View Full Version : Orr: Sockeye Brewery has ambitious plans

03-04-2011, 10:54 PM
Orr: Sockeye Brewery has ambitious plans
By Patrick Orr - porr@idahostatesman.com

Boise brewmasters Josh King and Lance Chavez have a vision for Dagger Falls IPA, Hell Diver Pale Ale, Powerhouse Porter and more than a dozen other beers they create at Sockeye Grill & Brewery, 3019 N. Cole Road.

“Our goal is to be ‘Idaho’s beer,’ ” King said. “I think that title is still out there.”

It is, and Sockeye seems to be in a good position to grab it.

National craft beer sales continue to grow in defiance to an otherwise sluggish economy.

Regional breweries like the Eugene-based Ninkasi Brewing Co. and Oskar Blues Brewery from Lyons, Colo., can’t brew enough beer to satisfy the market.

The opportunity exists for similar growth in the Treasure Valley.

Regular readers of this column are familiar with my biggest beef about the local beer scene — which is that no flagship Boise beer is bottled and sold commercially. You can’t go to a local package store and buy a sixer of Boise’s definitive beer, which seems to me to be Sockeye’s Dagger Falls IPA.

If you don’t agree, look around.

Dagger Falls IPA is all over the Treasure Valley these days. It comprises about 60 percent of all beer sold by Sockeye, and you can buy a pint at more than 80 bars and restaurants in Southwest Idaho. The Dagger is a well-balanced, aromatic IPA in the Pacific Northwest tradition. To my palate, it is comparable to Ninkasi’s Total Domination or Lagunitas Brewing Co.’s IPAs — a kick-ass and imminently drinkable house beer.

In addition to that, King said Sockeye now sells about 60 percent of all the beer they produce off-premise — meaning they sell more beer to outside accounts than they sell directly to customers at the Grill & Brewery. Right now, Sockeye doesn’t go north of Sun Valley or McCall.

Sockeye just seems ripe for expansion — and the brewery’s owners are seriously considering opening a production-only brewery somewhere in the Boise area later this year. The plan is to build a new 20-barrel production brewery at a different location than the restaurant, Sockeye owner Fred Schuerman said

At first, the plan is to do more kegs. If that does well, Schuerman said, he is considering adding a bottling or canning line. And that, my beer drinking friends, is what this town needs to take the next step.

“That’s our plan. We just can’t squeeze anymore production out of our current brewery,” Schuerman said. “I really think we have a superior product.”

Schuerman said he already owns the land where he wants the brewery to go. He said they have the funding to go forward and says there is about a “95 percent chance”a new Sockeye brewery will be opened in 2011.

Schuerman would prefer to put Sockeye beers in cans (awesome!), because they are such a great fit for the outdoor/active lifestyle so many Treasure Valley residents participate in.

He is also analyzing how cost-effective it would be to put solar panels on a new brewery building.

Making a major capital investment in a new brewery is a risk for any small brewer who wants to expand. A new 20-barrel brewing system costs well in excess of $100,000, and that is just for equipment. That doesn’t cover a new building or installation.

So it appears Schuerman has a lot of faith in his employees and Idaho’s craft beer enthusiasts.

Schuerman has owned Sockeye Grill & Brewery since 2004. He said he is very proud of King, Chavez and everyone else at the brewery for producing such excellent suds.

“I should probably be retired at this point, but I feel such an obligation (to the employees) that I want to continue with this,” Schuerman said.

D.J. Walters, the customer service supervisor for Hayden Beverage, which distributes Sockeye in Idaho, says Sockeye could end up being “Idaho’s beer” if they increase capacity. Walters says he is confident he could add multiple accounts in northern and eastern Idaho. Right now, Hayden can’t do that because Sockeye is already selling all the beer they can make.

“Sockeye has a big enough buzz behind them to do it,” Walters said. They have a laundry list of great beers.”

Read more: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2011/03/04/1550667/sockeye-brewery-has-ambitious.html#ixzz1FhK7sVhe