Discovering the Beer of North Lake Tahoe

I’m of the sincere belief that there are some things that ski towns should do well, not the least of which are skiing, après-ski, and beer. They don’t call it a brewski for nothing. Am I right? So naturally, on my recent trip to North Lake Tahoe, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics and one of the foremost ski destinations in America, I set out to discover the beer of North Lake Tahoe. And I liked what I found. And not because of the quantity of brewpubs or breweries (because there aren’t that many) in North Lake Tahoe, but rather the diversity of the beer of North Lake Tahoe.

Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company

You really can’t talk about the beer of North Lake Tahoe and not mention Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company, and not just because it’s in the name. Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company is one of the foremost Lake Tahoe breweries, operating a brewery and small tasting room in Truckee and a brewpub in Tahoe City. What’s unique about Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company is that while they have many of your craft beer staples (a couple different IPAs, pilsner, porter, and saison), they do a number of barrel-aged and limited release beers, such as their Récolte Du Bois Apricot Saison, aged several months in oak barrels and a silver winner at last year’s Great American Beer Festival. To be a craft brewery, they have a lot of beer on draft, sporting 15 beers on draft on the day I visited their brewery in Truckee.

Beyond Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company, there's the recently opened Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village, which had opened just prior to my arrival. Alibi Ale Works has a number of standout features, most notably that the water used to make their beer comes from Lake Tahoe. Literally, something must be in that water. Does that make them a modern-day Jesus turning water into beer? Of course since this is West Coast beer territory, you won’t find a shortage of IPAs, including their white IPA, which I particularly liked, as well as a saison, porter, pale ale, and some different barrel-aged beers they are starting to release. Go on most afternoons and evenings and you can expect to find live music going down in their beer garden. Because beer gardens. Now this was the type of thing I was after in discovering the beer of North Lake Tahoe.

North Lake Tahoe Beer Festivals

I thought it was serendipity that found me in Lake Tahoe the same weekend as a beer and music festival, the Brews, Jazz and Funk Fest at the Village at Squaw Valley. But as I recently found out, there seems to be beer festivals just about every weekend during the summer in Lake Tahoe, including the Truckee Brew Fest, Beerfest and Bluegrass Festival at the Village at Northstar, and Foam Fest (Labor Day Weekend), in its 26th year, and also taking place at Squaw Valley.

The Brews, Jazz, and Funk Fest is about what it sounds like, a festival celebrating beer, jazz, and funk. This year saw 40 different breweries, from local beers like Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company, to more well-known beers like Deschutes, from Bend, Oregon, serving several of their beers out of a huge traveling beer barrel (it's just what it sounds like, a bar inside of a beer barrel). While a lot of the music was local and regional, it also featured the Grammy award winning Rebirth Brass Band, who you may have heard on the movie Chef.

California Craft Beer Summer Series

Last but not least, is a three-course beer and food pairing. You guys, a three-course food and beer pairing! Last week I wrote about the California Craft Beer Summer Series, which goes down monthly at the Resort at Squaw Creek, a destination hotel, in Lake Tahoe, who hosted me for the weekend. They clearly knew I was coming, being the IPA guy I am, since this was no ordinary beer and food pairing, but rather an IPA-exclusive beer dinner. That meant an IPA, double IPA, and triple IPA. Is this enlightenment?

The California Craft Beer Summer Series at Squaw goes down several times during the summer months. For each weekend, the Resort at Squaw partners with a different craft brewery, which for the weekend I was there featured Northern California brewery, Knee Deep Brewing (their Breaking Bud IPA and Simtra Triple IPA are among the best IPA beers I’ve had). Friday night consisted of complimentary beer tastings in the lobby of the Resort at Squaw Creek, while Saturday night was the beer and food pairing at Sandy’s Pub. Come hungry, because there’s no way you could potentially leave hungry.

What's are your favorite craft beers?