Beer at elevation: Incline Village and South Lake Tahoe offer numerous great local craft-brew options

As we dive once again into peak “damn it’s hot” season, it might be time to think of escaping to higher elevations—where you can count on it being 10 degrees cooler, and if you can stand the crowds, you can find some nice cool water to play/swim/cool yourself down.

While you’re up there, let me point you toward some worthy destinations making beer around the jewel of the Sierra—beautiful blue Lake Tahoe.

Most small towns surrounding the lake will have an adequately stocked market and maybe a bar with a decent selection—but serious beer-hunters will want to focus on destinations at opposite but equally attractive ends of the lake, Incline Village and South Lake Tahoe.

For a quick outing from the Truckee Meadows, cruise up to Incline Village. While you technically have only one option for a brewery visit, it gets double-credit, because it actually has two locations (and still another in Truckee, but we’ll save that for another day). Alibi Ale Works may sound familiar, because their beers are available throughout the region. You may have tried their pale ale or porter, a seasonal sour with a fun name (the Mr. Tartacular series) or one of their hazy IPAs.

But to get the full Alibi experience, stop by either the original taproom/brewery (now dubbed the Brewery and Barrel House) or the newer location, the Incline Public House. The former is your basic brewery taproom, with a full roster of Alibi beers (including some brewery-exclusive beers and special bottled releases), flights and growler fills, while the latter is a charming dark-wood mountain brewpub tucked into the trees with a delicious food menu in addition to a similar selection of Alibi beers. (If you’ve got kids in tow, only the Public House is family-friendly.) Either way, you won’t go wrong with Alibi on the north shore.

If you want to really get out of town and find yourself a nice selection of different brewpubs, check out South Lake Tahoe. As you cross into California, you’ll leave behind the casinos of Stateline and enter the touristy part of town, where you will find a walkable trifecta of local breweries.

“We’ve known from the beginning that when people come to town, they don’t always have convenient transportation, or don’t want to drive far to their destination,” said Chris Smith, South Lake Brewing Company’s co-founder and head of brewing operations.

As you cross into California, you’ll leave behind the casinos of Stateline and enter the touristy part of town, where you will find a walkable trifecta of local breweries.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, as we’re starting our brewery crawl just meters over the border at South of North Brewing, which—tucked down a little side street from the main drag—offers a lovely outdoor beer garden, fire pits and live music, along with a varied lineup of brews.

Take a six-minute walk back up to the main boulevard, and you’ll find yourself at Stateline Brewery and Restaurant in the Heavenly Village. A nice selection of beers—including few sour, fruit and barrel-aged options—greets you; the ridiculous whiskey selection and food menu will give you plenty of reasons to linger a bit.

Finally, your third stop is the recently opened second location of the largest production brewery in town, the aforementioned South Lake Brewing Company. The Libation Lodge, a “mountain oasis taproom serving craft beer, wine and elevated pub food,” as described by marketing manager Jenna Brown, makes for a good stopping point—for now.

When you tire of touristy crowds and want to enjoy a pint with the locals, you’ll find more brews a little further from the state-line party zone, at the original South Lake Brewing Company brewery. As Brown explained, “A short 15-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of Stateline, this area of town is less hectic and features a higher concentration of Tahoe locals. These factors made the ‘Y’ a perfect location for SLBC’s first production brewery and taproom.”

But again, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, let’s stop at a place set back a block from Highway 50, Sidellis Lake Tahoe, which pours an assorted selection of brews, sometimes including seasonal and barrel-aged options, to pair with a menu of light brewpub food.

Continuing through town (perhaps on a scenic route home via Markleeville, or a jaunt along the west shore), your next stop is Cold Water Brewery and Grill. The taps mainly offer a mix of modern American craft mingled with a few traditional German beer styles.

Finally, our last stop is that flagship location of South Lake Brewing Company. As at many craft breweries of today, hops seem to dominate the taps, yet they have struck a balance with pilsners, ales both brown and red, a big stout, and a blood orange blonde for those who seek a less-hoppy flight or pint.

Whether you’re showing off the natural beauty of the region to visitors, taking a day trip to escape the heat, or enjoying a long weekend getaway, you’ll find a great variety of high quality locally brewed beers all around Lake Tahoe.