The Reno/Tahoe area is not someplace I frequent with any regularity. I’m not a gambler nor am I into any snow sports. Craft beer, on the other hand, has long been a siren’s song that I’ve been known to answer. So, with my friends in tow, we decided to make the trip up to Reno for their 3rd Annual CANFEST, a canned beer festival. On the way, we made a pit stop at the infamous Fifty Fifty Brewing Company.
I’ve never been to Fifty-Fifty Brewing Company before. I am only familiar with their beers through beer festivals. Their Imperial Eclipse Stout, and variations thereof, are highly regarded. Limited quantities, coupled with high demand, have resulted in “futures” of these beers to be sold. So if you wanted a bottle, you needed to put your deposit down and the remainder when you pick up.
Slightly Off the Beaten Path
Fifty Fifty Brewing Company calls Truckee, California it’s home. Easily accessible from Interstate 80, the brewery is a short distance away from the hubbub of their downtown area and is easily spotted if you keep your eyes out for their grain silo.
Once you enter the brewpub, you’ll notice the bar is centrally located in the space and is flanked by seating to the right and left. Behind the bar and visible from glass windows, is the brewery. We didn’t have the opportunity to peek inside. Our group to a seat at the bar and ordered lunch as well as a sampler tray of their beers.
The Fifty Fifty Brewing craft beer tasters numbered 6 in total. 3 of them seemed to be their regular beers and the other 3 were their seasonals. Here are my tasting notes:
- Base Camp, Golden Ale, 4.7% ABV, 19 IBU – Straight forward beer with cracker/pils-like malt flavor, low hop bitterness and a dry finish. It’s easily accessible and probably their “standard lager” alternative.
- Manifesto, Pale Ale, 5.4% ABV, 32 IBU – Tropical fruit hop character, like quava with a caramel-like malt flavors for balance and moderate bitterness.
- Rockslide, IPA, 6.7% ABV, 70 IBU – Grapefruit hop aroma and flavor with a light toast malt character. Medium-high hop bitterness with a dry finish.
- Totality, Imperial Stout, 9.5% ABV 70 IBU – Malty beer with coffee, chocolate, roasty and slight dark fruit flavors. Mrs. BetterBeerBlog described the body as being “smooth and velvety”. While it didn’t taste like it, this beer has the same hop bitterness as the IPA.
- Concentrated Evil, Belgian-style Ale, 10.5% ABV, 28 IBU – Caramelized malt flavor, dark fruit notes (dates, prunes and raisins) with a light tartness in the finish.
- Farmhouse Saison, Saison, 5.5% ABV, 25 IBU – Pils malt flavor with a peppery spicy character and slight stone fruity character. Dry finish with a light tartness.
All the beers were very well brewed with each beer doing a very good job of highlighting its key ingredients. For example, the IPA was a great showcase for hops and had just enough malt for stylistic balance. The Imperial Stout, on the other hand, did a great job of allowing the malt to shine through while have a robust enough hop bitterness for balance. My favorite of the day was Totality Imperial Stout. In retrospect, I should’ve gotten a growler of this on the way back home.
Full from lunch, we packed back into the car to finish the trip up to Reno. Finally having a chance to sample more of their beers outside of the special barrel aged ones I’ve only had, I can say that Fifty Fifty Brewing is well deserved of their accolades. Their beers are fantastic and while I didn’t really take any tasting notes about their food, their burgers are pretty damn good (and cooked to order) and their chili was just what the doctored ordered to put some warmth back into our bones.
I can honestly say that any future trips up to the Reno/Tahoe area will be a complete failure if I don’t stop by Fifty Fifty Brewing Company. As one of my design instructors told me in college, good design is everywhere, you just have to look. The same can be said of craft beer and Fifty Fifty Brewing is a great example of this.