Desert Companion

We’ll drink to that

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Andrew Kiraly, editor

Andrew Kiraly, editor

You know, living in a white-hot international supernova disco ball of hedonism and spectacle has its perks. Take alcohol, for instance. Our city boasts an utterly hypertrophic beverage-industrial complex that plies millions of visitors annually with everything from light beer to luxe cocktails, whiskey shots to whaaat’s-that-price-again? wine. And the magical plumbing spreading that liquid around is one reason why Vegas has grown up to be such a great drinking town off the Strip as well. Another reason: a wave of spirited (pun emphatically intended) entrepreneurs who’ve sensed in recent years that a maturing Southern Nevada wants to kick back with something more than six-pack swill, and who’ve established breweries, bars and other businesses to satisfy our increasingly sophisticated palates. The Artisan Booze District in Henderson is a buzzworthy (pun emphatically intended again) case in point, a burgeoning complex of independently owned craft beer brewers, winemakers and distillers. Some of their inspiring origin stories sound like tall tales spun late-night at the bar — such as that of Las Vegas Distillery proprietor and Artisan Booze District founder George Racz (p. 16). He not only took a gamble on Southern Nevada by moving here, sight unseen, to launch a distillery that would produce homegrown whiskey worthy of a city with a serious party rep; Racz doubled down by working to update state liquor laws to encourage the growth of a new cottage industry. The Las Vegas Distillery is just one such success story built upon the valley’s developing appreciation of good beer, fine wine and quality spirits. Other family businesses, from the venerable Ferraro’s in the University District to Downtown upstart Velveteen Rabbit, have fast become fixtures for discriminating drinkers. To highlight the best, we enlisted three connoisseurs (Jason Scavone on spirits, John Curtas on wine, and Greg Thilmont on beer) to share their favorite places and favorite glasses to sip and savor (p. 41).

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Drink enough (and Uber home!), and you just might be able to forget for a glorious, merciful millisecond that we’re in the midst of an election season whose tone subtly suggests America has broken in half and poison locusts are flying out of the rupture to eat our skin. But not every political topic is necessarily a total pain to discuss: This season also marks the end of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s long and colorful tenure in the Senate. On p. 50, KTNV Channel 13 political commentator Jon Ralston, Review-Journal political columnist Steve Sebelius (both regular KNPR contributors) and UNLV history professor Michael Green pool their memories to consider pivotal moments in Reid’s career — moments that shaped him, to be sure, but also moments that shaped Nevada and national politics. You can certainly argue that Reid’s signature, unfiltered brand of blunt talk and schoolyard-worthy burns only fertilized our current age of hyperpartisan verbal trench warfare, but you also can’t deny the senator’s indelible impact on Nevada’s economy, politics and culture — now and for many years to come.

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