The Craft Distilleries and Breweries at the Heart of Reno’s Revitalization

Two people toasting at a table
Seven Troughs Speakeasy/Photo by Brandon Bianco

In Reno, Nevada, a blossoming craft distillery scene centers on community and local ingredients. Reno is in the middle of a revitalization focused on art, tech and dining, which has also brought an increase of craft breweries and distilleries.

Whether it’s an estate distillery where at least 85% of the grains used in the production of its spirits must be grown in Nevada or smaller craft operations, Reno offers an abundance of options from which to choose.

The craft distilling scene in Reno is fairly young, as the practice only became legal statewide in 2013. Distilleries did exist prior to Nevada’s Assembly Bill 153, but they could only sell to wholesalers. That meant tastings and selling to regular consumers weren’t allowed.

Under the bill, all Nevada craft distilleries are required to make their spirits from raw agricultural materials. No one is allowed to buy pre-made spirits and rebrand them as their own. There are also limits on in-state sales and exports, so to taste from these distilleries, you’ll need to visit the Biggest Little City in the World.

“When you are drinking a craft spirit made by someone here in Reno, or the surrounding areas, you know that the makers really put their time and heart into the product,” says Melissa Test, head distiller and brewer at 10 Torr Distilling and Brewing.

Melissa Test working on a pipe in 10 Torr distillery
Melissa Test of 10 Torr/Photo courtesy of 10 Torr Distilling and Brewing

Seven Troughs Distilling Co.

The first distillery to operate in the Great Basin since 1877, Seven Troughs was founded in 2012 and focuses on recipes and techniques popular in the 1800s. It takes reproduction-style whiskey seriously, and the spirits are distilled using a direct-fire pot still.

“Our Bourbon is enormous,” says Tom Adams, owner of Seven Troughs, praising its array of flavors and textures. “That’s what you get from following old-style [practices].”

Seven Troughs’ bottlings may feel fuller and rounder compared to those made with modern distilling styles. Visit the distillery in nearby Sparks to sample the full line, which includes gin, rum, vodka and “moonshine” (an unaged white whiskey). Or stop by its speakeasy in downtown Reno, located inside The Basement, a conglomerate of local businesses situated in the revamped basement of the historic downtown Post Office building.

10 Torr Distilling and Brewing

10 Torr Distilling and Brewing is located in downtown Reno, a neighborhood that’s experiencing a rebirth. Test says what sets the distillery apart is its practice of vacuum distillation.

“By distilling at a much lower temperature, we are not overcooking any of the delicate flavors produced by the yeast during fermentation, any of the flavors of the grains that we are using, or any of the botanicals or ingredients that we use to flavor our gins and vodkas,” she says. “Our gin tastes incredibly fresh and vibrant because the true flavors of the botanicals that we use are not destroyed in the process of distillation.”

The Depot

Located inside the former headquarters of the Nevada-California-Oregon Railway, The Depot is equal parts distillery, restaurant, brewery and pub. Nevada’s first brewery/distillery combo, its food and drinks are handcrafted with local ingredients as often as possible. The producer sources corn, wheat and rye from farmers throughout northern Nevada. The Depot’s Amer Depot, meanwhile, is a bitter aperitif that acknowledges the Basque culture and heritage of Nevada, reminiscent of Amer Picon.

The light-filled, open-shelf bar at Ferino Distillery in Reno
Ferino Distillery/Photo by Ryan McGinnis

Ferino Distillery

Located in the heart of Reno’s Brewery District, Ferino Distillery not only offers spirits production, but a full bar program, a slow-bar coffee initiative and an art gallery. Originating in San Francisco as Canella Spirits, the owners moved back to their home city of Reno in 2018. Founder Joe Cannella renovated the space before the doors opened at his own production facility in November.

Ferino specializes in traditional Italian Old World spirits like amaro, fernet and cinnamon cordial, all created from a base of grape brandy. They’re showcased in a modern context through an extensive craft cocktail program. The micro-art gallery is curated by the Holland Project, a local nonprofit that receives a portion of the proceeds from a section of Ferino’s cocktail menu.

Forsaken River Spirits Company

Located in downtown Reno, Forsaken River Spirits Company produces vodka, genever-style gin and smoked rye whisky, among others. Its smoked whisky is aided by an onsite cold-smoke room for the grains. Visitors will find a Western/Victorian-style tasting room and a small-batch distillery that operates a 150-gallon still. It’s all hands-on, from the raw grain to the sealing of the bottles.

Bartender pouring a shot at a Bently Heritage's black wood-accented bar
The Bar at Bently Heritage Estate Distillery/Photo by Jody Horton

Bently Heritage Estate Distillery

Fifty minutes south of Reno in Minden, you’ll find two distilleries at Bently Heritage Estate Distillery. One, built inside the silos of an early 20th-century flour mill, crafts single-malt whiskey from barley grown and malted by the producer. The other is inside a former creamery, built in 1916, where Bently makes Bourbon, rye, gin, vodka and other specialty spirits.

Its sister company, Bently Ranch, grows up to 2,700 acres of wheat, rye, barley, hops and oats for brewers and distillers. The facility is LEED-certified and represents the company’s commitment to the restoration of historic sites. It reuses materials, compost and utilizes environmentally friendly production techniques. Step inside the visitor’s center attached to the silos for a tasting downstairs, or ascend the wooden spiral staircase to the bar area for a craft cocktail with a view of the still.

Two men in a tall barrel room, one rolling a barrel to its slot
The Barrel House at Frey Ranch/Photo by Jeff Dow

Frey Ranch Estate Distillery

At Frey Ranch Estate Distillery, located about an hour east of Reno in Fallon, all aspects of the production process are handled onsite. The Frey family has farmed for 165 years and have been on their current 2,500-acre location since 1944. They grow all their grains, malt their barley, distill, age and bottle their spirits on the ranch. Before state laws allowed estate distilleries, Frey Ranch was issued an experimental distilling license in 2006, which allowed them to test recipes.

Published on January 16, 2020
Topics: Travel