The Arts District, a low-frills buffer between the Las Vegas Strip and Fremont Street, attracts tourists and locals looking for fun in a place devoid of pedestrian congestion, flashing lights and slot machine cacophony.
The rapidly evolving mile-long stretch of Main Street is dotted with cocktail bars, most notably quirky neighborhood trailblazer Velveteen Rabbit, but beer is the headliner here. With multiple suds-specific spots within walking distance, there’s no better place to experience the Vegas craft beer scene.
Able Baker Brewing
Despite being on the relatively desolate southern end of Main Street, Able Baker Brewing Co. has had no problem drawing a crowd since opening in September.
The industrial-chic space features concrete floors, communal picnic tables and a colorful chalkboard menu. A wall dedicated to the history of atomic testing in Las Vegas is an unusual touch. (Able and Baker happen to be the code names for the first two nuclear detonations at the Nevada Test Site. The brewery’s atomic duck mascot pays homage to what legend says is the lone animal to survive the nuclear explosions.)
Though this is the brewery’s brick-and-mortar debut, it’s earned a devoted local following over the last few years for its beers, which were produced in limited quantities at Henderson’s Joseph James Brewing Company. But now fans won’t have any difficulty getting a taste of Able Baker’s globe-hopping lineup, including El Charro Mexican Lager, Shower Sour (a hopped-up Berliner Weisse) and the Belgian-style Tripel Dog Dare, which earned gold at the 2017 Great American Beer Fest.
Don’t pass up the brewery’s dark beers, especially if they’ve been aged in spirits barrels. The Double Barrel Honey Dip Stout, which is aged in bourbon and rye barrels, is a standout with complex notes of caramel, vanilla and chocolate.
Food options, prepared in-house by Arts District Craft & Kitchen, also favor the unconventional. Chef Van-Alan Nguyen offers a menu of Asian-influenced gastropub fare, including a decadent pork belly-topped burger, sweet and spicy Gochujang honey wings and five banh mi options, including a vegan version loaded with hoisin sambal-glazed jackfruit.
Info: 1510 S. Main St.; (702) 479-6355, ablebakerbrewing.com
Hop Nuts Brewing
This local favorite was the first brewery to plant the craft beer flag in the Arts District. Hop Nuts opened in 2014, but the dimly illuminated bar has a well-worn vibe that gives the impression it’s been in the neighborhood for decades.
Cocktails and wine are available, but you’re here for the beer. As its name suggests, the brewery excels at the hoppy stuff, particularly hazy IPAs, which are fruitier and less aggressive than their filtered counterparts.
If bitter brews aren’t your thing, worthy alternatives include the roasty Harry Porter and the easy-drinking Blonde Ale. Another popular option is the Golden Knight, a hearty Belgian. Owner Kevin Holder insists its moniker was inspired by the beer’s color and strength (a buzz-inducing 7.5% alcohol by volume), not Las Vegas’ professional hockey team.
If you find yourself in the Summerlin area, Hop Nuts recently opened a satellite taproom in Tivoli Village.
Info: 1120 S. Main St., No. 150; (702) 816-5371, hopnutsbrewing.com
Crafthaus Arts District
Although CHAD pays homage to the mothership, including a wall-spanning mural depicting a showgirl (a nod not only to Vegas but also to co-owner Wyndee Forrest’s professional past as a dancer), there is no brewing on the premises, and the experience is decidedly more upscale.
Gold accents, Carrara marble and velvet upholstery exude a Strip vibe but without the attitude. Bartenders are gracious and go out of their way to walk you through the eclectic tap list, which features flagship beers such as Resinate IPA and Evocation Belgian Saison, along with seasonal favorites and one-offs.
The Sour CHAD, a tart and refreshing taproom exclusive brewed with local prickly pears, is a must-try.
You also can choose a frozen beer slushy, which, for the record, is not available in a novelty yard glass. Recent flavors, which rotate weekly, have included a riff on horchata made with Silver State Blonde, and Carrot Topless, a blend of Evocation, carrot juice and ginger dedicated to a certain orange-haired, prop-loving Vegas icon.
If you’re hungry, there’s a limited menu of bar bites, but your best bet is to order from modern Italian hot spot Esther’s Kitchen, which is across California Street.
Info: 197 E. California St., Suite 130; (702) 888-1026,crafthausbrewery.com
Three Sheets Craft Beer Bar
The multi-story Three Sheets offers an expertly curated tap and bottle list. Among the dozens of familiar favorites and under-the-radar gems are local offerings from Tenaya Creek, Joseph James, Banger and several other Vegas-based breweries.
TVs are scattered throughout so you can pair your suds with big-game viewing. Three Sheets’ original Northern California location was popular with Raiders fans, so it’s a good bet it will become a destination for fans of the silver and black when the team arrives later this year in Las Vegas.
When the heat is manageable, take advantage of the two outdoor patios and courtyard biergarten, all three shaded. Four-legged friends are encouraged to join the party; Three Sheets plays hosts to several canine charity events throughout the year.
Info: 1115 S. Casino Center Blvd.; (702) 912-0590, threesheetsdtlv.com