The Women Who Brew Las Vegas: Meet Amanda Koeller

Part three 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 business 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 six women—two co-owner/operators, a head brewer, a brewer, an assistant brewer and a brewery assistant. These accomplished women are leaving their mark on the beer industry in Southern Nevada in occupations integral to the brewing business. Discover the paths that led them to this field and the significant contributions they have made and continue to make.

Amanda Koeller—Native Las Vegan Putting Her Stamp on Local Beer

Amanda Koeller had aspirations of working as a dancer, later studied business, and then hospitality before going in a completely different direction: making beer. The 39-year-old Las Vegas native was a dance major at Las Vegas Academy and graduated from UNLV with a Hospitality Management degree. However, it was while working in the food and beverage industry that she developed an interest in brewing and discovered her true calling.

Developing the Love of Craft Beer and Path to Brewing

On her first day of work as a barback at Fiesta Henderson, the sports bar was so slammed she was asked to pitch in pouring beer. From there her curiosity about how beer is made led her to delve into home brewing. The hobby progressed to a career after she attended and graduated from the UC Davis Master Brewers program in 2015. Back then, women were just starting to rise the brewing ranks. In her class of 40, only nine were women, which at that time was the most they had ever had.

After UC Davis, she applied at all of the town’s local breweries. None of them had an opening for a paid brewer position at that time. She accepted an unpaid internship at Bad Beat. After only two weeks, an assistant brewer job at Big Dog’s opened up and she jumped on it. She flourished there. Six months later she was promoted to Lead Brewer, just below the Director of Operations position.

Amanda Koeller / Photo by Dave Canela

Amanda became only one of two head brewers in Southern Nevada at that time. While she was working Big Dog’s, the brewery’s production greatly expanded. Six years later, on August 1, 2021 she returned to Bad Beat, but in the top position, as Head Brewer.

Amanda Koeller and Becca Halpin / Photo by Dave Canela

Details and Challenges of the Work

Amanda’s responsibilities as the head of the brewing operations include office work, inventory, scheduling staff, ordering supplies and recipe creation. She likes to be hands-on, so she still does a lot of the brewing. She loves the process and her physical connection to it. Since coming back to Bad Beat, she’s initiated mechanical changes, such as piping adjustments and engineering the equipment to run smoother to save time. She has also modified some of the pre-existing recipes, making the Dreamy Life Rice Lager and the Italian Pilsner available year-round rather than as seasonal offerings.

Favorite Beers

As for her beer preferences, she says, “I do love my lagers. Right now, my Italian Pilsner is one of my favorites; it’s fun to see if you can get that clean character and the hops shine through in that [beer]. The shandy is another fun style, because I had never brewed one before and it’s such a unique style that I literally was starting from scratch and hoping it would be good, and we love it. And, I like lower alcohol content beers just so I can drink more of them.”

When it comes to brewing beer, her favorite aspects are “the ability to take raw ingredients, have chemical reactions, and you have alcohol. Like Tom Hanks in “Castaway,” where he says ‘I made fire,’ I get to say, ‘I made beer!’ And the camaraderie in the [brewing] community is one of my favorite things. I’ve never had a bad team that I’ve worked with.”

Overcoming Obstacles

“What I find challenging is vague or inaccurate criticism or someone criticizing a beer because they don’t prefer that beer style. Also, figuring out what’s going to be popular, because it’s usually different from what brewers like to drink, and then deciding if you want to go down that direction.”

Amanda Koeller, Regarding challenges she’s faced

The Future of Women in an Industry Dominated by Men

Another challenge she has been dealing with are sales reps, on several occasions, mansplaining brewing jargon they thought she wouldn’t know, even though she is a lead brewer. However, she has always felt accepted by other local brewers, and it’s no longer out of the norm for women to be hired as brewers.

Amanda views the future of women in brewing as being bright: “We still have a way to go, but the more successful women are in this industry, the easier it’s going to be for women to see themselves in this industry and realize it can be a career path for them.”

Case in point is Bad Beat, where two of their three brewers are women.

Interested in getting to know more local women brewers? Meet Wyndee Forrest.

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