Local businesses seize opportunities in Boise’s untapped beer market

BOISE — When you think of Idaho, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? You might be thinking — potatoes. But Idaho is not just about potatoes anymore.

The craft beer industry is booming nationwide. According to the Brewers Association, last year, it grew 11 percent by volume and 12 percent by dollar. In the Treasure Valley, new businesses are opening, while existing stores are looking to expand.

This spring, you will see the products of this successful industry popping up around Boise.

The Brewforia Beer Market will be opening a second location in southeast Boise in April. A brand new brewery, The Payette Brewing Company, is preparing to open in the heart of Garden City. And the Sockeye Brewery will firm up its plans to expand.

So how are local breweries and beer stores making such progress at a time when the economy is causing other local businesses to suffer?

Industry success

Rick Boyd, owner of Brewforia Beer Market in Meridian, says it is an industry that is just beginning to be tapped in Idaho.

“There are two things there, craft beer is one of the few industries in the country right now that is growing at double digits annually. Beer overall is flat, in terms of sales volume nationally, craft beer is growing at 20 percent every year,” Boyd said. “We were very fortunate in one regard that we entered a market that is under served here in Boise.”

Mike Francis, who is working to open The Payette Brewing Company in Garden City, agrees that the area has great potential for the craft beer industry.

“In Boise, I think there is already some good beer, but there’s really not much production going on,” Francis explained. “I think there could be a lot more local beers on tap in Boise.”

Francis plans to change that by opening his own production brewery. He says he will have two beers on tap to start. And depending on business, he plans to add more year-round and seasonal brews to the menu.

Business growth

Brewforia already offers more than 700 different options to Treasure Valley beer lovers, and since it officially opened its doors in 2010, Boyd said the store is doing more business than he could have ever predicted in such a short amount of time.

“We’ve grown by leaps and bounds,” said Boyd. “Even during what are supposed to be the slowest months of the year, January, February and March, we’ve seen a very strong incremental growth every month.”

That unexpected growth comes just a year and a half after Boyd questioned whether he would be able to open his store at all in such a weak economy.

“I started working on the business plan and seeking funding right at the same time the economy was starting to falter,” Boyd explained. “We didn’t think we’d ever be able to get the store open. It was kind of through a bit of creative desperation we managed to get the funds together to get the store open… …We have a strong Facebook and Twitter presence. It’s been a challenge, we’re still a small company and we still operate on limited capital but we’ve managed to continue to grow our business every month.”

Expansion

Josh King, head brewer at the Sockeye Grill and Brewery, said they also have plans to expand their business and open a new brewpub in Boise. The reason for the expansion? The demand for good, local beer is higher than ever.

“We are brewing at maximum capacity right now, and we are just kind of at that point where we either grow or we kind of back off our sales because we can’t keep up with what we’re doing,” said King.

And that success is what new brewer and business owner Mike Francis hopes to achieve as well once he opens this spring.

King isn’t worried about the new competition. Instead, he believes new competition is good for the local industry.

“I think the more breweries for us, the better locally,” King explained. “It really gives more education out there to the beer drinkers and lets people know that there is good beer here in Boise, and you don’t have to fall back on the Deschutes, and the Sierra Nevada’s and the New Belgiums of the world. You can get good beer that is produced right here in the state of Idaho.”

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