Treasure Valley breweries tap into Kickstarter to take off

A Star native hopes to open a beer room in his hometown, and Boise's Bogus Brewing, a crowd-funding success, aims to sell 240,000 shares of its company

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comJuly 12, 2013 

Zack Kiehl always knew he wanted to run his own business, but it wasn't until he started brewing beer last fall that he found his calling.

"We've brewed too many batches to count," said his wife, Laura. "We've been brewing every weekend."

Zack, a 29-year-old who co-owns a security business and works in the criminal justice field, reads up on brewing techniques every night. He and his wife frequent other local breweries, and they've hosted free tastings in their garage.

As many as 75 people have turned out for the weekend tastings - advertised under County Line Brewing on Facebook. Tasters have offered opinions on how to improve the beers they've tried:

"More bite."

"More lemon."

"A little heavy on the basil."

"Bigger glasses."

Zack Kiehl plans to live the dream of many homebrewers: turn his hobby into a business.

He has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise awareness and cash to get County Line Brewing open in Star. The 45-day campaign aims to raise $35,000 by Aug. 12.

Kickstarter.com is a website where you ask the public for money for a business, or other cause, and offer something in return for a donation. It has been used to help finance films, books, magazines, nonprofits and charitable causes.

So far, 13 people have contributed a total of $830 to the brewery. Those who pledge money will receive a variety gifts, based on the amount given.

For $25, you get a County Line sticker and a pint glass, while $500 gets your name inscribed on a tap room stool.

Want to name a seasonal brew? A $1,000 donation or more, please.

The Kiehls aren't the first to use a Kickstarter campaign as part of the launch of a Treasure Valley brewery. Two others - Bogus Brewing and Cloud 9 - each raised more than $30,000 during 30-day campaigns last year.

"One of the founders of Bogus Brewing backed our Kickstarter project," Laura Kiehl said. "We haven't been involved with them much, but we're watching what they're doing."

THREE NEW BREWERIES - BOISE AREA SATURATED?

The Treasure Valley has 10 active breweries - five in Boise (Ram, TableRock, Sockeye, Highlands Hollow and 10 Barrel), three in Garden City (Payette, Crooked Fence, Kilted Dragon), one in Nampa (Crescent) and one in Meridian (Slanted Rock). How many can the area support?

Collin Rudeen, the former Exergy Development Group project engineer who is behind Bogus Brewing, studied that question.

His answer: about 12 more.

Rudeen said he compared Boise's and Idaho's breweries-per-capita with other western cities and states. Boise still has significantly fewer breweries per capita than Portland, Bend, Ore., and Fort Collins, Colo.

His February study of Brewer's Association data found 3.8 breweries in Boise per 100,000 people, compared to 4.2 in Salt Lake City, 5.5 in Fort Collins and 8.1 in Portland.

Bend is off the charts, with 16 breweries for a population of 76,693, translating to 21 breweries per 100,000.

Bogus Brewing has a unique model - Idaho's first community-supported brewery.

Shares of the company are available now as part of an initial public offering. They are $1 each, with a 1,000 minimum buy-in.

"That way, we can have a couple hundred craft beer-type people as our owners," Rudeen said.

He said they need to sell at least 240,000 shares by Aug. 30 for the IPO to succeed. Investors' money is being held in an escrow account and will be returned if the effort fails.

So far, about 100,000 shares have been sold.

"I'm pretty confident," Rudeen said. "We're on target to hit it."

Rudeen recently announced the site where Bogus is going to operate. He chose a 4,000-square-foot building at 521 Broad St., next door to Boise Weekly. It was formerly occupied by The Venue concert hall.

Rudeen said the brewery has a spring 2014 target date for opening, in part because there's a backlog of orders for equipment.

Cloud 9 is touting itself as Boise's first "nanopub," making just four barrels per batch with locally sourced, organic ingredients.

This winter, Cloud 9 owners Jake and Maggie Lake plan to open their brewery - and a restaurant - in the former Moxie Java at 1750 W. State St.

STAR'S FIRST BREWERY?

Zack Kiehl grew up in Star and his folks still live there. He earned a degree in business management at Boise State University.

About three years ago, Kiehl met his future wife at an interview and interrogation training offered by the FBI. Laura, who works as a presentence investigator for the 4th District Court, will pursue a master's degree in criminal justice this fall.

She bought Zack a homebrewing kit, and some friends showed them how to make beer from start to finish.

It was empowering.

"We could make what we wanted to drink," Zack said. They began inviting friends over for tastings and were encouraged by the response they got.

It became clear to Laura that Zack had stumbled on something that he loved. She supported his dream of opening a brewery.

What's their niche going to be?

"We want to make beer that a person who only orders Bud Light will drink. We want to get a little bit of that market," Zack said, explaining that he believes his craft beer could be a weekend "splurge" for the daily Bud and Coors drinkers.

"I kind of look at it as a more of a treat," he said.

He anticipates that a blonde ale will be one of County Line's five standard beers on tap. Beers he's brewed for tastings include Black IPA, Irish red, chocolate porter, Mexican mocha porter, oatmeal stout and lemon basil blonde.

The young couple don't have significant debt from student loans. They say they've invested about $5,000 into their brewery business and haven't sought a loan. They plan to use the Kickstarter money on startup costs, including leasing a building in Star.

Chris Feil, a friend of Zack's who works at 6898 Metal Works, is helping him build a kettle that will be used at the brewery.

The federal permit to produce and sell beer takes three to six months to obtain. To apply for a permit, a brewer must have a blueprint of the proposed brewery.

Zack Kiehl said he'd like to be in a building in Star by January. In the meantime, he's not quitting his day job.

"It's been a lot of fun," he said.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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