Brewing up history | NevadaAppeal.com

Brewing up history

Dave Frank
Appeal Staff Writer

Photos by BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Doppelgangers' brewmaster Joe Renden explains crafting beer through a fermentation vat at the local brewery. Renden has been asked to brew a special beer to celebrate Carson City's 150th birthday.

Carson City’s 150th birthday next year could have its own beer – a tradition almost as old as the city – to go along with the anniversary.

Joe Renden, brewmaster at Doppelgangers, said he’s thinking of creating a steam-style beer, the same type made at Nevada’s first brewery, the Carson City Brewery, which was founded in 1860. Steam beer was common in Nevada in the late 1800s because it could be made without constant cold brewing temperatures.

“As long as it tastes good,” Renden said. “It’s good beer.”

Renden was approached for the project by Fred Nietz, one of several people working to plan the city’s sesquicentennial events next year.

The brew pub also could be part of another city tradition soon. General Manger Melissa Claude said Doppelgangers might start to sell Renden’s normal brews around the city.

The Carson City Brewery, later Carson Brewing Company, also delivered beer around the city, as well as to Comstock mining towns.

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Storey County had many of their own breweries, too, with six by 1880 that included the Union Brewery, Gold Hill Brewery and the Nevada Brewery. The Union Brewery building still stands and it even brewed again for a period in the 1980s and 1990s.

Bob Nylen, curator of history at the Nevada State Museum, said the breweries were driven by miners, who demanded the beer, and German immigrants, who set up most of the breweries.

Many towns around Nevada had breweries then, he said, because there wasn’t a very large distribution from bigger companies. Brewers imported most of their barley and hops from the Sacramento Valley.

Prohibition wiped out most of the breweries in 1920, however, and only two re-opened in 1933 – the Reno Brewing Company and the Carson Brewing Company, which made its Tahoe Beer.

“Famous as the Lake,” was the Carson business’ slogan.

Bootleggers and brewers were busy in Nevada during prohibition, though, partly due to the large amount of land and small amount of enforcement officers. The government put out the message, “If you want action come here to Nevada,” Nylen said.

Nevada breweries faded in the middle of the century, though. Carson City’s brewery closed in 1948 and Reno’s closed in 1957.

Businesses later pushed state legislators to chip away at a law that essentially banned brew pubs, the Union Brewery being the first to open in 1987. The Carson Depot, later McWain’s Brew Pub and Eatery, opened in Carson City in 1993. Carson Valley Brewery opened in 1999.

While the latter two closed around 2001, brew pubs started to get more popular in the late 1990s in Northern Nevada and around the state. Stew’s Sportatorium opened at the Lucky Spur in downtown Carson City in 2005, where Doppelgangers is now.

Renden, the brewmaster there, said he’s glad to see people can still get good local beer.

“On a busy night,” he said, “I can walk through here and there’s all these people (drinking beer) and they’re happy.”

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.