By Michael Higdon
[vimeo 117060379 w=800 h=450]
The Depot Craft Brewery Distillery brews, distills and cooks on Fourth Street
At 11 a.m. when The Depot opens, customers start pouring in through the side door of The Depot Craft Brewery Distillery looking for lunch. Among the customers, a group of college boys bustle inside, excitedly chattering about all the beers on tap. One recommends The Voyager IPA to his buddies.
In the first-floor dining room, they blew up the original city plan of the old train depot on one wall of the room (see the video above). Customers will note the original train turntable and tracks that no longer exist. But The Depot, now 105 years old, still stands and is one of few restaurant, bar, brewery, distilleries in the country.
Notable architectural details litter the building for those paying attention. Kurtis James, a local wood and metal worker, built banister column on the left of the stairway. He designed it to match the original, restored columns that punctuate the rest of the three-story stairway. Vintage Edison bulbs (see the video) and intricate fixtures light the interior of the restaurant. Inside the first-floor men’s restroom an original vault, too large to remove, holds the safest toilet paper in the city. Outside, reclaimed rail tracks bumper the parking lot.
“Designed by prominent Nevada architect Frederic DeLongchamps the same year that he designed the Washoe County Court House, the two-story brick depot reflects the eclecticism that early 20th-century architects often employed. Its style combines Italianate bracketed cornices, Mission-style facade elements, Roman arches, and red Spanish roof tiles,” according to Alicia Barber, “Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad Depot,” Reno Historical.
Next time you visit, take a look around or ask for a tour if it’s not too busy.
In the brewery-distillery, visible from the first-floor bar area, Brandon Wright toils with heads, hearts and tails. These three parts of distilled alcohol make up some of spirits’ flavor profile before aging or adding botanicals. Brandon tastes the break point between the nasty, dangerous heads and hearts by repeatedly pouring clear spirits onto his fingers and putting them in his mouth. Once the heads are gone, he can start collecting the hearts. Later, he will do the same for the tails, looking for the right flavor combination to make The Depot’s Silver Corn Whiskey.
The Silver Corn Whiskey comes from 100-percent Frey Ranch Estate corn.
“Colby Frey is a great guy to work with,” said Chris Shanks, co-owner and manager of The Depot. “It’s nice when you can have people with arguably the same business sell you their corn. That’s the nice thing about the brewing and distilling community, everyone will help you in a pinch and offer advice. It’s a nice community to be in.”
The Silver Corn Whiskey sells in 500-millilitre bottles, which as it turns out, have been illegal for alcohol use since 1989. The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved the labels and bottles by accident. Luckily, the agency gave The Depot a one-time only approval to sell their 7,000 bottles. Later, Chris said they will probably switch to standard 750 millilitre bottles for all their spirits.
In the coming weeks and months, Reno can look forward to a new local gin that will start next week in experimental cocktails at The Depot bar. They will also begin aging bourbon and single-malt whiskey for release in Spring and Summer 2015.
“That’s the great thing about having a bar, craft distillery and brewery,” Chris said. “We have so many avenues to explore and get customer feedback. Our cocktails will probably change with every gin we come up with. It’s really exciting.”
What: Craft brewery, distillery, bar and restaurant
Where: Fourth Street and Evans Ave. 325 E 4th St. Reno, NV 89512
Hours: Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday: 11 a.m. – 9p.m.
Contact: 775-737-4330, Reservations and website and Facebook
Before and after the major renovation of The Depot
I’ve planned these GIFs since April 2014. The difficulty in creating them came when I replaced my camera and lenses halfway through the year, changing the perspective and possible angles of the images since I could no longer match all the settings identically #ApertureNerd. Nonetheless, what started out as candid photos in April, finished with posed photos in January 2015.
In mid-2014, The Depot’s side door was gated and warned construction workers and visitors to wear hard hats (which is why I got kicked out by the foreman). Now it’s a glass door with logo and hours leading to the bar.
The front door of The Depot used to be covered in graffiti, gates and boards. Now it’s nicely painted and restored. Inside is a nice waiting area with benches and metal tables.
First-floor bar area
The bar area of The Depot on the first floor used to be a crazy site of construction in October, now it’s a nice tall-table dining area. You can barely recognize the steal columns that are now covered in white and grey tile.
In April, Brandon Wright, Chris Shanks and Justin Stafford looked up through the ceiling into the second floor. Chris was pointing out the load-bearing beams and wood. The three of them mocked the original image in the middle of a busy lunch hour. They had to stand slightly forward of the original spot, since it is now the site of a tall table. If you look carefully, you can see the original photo printed out as a reference sitting in front of Brandon.
Second-floor dining room and prep kitchen
The second floor hallways used to be bare bones and dangerous pit falls to the first floor. The two railings they leaned against only protected people from falling through the floor. Now it’s the site of a prep kitchen. In the 2015 photo, Justin Stafford and Brandon Wright pose in the kitchen doorway since a new wall prevented us from standing in the same spots.
In October, a lone construction worker walked through the inert fermentation room. Now, Joe Lenzi, formerly the brewmaster at Silver Peak Brewery and Restaurant, works in the active brewery. At the time of this photo one of the larger fermenters had broken and is out of commission, awaiting its replacement in May. This will slow down beer production in the meantime.
Update Jan. 20 at 9:25 a.m.: Additional details added to the historical description of the train depot.