The Banger Gang

This Las Vegas brew crew is ready to go from garage home-brewers to brewpub proprietors

As suburban garages go, this one is spotless. Four top-loading freezers hum away, maintaining the ideal temperature for whatever magic is happening within, and three gleaming tanks are lined up on the concrete, awaiting next week’s work. The five members of Banger Brewing can be found here most Mondays, honing their technique and perfecting their recipes, but every fourth week is set aside to clean. As anyone who’s ever tried home-brewing knows, cleanliness is key.

The time has come for the Banger boys to take the leap that so many home-brewers hope for: They’re going pro. After two years of brewing together, they have developed a lineup of 15 recipes. And they recently held their first public tasting, at Herbs & Rye, to great reviews. Next they will pour at Sept. 10’s Desert Hops Beer Festival.

The motley five, all in their early 30s, met as teenagers, bussing tables at Olives in Bellagio. This is where Michael “Banger” Beaman earned his nickname (he’s not exactly dainty), the one that will soon emblazon the pint glasses and bottles at their own local brewpub. He has been brewing the longest, since participating in a Samuel Adams home-brew competition about eight years ago. Beaman, now an STK food server, didn’t have to fight hard to get the other guys into the hobby.

Roberto Mendoza and Nick Fischella are servers at Bellagio’s Yellowtail restaurant. Edward Quiogue is a bartender at the nearby Fix, and Marc Longwith waits tables at STK with Beaman.

Longwith’s garage and spare rooms have been given over to Banger Brewing HQ. “It was more like a hostile takeover,” jokes Mendoza looking around the little grain room stocked with burlap sacks. “It’s definitely time to expand.”

They have at various times roomed together, and they have traveled together extensively. In their similarities and differences, they are the quintessential buddy film in the making. But when business calls, they are all about that.

Since their first 18-hour brewing session, which yielded the outfit’s Perfect 10 flagship beer, Beaman has had it in the back of his head to someday go pro. And the timing couldn’t be better.

“People drink when the economy’s good,” Fischella says.

“And people drink when the economy’s bad,” says Mendoza, finishing the thought.

The five are searching downtown and the southwest burbs for the ideal location, and they have saved enough to throw in together for the buildout of what will be a brewery, pub and small-plates restaurant.

When it does finally open sometime next year (follow for updates), each guy intends to keep his day job for as long as possible. There is no leader, and all members can perform each task.

“It’s our blood and sweat that’s going to get us open,” Fischella says.