By Eric Uribe
“Ball so hard/
That shit cray, ain’t it Jay?/
Ball so hard/
What she order, fish filet/
Ball so hard/
Your whip so cold, this old thing/
Ball so hard”
It’s a weekend night at Brew Brothers inside Eldorado Casino — a calling-card night out for many University of Nevada, Reno students. Kanye West and Jay Z’s ear-splitting hit “(N*****) in Paris” reverberates through the walls as the live band takes a break and bar-goers drown themselves in alcohol — mostly light beers such as Coors and Budweiser.
However, planted behind the Brew Brothers glass wall lie giant fermentation tanks used to brew its selection of craft beer, an unfamiliar visual for many college students.
That could be changing soon, as microbrewed beer finds itself on more and more menus around Reno.
What is craft beer? According to the Brewers Association, the American brewer is a small and independent organization with annual production of six million barrels of beer or less. Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients like malted barley and brewed with an eye for innovation.
However, what really sets microbreweries apart from mainstream brewing companies such as Budwesier, Miller, or Coors is their beer’s richness in flavor and aroma. While the latter companies mass produce their beer, microbreweries have a quality-over-quantity mindset.
Brewing beer is a centuries-old practice. However, it’s in the midst of a renaissance. Craft beer sales spiked 17 percent in 2013, according to the Brewers Association. The eye-popping figure came in spite of overall beer sales declining by 2 percent. Altogether, craft brewing made up nearly 8 percent of all beer sales in 2013.
The resurgence of craft beer has especially breathed life into Reno, a city undergoing a rebirth of its own.
“Everything is moving together — the great beer movement, distilleries, midtown restaurants, even coffee,” said Eldorado publicist Laura Longero. “Reno is really bringing a sophistication like San Francisco.”
Longero formerly wrote about the city’s food and drink scene for the Reno Gazette-Journal. She attributes the exponential growth of craft beer with consumers — especially millennials — growing concern of where their products come from and mindset to support local businesses.
“The appreciation for beer has really come around,” said Brew Brothers brew master Greg Hinge. “People know a lot more about beer than they use to.”
The 42-year-old Hinge has been working at Brew Brothers since 1999. He remembers two decades ago, the only two Reno locations that crafted their own beer were Great Basin and Brew Brothers. Today, that number has swelled to more than a dozen. Places such as the Brewer’s Cabinet and Brasserie Saint James have become lynchpins of Midtown.
Eight different microbrews are available at Brew Brothers and Hinge is the man behind it all. Hinge studied science at UNR before becoming a brewer. His Danish background can be tasted in many of his special brews.
His advice to the first-time craft beer drinker is simple: start light and work your way up.
“Taste as many beers as you can,” he said. “Beer is good for you.”
At Brew Brothers, all the craft beer can sampled on a $7 platter. Hinge stresses to first-time craft beer drinkers to train their palate by tasting as many different beers from different brewers to pick up certain flavors and become aware of your tasting.
The rise of craft beer is welcoming to Hinge and to the identity-searching Reno as a whole.
“Reno is making some great movement forward in its whole beer market,” Hinge. “It’s a small little area next to the mountains, why shouldn’t Reno have breweries everywhere? We have a great young crowd with the college nearby and an influx of tourists. It’s a great place to have lots of beer. It’s like a mini-Portland.”
A mini-Portland without all the hipsters, who would’ve thought?
Eric Uribe can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @Uribe_Eric.