Sunday, November 27, 2011

Las Vegas Beer Life: Battle of the Pubs

I had every intention of writing an exposé on the beer life of Vegas, complete with a play-by-play of the various beers I encountered while I was there. But, yeah...Vegas has a way of, well, distracting you. "What happens in Vegas", and all that.

So while I didn't get to the point of leaving mattresses on rooftops or wandering out of a nightclub as the sun rose, I was frequently in no position to remember the actual name of every beer I was drinking, much less writing articulate notes about flavor profiles.

But that in and of itself is a significant point - Las Vegas is, like every city you'd like a chance to visit for a few days, is increasingly a beer city. That is to say, pretty much every single bar or restaurant not only had a beer list but an impressive one at that.  Sure, there was your typical host of the average brews, which seemed to be the only options available if you were playing table games (though I don't know for sure, I didn't try), but the restaurants certainly had brewskis like me covered.

So, while I may not remember every beer I had (one of them had a turkey on it? I think?) I say with some certainty I know where I went. Probably. Here were some of the highlights:

Todd English P.U.B - Public Urban Bar 

Todd English P.U.B's very excellent bar. Picture from Vanrooy.

The first of two restaurants utilizing the self-titled naming scheme, Todd English PUB (Or Public Urban Bar if you prefer your restaurant names eye-rolly) was probably the culinary highlight of my trip. It's a great sort of environment, complete with all of the great bar staples like withheld lighting, exposed brick and polished brass, taken to another level of fancy flourish. It walks the line of fine dining and dive bar and lands somewhere completely different.

The menu features all of your bar menu staples - onion rings, soft pretzels, even pot pies and fish and chips - all taken to an exceptional new level you'd never expect of something deep fried.

And, oh yeah, there's a lot of beer. Not so many as the other Pub (we'll get into that in a minute), but the place does seem to relish in having a grand spectrum. From PBR (yes, they had PBR and, with a $6 pricetag, they treated it as some special beer gimmick that simply needed to be experienced, for some reason) to the elusive Chimay Cinq Cents (though it was out on draft, which almost ruined my entire trip in an instant).The menu also featured what they called "Beer Cocktails," concoctions that included two or more beers in lieu of a mixed drink. Most seemed too gimmicky to warrant a try in my opinion, but the rest of their selections more than made up for it.

Cleanly divided into simple categories such as "Crisp and Clean" and "Fruit and Chocolate," it was pretty easy to narrow in on what my mood dictated. I opted for a selection from the "Big Boy" section- more "advanced" beers with higher alcohol content - a fantastic Belgian Tripel beer called Bosteels Karmeliet, a medium-to-thick bodied beer with a great sweetness and balance that makes a perfect compliment to pretty much anything.

As an added bonus, all of their drafts are available in pitchers, too, though a pitcher of a Tripel isn't recommended unless you hate yourself and want to end your evening pretty quickly.

So there's not much to hate about P.U.B. It's a fantastic night out that feels both completely new while still being very familiar. It is, in many ways, the layman's fancy restaurant. Come for the beer, stay for the awesome mood and menu. Try the corndogs!

The Pub
Street of Dreams, Monte Carlo

The second place, again sporting the clever moniker "The Pub," doesn't try to be a fine dining establishment. No, The Pub, featured in one of Vegas's many indoor shopping "streets," called the "Street of Dreams" (which is an odd moniker, given that the other shops found here are an alcoholic slushie shop and a weirdly erotic candy shop, so I'm not sure whose dreams they're catering to) is quite content with being a very solid sports bar.

I had a great time watching the Ravens game here, and the tremendous space is riddled with a huge collection of screens with every possible game playing. It gets a bit confusing to hear intermittent rallies bursting out around the room, but it's kind of cool to be among such a wide variety of traveling sports fans from all over the country.

They don't make any attempts to be uppity, and while their nachos don't reach the next culinary level, The Pub features pretty darn good bar food. As a side note, I saw one man as I was leaving attempting to consume what could have only been one of those if-by-some-miracle-you-can-consume-this-in-an-hour-it's-free food challenges, so it's one of THOSE kinds of places.

As for their beer selection, though?

Great. Googly. Moogly.
Pictured: A mere fraction of their "We Have Pretty Much Every Beer Ever" Collection. Picture from Trip Advisor

While The P.U.B hosted a very impressive and well thought out beer collection, The Pub sort of brute forces it and features, well, pretty much everything. With literally hundreds of beers from every possible variety, their beer menu is nothing short of intimidating. But with some pretty exceptional menu organization, the flood of beer becomes a bit more manageable, though the huge list lends itself pretty well to frantically waving your finger over a page and picking out something random. Or, do what I did, and ask the waiter for what she thinks. I opted for a local brown ale that turned out to be pretty tasty.

And you'll want to keep the beer menu after your order is placed, if only because it makes some great reading, as each type of beer is given a succinct but very interesting description of what makes it what it is. The "oddities" here are especially fun; they have a $150 bottle of Chimay Reserve, for example, that was fun to talk about. There's also a mini beer "museum" near the front that features some of the more elusive and "important" beers from around the world (Read: Trappist Belgium).

So, which of the Pubs is better? They're too different to compare, despite their names, if you can believe it. Honestly, you need to do both.

If pompous French restaurants or stuffy steakhouses aren't your thing, then consider P.U.B for your fine dining training wheels, or start the night off there with a beer and order of onion rings at the bar. It's worth experiencing.

The Pub is the perfect place to watch your game of choice if you happen to be in Vegas for gameday, but it's also excellent for a beer enthusiast just to see the should-be-emanating-beams-of-light beer menu. It's the perfect place to be adventurous and try something you wouldn't otherwise.

Vegas is a beer lover's town. Who knew?

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