The last three year’s I’ve set a goal of hitting 100 different breweries. So to continue with that annual ritual, it was time to venture out again. What better than a weekend beer crawl through beautiful South Lake Tahoe! It’s been a bunch of years since I visited and it’s never been known as a beer destination. My wife took it upon herself to find the breweries and book the weekend getaway. She found a local blog that provided some excellent information.
Not Sure What To Expect
While South Lake Tahoe has a lot to offer, I wasn’t sure beer was one of them. Sking, mountain biking, boating, and gambling. With a captive vacationing audience, why would the beer need to be a standout?
All but one of the breweries had some sort of food. Two being full on brewpubs and one offer food as a side thing. Maybe there’s a shortage of food trucks in the area.
First stop, breakfast in the town of El Dorado. We stopped at the aptly named Cafe El Dorado. A basic little cabin/house that is a true locals spot. Killer breakfast and a great place to stop before hitting the mountain breweries.
From my research, there are 5 active breweries and 1 in planning. We picked 4 to hit. All but one was relatively new. The Brewery at Lake Tahoe has been around since 1992.
First Impressions: Big, open tasting room that would a great spot to meet up with some friends.
Staff: Friendly staff, although I thought it was interesting that they didn’t ask me if I wanted to keep my tab open.
Beer List: I didn’t count the beers on the list, but they had about 10 to choose from. They covered the key styles from IPA, Pale, Stouts and even a Berliner Weisse.
Brewery Highlights: The two beers that really stood out for me were their 3.3 ABV English Mild “Land Otter”. You are hard-pressed to find an English Mild on a tap list, and this one was very well made. My favorite from the stop Burnside Stout. This beer had a nice bittersweet chocolate flavor with a good level of roast. I didn’t get much coffee on it, but that might be a good addition to this 7% Stout.
Overall Impression: Great space (no food). I think with a little more time, they have the capability of being a local favorite.
First Impressions: A restaurant, a busy restaurant! There was a bar, but the setup was a traditional restaurant. Not sure how comfortable this place would be if you weren’t eating. We ate.
Staff: Hectic pace, but very friendly.
Beer List: I tried them all! Seven, and they were all really good. Lager, Rye Ale, two IPAs, pale, Stout and even an Alt beer (which was my favorite).
Brewery Highlights: This place is good. The chicken wings were excellent and the beer is solid.
Overall Impressions: Not sure this is the place I would really want to hang and have a few beers with friends. However, this place might just be perfect for the vacationing masses.
First Impressions: A nice bar area, and wide open. Even though this is a restaurant, It didn’t seem that formal of a place. Basically, walk in a grab a seat.
Staff: Really friendly staff and that transferred to the customers who we shared the bar with. We had a great time talking at the bar.
Beer List: Ten of their own beers on tap, plus a couple of guest taps. Three IPAs, a Porter, Brown, Amber, two Whites (one with Habaneros), Saison and ever a Kettle Sour.
Brewery Highlights: More than anywhere else we tried, these guys are brewing up some more adventurous beers. Not everyone was for me, but I really like the directing they are going.
Overall Impression: I think this a great stop to grab some solid beers and a little food. Although not to crowed when we were there, this the place people are talking about.
First Impressions: Bar…restaurant…bar. Old school brewpub (literally, established in 1992). Beer might an afterthought.
Staff: A friendly bartender that knew how to work a busy bar.
Beer List: They run the full spectrum of beers, Pilsner, Wit, Pale, IPA, Amber, Porter, and a few seasonals. Being the last stop on the day and seeing the bar was packed, I opted for a pint of their Needle Peak Pale Ale. A good beer, and I’m sure it works perfectly with the crowd.
Brewery Highlights: There weren’t any lowlights, but also nothing too memorable. This is actually a brewery I visited many years ago. I really good place to grab lunch and a beer.
Overall Impressions: While sitting at the bar, I saw more cocktails, shots, and wine get served than beer. The beer is good.
So, South Lake Tahoe
This place is awesome. One of the most beautiful areas in the State of California. As for beer, not quite a destination…yet. Give these new breweries a little more time and I think you might see beer added to the local tourist guides. Just like Vegas, this place is a vacation resort that needs the tourist dollars. The clientele will be ever-changing, so it’s going to be difficult to appeal to the masses while also branching out.
And on the way home, we stopped at Jack Russell Brewing in Placerville for a pint of their All American Ale. A solid lightly hopped pale ale. We also found a new brewery, Solid Ground. Very impressed. More about them in a future post.