Two autumns ago, I picked up a six pack of Victory Festbier at random from a local craft beer store. I tend to "ride the seasons," picking through each brewery's timely releases. This is an easy way to compare a bunch of different brews that should be on a similar plane. Unlike many of my East Coast brethren, however, I stay away from pumpkin beers - don't ask me why.
Back to Festbier. The funny thing after I'd finished the sixer, I went back for another and another until they were gone from the shelves as spicy winter beers took their place. But Festbier would, that fall, take it's place in my top ten and I eagerly awaited its return the following year.
As summer 2011 ended, I kept a look out for Festbier. You need a nice märzen when you spend an entire Sunday sequestered watching NFL Red Zone. However, September came and went and I saw no sign of the stuff in any of my local sud shops. Finally, when visiting my nephews in Pennsylvania, I was able to procure an entire case (because that's how you have to buy beer there) for my personal enjoyment as well as to share. I passed it out to friends who were over proclaiming it as "my favorite beer." This is a claim that was true at the time.
This year, I didn't wait around to see if I could find Festbier locally. On a trip to PA, I picked up a case of it (and a case of Flying Fish Exit 4 - yum) and had been enjoying it as usual.
The funny thing is, I came across a review of the top Oktoberfest beers and I was shocked to see Festbier pretty far down the list. The top pick was Samuel Adams Oktoberfest and Festbier was maybe 51 / 100. I wish I could find the article because it was eye opening.
Determined to attempt to be objective about this, I ordered the Sam Adams variety from a few of our local chain restaurants. I don't know what it is about these places but their beer really tastes bad. I assume it's that they don't clean their taps enough, but that's just speculation.
Still trying to remain objective, I picked up a six pack of Sam Adams. This time, I was getting what all the fuss was about. As I drink the final beer from the pack a few weeks later, I actually have a difficult time going back to my beloved Festbier.
The Sam Adams is lighter while still retaining that great Oktoberfest character. I'm not saying I won't go back to Festbier (I plan on finishing it off), but it's funny how some random reviews somewhere on the internet can sharply change your perspective. If you haven't tried either of these, I suggest you pick some up.
Now, as winter beer season approaches, what will I think of my 21st Amendment Fireside Chat?
the D & E
After last year's disappointing Planet Hollywood stay, this year we decided to revisit the scene of a past crime, Encore.
Right out of the gate, there are a few things about Encore that stand out over any other property:
1. The check-in lines are short and fast
2. The rooms are huge (750 sq ft I think)
3. The casino floor is relatively small for finding your friends
4. You don't have to wake up at 8am to stake out your pool chairs
5. The restaurants are great
I could go on and on, but at one point I tweeted, there are definitely worse places to wake up.
That said, we only spent like 80% of our time there. The first night we headed downtown (as we have been doing on the first night for the past few years). But this year there were a few places that have been renovated, freshened, etc that we haven't yet seen. We were dropped off onto a street adjacent to Fremont that happened to intersect directly at the D. This was one of our targets, so it worked out relatively well.
As we approached, we attempted to purchase a few footballs of our favorite tasteless brews, but the street bartender told us that they only served mixed drinks in the footballs. I don't remember why, exactly, but I assumed they just didn't have kegs out there. Fine, we said, two rum and diet cokes.
Playing at the D was fun. The Long Bar TV's were nice, but nothing to write home about. The biggest thing for us was $5 craps with 10x odds. Also, they had dancers, music, nice dealers, overall it was a blast. We headed upstairs at one point to play Sigma Derby with real quarters. Although I didn't understand what I was doing at first, it was a fun place to sit down and try to finish a lot of rum and diet.
We had so much fun that first night at the D that we headed back there the second night. It was equally as fun although I, personally, had no luck at all.
