NCBA Profile: Tenaya Creek Brewery

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We sat down with Tenaya Creek Head Brewer Anthony Gibson to talk about the craft beer industry in Nevada, Tenaya’s recent expansion and tips for trying out new beers.

Gibson has been the Head Brewer at Tenaya since 2007, where he’s been busy pumping out about 20 different beers throughout each year–some for wide distribution and others for testing on the proving grounds of Tenaya’s brewpub.  Tenaya’s been turning heads recently, especially following DRAFT Magazine’s review of Old Jackalope Barleywine (rating the beer 97/100) and Hop Ride IPA’s trip to the Elite 8 in the 2012 National IPA Championship.

Working to meet Tenaya’s increasing demand, Gibson says it’s important to stay grounded: “Of course it’s important for us to grow and get our beer out there, but Las Vegas should always be our target market.” He motions to the front, where the brewpub is located: “We get a lot of regulars out there and we can trust them to tell us what they honestly think about something we’re trying out.  They’re the ones we focus on.”  It’s clear that Gibson, a Las Vegas native, garners some serious affection for his city.

The growth he mentions?  Tenaya recently expanded their brewery, boosting their production output by 60 percent and allowing them to extend their reach into two new markets: Southern California and Alberta, Canada.  While Gibson is optimistic about the opportunities afforded by the expansion, he remains adamant that there’s still work to be done right here at home.

Las Vegas isn’t exactly considered a hub of craft beer culture but it’s hard for small breweries to compete for visibility among the giant brands that saturate the market here.  Tenaya’s strategy to combat beer complacency is simple: get out there and educate.  “It’s funny that–with something as ubiquitous as beer–a lot of people don’t know what it’s made of,” Gibson laughs, “but when you show them the ingredients, let them taste the barley and smell the hops, suddenly it clicks that there’s something to this.”  Gibson and Tenaya hope that by educating bartenders, managers and beer fans about the process and the product, they’ll make the first step toward establishing the kind of local beer enthusiasm that has swept up cities like San Diego, Portland and Denver.

The most important thing Tenaya and other Nevada Craft Brewers can do to further education and visibility, Gibson suggests, is to join their efforts to push craft beer into the local eye through the Nevada Craft Brewers Association.  “If one of us succeeds we all succeed.  There’s a sense of kinship in the brewing community that you don’t really find in other industries; we’re all friends and we want to see each other do well,” he said. “The NCBA will allow us to look out for each other and make the changes we need.”

(That attitude gets us really excited for Pyrite Pale Ale, the NCBA’s first-ever collaboration brew—made just for GVFB 2013—which Tenaya will help create alongside fellow Nevada Craft Brewers Joseph James, Big Dog’s and Chicago. If you haven’t seen the Pyrite Logo Contest, check it out!)

As our beers were getting low in the glass, we asked Gibson for his best tips for trying out new breweries.  His advice: “Try a Kolsch, a Golden Ale, a Pilsner, something like that.  The ‘pure form’ beers” (he says ‘pure form’ hesitantly, careful not to sound snobbish) “are hard to get right, so they’re a good way to gauge the skill of the brewer.  That being said,” he added, “people can be quick to judge.  At the end of the day you’re drinking a beer– just enjoy it the way the brewer wanted to make it.”

Special thanks to Anthony Gibson and the Tenaya Creek Brewery, located on Tenaya near Cheyenne. Check out what they’ve got on tap!