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August 2005

Las Vegas Casino Beer Report

  • Part I

By Dan Fapp, Minister of Prosperity

“Grab a Brew. Don’t cost nothin’.” John “Bluto” Blutarski Animal House

These prophetic words from moviedom’s most famous 7- year non-college graduate come pretty close to summing up how Las Vegas casinos provide beer to their customers. While we all know that nothing’s free, not even in Las Vegas, many of the casino companies have come pretty close to giving good beer away, if you know where to look.

Las Vegas has a good history of providing brews for those people that didn’t necessarily want to venture into the city’s gambling halls. Gordon Biersch, Chicago Brewing Co, Barleys’s and Big Dogs have been operating in the city for several years now, mainly catering to the locals and those looking for a respite from the ever- present mega-breweries’ standard fare. The major casinos have taken a little longer to come around to the world of craft and micro-brewed beers, but improvement is happening. While most of the casinos have gone the easy route of bringing in better brews from primarily western state craft and micro-brewers, two casinos near Las Vegas Boulevard, or the “Strip,” and one property in Downtown Las Vegas have gone the extra-mile and opened brew-pubs in their casinos.

Ellis Island Casino and Brewery - Located just east of the Strip behind Bally’s Hotel and Casino, the Ellis Island Casino and Brewery is the smallest of the three casino-breweries, and the one catering least to the typical Las Vegas tourist. The atmosphere is decidedly the opposite of the mega-resorts that line the Strip - not surprising since, despite the fancy name, the hotel is actually a Super-8 Motel franchise - with the best entertainment in the casino being the nightly Karaoke. Rumor has it that many of the Elvis impersonators that inhabit Las Vegas practice here working on their ever- increasing repertoires of Elvis songs. The casino is small

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and smoky by Strip standards, with the standard assortment of slots, video poker, blackjack, craps and roulette.

Brewmaster Joe Pickett tries to keep his 5 beers on tap, but every time I’ve been there, only three or four seem to be available. Unlike other breweries that attempt to come up with names of local or historical significance for their brews, Ellis Island keeps it simple by naming its beers “Amber,” “Light,” “Dark,” “Hefe Weiss,” and “Stout.” While the brewery does not have the best reputation in town, I found the beers to be drinkable, especially compared to the 96-once, thirst-destroyer margaritas that most people strolling along the Strip imbibe. The Stout was a bit out of character, seeming more like a brown ale than a stout. The Hefe Weiss was better, with a nice little bite to it. The only problem was that the bartender had a bad habit of dropping in a lemon wedge without asking if we wanted it. The Amber, which was advertised as being made with two types of malt, 9 varieties of hops and RICE!, was thin as expected, and not much to write home about.

Ellis Island’s claim to fame amongst the locals that tend to hang out there is not the type of beers made but the price of the beers. Every beer is $1 per pint, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. And if you don’t like the beers, don’t despair, because virtually every drink is $1. While you won’t find any top-shelf Scotch, vodka or gin being poured, the bar staff did make a reasonable Manhattan. Not a bad deal for 8-bits.

Tip No. 1 - While the beer at the Ellis Island may not be amongst the top brews in town, the casino can boast of having the top dining value in Las Vegas. Available 24- hours a day, the complete steak dinner for only $4.95 can’t be beat. It includes a 10-ounce filet-cut sirloin cooked to order, along with soup or salad, choice of potato, and side of vegetables and rolls. While not what you would get at Morton’s or Ruth’s Chris, it’s better than what you find at many mid-level steak restaurants. It’s not listed on the menu, so you will have to ask for it, but it’s worth the trip, especially if the Elvis impersonators are in the house.

Monte Carlo Pub and Brewery - The Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino is in many ways the complete opposite of the Ellis Island Casino and Brewery. Situated near the heart of the resort area of the Las Vegas Strip, the Monte Carlo sits between the New York, New York casino on its right and the Bellagio on its left. Its target market is upper-middle class visitors looking for the mega-resort experience – think spa treatments and big pools with waterfalls – without the mega-resort hassles

  • think big bucks.

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