Photo credit: Able Baker Brewing Company and CraftHaus Brewery

Southern Nevada Breweries Selling Beer and Brewing During the Shutdown

On March 17, Nevada Governor Sisolak ordered all nonessential businesses to close, which at the time included the majority of our local breweries, but eateries were allowed to stay open to offer takeout. Weeks later, Clark County, Las Vegas and Henderson approved special permits allowing breweries to sell beer for curbside pickup and eventually delivery. By the time you read this, it’s possible that some on the following list will have ceased serving and that new ones will have started up, but as I write this in late April it’s worth noting and saluting the breweries and pubs that have been helping us get through the shutdown by letting the beer flow.

From the time of the shutdown, Aces & Ales, Big Dog’s Brewing, Boulder City Brewing and Chicago Brewing have remained open for pickup of food and beer. Opening for curbside pickup once permitted to do so, were Able Baker, Astronomy, Bad Beat, CraftHaus (both locations), Hop Nuts (both locations), Lovelady and Mojave. And, as of late April, Big Dog’s and Boulder Dam are also offering limited delivery. 

Over at CraftHaus, Head Brewer Cameron Fisher reports they participated in the worldwide collaboration brew, All Together Beer to benefit our hospitality industry, and chose the Nevada Craft Brewers Association to receive 100% of the proceeds. The beer, released on April 27, is a classic West Coast IPA heavily dry hopped with CTZ, Cascade, Mosaic, Simcoe and Citra with flaked oats for mouthfeel. 

In addition, on April 23 CraftHaus released Vegas Stronger Ale, a 10% ABV, 100 IBU American Strong Ale with Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe and Calypso hops; and a touch of Red Crystal Rye malt for added depth. Coming in June will be Barrel Aged Comrade 2020 (in bottles); and Giggle Juice IIPA, Urban Panda Schwarzbier and All the Peaches (a fruited sour), which you can pick up in Crowlers using curbside pickup.  

Some Words from James Manos

Able Baker co-founder/owner James Manos was kind enough to share what Able Baker has been doing during the shutdown and also offered some thoughts on the future of the brewing industry. Following are his remarks:

Sometimes you get a little lucky. That can happen when you feature a duck as your mascot...“lucky duck” and all. Fortunately, for Able Baker Brewing, we were able to transition our on-location kitchen (Arts District Craft & Kitchen) into an entity that could operate during these unique times, while still providing a menu full of fantastic, freshly prepared food. It’s a credit to both staff and ownership that we could make that happen so efficiently and effectively while overcoming all the obstacles that seem to be getting thrown at us. Providing food allowed us to open for curbside to-go service, and we've been doing so for several weeks with solid success. The COVID-19 safety guidelines have forced us to shift our business model somewhat. We’ve detoured to a focus on providing products in to-go formats while amping up our production of canned offerings. The can releases have been very well received.  We had such a huge response to our first canned Hazy IPA release, “Quarantine Edition” Duck, that we released three new canned beers last week: “Of Balloons & Unicorns” Hazy IPA, “Split Bill” Hazy IPA, and “Excited State” Pilsner, and we have even more on the way. We couldn’t have done this without the unwavering support of our local community, who continue to seek out our beers, and the local outlets that strive to support Nevada craft brewers.

Obviously, these are challenging times for all Nevada small businesses, but especially for local breweries, as the difficulties of running a successful brewing operation have been compounded by the limitations put on our abilities to serve the community. Adapt and overcome has long been a mantra in both sports and business, and it couldn’t be applied more aptly than now. As the total number of craft breweries in the US rose dramatically over the last five years, smaller breweries shifted their business models to become taproom-centric, concentrating on producing beer in smaller batches and serving it as fresh as possible directly to their consumers. The basis of this model both helped to drive and reinforce the explosion of the Hazy IPA. As craft breweries slowly shifted from dreams of regional distribution to a more concise focus on serving their local market first and foremost, taprooms became even more important as a brewery's primary source of revenue. The current business climate, as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, has put taproom revenue on hiatus, and that’s a difficult hurdle to overcome for any small business with limited cash flow and expensive cost of goods. Unfortunately, as popular as local taprooms are, the transition back may be a slow process.

