In the future, is it possible that Idaho’s biggest brewer might not even be from Idaho?
The sixth largest brewer in California’s beer-soaked San Diego County will open a 40,000-square-foot brewery and tasting room in Nampa next year.
Mother Earth Brew Co. plans to be up and running at 1428 Madison St. by June of 2016, founder Daniel Love said.
The Nampa brewhouse — larger than Mother Earth’s original one in Vista, Calif. — will be a four-vessel, 40-barrel operation that could be expanded to produce 100,000 barrels annually. The facility also will have a canning line and corporate offices.
Mother Earth’s operational scale in Nampa appears similar to plans from the Gem State’s largest brewery, Payette Brewing Co. of Garden City. In spring 2016, Payette plans to open a four-vessel, 60-barrel brewhouse in a 32,000-square-foot building at 733 S. Pioneer St. in Boise. Its eventual production potential could top 100,000 barrels annually.
“One of the reasons we chose Boise is it has a fantastic craft beer scene going,” said Love, who founded Mother Earth in 2008. “I want to catch the wave.”
One of 115 licensed brewing entities in San Diego County, Mother Earth originally opened in a space that was just more than 2,000 square feet. It’s continued to expand in its industrial park, and opened a second tasting room and homebrew supply store in downtown Vista in 2012.
Mother Earth’s flagship beer is Cali Creamin’ Vanilla Cream Ale. The brewery sells its beers on draft, in 22-ounce bottles and in 12-ounce cans. Mother Earth beer is distributed in California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, Florida, Utah and Washington. It will be sold in the Treasure Valley starting later this month. After the Idaho brewhouse fires up, Mother Earth’s Vista brewery will focus on “California and its 38 million people,” Love said, while Nampa focuses on “the rest of the West.”
In 2014, Mother Earth produced about 15,500 barrels of beer. Love thinks that number will be about 22,500 in 2015, with almost 80 percent of sales in California. He thinks the Nampa brewery will crank out between 11,000 and 15,000 barrels during its initial half year.
“We sell a lot of beer,” Love said. “We’re a popular company. We’re really lucky, and we’ve worked really hard to get there.”
Yet Mother Earth is not a titanic operation, Love cautioned.
“We’re not a big guy like a Sierra Nevada or a New Belgium,” he said. “We’re a regional guy, and for us, we think it’s important to get located in a nice transportation corridor like Boise. It allows us to regionally expand, and it allows us to grow organically to the Midwest.”
Mother Earth, which has about 50 part- and full-time employees, anticipates growing to 75 to 100 employees in Idaho within five years.
Payette Brewing produced just over 10,000 barrels of beer in 2014 and has 24 employees. Payette’s new Boise brewery will aim to generate 20,000 to 25,000 barrels during its first year, founder Mike Francis said.
A healthy dose of competition from Mother Earth is not a bad thing, Francis said. Still, the news is “interesting, to say the least.”
“I guess I’m kind of like, ‘ Really?’ ” Francis admitted. “Head scratcher, a little bit. But at the same time, nothing in this industry really surprises me anymore. After breweries are getting acquired by this or that or opening up here or there. Everybody is trying to do their own thing and do it their way.”
“There’s a lot of advantages to doing business in Idaho,” Francis said. “I get that.”
Mother Earth considered other states — even Wyoming — before choosing Idaho, Love said.
“We’ve been looking for the past year for a place to build a production facility that had the people, that had that scene, and that had other incentives that would be a place that you’d want to go,” Love said. “You know as well as I do that California is a tough state to do business in.”
Love is familiar with the Valley. Before starting Mother Earth, his previous job as a telecommunications sales manager took him to Boise regularly. “I’ve loved Boise for the past 10 years,” he said.
The area’s welcoming nature is part of the reason Mother Earth will open in Canyon County.
“It made us feel like it was an easy decision,” Love said. “Just because everybody we met kept saying, ‘This is a great idea. We want you.’ ”
Mother Earth’s head brewer, Chris Baker, will relocate to Nampa with his fiancee. Love and his wife will live both in Boise and in California — at least until the Nampa brewery is up and running smoothly.
“I essentially will have two businesses in two states,” Love said. “I’m 57 years old, and I’ve lived in California my whole life. If I retire in Boise, that would be my dream come true.”