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Culinary Quickie: CraftHaus Brewery owners boost Las Vegas beer industry

CraftHaus Brewery
Lucky's Camera
CraftHaus Brewery

They’re a dynamic duo in business and life. Since they opened CraftHaus in 2014, Wyndee and Dave Forrest have poured their energy into being advocates for the burgeoning brewery scene in Southern Nevada.

When they graduated from UNLV, they headed off to Europe, where they were immersed in craft beer and its culture.

"When you looked at the beer gardens, strangers were sitting at the same table and sharing stories. And they were building a community that really appealed to us," she told State of Nevada producer Lorraine Blanco Moss.

On their beer Rebel Spirit

We brew the official beer for UNLV. Being that Dave and I are both alumni from the hospitality college, as well as our head brewer, he's an alumni from hospitality. We had been working with UNLV for about a year. And then we were able to launch the official beer of UNLV; we also donate a portion of the proceeds back to the hospitality college to give back [to those] who helped us get into this position. But the beer style, we wanted it to be something that you could drink multiples of, right? Where you might be tailgating, it might be a whole day event. It's a golden ale, so that means that the hops aren't really prevalent and they're not going to hit you in the face so much as in the aroma like an IPA would. Refreshing. It's a low alcohol by volume beer.

Wyndee Forrest (R) with State of Nevada producer Lorraine Blanco Moss (L) and senior producer Kristen Kidman (C) at Nevada Public Radio in January 2023.
Kristen DeSilva
Wyndee Forrest (R) with State of Nevada producer Lorraine Blanco Moss (L) and senior producer Kristen Kidman (C) at Nevada Public Radio in January 2023.

On helping other breweries open up

So before we opened, we went to the City of Henderson and said, 'This is our business model,' which is very common. … They said, 'Okay, here's your two license choices: brewery, but you can't have a tasting room.' … That kind of defeats the purpose. Building a community, which was the reason that we opened CraftHaus, was to build a community. So the community has nowhere to commune to, it's kind of a moot point. They said, 'The other option is brew pub, and it's $60,000 initiation fee.' Wow, comes with gaming. And we said, ''Well, we don't want gaming' and they say, 'You don't have to have it, but you'd have to pay for it.' So I said no, I don't have to pay. As a point of reference this license in say, San Diego County, is $1,000. … So I became a registered lobbyist for the City of Henderson. And at that time, there was a new person coming into licensing and she was open to the idea of modernizing the craft beer licensing within the city. We were very fortunate that they were open to it, we helped rewrite the licensing and removed the gaming portion of it. And so it's called through pub non-gaming. And we reduced it from $60,000 to $10,000. That took 16 months though, of lobbying and rewriting, licensing and going to city council meetings.

On the Nevada Craft Brewers Association

We represent all of the breweries within the state of Nevada. So you have to have a brewers license within the state. And then if you'd like to become a member, then you join the association. We work hand in hand under the umbrella of the National Brewers Association; our state only meets once every two years for legislation. And that's a long time to wait when especially we need to play a little bit of catch-up for our industry in comparison to the national trend. So we knew that it was going to be a long road, especially with proposing new legislation and effecting positive change that has a direct impact to our small and independent craft breweries; we had enough lead up time to put in the legwork, meet with our legislators. And really, the important part is getting in front of them and explaining our industry and explaining to them that we're job creators, we pay taxes … our state has a little bit of a stranglehold on breweries that are manufacturing within our state. And there are laws that favor breweries bringing in beer from outside of the state that aren't really on on the same playing field.

Guest: Wyndee Forrest, owner, CraftHaus Brewery

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Lorraine Blanco Moss is the host of KNPR's award-winning Asian American Pacific Islander podcast, Exit Spring Mountain. She's also a former producer for State of Nevada, specializing in food and hospitality, women's issues, and sports.
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