Las Vegas-based Joseph James Brewing Co. won a Great American Beer Fest medal and hasn’t looked back since.
The brewery won bronze at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival for Citra Rye Pale Ale and now the simple, yet beautiful beer is a calling card for an underrated beer scene overshadowed by the glitz and glamor of The Strip.
For Joseph James Head Brewer Kyle Weniger, the Citra Rye carries other significance. A little more than four years ago, the beer started as a group effort in the brewhouse as the team sought to make a beer they wanted to drink. Deciding on a hop-forward pale ale after a deliberation that might sound common, they made the less common choice to start a friendly competition to see whose recipe might make the cut.
Joseph James had just received a shipment of Citra hops, a hop Weniger had used twice during his homebrewing days before it had a name, so he pulled out his homebrew Pale Ale recipe. While homebrewing, Weniger made it a simple SMASH, single malt and single hop Pale Ale with Vienna malt and Cascade hops he would have on tap for parties.
For the pro version, he thought he’d throw in a touch of rye malt. The Joseph James Citra Rye also mixes in 2-row malt, as well as Centennial hops.
“When you first crack the can, I want big, fruit-forward scents; papaya, gooseberry, heavy tropical fruit on the nose,” he said, “Just a touch of pine and grapefruit rind and rounded out with nice caramel sweetness. It’s light and sessionable and works well with the Vegas heat.”
Las Vegas is certainly overlooked when it comes to beer, as thousands of tourists descend on the community daily, rarely looking for local fare.”
Initially, the plan was for all the brewers to brew a pilot batch and see which one won the right for full production. Weniger’s rye Pale Ale struck a cord.
“I was the first to brew it and we decided to roll with it out of the gate and now people love it,” Weniger said.
Love it, indeed. Not only has Joseph James Citra Rye won GABF honors, it’s also by far the brewery’s best seller.
“It’s definitely our flagship beer,” Weniger said. “We sell that double to our No. 2 best seller, Hop Box, our Double IPA.”
Joseph James is a production only brewery and doesn’t have a taproom in the entertainment rich environment that is Las Vegas. Last year, Joseph James brewed approximately 4,000 barrels of beer and Weniger said the company hopes to bump that number up a bit this year.
He hopes Citra Rye can really exemplify the hard work that goes on in the brewery.
“The main thing I want people to know when they crack a can is how much work and pride goes into each batch,” Weniger said. “It’s not a push play and walk away job. It’s laborious and dangerous occupation and it’s hot, especially in the desert. We’re doing this as a labor of love.”
Las Vegas is certainly overlooked when it comes to beer, as thousands of tourists descend on the community daily, rarely looking for local fare. When Weniger started at Joseph James, he concedes the beer community wasn’t much in the city.
“There weren’t a whole lot of options, but it’s starting to pick up,” he said. “Each year we have new ones popping up. Nevada is kind of small and we all know each other and it’s not at all cut throat.
“We also have pretty loyal beer drinkers in town. We’re low in breweries per capita, but there’s no shortage of beer.”