What’s all the “brew-haha” about the Lake Tahoe beer scene? In recent years, the area’s ale brewers have figured out that mixing 99.99% pure water from North America’s largest alpine lake with yeast, malted barley and hops produces some of the craftiest beers to flow from a tap, winning over Tahoe’s local residents and visitors alike. Whether paddling, peddling, hiking, kayaking, playing golf or skiing, Lake Tahoe has long been a world-class recreational playground close to home. Now, with the emergence of the South Tahoe Beer Trail and North Lake Tahoe Ale Trail, brewski fans can celebrate their spirited adventure at numerous watering holes that have popped up around the “Big Blue.” Here are a handful of establishments to imbibe.
South Lake Tahoe
With a relaxed community-focused atmosphere, owners Nicole and Chris Smith have developed South Lake Brewing Company into Tahoe’s largest-production craft brewery, allowing them to maintain a full tap list (up to 16 beer styles) in the tasting room, as well as distribute to bars and restaurants throughout Northern California. The dog- and family-friendly brewery features lagers, pale ales, IPAs, double IPAs and stouts available in pints, half pints, flights and Crowlers to-go, plus plenty of games to hustle your buddy for the next round. While there’s no onsite kitchen, food truck vendors are parked in the beer garden.
South Lake Tahoe
From Mr. Toad’s Wild Rye and By Dads 4 Dads American Ale to Hey, Girl Hey! Double IPA, every beer at Cold Water Brewery & Grill is brewed onsite — and named to entertain. Riding the wave of the craft beer movement, owner Debbie Brown became the driving force behind the lake’s future beer entrepreneurs when she opened Tahoe’s first all-grain brewery in 2014, and it remains the only woman-owned craft brewery in the region. The seven-barrel brew house also offers a lineup of craft cocktails and a scratch kitchen serving seasonal menu items available for indoor and outdoor patio dining.
South Lake Tahoe and Stateline
While Lake Tahoe AleWorX isn’t technically a brewery, they do let you be your own bartender. You can pour as much or as little as you like from a self-serve beer wall with 30 taps that feature a rotating selection of craft brews, as well as wine, kombucha and nitro coffee. Your tab is tracked via a wristband containing a chip. Both locations offer a menu of burgers, brats and specialty pizzas cooked in their wood-fired ovens, all of which can be enjoyed indoors or outside.
Incline Village and Truckee
Founders Kevin Drake and Rich Romo have elevated Alibi into a highly recognizable community-centric brand throughout Lake Tahoe with three locations . The original taproom and production facility, Brewery and Barrel House in Incline Village, offers a full range of beers but no kitchen; customers are welcome to bring in food from any of the local restaurants. The newest location, Incline Public House also in Incline Village, and the Truckee Public House in Truckee’s historic downtown both feature 20 frequently rotating beers (pale ale, IPA, kolch and sour) on tap and an upscale menu of food to enjoy indoors or outdoors with live music.
A hoppy arsenal of core ales (the Donner Party Porter is to die for); seasonals; and the legendary Eclipse line, an annual tradition of bourbon-aged imperial stouts that take a full year to create, set the stage for beer enthusiasts at FiftyFifty Brewing. Cofounders Alicia and Andrew Barr named the brand to represent a work/life balance, and have been crafting that dream for 14 years at their popular Truckee pub that typically serves up to 16 beers on tap, in addition to a full lunch and dinner menu. From the hops to the water to the cans, everything is sourced in-house.
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Robert Kaufman is an international golf and travel writer/photographer based in Marin County. His work has appeared in magazines such as PGA, NCGA, Western Art & Architecture, GOLF (China), Great Golf (UK), and The Cut (New Zealand). PictureParfect.com