The Labor of Love for Lovelady

It won’t be the best-selling style of beer, but Richard Lovelady has a hankerin’ for heat and not the kind of heat for how the Las Vegas area is known.

The slight heat of peppers has helped the Henderson, Nevada brewery — Lovelady Brewing, which opened in 2016 — pick up some hardware, including a bronze this year at the 2023 Great American Beer Festival.

The medal-winning Hatch Nites was a Hatch Pepper-infused version of the brewery’s standby, Golden Nites, a Mexican Lager.

“We have a dedicated following for them,” he said. “We’ve had a few hits and misses on those. But for the most part, we tried to just just make it burn … just a little bit.

“I’m sure you’ve had plenty of beers where you burnt your tongue and lips. We go for the flavor and just a little bit of heat.”

Constantly rotating pepper beers in and out of the lineup is a nice unique aspect of the brewery and came from Lovelady and his brother Bob’s homebrewing days. Sticking to one base beer and adding different peppers didn’t sound unique enough. So Lovelady has used Scotch Ales (with Chipotles), Brown Ales (with Anaheim, Jalapeno, and Habanero), and more.

In fact, Lovelady, who founded the brewery with his brothers after years of working for Gordon Biersch in the Las Vegas area, was dosing a Helles Bock with Thai Peppers and Watermelon during his conversation with Brewer that day.

“There’s obviously a good portion of people who like that Mexican Lager base, but for the most part, they’re looking for that pepper flavor and how well it melds with the background,” Lovelady said. “Frankly, some peppers would just overwhelm a Mexican Lager anyway. You need a stronger base for it. Pretty much name a pepper we’ve done it. And even some of the hottest peppers around. We are very careful just to get a hint of heat and they always sell really well in our taprooms.”

But pepper beers don’t bring the heat of sales compared to the brewery’s top-selling beers which are found on the Las Vegas Strip. A Hazy IPA (Love Juice) on draft and a fruited sour (9th Island Pineapple) in cans find love through distro at bars and restaurants up and down the strip.

“As long as you have a pretty good product and as soon as somebody (in retail) notices it at some place and the word gets out … it gets easier and easier and easier to get placements,” he said. “But again, we’re always fighting for space, just like everybody else around the country.”

It was a growth strategy that Lovelady said he immediately wanted for the brewery since they aren’t very close to the strip and it’s the best marketing they can have there.

“We never had any ambitions to go beyond the Las Vegas Valley. We think there’s plenty more to be mined here,” he said. “It is important if you want any sort of volume with your distribution, you need to get on the Strip.

“A lot of local bars still haven’t jumped totally feet-in on the craft beer movement. They may have one or two handles, but they may be getting better deals … so it’s something we just gotta keep fighting for.”

For the most part, though, Lovelady is there for locals. Beer tourists, he pointed out, will have already done their homework and plan to come to Henderson’s downtown to check out Lovelady. Now, with a second location opened in September 2022, getting the word out about the brewery locally is key.

“It’s hit and miss for the off-site taproom. Some days, I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is a goldmine.’ There are some days I’m like, ‘Where is everybody?’

“It’s a work in progress, but part of it is educating yourself on marketing, because it’s tucked away in this nice little retail center in the middle of a neighborhood, but nobody knows it’s there. We’re gonna start some more guerilla marketing — putting flyers on people’s cars and that kind of thing. Because inevitably, people come in and they go, ‘Oh, my gosh, I live right over there. I didn’t know you were here.’ That’s the same kind of problem in any business, you gotta get the word out, you got to let them know.”

Photo courtesy Lovelady Brewing

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