When Rich Johnson moved to Las Vegas in 1996, there was no craft beer scene whatsoever. That’s the main thing that inspired him to launch the Sin City Brewing Co.
What’s more, he felt there was a huge market for craft beer, given that Las Vegas receives about 49 million tourist visitors every year. “We wanted to create a beer that exemplified everything great about this amazing city.”
Johnson founded Sin City Brewing in 2003. The company distributes its beer exclusively in Las Vegas, with a focus on the Strip’s casinos. Treasure Island was the first large casino to get on board.
“We met with Treasure Island right when they were starting to rebrand themselves as TI,” Rich Johnson recalls. “They were interested in introducing some edgier products that really showcased the flavor of Las Vegas, and our beer was a great fit for that.”
Sin City Brewing entered the realm of tasting rooms in 2005, setting up its first location inside the Planet Hollywood Casino. It opened two more locations soon after, at the Venetian and Flamingo casinos.
Each tasting room offers Sin City Brewing’s four custom brews at a cost of $6 a pint. The beers all feature creative names that pay homage to the city’s wild reputation: Weisse is Nice, Never Pass Up a Blonde, The Dark Side of Sin, and the best-selling Say Hello to Amber.
Sin City is just one example of the influx of craft beer offerings popping up all over Las Vegas. Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino was the first major casino to offer a craft beer (Lagunitas IPA) as a free drink offering on the gaming floor.
The offering was a hit, so this past August Mandalay Bay upped its craft beer selections to include North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner, Hoegaarden, Firestone Walker Pale 31, Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale, and Anchor Porter. These craft beers are available across the casino in lounges, pool areas, and convention spaces at a cost of $7 each.
Brooklyn Brewery is one of several craft beer manufacturers that began distributing in Nevada in 2013. Why Las Vegas? The brewery’s neighbor and top customer, the Brooklyn Bowl bar and entertainment venue, decided to open a new location in Las Vegas, says Robin Ottaway, vice president of sales with Brooklyn Brewery.
“We explored the market and learned that Las Vegas has become a culinary destination,” Ottaway says. “Many top chefs from New York City whom we know are out there, so we realized there was potential for the Brooklyn brand.”
Partnering with Southern Wine & Spirits for distribution, Brooklyn Brewery plans to roll out a soft launch through the end of this year, with a stronger focus in 2014. This marks the first new market for the brewery since entering Minnesota in 2011.