LAS VEGAS -- Arriving at McCarran International from Sea-Tac International for an Off-The-Strip eating excursion, I experienced slot machine envy. Why, I wondered, can't Washington's Indian tribes cook up some Sea-Tac casino action?
As I pondered this over several sips of brewed-in-Las Vegas beers, envy turned to pity:
Las Vegas may have better casinos than we have in Washington, but their lagers and ales pale in comparison to those brewed in the Pacific Northwest.
Then I realized that sipping microbrews at 5 a.m. was something I'd have a hard time doing legally in Puget Sound pubs. Even the mediocre beers tasted pretty good at this hour. All the town's microbreweries are open 24 hours.
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Triple 7 Restaurant Brewery
200 N. Main St., Las Vegas; 1-800-713-8933;
Located inside the Main Street Station casino and hotel in downtown Las Vegas, not far from the Fremont Street Experience, Triple 7 plays toward Old Western fantasy and modern foodies. How else can one explain the sushi and oyster bar tucked beneath gleaming copper kettles and fermentation tanks in a dining room decked out like a luxurious train depot?
I hit a jackpot on my first sip of the beer sampler (six 5-ounce pours, $4.99). I don't like many fruit beers, but the seasonal black cherry stout resonated, starting with a sweet, effervescent rush of cherry cola, followed by smooth maltiness and a lingering, bitter grip.
I also liked pale ale, hoppy yet drinkable; red lager, with its crisp, roasted malt finish; and the current brewmaster's reserve, a sweet but not too malty dark ale.
The menu is upscale pub grub: hot sandwiches, burgers, pizza, salads, steaks. Sushi was a pleasant surprise in a brewpub, and raw oysters (fat, firm and crisp bluepoints, flown in from Louisiana) were remarkable in the desert.
Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas
4510 Paradise Road, Las Vegas; 1-702-853-2337;
You can buy Hofbrauhaus' Bavarian beers in bottles in the Puget Sound, but to get them all on tap in America, you have to go to Vegas, where an authentic licensed replica of the Munich Hofbrauhaus, the world's largest beer hall, serves the German-brewed beers in third-, half- and 1-liter mugs ($4.95 to $11.95).
Original Pilsener was meticulously sweet and clean, with a pure golden cast. A bouquet of banana floated in every sip of hefeweizen, whose cloudy golden-straw hue was capped by a creamy head. Dark, or dunkel, was a balanced blast of malt followed by lingering hops. Seasonal Oktoberfest – glimmering gold like a Pilsener – started bold and sweet, then faded into a dry-sweet finish.
Located across the street from the Hard Rock, Hofbrauhaus draws guests both famous and infamous (Siegfried and Roy to Pamela Anderson, according to Hofbrauhaus' Web site). It's an easy place to stop in for a stein; the bar's in the front lobby, near the gift shop. Inside the soaring dining room, I saw people dancing on communal tables. There's a beer garden in the back with a painted faux sky, fake trees and a real fountain.
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