They were very interested in getting people to sign up for cards. Two of the guys that went in our group got t-shirts the first day (pictured) and then mysteriously lost them before we left. I signed up for a card the second night, and the guy at the craps table offered me a shirt.. but who wants to carry that around for the rest of the night. I declined and I could tell he was a little hurt.
The order of these will be off as I do not remember.
Public House at The Venetian
This was our first meal of food and it was a great way to start the trip. We each got a flight (four 6oz glasses) and a pint. If I wasn't in Vegas, I could have spent the entire night there trying all of their brews, but alas, there is so much more.
China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan
Chinese and Mexican, but not fusion, China Poblano is a strangely (but perfectly) mixed tapas restaurant at The Cosmo. A few people got cocktails specials and weren't really impressed. I had the always superb if not out of place Saison Dupont. We each had a mix of tacos, noodles, dim sum. I enjoyed my dan dan and carnitas taco, but the prices are steep.
Wazuzu at The Encore
Wonderful steamed buns and spicy noodles in the hotel you're staying at - it's hard to get this wrong. This was our second time eating here in life and it was just as good. I would do this every trip.
i love burgers at The Palazzo
Nice beer selection, unique burgers and enormous sides were the highlights here. I enjoyed a Heart and Seoul burger (from the menu: "Ground Angus marinated in Sriracha and soy, avocado, kimchi, onion strings, farm fresh egg and furikake-wasabi mayo") along with a great local Teneya Creek IPA and, what turned out to be, an enormous side of tater tots that were impossible to finish.
While walking past the Mirage volcanos, we mistakenly put our hands on the railing and our hands were immediately covered in ants. I still feel them all over me.
There were a few places to get great beers in Las Vegas, but there is a long way to go. There are very few options in the sundries shops and at the table, there might be one option at most.
I left my sunglasses at a craps table at the Wynn and realized like four hours later. We walked back over expecting nothing and they were still there - my biggest win of the trip.
I played roulette for about a half hour with a guy that turned out to be Steve Aoki. Another guy from our group saw a bloodied club-gower coming out of XS late night. I like to think he was the victim of Paris Hilton's boyfriend as he was charged with battery there and the times line up pretty well.
We finally got to see the Tropicana remodel and they did a great job. I wouldn't stay there, but I would probably play there. The white shutter-y decor reminded me of Encore, but without that Roger Thomas touch.
Each night at The Encore we would put one of the Wynn or Encore property tours on the TV and fall asleep to Steve Wynn saying "Esplanade" and "Bartolotta." They also play these videos in the cabs all over town. I would absolutely buy the DVD if they sold it (why don't they?)
After playing mainly in PA and AC casinos for the past 18 months, the quality of craps dealers at the Wynn and Encore is startling. I don't think you realize how great they are until you're used to sub par dealers on the East Coast.
There are two (non-party) pools at The Encore - one is "European" but not very and the other is PACKED. We couldn't figure out why people would cram into the first pool out of the property instead of heading back to the second which is so much nicer. If you have kids, I totally get it, but not many of these people did.
The construction at IP / Linq looks more like demolition - nothing exciting to report, here. Same with the construction / demolition at MGM.
TI removed both the pho place and the tequila bar in the back - the only reasons we ever went to TI. This was a bummer.
Coffee at the Encore lobby bar was fantastic - from the Wynn breakfast buffet, not so much.
Conclusion / Things we missed
All-in-all it was a great trip even though a chunk of our party had to cancel at the last minute (for good reasons, not bad). The only regrets that I have is that I haven't yet eaten at Holsteins, we didn't get a drink at any East Fremont establishment and I didn't go to the other newly remodeled downtown establishments.
I would consider staying at Cosmo next time, but I still prefer the Wynn / Encore compound and that end of the strip overall. I loved going downtown, but I wouldn't stay there during a 3 night trip.
We had a great trip and we'll be back for more.
I keep thinking I would like to do 3 days downtown as well, but only going once a year, I feel like I would be missing out not staying on the strip. It's def something I think about, though.
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