Consumer habits shift much more quickly than they did in the past, and newer consumers no longer shop at the local hardware store just because their parents did...they look for convenience, perceived value and authenticity in an ever-evolving and constantly changing landscape. Being “old-school” can be cool. However, operating in an “old-school” manner has become extinctive.  The parameters placed on breweries during this pandemic might create a cultural shift in spending and drinking habits that don’t rubber band back to the previous norm very quickly. Breweries are going to have to adapt or perish. Here are some trends I envision moving forward:

• Curbside and to-go service for breweries, here to stay. I see breweries pushing to be able to maintain this portion of their business, perhaps even expanding on it, or upon re-opening, encouraging guests to visit for shorter periods of time (at least initially) and compensate by taking beers home with them. 

• Upon re-opening, take home options from breweries will expand. Expect more breweries to feature crowlers and growlers as important parts of their business and to encourage guests to explore these
purchase options.

• More breweries will be canning and exploring micro-canning and bottling options. Expect to see more diverse and plentiful offerings from breweries available in their own to-go coolers. Where before you might have seen only “flagship beers” or “special releases,” you'll see a much more continuous flow of canned or bottled products made available directly from
the brewery.

• A movement towards “easier to drink” styles of beer. Craft community pundits have been advertising the coming surge of the craft pilsner, craft lager, lower ABV and lower calorie craft beers, for years...this might be the match that finally lights that fire.

• Brewery consortiums. Closely located smaller breweries may “band together” and consolidate under one umbrella to allow multiple breweries to survive under one roof or as a way for popular brands to stay alive under combined ownership. This may not happen, due to legal hurdles, but in cities with fully formed markets and educated consumer bases, it would be interesting to see someone give it a try.

• More contract brewing. With newer businesses likely becoming even more risk averse and wanting to keep initial expenses down, expect more brewers to explore the contract brewing option. Previously established breweries, looking for a source of income and ways to keep their tanks full and employees working, may be more open to accepting contact brewers than before.

• Better beer & better service. Situations like these create “survival of the fittest” scenarios, and one way for small breweries to survive and thrive is to create better products and provide better service. Sadly, there are likely to be some very talented people re-entering the hiring pool who will help make the above possible.

• Rise of the virtual brewery tour and the virtual beer festival. Brewery tours and allowing guests into the production part of the facility will cease altogether for the short term and likely never return to the level of popularity or availability they once enjoyed. Virtual brewery tours offer brewers and owners a chance to show off the same equipment and layouts, but provide even greater depth of detail and a much more layered experience by including humorous stories, video clips, guest appearances, educational shorts, etc. The beer festival marketplace was becoming saturated, and the pitfalls of putting on large outdoor festivals are numerous. Smaller, virtual festivals (with the beer packaged and delivered to your home prior or picked up at designated locations) might provide a forward-thinking option. The ability to include more than 2-3 ounces of each beer eliminate lines, offer interactive videos of brewers/owners describing each beer, video or printed tasting notes, increased safety, limited liability ... there are many positives. Smaller groups could form at homes, or friends could participate with each other via Zoom, etc. Lots of kinks to work out on a macro scale, but on a micro scale, where highly sought after beer was provided, this would be an interesting option.

• The Hazy train keeps rolling and IPAs dominate. With breweries looking to package more of their products, the extra expenses involved will influence brewers to brew and package only the most well-received styles. This means less experimental and/or dark beers on shelves and lots of the increasingly popular Hazy IPAs and IPAs in general. Stop and take a look at your local beer shelves to see this in full effect already. 

• Hyper-localization. While it was getting tougher, more expensive, and more competitive to expand your distribution radius, lots of breweries were willing to test the waters. Expect that pool to shrink and for smaller breweries to not only focus locally but to go “hyper-local,” focusing intently on garnering guests and sales from very specific addresses and locations.

Able Baker is currently open for takeout service via curbside delivery Tuesday-Sunday from 12-6 p.m.  All orders MUST include at least 1 food item, and everything is completely contact free, from your order to the wave goodbye. You can follow the link on the top of our Instagram page to view our current menu or place an order:  www.instagram.com/ablebakerbrewing

Aloha,

James Manos