. Of the cloud cities out there, the duo decided that Tuskin was the best, as they’re more known there and the city’s placement above the near constant flow of Superstorm Clouds make it perfect for harvesting cloud water with minimal tax from the city. The brewery’s flagship offering, Perfect Storm Mild, is dark in colour with sweet toffee notes and an earthy, roasted character that adds balance before moving towards a dry finish. It’s also fairly low in alcohol, which is better suited to the clientele of sailors looking to lighten their wallets and ease their worries while on a week’s shore leave.

Bushwick Base Brewing
Jefferson Street Station (L Line), Brooklyn, New York
While the majority of the once great city of New York is in ruins and infested with Creepers and a varied number of mutated monsters, the city is still bustling, although primarily underground in the former MTA tunnels. If you’re looking for a great place to rest easy for a beer, walk down the L line to Jefferson Street Station, where Bushwick Base Brewing’s taproom is serving up some quality beverages that are sure to keep you warm at night. Working off-site out of the former Kings County Brewers Collective building, the 20-person team of former (and current) mercenaries risk their lives to go above ground, power up the generators, harvest from their rooftop farms, and brew for the masses. Because of the risk involved and infrequency of the releases, the price on a pint is pretty high, but the creativity and wide selection found in the candlelit taproom makes the cost worthwhile. As for the beers themselves, they’re all named after military slang terms, reflecting the brewer’s backgrounds. Expectant IPA is the most often consumed of the beers, and for good reason. It features a fairly light mouthfeel with an explosion of tropical fruits so bright, you could swear it could light up the MTA tunnels. However, if you have some coin and you’re lucky enough to be in the city when it’s released, the seasonal imperial stout 40 Mike-Mike is worth getting. Sold in handmade canteens, a few sips of this 18% beer will warm you right through while providing, if you’re lucky enough to have them, fond memories of chocolate and coffee.

Loup Garou Labyè
Bayou Pigeon District, Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana
Located in a long-abandoned oil rig deep in the Bayou Pigeon district, Loup Garou Labyè has proven to be a popular brewing spot for settlers to the Atchafalaya Basin. The amazing thing about this brewery is that the entire community in the district are running it, enabling brewing operations to go on 24/7 and making it one of the most frequently consumed beers in the South Louisiana region. Making use of purified swamp water and local greenery, the beers are nothing if not unique. Of note, the Voler Porter, for instance, is made using locally harvested graine à voler (otherwise known as ‘Cajun Peanuts’ or American Lotus seeds), which are toasted and thrown in the boil, adding for a subtle peanut butter character.

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Vegas, Baby, Vegas: Las Vegas Breweries and Beer Beyond The Strip

nuka

“Good people drink good beer.” – Hunter S. Thompson, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas

With the Saveur thing over and done with, I had an incredibly late flight the next night. An intentional move on my part, as I wanted to explore the city for a while and see what there was in ways of beer. Unfortunately, planned brewery visits had to be cancelled because cabs are ridiculously expensive in Vegas. A 20 minute cab ride is roughly $58, so unless you have a friend with a car or know your way around the public transportation system in Vegas (That was a big no on both for me), I decided to walk around to a few locations and gather some information. A big part of this involved walking around the city all day, which I won’t recommend without sunscreen and liquids, but is still worth doing for, among other reasons, the beautiful silence of the area compared to the chaos of The Strip.

The Strip is an incredibly cheesy, horrible place. I mean, I appreciate it and get why many people would love it, but at the same time it combines three things that I can’t say I’m fond of: crowds of people, encouragement of rabid consumerism, and encouragement of binge drinking. Only on the Strip is it perfectly legal to walk around with yard-high margaritas or bottles of beer. Why? One reason is that it was happening so frequently that it was thought that police could be put to better use, but another thought suggests that since The Strip brings in those sweet tourism dollars, it’s in the city’s interest to look the other way for that one area at least. The result is a street full of incredibly drunk frat boys and girls screaming, hanging out of the windows of their stretch SUVs, collapsing and vomiting on the sidewalk…you get the picture. I kind of wish I was exaggerating on that, but that just seems to be a regular weeknight on The Strip.

The rest of Vegas, though, and I don’t mean Old Vegas, I mean the places where people actually live…can be a pretty magical place, with a thriving music scene and an incredible craft beer scene with it’s own unique breweries.

– Bit of a disclaimer here, one day clearly wasn’t enough to give a full-on guide or any real impression on Vegas Proper. While I did sample beers from a handful of the breweries, there was still a lot of ground that wasn’t covered. Oddly, despite my glowing review of the Strip, I will be returning to Vegas. These experiences are my own and really, if you folks have any suggestions of breweries and brews, please feel free to comment. –  

For whatever reason you can’t leave the Strip at all, there still are places to find the beer there. Sin City Brewing Co. has a few locations within the Strip and about four regular beers with a seasonal, but personally I wasn’t impressed at all with what I had by them and found the advertising featuring busty gals in hot pants nauseating. For the odd reasonably priced bottle or 6-pack, the convenience stores and pharmacies have some hidden gems among them. Even the stores within the hotels have a few interesting bottles but remain, ironically, a crap shoot.

