New beer garden brewing in South Lake Tahoe |

New beer garden brewing in South Lake Tahoe

Autumn Whitney
Chris and Nicole Smith homebrew in their backyard approximately two times each month. They are working on perfecting their recipes before opening South Lake Brewing Company in early 2017.
Autumn Whitney / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

South Shore residents Chris and Nicole Smith are one step closer to realizing their dream — owning a brewery. The couple, high school sweethearts who graduated from South Tahoe High in 2006, signed a lease June 28 for the unoccupied property on Lake Tahoe Boulevard previously known as Ace Hardware. If all goes smoothly, the building will house South Lake Brewing Company in early 2017.

The Smiths are drawing up plans for the 10-barrel brew house and are in the process of getting city approval to begin construction. They are also working to obtain state and federal licenses to sell alcohol. If building plans are approved, they hope to begin construction on the warehouse in early fall.

“We want a place for locals and tourists to come together over their love of craft beer and the outdoors,” Nicole said.

According to the couple, they are currently planning to transform the 6,000-square-foot warehouse into a beer garden. A large portion of the building will be a tasting room filled with long, picnic-style tables to promote conversation. South Lake Brewing Company will serve small appetizers, but the Smiths do not want it to be known as a full-scale restaurant.

“We’re hoping to build a place for people to come grab a beer, whether you’re coming back from a day on the mountain or heading out to your next adventure.”Chris SmithSouth Shore resident

“We’re hoping to build a place for people to come grab a beer, whether you’re coming back from a day on the mountain or heading out to your next adventure,” Chris said. “We want to build a big enough open space for people to sit down at a long table and connect.”

If current plans go through, the back portion of the building will house the brewing operation, and there will be a window into the area for customer viewing. Nicole also expressed interest in bringing live music to the location.

South Lake Brewing Company is planning on brewing a variety of beers. American-style hoppy beers; English-style, easy drinking beers; wild ales; and tart, refreshing beers will all be available, according to the Smiths, who also said they plan to open the beer garden with eight beers on tap and grow from there.

“We’ll have something for everyone,” Chris added.

Long-term goals include bringing South Lake Brewing Company craft beers to additional places throughout South Shore, such as restaurants and bars.

“We want to build a sense of community through beer, and not just hold it here,” Chris said.

The Smiths started homebrewing approximately eight years ago, when Chris began working at Firestone Walker Brewing Company while enrolled at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The couple has also been working on South Lake Brewing Company’s concept for three years and began fundraising last summer.

The opening of another craft brewing business on Tahoe’s South Shore points to a larger trend within the region. There are currently six breweries around the lake, including two local spots — Cold Water Brewery and Grill and Sidellis.

According to Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority executive director Carol Chaplin, craft breweries are trending with younger target markets and enhance dining options for South Shore visitors.

“What breweries do is allow South Lake Tahoe to be on the map for a new demographic of tourists. There are people who travel all over the country to taste these particular craft brews,” Tahoe Chamber’s membership services director Justin Sinner added.

“These breweries are taking over these old buildings that are abandoned or dilapidated and they’re breathing new life into these little areas and communities that wouldn’t be there.”

The Smiths’ plans are still tentative and depend on permit approval.

To learn more about South Lake Brewing Company, visit or find it on Facebook at South Lake Brewing Company, or on Twitter and Instagram at @southlakebrewco.

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