An organization to which I belong recently held a meeting in Reno, NV. Since one of my closest friend’s hometown is Carson City, NV, I’ve been to Reno numerous times. But there’s one place I’ve wanted to check out that held little interest to her…the Great Basin Brewing Company. As TheBrewClub readers know, anytime I can sample a local brewpub, it’s a happy day.
Founded in 1993, Great Basin is Nevada’s oldest operating brewery and features many award winning beers. I stopped at the Reno location as this was the closest to my hotel. Not walking distance like the Kona Brewing Company, so I had to limit what I drank. Which was a shame.
The afternoon I arrived in Reno, temperatures were unseasonably hot, in the triple digits, over 20 degrees hotter than normal. A massive but quick moving storm dumped some pretty severe rain and hail, so temps were more seasonal when I ventured over to the pub.
While parking, walking to the front, and, of course, stopping to take pictures, I noticed a couple walking to the door. Since it was milder in the evening air, like them, I decided to dine outside. When we were seated, the guy invited me to join them for “a beer or dinner.” “Sure, why not,” I thought.
Turns out that Matt lived in the Netherlands, went to school in Berlin, and is a bigger beer expert than I am! Matt, Jeanette and I spent three hours enjoying wonderful food, fine beer, and better conversation. We have a lot in common, from political and world views, such as World Peace Through Beers, to taste in beer.
About the beer…my first one was the limited release Buster 4 to support ALS. Since my epic bro Wildman’s mother was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease earlier this year, how could I not order a beer that supports this debilitating and incurable disease?
Ales for ALS offers brewers a proprietary hop blend free of charge in exchange for participation in the program. Proceeds from the sale of these beers are donated to ALS TDI, the world’s leader in ALS research.
This 7.3% ABV hop heavy double IPA is a wonderful balance of hop bitterness yet with the sweetness of pine and citrus. The aroma, golden color and flavor reminded me of Mammoth’s Epic IPA, still my favorite beer ever.
The next full beer I sampled was the signature Ichthyosaur India Pale Ale. Named after the state’s official fossil, “Icky” is accented by a blast of Cascade hops. Without the hop bitterness of the Buster 4, the 6.4% ABV Icky resembled an American Pale Ale more than an IPA; Matt said it was brewed to be better than Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I haven’t had a Sierra Nevada recently to compare, but the Icky was pretty good.
Also sampled were the Wee Bee Heavy Scotch and the Whoop Ass Witbier. The first is an amazing but potent 8.8% ABV wee heavy. If I weren’t driving, I would have loved to have an entire 10 ounce glass of what Great Basin calls “the ultimate Scotch Ale.”
The only other wee heavy I’ve had is Sam Adams, which I remember to be quite good, but not as good as Great Basin’s. While Witbiers are not my favorite style, the Whoop Ass had an interesting flavor I couldn’t put my finger on, but left me wanting more. Besides a distinctive yeast strain, unmalted wheat, barley, oats, Curacao orange peel and coriander, Great Basin uses a special ingredient, lavender fresh from Lavender Ridge Farms. Perhaps that was the flavor I couldn’t distinguish. Since cilantro tastes like soap to me, I tend to shy away from coriander in particular, and wheat beers in general, but I’d open a can of Whoop Ass (or drink it on tap since it isn’t canned) any day of the week.
The food was actually pretty good, I had the Sonoran fish tacos Friday night, I returned for lunch Saturday before skinning out. As I had a two and a half hour drive west to Sacramento after lunch, I went with one of the lower ABV beers, Nevada Gold. Matt had indicated that many of Great Basin’s beers are “big” and have ABV’s to reflect this. The Nevada Gold Kolsch is a great summer refresher and sessionable at 5% ABV. The Chimichurri tri-tip steak sandwich was quite tasty, too.
So when your travels take you to northern Nevada, enjoy Great Basin’s awesome beers, fun atmosphere, killer food, and, as the bumper sticker says, “Get Icky With Someone You Love.”