The best pub I found on the Strip was…well…THE PUB found in the Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino. It features an extensive menu of about 130 drinks on tap including a few ciders, though it should be said they are a bit on the pricy side. My biggest suggestion would be to purchase flights, as you can cover more ground that way without getting wrecked. The Pub is run by some good beer geeks who believe in having a strong local option, so several Las Vegas beers are stocked there along with many international and American beers. The environment is sports bar, so nights get kind of rowdy with things like Karaoke and sports-ball games , but for something in the mid-afternoon it’s the perfect setting.

Beyond the Strip there is the Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas, a German Beer Hall and one of the weirdest locations I’ve been to. After 30-40 minutes of walking in the unforgiving desert heat, I figured a good Hofbrau Weisse break was in order. Upon entering I was greeted by a number of things. Firstly the music, which was The Chicken Dance. My sight was taken up by various cheesy German-themed posters and souvenirs with phrases like “It’s a real sausage fest in here!” painted on them, and a large screen television showing FOX’s hit show COPS was playing by the bar. As I sat there, drinking in the nourishing weisse, listening to music only Lawrence Welk would love and watching a 300lb drunk topless man surrender to the police on TV before attacking them again, I couldn’t help but feel I was still outside walking and that this was all a heat stroke-induced hallucination.  The beer was good, but I think my only reason for going back there would be for the completely surreal experience I had just sitting there.

After that I found my way to The Freakin’ Frog on the advice of my friend, talented journalist Joshua Ellis, who lived around the corner from there for years. The Freakin’ Frog is pretty incredible, a 5-10 minute drive from The Strip and a short walk from the University of Las Vegas campus, it has 12 regularly rotating taps, over 1,100 bottles, and a the largest selection of Whiskies I have ever seen held in their “Whiskey Attic”. What is on tap are some incredible national and international beer talent, but the bottles are the best reason to go there. Instead of giving you a list to choose from, they escort you in to their sizeable beer fridge and let you pick out what you want (while also offering suggestions in case you get overwhelmed) with a strict “you break it you bought it” policy . Once you’ve chosen what you want, they ring it up for you and it’s all yours. I took my time in the fridge to pick something that was a bit more suitable of a celebration beer than what I had the night before with Saveur and went with the Rueuze Gueuze brewed by reknowned Bruery from Placentia, CA. It lovingly danced the line between acidic and dry, with notes of lemon and apricots. Incredibly tasty.

I should mention as well, that near the Freakin’ Frog are two pretty fun non-beer things. First up is Alternate Reality Comics, by far one of the best comic shops I’ve been to with a great selection of indie titles. Run by a really nice guy named Ralph Mathieu, who is both incredibly knowledgeable and kind. Second is more if you’re a fan of Fallout: New Vegas. The National Atomic Testing Museum contains many amazing pieces and stands as the home to one of the most comprehensive collections of atomic history that shows that war never changes.

While I didn’t get a chance to head out there, as it was on the opposite side of the city and I had a limited amount of time, nearly every person I asked said that Khoury’s Fine Wine & Spirits was the place to go for my Craft Beer needs. It’s a dedicated and well stocked bottle shop with about 9 rotating taps and the option to open what bottle your purchase right there or take it home with you. A lot of the beer geeks I talked to had credited that place, open since 2004, as the place that got them in to craft beer. When I return to Vegas, it will be to check that place out for sure.

IMG_8427Now, as for Vegas Breweries, the two the struck me the most were Tenaya Creek and Joseph James. Joseph James has a Double IPA called “Hop Box” which had lovely notes of marmalade and pine, with a sweet finish, making it quite refreshing. Tenaya Creek seems to have adapted to the desert and is producing some damn fine beers that also double as much-needed heat busters. Their Hefeweizen was a bit light on the body, but did a good job of cooling me off. Plus I have to admit that the beer would be a good gateway beer to tourists of the city who may not know about craft beer. Their Calico Brown was also a good drink to match the weather, especially as there was no syrupy mouthfeel as it warmed up. Nice roasted notes with a creamy caramel taste at the back.

And that was, for the most part, my Vegas experience on my one day off. There’s still a bunch of breweries I would have liked to have checked out, (Award-winning Big Dog Brews, and Chicago Brewing Company) along with a few non-beer related things, but all in all it was pretty damn fun.

– Nuka Beer image by Italiener – 

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