Able Baker Brewing Company founders James Manos and Randy Rohde celebrated the launch of their new Las Vegas brewing outfit on Nevada Day with a huge party at Hard Rock Live that was attended by friends, family and supporters, including Five Finger Death Punch bassist Chris Kael and Angel’s Envy Bourbon co-founder Wes Henderson. The brewery’s mascot, the Atomic Duck, made the rounds taking selfies and handing out rubber duckies good for a taste of a secret beer. More importantly, a thirsty city at last got a deep draft from the brewery that had till then only been a periodic pop-up since debuting at Motley Brews’ beer festivals in 2014.
A year before its official launch, however, things looked very different for Able Baker. In late 2015, they entered into escrow on a building on Main Street in Downtown’s Arts District. The former home brewers had a concept rooted in the city’s Atomic-era history—Able and Baker being the first two atomic bombs dropped at the Nevada Test Site—and a mascot glorifying the one animal that managed to survive those tests, a duck. They had solid recipes honed over years of tinkering and a proprietary yeast strain that Manos developed himself. They had a financial backer and legions of fervent fans. Who could ask for anything more? But the bad news came in the form of a not-so-little water issue at their intended brewery. Water being chief among the four ingredients of beer, suddenly their dreams of brewing Downtown were heading down the drain.
When their backer bailed as renovation estimates skyrocketed, Manos admits they could have folded. He could have easily continued his 21-year career as a corporate trainer for Hard Rock International or capitalize on his background in microbiology and genetics for someone else’s benefit. Rohde, a Day One employee at Wynn, could have remained a full-time bartender, used his sommelier certification or returned to banking. But persistence and a constant flow of support from friends and local brewers such as Joseph James’ director of brewery operations Matt Marino spurred the project on. Flush with capacity from a recent expansion, Marino offered the tanks and brewing commenced at Joseph James’ commercial brewing facility in Henderson. “They helped us scale up the recipes,” Manos says. “Everything is ours. We participated in the brewing process, kegging, barrel aging, everything. But we’re doing it on their equipment, which helps us get to the marketplace.”
Surprisingly, such camaraderie is not unheard of in the brewing community. “Ours is an industry that’s a little different from most,” Marino says. “There’s definitely competition in the market, but with the local brewers, everyone’s pretty friendly and helps each other out.”
“We really want to be a destination brewery. … Where people say, ‘When I go to Vegas, I’m going to the Stratosphere, the Bellagio fountains … and Able Baker Brewing.’” – Randy Rohde
Another early supporter, bassist Kael actually inspired Able Baker’s first official brew, a limited-edition private-label release of Chris Kael Impale’d Ale, created especially for the dedication of his bass at Hard Rock Hotel. “Even if it wasn’t for the incredible beers [Manos] makes, his intelligence level is probably top 3 of anybody I know. I’m not going to give him No. 1, but I will say Top 3,” the musician and ex Hard Rock Café bartender Kael says, poking fun at his former co-worker.
To make the brew, Henderson lent his support by shipping three Angel’s Envy’s bourbon barrels to Manos and Rohde for a barrel-aged version of Kael’s beer. “We’re very selective about the people we work with,” Henderson says. “We have a lot of barrels, but we want them to go to places where we know the brewer will be creative and at the same time, respect the tradition of bourbon.” Double Barrel Chris Kael Impale’d Ale was introduced at midnight on Nevada Day following the launch party and Five Finger Death Punch’s show at T-Mobile Arena. Needless to say, Marino, Kael and Henderson will always hold a special place in these brewers’ hearts.
Right now, Manos and Rohde are preparing for Able Baker’s first long, hot summer, with a calendar that already includes a summer beer preview at Tacos & Beer, and booths at the Brews N ’Ques Fest on March 4 and Great Vegas Festival of Beer on April 7–8. No longer contract brewers, Able Baker now has its own license, meaning that a brick-and-mortar facility could at last become a reality. “We really want to be a destination brewery,” Rohde says. “We don’t think a place in Las Vegas has actually done that yet, where people say, ‘When I go to Vegas, I’m going to the Stratosphere, the Bellagio fountains … and Able Baker Brewing.’”
Able Baker Brewing Co.
Atomic Duck IPA
Dry-hopped to “atomic proportions”; 7.3% ABV.
Honey Dip Stout
Brewed with organic honey and Madagascar vanilla beans and aged on American oak; 11.1% ABV.
Test Site Saison
Brewed with proprietary yeast, fresh chamomile flowers and ginger root; 5.5% ABV.
Brewed with roasted coconut and five varieties of chili pepper including jalapeño and habanero; 6.5% ABV.
Double Dead Duck IPA
An off-the-charts hop bomb; 10.4% ABV.
Chris Kael Impale’d Ale
A smooth brown ale aged in Angel’s Envy bourbon barrels; 10.1% ABV.