Saturday, 24 September 2016

US beer odyssey part 2 - Reno

Matt behind the bar at Imbib, foeder, and great beer
With sadness I left Utah early on a Monday morning, the 16th of August, sad because I was leaving Salt Lake City, which had been so wonderful to us for the previous few months, but also because I was saying goodbye to my wife and son with whom I had enjoyed all the great experiences Utah had to offer, I was striking out by myself into the great unknown. Over the next two weeks I would drive 2,640 miles, visiting eight cities, and many great beer establishments.

Superb saison
Google maps said it was just over a seven hour drive on I-80 from Salt Lake City to Reno, and nine and a half hours later I arrived at my lodgings, Harrah's Casino Resort Hotel. $36 a night, plus resort fees and taxes, bringing the total to about $54, a bargain by any standards. I had been advised to avoid Reno and hit for Lake Tahoe instead, but combined with the steep prices at Lake Tahoe and my sense for a bargain, Reno was the clear winner. I had googled before I left about brewpub in Reno, and therein I discovered a gem: Imbib. Just a 10 minute walk from my hotel, this is one of Reno's newest (and smallest) brewpubs.

Slightly off the beaten track -- but then Reno's not exactly a beaten track like Vegas is -- I had one of the best beers I've had in the US: Imbib with an Alibi. A saison that has been made from a blend of two brews, one by Imbib themselves, and aged in a white wine barrel, and the other made by Alibi Ale Works (in Tahoe), aged in a red wine barrel. Fermentation involved two yeasts, before the beers were parked for a relatively short time in barrels. The result is spectacular, classically saison, but with some acidic sharpness that was picked up in the barrels. One of only a few beers I've give five to on Untappd.

Beer menu at Imbib
One of the benefits of visiting a small place is you get the personal touch. Matt (Johnson), one of the owners of Imbib was on duty that night, in an unbusy bar, and we got to have a good chat about Imbib and what they're doing. Their current brewkit is very small, between 300 and 400 litres (he speaks barrels, I speak litres, and we weren't sure of the exact conversion). Additionally, they have a number of barrels, and an American made foeder. The foeder is egg shaped and was a first for the manufacturer, which hasn't gone flawlessly. Unlike other foeders I've seen there are no centre braces and as a result it's starting to sag and split in the middle. It's not leaking, or really a big deal, but the manufacturer has guaranteed it and will replace it.

Imbib has five owners, all brewers, and a few others help out in the taproom etc. They all have day jobs too. A bigger brewkit is on order, which will allow them to achieve wider distribution. All the beers are quality (see the menu, right), something I hope doesn't get lost in the upscale.  All are available on draft only, for now, but the new kit will see it in bottles. I expect to hear a lot more from Imbib in the future, definitely a must-see if you're in the Reno area.

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