BOISE, ID — For the first "Made in Idaho" of April, we couldn't think of a better way to celebrate Idaho Craft Beer Month than to feature a local tap house.
Starting any business is not an easy task. Now imagine starting a successful brewery out of your garage. That's exactly what the owners of Bear Island Brewing have done, and their hard work has paid off. Raise your glasses to Bear Island Brewing for this week's Made in Idaho.
Beth Bechtel and her husband Steve both served in the Navy for many years, and while in the service, Beth had a dream.
"'Well someday, after I've completed my service in the Navy, I'm gonna get out and start a brewery,' and I announced it to my family, and apparently I have to be careful with what I announce. Why is that? Because it comes true," said Bechtel.
Beth and Steve met while in school for the Navy, training to be in the Navy bomb squad where they toured the world trying various beers and disposing of explosive ordinance... not in that order. While on a visit home during her first deployment, Beth, who is from Boise, realized something about the City of Trees.
"There was not enough of a Boise presence of craft beer, and there should be. And so I wrote it on my list of To-Do's. This is my life plan: I'm going to serve my country, blow things up, have a good time, and I'm gonna come back and be an entrepreneur," said Bechtel.
So when they had both wrapped up their military careers, they started Bear Island Brewing...from the garage of their new house.
"It was crazy. I got to literally run around myself and deliver all these kegs all over town. We developed a really great wholesale market with so many great accounts," said Bechtel.
With sales booming and high demand from places all around the Treasure Valley, they opened up their taproom on North Liberty Street right off Fairview Avenue in Boise.
"Now we have 115 accounts that carry our beer--and that's just from starting wholesale with no taproom--and now that we have the taproom, we're gonna have to expand the brewery!" said Bechtel.
When you visit the firehouse-turned-taphouse that is Bear Island, make sure you thank whoever serves you--not just for their friendly service, but because everyone who works for the brewery is either related to a veteran or a veteran themselves.
"We know that veterans are pretty disciplined. They've been through a rigorous process. We've been there. So it's really nice to be able to give back to them cause they've already served their country and now they get to serve their community. So that's what our goal is as veterans. It's neat to be able to have veterans be a part of that--or people that understand cause they're related to veterans--what it means to sacrifice like that in order to serve," said Bechtel.
Through their military service, Beth and Steve have seen most of the country and a huge part of the world. So why come back to the Treasure Valley to start the brewery?
"Well that's pretty easy; Boise's the best place on the planet. And I haven't been everywhere on the planet, but I've been to a lot of places. You can make a very big list. It's the friendliest place. It's not just nice, it's Boise nice, and if you're from Boise, you know what that means," said Bechtel.
And no matter how much they might expand in the future, Boise, Idaho will always be the true home of Bear Island Brewing.
"It's a blessing, more than anything. And we just, we're overwhelmed with joy from the support we've seen from the community. And to be integrated into it the way we are, especially supporting veterans and first-responders is just paramount to us. It's so neat to have the ability to do that here at home," said Bechtel.