The Women Who Brew Las Vegas: Kayla Callahan

Part seven in a series on the women who have risen to the top of Nevada’s burgeoning brewery industry

Humans have been drinking beer or similar drinks for several thousand years, but many do not realize early brewers were mainly women, making beer as one of their normal household tasks. However, by the 18th century the brewing gradually became a man’s job and women were relegated to roles as barmaids, pub operators, bottlers or secretaries for breweries.

Over time beer also came to be viewed as a man’s drink. Now with the craft beer renaissance and the realization and acceptance that beer can be enjoyed by all, more and more women choose beer as their drink of choice. They are also entering the beer business as brewers and brewery owner/operators.

In this series we delve into the backgrounds of several women—co-owner/operators, brewers and operations managers. These accomplished women are leaving their mark on the beer industry in Southern Nevada in occupations integral to the brewing business. Read on to discover the paths that led them to this field and the quite significant contributions they have made and continue to make.

Kayla Callahan—The Woman Behind the Scenes Making Everything Work

Kayla Callahan is a 40-year-old Las Vegas native and Clark High graduate. In her early 20s, she briefly worked in real estate, “selling dirt” as she puts it, as the properties she was dealing with were vacant lots. Her path gradually ventured into her future career in brewing as she transitioned into the food and beverage industry, with jobs such as making pizza and bartending.

‘Craft Beer Found Me’

When asked how she got into craft beer, Kayla says, “Craft beer found me. My friends from Oregon bragged about their state’s breweries and after they brought me a bottle of Deschutes Black Butte Porter, the first non-mainstream beer I had ever tasted, I was hooked.”

Shortly after that the seeds to her ultimate positions in the craft beer business were planted through a friendship with a local distributor who hired her to help out with sales.

Kayla Callahan standing by Able Baker history signage / Photo Credit Dave Canela

Through the course of weekly meetings—when the staff would taste various beers they were distributing—she learned how different everything could taste. She eventually found her way to become the Purchasing Manager and later Operations Assistant at the Henderson-based Joseph James Brewing. It was a position she would hold from 2007-2019.

Able Baker Comes Calling

Kayla met Randy Rohde (one of the two co-founders of Able Baker) while working at the Henderson brewery, which was contracting with Joseph James to make their beers before they had their own brewery. Once they were ready to open their own facility, Rohde hired her to do basically the same job at Able Baker, but in an expanded capacity, and with the loftier job title of Operations Manager. It was a risk to join the team of the new brewery, but it turned out to be fortuitous, as six months later Joseph James permanently closed during the pandemic shutdown.

The Work of Operations Manager

When asked what her duties are Kayla quips, “Someone here refers to me as the Swiss army knife because I do whatever needs to get done.” 

The quite lengthy list of her tasks includes: dealing with government compliance (reporting correctly, following laws, regulations and proper licensing); approving and managing in-house artwork and design; ordering raw ingredients and materials; coordinating with the sales team and distributor to set goals and direction; sales reports; determining pricing; managing the brewing crew and other staff; writing SOPs (standard operating procedures); and managing the brewing schedule and release dates.

Kayla asserts that the best part of her role is working with the staff. She also says she enjoys, “the people; beer is fun and it draws in fun people.” What she finds challenging is all the paperwork and completing all the forms needed for reporting properly to the government, but she does like working with numbers.

Head Brewer at Able Baker, Matt Marino with Kayla Callahan / Photo Credit Dave Canela

Accolades from Able Baker Co-workers

After talking to the co-founders, brewers and other staff, it quickly becomes apparent how valued and integral Kayla’s involvement is to the brewery’s operations.

“Not only does Kayla keep Able Baker purring along by utilizing her many years of experience and expertise, but she has also helped and advised many other local breweries deal with complex issues,” says Head Brewer Matt Marino. “She is a wealth of knowledge and always looking to promote and help the local brewing community.”

James Manos, the other Able Baker co-founder, feels her job title doesn’t do her justice: “Kayla’s position of ‘Operations Manager’ at Able Baker Brewing couldn’t be more apt because without Kayla’s managerial expertise, we surely wouldn’t ‘operate’ as well. Perhaps no one associated with our brewery is involved in more facets of the business than she is and her excellence seeps into nearly every part of our business structure. Kayla does it all. I frequently tell people that not only is Kayla highly talented and well-respected but that she is the most irreplaceable part of what Able Baker does and is absolutely vital to our success.”

Kayla Callahan / Photo Credit Dave Canela

Helping Other Women Persevere and Future Opportunities for Women in Brewing

Kayla emphasizes she has always been supported by those she has worked with at the two aforementioned breweries. She is doing her part to help other women grow in the industry through her work with the Pink Boots Society, which she has been an active member of since joining in 2008. The organization is comprised of women working in any facet of the brewing business. Every year the Society joins together to brew a collaboration beer and this year it was hosted at Able Baker as they brewed a Cold IPA (used an ale yeast but fermented at a colder temperature to impart some lager-like characteristics). 

Pondering the future, as Able Baker has reached capacity and is on track to produce 3,800 barrels (a barrel is equal to 31 gallons) this year, it will surely be expanding in the coming months or years.

In regards to women in the industry, she says, “The good news is Vegas is still slowly growing as a craft beer community, so that’s creating more opportunities for women to become a part of the industry with new positions opening.”

Interested in learning more about inspiring local women in the beer making industry? Meet Amanda Payan.

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