Words & Deeds

Payette Brewing Co. to open $4.5 million production facility in Boise

Idaho’s largest brewery is about to super-size itself.

With the goal of further pushing distribution of popular beers such as Outlaw IPA into neighboring states, Payette Brewing Co. plans to open a second production facility and tasting room near Downtown Boise in the first quarter of 2016.

Payette’s original brewery at 111 W. 33rd St. in Garden City will stay open. The new flagship location and main offices will be a $4.5 million expansion in the former home of Bronco Elite Athletics at 733 S. Pioneer St.

On Tuesday, the Boise City Council gave Payette permission to proceed on the 32,000-square-foot building between Pioneer Pathway and the U.S. Post Office.

“I’d like to impose a condition that you can’t limit the brewing to IPAs only, but I don’t think that would be appropriate,” Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Just make me a good pilsner, lager or ale, and I’ll be there often.”

Mike Francis, 31, who founded Payette in 2010, is excited about the expansion. “I’m really glad we got approved, because I ordered equipment two months ago. We had our timeline built and it was all hinging on our approval.”

Payette, which sells two-thirds of its product in cans, produced 10,046 barrels last year using a 15-barrel operation. The new 60-barrel, four-vessel brewhouse will create the potential to crank out more than 100,000 barrels of beer annually, Francis said. Payette probably will aim for 20,000 to 25,000 during the first year, he said.

About 80 percent of Payette’s beer is sold in Idaho. Doubling production will necessitate pumping up distribution in other states. Payette already sells beer in Oregon, Utah and parts of Nevada and Washington. Francis said the brewery will need to push into larger markets such as Seattle.

That type of growth is challenging. Craft-beer enthusiasts tend to be loyal to their local breweries. Distribution and state regulatory hurdles pop up. And, as production volume increases, so does the expectation to disseminate a consistent, quality product.

“The bigger we get, the more we have to focus on that,” Francis said.

Next week, Payette will add a full-time “quality-control lab guy,” Francis said. The brewery also hopes to begin date-stamping its beers as early as next month to ensure freshness. It’s all part of the transition in scale.

“We really want to make sure we have a great production facility with all the things that make great beer,” Francis said.

Local beer enthusiasts will have plenty of reason to visit the new flagship. Parking will be ample. The tasting room will be three or four times as large as the one in Garden City, Francis said, and include a beer garden.

“This time, we’re putting a lot more focus on the customer experience and the ability to see the brewing process,” he said. “We plan to have a mezzanine that you can access from the tasting room where you can overlook the whole production area.”

Boise’s burgeoning beer scene shows no sign of slowing, even if “we don’t have the reputation of a Bend yet,” Francis said. New breweries keep opening; in February, Powderhaus Brewing Company broke ground on an 8,000-square-foot brewery at 9719 W. Chinden Blvd. Meanwhile, veteran favorite Sockeye Brewing is pushing distribution into nearby states.

“The way Boise is going, maybe we become more and more into a beer destination,” Francis said. “Everyone in Boise seems to know the great beer we have.”