When it comes to the beers of Life Is Beautiful (Sept. 23-25, LifeIsBeautiful.com), the rules of the game are refreshing, sessionable and bountiful. In addition to dependable top-tier concessions sponsor Dos Equis coming strong for a fourth year with both cans and draft, festival attendees will have a craft beer garden in which to get their suds on. Located between the Huntridge and Downtown stages at Sixth Street and Stewart Avenue, the garden sits within a bottle cap’s throw of food trucks, all the better to make a pairing meal out of it.
On draft, you’ll find a lineup of 16 craft and specialty import beers representing 11 suppliers from five states and two countries, available in 16-ounce and 24-ounce pours. Alcohol by volume ranges from 2.8 percent for a soda-like radler (or shandy) and tops out at 7 percent for a pair of IPAs. “We don’t want people drinking two 10 percent ABV beers and being done with it,” Breakthru Beverage Group craft beer specialist Michael Shetler says. “We want them to be able to enjoy craft beers throughout the day.”
Here’s what you’ll be drinking between sets:
Doing the heavy lifting on what we can assume will be a very warm late-summer weekend will be the Sculpin IPA and Sculpin Grapefruit IPA from San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing Co. “Sculpin has developed a cult following throughout Southern California, really throughout the nation,” Shetler says. Also, when in doubt or overcome by decision fatigue, reach for Dale’s Pale Ale or Mama’s Little Yella Pils, both from Colorado’s Oskar Blues Brewery. Oregon’s Rogue Dead Guy Ale offers a rich, malty Maibock-style brew perfect for something spicy off the food trucks. And Trumer Pils can tackle food or just sustain you on the walk to the next stage. (Dos Equis Ambar is the only draft beer being served outside the craft beer garden, and is only available at the Dos Equis booth at Seventh Street and Ogden Avenue.)
The newest addition to the Breakthru Beverage portfolio, San Diego’s Saint Archer Brewing Co. brings two beers from its lineup of well-balanced beers. Blonde Ale is a light, flavorful Kolsch-style beer, “a great transition beer for someone who who’s just starting to experience craft beer,” Shetler says. Hoppy Pils is a traditional German-style Pilsner with slightly higher hops than its European cousins. From the Bay Area’s 21st Amendment Brewery comes with its Down to Earth Session IPA and Hell or High Watermelon Wheat, made from 100 percent watermelon puree, another cult beer that’s especially popular in summertime. Back down in San Diego, Belching Beaver is home to a funny name but some seriously fun beers. “They don’t take themselves too seriously,” Shetler says. “The base beers are of extreme quality.” Me So Honey Wheat Ale starts with a wheat ale base then adds local honey. Any of these light selections will be the perfect place for a craft-beer newbie to start out.
You probably know Left Hand Brewing Co. for its exceptionally smooth and addictive milk stout that is even more life-changing on nitro. But if you’ve never tucked into the Good Juju Ginger Pale Ale, this festival weekend might just be an auspicious time. “Good Juju is a nicely balanced pale ale with good malt and the addition of fresh grated ginger. It’s extremely refreshing and a great beer for outdoors—especially if it’s 100 degrees outside.” In fact, the fruited beers are plentiful this year. “Once again, we’re playing into the refresh-ability. We want to show the breadth of Breakthru’s craft-beer portfolio and appeal to a wide demographic of drinkers. Some people are going to have six beers, some are only going to have one. We want to offer a little something for everyone.” Stiegl Grapefruit Radler adds a low-alcohol option for those who want to partake but with minimal risk of inebriation, and Washington’s Seattle Cider has our gluten-free friends covered.
Holding it down for Las Vegas in the beer garden is Downtown’s newest resident brewery, Tenaya Creek, which relocated a year ago from Summerlin to a converted plumbing supply warehouse on Bonanza Road. And it doesn’t get more local than Tenaya Creek’s team, Shetler says: “The owner Tim Etter, head brewer Anthony Gibson and sales manager Alex Graham were all born and raised in Las Vegas. They have a deep connection to the city as a whole, but particularly Downtown. I couldn’t think of any brewery that could fit the ethos of Downtown better than Tenaya Creek. They’ve always been local and they always will be.” In addition to Tenaya Creek’s 702 Pale Ale, the team will bring the first collaborative brew from its Native Series.
“We wanted to offer the Downtown [venues] something that they could call their own,” Shetler says. “Participating accounts came down and helped with the brewing of the beer at Tenaya Creek. We also did an education piece on wheat beer and went over each ingredient that goes into the beer in detail. When somebody walks in and says, ‘What’s local?’ that server, bartender or manager can say, ‘Well, let me tell you: This is extremely local because it was made 10 minutes from here and my staff helped brew this beer!” Native Wit is a Belgian wit-style beer, brewed with coriander and two kinds of orange peel. Fresh, local pluots from Gilcrease Orchards were added to the conditioning tank, Shetler says, “to give a slight tartness to the beer and a very subtle underlying fruit character.”
In addition to Life Is Beautiful, Native Wit is available at Tenaya Creek’s taproom, El Cortez, Therapy, Velveteen Rabbit, Gold Spike, Rick’s Rollin’ Smoke, Atomic Liquors and Classic Jewel. The next brew in the Native Series will incorporate more local ingredients and a cool-weather style.
|21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat, 4.9%|
|21st Amendment Down to Earth Session IPA, 4.4%|
|Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, 7.0%|
|Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA, 7.0%|
|Left Hand Good JuJu Ginger Pale Ale, 4.5%|
|Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale, 6.5%|
|Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils, 5.3%|
|Rogue Dead Guy Ale, 6.4%|
|Stiegl Grapefruit Radler, 2.8%|
|Seattle Cider Semi-Sweet, 6.5%|
|Tenaya Creek 702 Pale Ale, 5.2%|
|Tenaya Creek Native Wit, 4.9%|
|Trumer Pils, 4.9%|
|Saint Archer Blonde Ale, 4.8%|
|Saint Archer Hoppy Pils, 5.1%|
|Belching Beaver Me So Honey, 5.30%|