Downtown Brew Festival Showcases ‘Local Side’ of Las Vegas Beer Culture

Brian Chapin Talks to 'Flip the Strip' About the Brew Boom

Flip the Strip
October 18, 2018 - 1:13 am
Downtown Brew Fest

Fred Morledge

Piece by piece, the foundation that creates a community is forming in Las Vegas. The shift away from a culture focused on casinos to one that combines all of the elements of every great city – music, art, sports fandom, among them – are solidifying in neighborhoods outside of The Strip.

In many ways, beer counts as one of those elements, as evidenced by the increasing popularity of Las Vegas’ Downtown Brew Festival, an annual gathering of craft beer and culinary enthusiasts that locals – not visitors – have come to claim as their own.

“A decade ago when I got here, [Las Vegas is] nothing like it is now,” explains Motley Brews President Brian Chapin, whose company first launched the event in 2011. “We [now] have sports teams, we’ve got off-Strip chefs – it’s the same thing happening with beer.

“People are starting to discover that, ‘Wow, Las Vegas has this local side of things that I haven’t seen before.’”

When Motley Brews launched in 2011, Chapin says there were five local breweries taking part in the Downtown Brew Festival. Today, that number is in the thirties, he says. He credits neighboring states and cities, including Colorado and San Diego, for fueling the interest. As their residents leave and come to Las Vegas, they’re bringing with them a passion for locally-focused brewing. 

“I think that what happens is, people find it really cool to be able to drink beer in your own back yard by people that made it right there in the state, straight from the source,” Chapin says. “The local scene really helps on that side.”

Much of the “local scene” that’s formed since the beginning of the century originated in Downtown Las Vegas, Chapin adds, which makes the setting for this year’s Brew Festival – Clark County Amphitheater – ideal for the city’s burgeoning craft beer culture. The 2018 event will feature more than 200 craft brews from more than 60 breweries, including local standouts such as Ellis Island, Hop Nuts, Chicago Brewing Company, Tenaya Creek, Banger Brewing, Lovelady, and Joseph James.

Among the guest breweries, fans will recognize popular brands such as San Diego’s Stone Brewing and Ballast Point, with old favorites Guinness, Blue Moon, Samuel Adams, and Gordon Biersch also on the list.

“Our goal at the festivals is to hopefully help out the connoisseurs and get them something that they like and something new being pushed by the local breweries, but also get people who are, like, ‘I don’t really like beer,’” and try to get them going,” Chapin says.

To that end, Downtown Brew Festival will host a “Festaurant Row” with food trucks and local restaurants, Good Pie and A Family Secret among them. The live music lineup includes Mike Xavier, Vin A, and Ryan Whyte Maloney. 

That combination of local culture, live music, and craft beer has helped Downtown Brew Festival take off, Chapin says, and may soon our city influencing the culture of others, instead of the other way around. 

Downtown Brew Festival runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on October 20 at Clark County Amphitheater. Tickets start at $40 and can be purchased via the festival website